31 March 2014

So It's Called 'Content Marketing'

Two years ago, almost exactly to the day, I wrote a post about making things for your customers.
"Build it and they will come."
"I can't help but think it's a completely underrated and underused digital strategy. This idea of building something rad that's relevant to your target audience and then using them to spread your idea."
It turns that approach now has a name; content marketing. And while it's quickly become 2014's buzzword of choice, I think it's still underrated and underused by clients.

These days I'd approach it pretty differently. More pragmatically. Segment the audience and understand their problems and needs. Then build things to solve those problems. Plan for distribution across bought, owned and earned media. And wrap it up by measuring and learning.

Where I think things become really interesting is when you move beyond 'content' in the traditional sense of the word. Then you start talking about interactivity through things like apps or games. You start thinking about utilities, education tools and even time-killers.

And if it works, then you role it out as a program, not a campaign. Regularly building and distributing highly targeted, highly relevant things that consumers will use.

Or in other words, making cool shit that people play with and share. Much more exciting than a banner ad.

23 February 2014

Better Late Than Never

I have this weird aversion to technology where if I'm late to the party, I'm very hesitant to attend at all.

For example I really missed the boat on Instagram. For a long time I considered signing up, but the fact that I had committed to not doing so meant I held out on not doing so for even longer.

The barrier, for some strange reason, was that signing up to Instagram meant I'd be starting fresh. Despite having hundreds of photos already on my phone I'd want to share from the past few years, there was no way to 'back date' the awesome graffiti I saw in Mexico or the first tomato that grew in our garden.

I have a similar problem with Untappd, an app that allows you to record and discover craft beer. Over the years I've had beers that were limited edition never to be made again, and a few that were so bad I wouldn't be again. Perhaps I'm thinking about this too much, but it's a barrier for me when there's no way for me to go back in time and record those beers.

I'm wondering if I'm not alone. And how technologist should think about those customers who arrive well after the tipping point. For those who missed the boat, how can you make it not only easy for them to board, but to appear as though they've been on board the whole time?

Interestingly I eventually jumped onto Instagram (about two years too late) and am loving it. I've discovered a new means of sharing photos more frequently than what you'd post on Facebook and really enjoying seeing those of my friends.

So I should probably set up that Untappd account too.

12 November 2013

Ideas From 2013 That Didn't Happen

There's a list on my phone called 'Crazy Ideas'. Some of the items are starting to collect dust so it's time I cleaned them out before next year.

But before deleting them, I thought I'd share. Maybe you can do something with them that I couldn't.

So the following is a collection of ideas I had this year that didn't or aren't going to happen. I either didn't know how to start them, discovered they'd already been done or, after further consideration, decided they were shit.

  • An app for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to easily make and change bookings. It would also remind you when you're due to donate again.
  • A website to connect casual investors with wannabe inventors. Think Dragon's Den meets Kickstarter.
  • An 'In Case of Emergency' app that sits on your phone if you're in an accident. Ambulance Officers would have a unique password to access information about who to contact and what you're allergic to.
  • Beerend that works on glass shelf fridges.
  • An app for sharing a single shopping list across multiple users. There's a few already out there but they are expensive and naff.
  • A WordPress plugin to easily create wedding registries where each item is tagged with an affiliate marketing link. This revenue would help pay for the couple's honeymoon.
  • A companion app to allow for asynchronous media consumption discussion.
  • An eBook for university students about how to get a job in digital marketing.
  • An app to make and track casual bets among friends. Most likely called Bets With Friends.
  • Single charge iPhone power packs for festivals and emergency situations.
  • An app to easily block out or censor information on a photo/image before sharing it online. Possibly called Blackout.
There's a few others on the list that I might share another time (hopefully not this time next year) but if you think you can do anything with any of the above, let me know how you go.

10 November 2013

Asynchronous Media Consumption

I'm the sort of person who points out the Wilhelm Scream in a movie. I subscribe to subreddits about television shows and check in on the post-episode discussion weekly. At the end of every movie I'll read its trivia on IMDb or look up what the Internet generally thought of a book I've just finished. And I think there's nothing better than a conversation among friends walking out of a cinema.

In fact, I almost enjoy talking about the media I consume as much as I do consuming it.

But the problem is, increasingly our media consumption is becoming asynchronous. No longer do we all consume the same thing at the same time. Podcasts, catch-up television and torrenting means we not only consume how we want, but when we want.

This creates a problem for my post-media consumption discussion. Individually our media stories progress at different paces and any conversation is quickly stopped by an urgent "NO SPOILERS" demand.

If you wanted to talk about the amazing end of Breaking Bad's Season 4 today, you couldn't do it without reading spoilers from Season 5. And imagine I could see my friend's response to the first book of Game of Thrones as I put the book down, even if we read them five years apart.

I need a utility to engage in conversation in 'unreal' time. Like SoundCloud allows people to comment throughout the song, we need a companion technology to share thoughts over the course of a television series, movie, book, series of albums or just about any media.

I don't know what it looks like but I suspect an iPad app would compliment our existing media consumption, and the need for discussion about it, quite nicely.

26 August 2013

Sweat Everything (Especially The Small Stuff)

Everything you do in digital is a chance to generate a lot of conversation. Positive or negative.

If it's interesting enough, word will spread. People will share it. Reddit will make it big. And four days later the mainstream media might post it as well.

Even the small things can go far. Good or bad.

But I particularly like this App Update description from Commonwealth Bank.

It wasn't briefed into a copywriter. But someone put two seconds into what would otherwise be another update you wouldn't read. And it resulted in a smile. And a few people even shared it.

That's why it's always surprised me that Community Management is generally considered an entry level or junior position in most organisations. If consumers notice and amplify the small stuff, imagine how they'll react to what's said to the community.

Your next Facebook post or online customer service response could be on the front page of Mumbrella. For good or bad reasons. So it might be worth the extra two seconds.

01 July 2013

Ideas Are Cheap. And So Is Making Them Happen.

Ideas are cheap. You've probably heard that before. We all have lots of them, sometimes everyday. That's the easy part. But an idea is nothing without someone to bring it to life. It's the people who can actually make shit happen that are the successful ones.

And in the past, you couldn't blame someone for not making something happen. It can be a pretty big ask, especially if you're making it up as you go.

But these days, it's never been easier to make an idea happen.

  • Alibaba let's you easily source cheap manufacturers overseas.
  • 3D printing means you can prototype for next to nothing.
  • WordPress means you can build a website without needing to know a single piece of code.
  • And tools like PayPal and Shopify do the same for online stores.
  • And if what you need is more complicated, Elance will find you cheap freelancers and Tweaky will make your small problems go away.
  • Pozible and other crowdfunding tools make raising capital easier than ever. And almost risk-free.
  • It's easier to find grants and apply for them (like the Awesome Foundation).
  • Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn connect you with the friends of friends you need (like the time I needed a 3D printer).
  • Social media is a promotion engine and a research one too.
  • If someone is searching for something, you can tell them about your idea insanely efficiently through AdWords.
  • Between YouTube's how-to videos, Wikipedia's knowledge and the rest of the web - no question will go unanswered.
  • No matter what your passion, there's a forum or website dedicated to it full of other like-minded people to talk about it.

Just having good ideas is not enough. It never has been. But now it's easier than ever to make them happen. So get off your arse and move fast and break things.

01 June 2013

Why I Want To Work In The Porn Industry

I was chatting to someone the other day about my job and they asked me who would be my ideal client. Which brand or account would I be most interested in working on?

And after some thought, I decided it would be a porn website.

There's two reasons.

Firstly, porn is, and always has been, a leader of the marketing industry in technology. Their first-to-market innovation is so significant it's often adopted as standard practice.

  • They decided to distribute content through VHS over Betamax, a standard quickly adopted by the rest of the market. 
  • Later they would choose Blu-Ray over HD-DVD, again adopted as standard. 
  • They had mobile optimised websites when we were using WAP to connect to the Internet on our cool flip phones. 
  • They were live streaming video content with interactive forums long before Google Hangouts.

Secondly, a popular website would have crazy amounts of data to use to drive strategy and optimisation. Imagine spending just a day exploring their website analytics.

  • What keywords drive the most traffic? 
  • What categories of content are most popular? 
  • How long does the average person watch a video for? 
  • What's the value of niche (long tail) content (fetish categories perhaps)? 
  • How important is SEO (remembering they can't use any SEM)? 
  • What are the click-through rates like on banners (both their own ads and those they serve on their sites)? 
  • What portion of users convert to monetised models and how it is optimised?

It's an innovative industry with rich data to make decisions with. Could be fun.

Either that or a bank. And that would probably be less gross.

23 May 2013

7 Things I Learned From A (Unsuccessful) Crowd-Funding Campaign

So my half court shot for a product I was crowd-funding on Pozible missed. Not by much, but certainly no swish. And over the last 30 days of campaigning, here are seven things I've picked up along the way.
1) Niche is tough
As with all products, you want to appeal to a specific market, which makes it significantly easier to generate publicity. However you can't be so specific that it's hard for the 'average' person to justify getting behind you're campaign.

I designed a product to fix a problem I have at home. As it turns out my fridge is pretty unique these days, with a type of shelving that is almost obsolete. It was a sticking point, and ultimately I believe the biggest reason people wouldn't get around it.

2) Shipping is a bitch
It's tough justifying a shipping fee that costs as much as the item.

Sadly anything bigger than an 'envelope' is considered a 'package' by Australia Post, irrespective of weight and has a minimum charge of $6.60. More so, this additional cost of fulfillment hugely increased the overall required funding goal.

Particularly when you need to sell a lot of products at a low price (as opposed to fewer products at a higher price), high postage costs really cause headaches.

3) Plan out your PR campaign before you launch
I thought I had a pretty good grip on things prior to launch. I had a rough idea of what the press release needed to say and a rough plan of attack for people I wanted to contact.

But then the campaign started and it got crazy busy. You start playing catch up with people you need to contact, requests for images and more information, interviews and back-and-forths, answering questions, keeping backers updated, promoting it across various social platforms, and plenty more. On top of that I'd have new ideas daily on how to get the word out which just added on top of everything else.

Instead, prior to launch I should have had as much planned for as I could. Have press releases ready, email templates for different audiences and an exhaustive list of friends, family, networks, reporters and randoms you can contact, all before you push the campaign live.

4) 'Advertising' did not work
I thought it would be interesting to trial a couple of different means of getting the word out during the campaign, including some 'advertising'. Sponsored tweets (where a popular Twitter account tweets for cash), advertising on Reddit and Facebook ads all had little to no impact at all.

It probably depends on the nature of your campaign, but for me I would categorise it bluntly as a complete waste of money.

5) Don't overshoot the funding goal
While planning out the campaign, I determined the funding goal based on exactly what I would need to break even. But what I didn't consider is that I probably would have been willing to throw in some money myself.

So before your campaign starts, have a think about how much you'd be willing to top it up if the funding goal was just short. If you're looking to raise $10,000, it gets to $9,000 and you'd be willing to put in the rest, you should really have reduced your funding goal by $1,000 before you started.

All money on successful campaigns generally loses around 7% in fees. So it doesn't make sense to contribute to your own campaign. (However it would be the perfect means of money laundering. I wonder if Mastercard have thought of this yet.)

You can always raise above and beyond your funding goal, so aim as low as possible.

6) Reddit is untapped potential
As mentioned above, advertising on Reddit did not work. But my number one source of traffic to the campaign page came from a post I put up on /r/shutupandtakemymoney. It's a risky strategy and I received a substantial amount of criticism and negative feedback, but for the most part Reddit loves a good idea and don't mind getting behind something they like.

I'd only recommend it if you've been across Reddit for a while and have a bit of an idea of how it works there, but the above sub reddit was low hanging fruit for me, and there's plenty of highly focused communities on there for just about anything you can think of.

7) My family, friends and networks are awesome
I honestly didn't expect the response I got from the people I know. It's worth remembering that most of them don't want to see you fail and will promote the shit out of your campaign for you. And if any of you are reading this who pledged or shared my campaign, thank you.
So what next for me? "Pivot" seems to be a popular word in the entrepreneurial space at the moment.

One of the great things about crowd-funding (other than the fact the only thing at risk is your ego) is that it's effectively a market research tool. The feedback overwhelmingly suggests people love the idea, but not the execution. So I'll be taking on board the learings above and tweaking it. For me, that means a product that works in fridges with glass-shelves. And hopefully a cheaper means of postage.

Maybe I'll even be back on Pozible in six months with the Beerend 2.0.

17 April 2013

Half Court Shots

I've already mentioned I'm a big fan of side projects, and today I'm pretty effing excited to launch my next one. Every now and then you need to take a half court shot and I'm really hoping this one goes in.

It's called the Beerend, it's like a bookend for your beer.

And I'm turning to crowd-funding to raise the money I need to start manufacturing.



So if you like cold beer, check out the Beerend on Pozible, share it with your mates and make a pledge. I'll drink to that.

02 February 2013

Side Projects

I'm a big fan of side projects. Particularly those that support your main gig, even if it's indirectly.

It goes without saying that the most successful people in this industry are the ones that do something on the side. Launching a line a bottled water, managing a band, running a resource for Juniors and a building a fashion blog are a few that come to mind from people I've worked with.

I've tried to have a few of these projects over the years. I built and sold a website which taught me some crazy good stuff and I'm pretty sure my local hockey club is the only one in Australia to have an SEO strategy.

In fact this blog was too once a side project while I was a student that resulted in my first job. Sadly when your side project essentially becomes your full time job it's hard to keep passionate about a little old blog in my case. Hence why I'm lucky to post once a month these days.

With that said, this year I've got two major side projects I want to tackle. Within the next few months I want to launch a product, and after that develop a mobile app. That should be enough to keep me busy, and give me some time to think about what comes after that.

So what's your side project and how does it support your main gig?
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Also ponies are evil.
Pigs Don't Fly © Copyright Zac Martin 2012