Things to work on in 2019

So, in the last week I took a really, really big step in life that I’ll talk about publicly here in January, and what that step means is that I no longer feel like I’m living in limbo, which has slightly been the case for the past few months. So, with some free evenings over the Christmas period, I’m doing some reading up for 2019 plans.

Firstly, I’ve gone back to a website I used to rely on for tips – Social Media Today. The first post I read on there, about visual ideas for 2019, gave me some really interesting ideas. Companies and organisations that I’ve worked with in the past always want to be bigger – bigger social media numbers all round, often setting KPIs based solely on that, but this suggests it’s really about keeping a niche group of people, which is a much more realistic way of looking at marketing and comms, especially with a limited team, budget and resources.

Elsewhere, I wrote in my last blog post that I’m looking into doing a Project Management course, but first, some studying in order. Expect notes from these and more soon.

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Plus, I‘m setting myself a task to read from the Association for Project Management website – it seems like they have a set of really useful videos, which I always find to be a great way to learn.

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#TEC2018 – Takeaways from the Tessitura European Conference

I’ve spent the last two days at the Tessitura European Conference (which conveniently happened to be partly based at the venue where I work, and partly just around the corner!) Tessitura is a CRM system designed for event venues and attractions to sell tickets and collect data (and do a whole load of other stuff) and it is integral to a large part of my job in arts marketing.

Unlike the AMA conference earlier this year (you can find my posts about it here) TEC 2018 was partly about marketing and development techniques and ideas, and partly about the actual technical nitty-gritty of the Tessitura system. I tried to go to a range of sessions covering both sides, and not necessarily limit myself to the sessions that directly related to my current role.

The big star of the conference was the unveiling of Tessitura’s brand new analytics tool, and we got to have several demonstrations of it as well as a hand-ons demo. The big appeal of the analytics tool is the many, many varying ways in which you can visualise your data, and how much you can show from a particular audience segment.

There were two other big themes this year, at least in the sessions that I attended. The first leads on directly from analytics – the importance of not making assumptions about your audience. This is something probably all marketing teams are guilty of – assuming that ‘we know this audience and we know what they like’. Yes, analysing the data will often lead you to the same conclusion that you made in the first place, but often new data (or even non-new data) can be overlooked, meaning that either you aren’t engaging at all with a particular part of your audience, or you’ve lumped them in with another segment, and are using marketing material that either doesn’t work or will actively turn them off from your product.

The second was about new trends in dynamic pricing. Other industries have been using algorithmic pricing for years based on supply and demand, but in arts and events, there is often an assumption that it is a bad idea because ‘the audience won’t like it’ or ‘it will devalue our product.’ That isn’t to say that no-one does dynamic marketing, but instead it is done on the same kind of audience assumptions as above, manually and with a certain amount of gut feeling. The thing about gut feeling is that, unlike in Hollywood and trashy crime novels, it is very often wrong. Algorithms can calculate and forecast based on far more variables than the human brain can realistically cope with, especially across many events! This is a fascinating bit of technology that I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of in various forms.

Anyway, my next job is to write up all of the notes that I’ve taken over the past few days, and I’ll try to get those up here soon!

Blaugust Day 28: Immersive Emotional Television Technology

Back in around 2012 I went to an event at BBC MediaCityUK, which showcased various upcoming technologies the the BBC was working on. One of those which at the time seemed extremely ‘out there’ was that they were trying to find a way to track people’s reactions to television in real time, particularly their levels of attention and emotional engagement. This would not only allow them to get real time feedback on how viewers reacted to content, they might then be able to individually tailor content to viewers according to their interests and reactions.

So when I read this article about an app called Cinemmerse, which tracks heart rate and emotion via smart watches, I realised that we had suddenly reached the level of technology to make that possible.

Image from Techcrunch.com

The writer of the article didn’t seem convinced that film and television creators would actually be interested in that kind of feedback, but clearly companies have already already seen the potential. The Royal Shakespeare Company are currently using heart rate monitors as part of focus grouping for their current production of Titus Andronicus, which is an interesting idea as it’s an exceptionally gruesome production (although totally brilliant – I went to see it in the cinema earlier this month). This is allowing them to gauge the difference in reaction between the live audience and those watching cinema broadcasts. They’ll be releasing the results in November, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing if they discover some really interesting results.

Blaugust Day 26: VR Immersion doesn’t work for me

So VR gaming is most definitely a thing now. There’s no shortage of games being developed, and systems being worked on. Yet in spite that this, it still feels very much like a niche product. 

Previously this was definitely down to poor, overly-expensive technology. But now the price of VR is getting more affordable, and there are numerous options of system available.

So I began wondering what other barriers there might be to using VR in gaming, and I realised someone based on my own gaming experience.

Not everyone wants an immersive experience in gaming.

Sometimes, I might be really into a game, and totally focussed on it. Sometimes I’ve got a video or livestream on a second screen and I’m focussing on both those things. Sometimes I might be messing around in a game on and off, while doing something totally different on my PC or device. 

In fact, the more I write about this, the less appealing VR gaming seems, at least to me!

Blaugust Day 24: Email Marketing Notes Part Three

This is the end of this particular Highbrow course (part one and part two can be found here and here.) After I did the second blog, I needed to write a little more and make this the first pre-written, scheduled post to cover my time away from 24-30 August. So, the next few posts will also be pre-written, and I’ll be back on the evening of 30 Aug with a topic written that day. 
So onto the notes!

Email Personalisation 

Personalising your email is great, but this goes beyond just putting people’s names in the ‘Dear so-and-so’ bit – although you should absolutely be doing that!

Testing has shown that using the name of a person instead of just using the company name hugely improve open rates, though success can depend on the company and it may be be something to A/B test.

Goals and Analysis

It’s important to constantly look at how your emails are doing – and not just the positive metrics like open and click-through rate. Bounce rates will give you an idea of whether or not the email info in your database is still good, and unsubscribe will tell you if you are keeping a regular readership, or if people are giving up on you quickly.

Blaugust Day 22: Building an E-newsletter

In my day to day job, a lot of what I do involves helping to build marketing emails and newsletters.

In fact, I’ve recently been doing an email marketing course, and there’s notes about that in previous posts (and at least one upcoming one.) I enjoy making email newsletters, and I’ve actually just been finishing up one for Manchester Canoe Club (their first one ever, it’s a fun side-project). So I decided to do a little post on email newsletters. Obviously there’s no shortage of info and articles from experts on how to do it well and I’m absolutely still learning some things, but here are a few thoughts.

  • Keep it simple – both in design and in clear information. Most people spend less than a minute looking at an email, especially with the sheer number that most of us get these days. So while it’s nice to have lots of cool designs,
  • As a general rule, I like to build my newsletters – Title, text on one side, picture on the other (going to underneath or above the text on vertical mobile screens). It’s probably a cliche but I’m also a fan of alternating the picture and text in each row moving down, it can look a little stilted otherwise.
  • White space (in moderation) is nice. Crowded is bad. Keep colours to your brand, or keep them neutral.
  • A snappy title is important, but if this is your monthly newsletter, there might be something to be said for keeping consistency, especially if it’s to an audience that you also market to. Quirky titles might work as part of your brand, or they might be better off saved for a special occasion.
  • Lots of links shows that your website/social media etc. is content rich.
  • The best times to send are Tuesday – Friday. A lot of people don’t check their emails at the weekend.

As I mentioned above, there’s no shortage of resources for email building, and this won’t apply to everyone, it’s just a little list based on personal experience.

Blaugust Day 16: Travel of the Future

There’s always plenty of articles floating around about the potential new and futuristic directions of transport. As a daily commuter (by train 😞) I always enjoy reading them, so here’s two recent ones that I particularly wanted to share. 
The hyper loop as a theory has been around for gases, but incredibly it seems like it might be a reality one day soon. Even if it comes from Elon Musk, a man of of occasionally questionable principles, and seems like sci-fi nonsense, it’s also coming from the mind of the man who created Space X and made private space flight a reality at a time when state funded space programmes were declining. (For the record, I am deeply disappointed with advances in space flight, and if we can’t have interstellar travel within my lifetime we’d better at least land on Mars.)

In terms of urban public transport (i.e. often the bane of my life) the technology described in this article is pretty cool, especially in terms of using space above the road!