Here’s to the Man in Manufacturing

Did you know that Volkswagen manufacture over 10.3 million cars per year, employ 600,000 people world-wide, shape 2,600 tons of steel every day in their Wolfsburg plant, are 96% automated in their production, produce 32 parts per minute on their press lines, use 35 different kinds of steel and produce more of their own component parts than any other automotive manufacturer? Nor did I, but this week I accompanied a group of Staffordshire University Business students on a Study Trip to Germany. We visited the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Wolfsburg, the largest car plant in Europe.

I have been on a few factory tours in my time, but to say that I was amazed is an understatement. Within an archaic looking 1940’s building we were exposed to the wonders of modern technology, watching row upon row of environmentally friendly Kuka robots dancing to the tune of production, moving seamlessly to and fro in a whirlwind of activity, that culminated in the production of a new car every 18 seconds.

It is amazing to witness, but what is sadly more amazing is the disappearance of the human element of production. The employees were few and far between, taken over by a mass of machinery. In fact, we were told that of the 70,000 employees at the huge manufacturing plant at Wolfsburg, less than a third of them work in production, the remainder are all office workers.


It is predicted that robots will take over most jobs within 30 years and the development of humanoid robotic technology is moving at a frighteningly fast pace. As consumers, the number of transactions that we perform without ever seeing or speaking to a human being is increasing day by day with the development of touch-screen customer service systems, automated telephone lines and a variety of apps that we now consider essential for day-to-day living.

Whilst we embrace this on demand, responsive service to our consumer needs, I believe there is still a need for the human touch. The irony is, the factory tour that our students enjoyed so much was enhanced by our visitor tour guide, Robertino. Even down to him obligingly taking a selfie with us all. So for now, let’s keep the ‘man’ in manufacturing.

 

Angela Lawrence, Senior Lecturer in Marketing

Twitter @iteroange Facebook @angelawrence

Find out more about Staffordshire University Business Management Awards

 

 

Esports. Is it a game changer for UK education?

Staffordshire University Business School has become the first British University to launch an esports degree. The course focuses on the business and culture of esports from developing teams, communities and a fan base to hosting esports events.

Staffordshire University has invested heavily in new facilities as part of a £40m transformation of its Stoke-on-Trent campus and academics feel the University is well placed to plug into rapidly growing sectors like esports which is the practice of playing video games competitively over the internet or via networked computers in venues and stadiums.

Already Staffordshire University has responded to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment’s (Ukie) white paper on esports by introducing a module on esports in their Games Degree.

Back in January, Dr Fletcher, Head of the Games and Visual Effects at Staffordshire University said:

“The module which is available to students on our Games Studies course is a fascinating branch of cultural studies. It looks at the national, and international market for esports, and the cultural aspects that drive it as well as the darker side of cheating and doping by esports players. Games designers are growing up and that brings with it new trends in gaming which comes with its own set of ethical dilemmas.”

Other countries around the world have recognised esports as part of the curriculum for some years.  In South Korea, where the first esports association was set up 17 years ago, they have been accepting esports players onto their sports programmes for four years. At the Asia Pacific University in Malaysia, students can complete certificates in League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In Norway,  the Garnes Vidaregaande high school pupils can opt for esports and can study for up to five hours per week, they focus not just on game play but also combine physical exercise in the mix.

One thing all these esports educators have in common is an agreement that esports provides a vast amount of transferable skills to the participants.

Top skills for esports:

  1. Teamworking
  2. Resilience
  3. Stamina
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Communication
  6. Endurance
  7. Decision Making
  8. Leadership
  9. Critical thinking
  10. Analytical

The students on Staffordshire University Business School’s BA (Hons) esports will also have classes in event management, digital marketing, the legal side of esports and streaming techniques. This will make sure that when they leave university they’ll have all the right skills to prepare them for a great career. With huge growth predicted in this area there are lots of job opportunities.  Many recruitment agencies, like Odgers Berndston have set up separate divisions to deal with esports careers and there are even some new sites that have sprung up like ‘esports Careers’ who are currently listing almost 500 vacancies.  The British esports Association lists over 12 career paths on its website, here are a few:

  1. Shoutcaster/host
  2. Coach/analyst
  3. Journalist/content creator
  4. PR/Marketing executive
  5. Community/social media manager
  6. Broadcast/production crew
  7. Event manager

To find out more about esports at Staffordshire University Business School visit the website staffs.ac.uk.

Rachel Gowers MBA
Associate Dean
Staffordshire University Business School

 

So you’ve graduated – now what?

5 top tips for new graduates from Senior Lecturer Angela Lawrence

Three years of study have come to an end, exams are over, the university board has sat, results announced and graduation is looming. It can be a worrying and scary time for many graduates as the intensity of those final assessments has been all-consuming for weeks and months. All of a sudden everything is over. There’s quite a gap in your life that you need to fill and you may be floundering and wondering what’s next. If you were smart, you began applying for graduate jobs at the beginning of the year, but even so, you may not yet have bagged the job of your dreams.

Here are a few tips to help you to stay focused on securing the graduate employment that you deserve:

  1. It’s a numbers game

Statistics suggest that 39 graduates apply for every advertised graduate position. So you are up against around 38 ex-students who are applying for the same jobs as you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a while and you feel like you spend half of every week filling in applications – it’s a numbers game, the more jobs you apply for the better chance you will have of securing the role that’s right for you. Keep believing in yourself and keep on searching through the jobs sites; sooner or later your time will come.

  1. Perseverance is key

Don’t give up – NEVER give up! You have worked hard to earn your degree and you deserve to get a graduate position. Okay, you may have to accept a job that is less than what you want in the first instance, to make ends meet, but do not stop seeking out and applying for graduate positions.  It took three years to get your degree so it may take three months or more to secure that job that you are after.

  1. Keep in work

Work, work, work…and keep working! You may only be working part-time, working to help out a family member’s business or working as a volunteer, but you must keep working. Having that evidence on your CV that you have a strong working ethic speaks volumes to potential employers. Furthermore, you are probably practising a multitude of transferable skills, whatever the role. Skills that employers want to hear about, such as good timekeeping, the ability to work independently or as part of a team, the ability to be trusted, accuracy and attention to detail.

  1. Ask for feedback

If you have applied for a job and had no response within indicated timescales, then ring the company up and ask them if they have shortlisted applications yet. If they have and you are not on the list, ask them if they would mind telling you what the criteria for shortlisting was, so that you know for next time. If you actually got to an assessment board or had an interview, but were not successful in being offered the job, you must ask for feedback. It may simply be that another candidate had more relevant experience, or it may be that you find out it was something that you were lacking, that you could work on before your next interview. It may be the way you interviewed, possibly nerves were showing. So practise makes perfect and you now have that knowledge to help you to prepare yourself better for your next interview.

  1. Network

The saying goes “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This is never more true than in the game of job hunting. It is stated that ninety-three percent of recruiters use LinkedIn for recruitment. So if you haven’t got a professional LinkedIn profile, you’re missing a trick. Join your alumni LinkedIn group and network with alumni who know only too well how hard it is to find that all-important break in the job hunting market. But offline networking can be equally important. Check out the local networking opportunities with your local Chamber of Commerce, and seek out recruitment fairs in your local area or in the region in which you would like to work.

A final tip for Staffordshire University graduates – don’t forget that you have access to our online careers portal, eCoach following graduation. Our Careers Network services are available to you for as long as you need them. Your lecturers and personal tutors will be happy to provide you with references, so good luck and we know you’ll do us proud!

Teaching and Learning: International Cooperation

The Business School has been working with a number of international partners to support their efforts to upgrade the curricula and enhance the teaching and learning experience of their students for many years now. We have had partners in most Central and South East European countries as well as the Middle East. The Teaching and Learning Conference on 20 June provides an opportunity to invite some of our current partners to join us for a day of activities to consolidate the work we have been doing over the year.

Teaching and Learning has always been the focus of attention of our partners mainly because of the contrast between the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ approach, which had been common in almost all our partner universities, and the modern student centred learning or other alternative approaches. The idea of having students sit on different tables in one classroom, doing different activities baffled some of our visiting colleagues (I am sure it still baffles some colleagues in this country). Assessment in any form other than oral exams was dismissed as not sufficiently rigorous and not appropriate at university level.  Group work, presentation, poster making and other methods of assessing students’ work was treated as not serious.

However, over the years, as the relationship with Western universities developed and EU funded programmes aimed at reforming, restructuring and upgrading the higher education systems and studies were implemented, the university environment and attitudes changed too. The change agents were the younger, Western educated lecturers who gradually entered the higher education sector and began to use methods which they had been exposed to during their time at Western universities. In the meantime, the student numbers had soared too. Students had become very choosy and, being technologically more savvy than their teachers, they could access advanced knowledge and information easier than their professors.  Professors, therefore, had to change their attitudes and raise their games to meet the challenges of a larger number of demanding students and modern technology.

Staffordshire University played an important part in the transformation of the teaching and learning approaches in many partner universities, especially in Albania, Croatia, Kosovo and Macedonia. While working with universities in these countries to upgrade their study programmes and enhance the capabilities of their teaching staff, we also trained a large number of their younger staff on our MBA and MSc/PhD in Economics. Almost all of these young graduates have returned to their universities and are contributing to the training of the next generation of economics and business students. Over the years, around 150 young scholars completed Masters and PhDs at SU, constituting a critical mass of knowledge and skill in the region and in some universities. They have been instrumental in bringing new teaching and learning methods to their universities, something that has been particularly appreciated by students.

Currently we have two EU-funded projects working with 11 universities in Kosovo and Albania. Both projects involve supporting their teaching and learning practices and improving their curricula with the aim of embedding employability skills in the syllabi of different courses. We have hosted a range of staff (from Rectors and Deans to senior professors and new lecturers) and introduced them to the Staffordshire Graduate programme and how it is evolving in different schools – and they are very interested in this programme particularly because they face high levels of graduate unemployment in their countries. Some of our colleagues have also participated in either teaching or running seminars for staff on curriculum development activities. Dr Jana Fiserova from the School of Business, Leadership and Economics, Dr Mohammad Hasan from the School of Computing and Digital Technologies, and myself, for example, were recently engaged in these activities in Kosovo.

In the week beginning 19 June, we will be hosting young lecturers from three universities in Kosovo (University of Prishtina, Riinvest College, University of Business and Technology) and two universities in Albania (University of Tirana and Agricultural University of Tirana). Among other activities, they will be participating in the Teaching and Learning Conference on 20 June. They will be interested to learn about our efforts to improve students’ learning experience by using innovative methods, new technology and a variety of assessment methods that encourage student engagement with the subject and with the graduate attributes. They will also share with us their experience of a different group of students and different teaching environment. In some of these universities, staff have to deal with hundreds of students on their modules and, therefore, are eager to find out how we deal with large classes and how they can adopt some of these methods in their settings. At the same time, their experience of working in universities (and countries) with greater resource constraints would also be of interest to our colleagues.

We look forward to the exchange of ideas on 20 June.

Professor Iraj Hashi

School of Business, Leadership and Economics

Join our new Staffordshire University Business School LinkedIn page!

 

School of Business, Leadership and Economics Pride Awards Night

On the 30th March, final year Events Management students Josh Lonsdale, Tom Gater and Lorna Wilde organised and hosted the first (and hopefully not the last) Business, Leadership and Economics Pride Awards evening. Staff and students in the School were asked to vote for nominations in various categories and the event was part of their final year project module.

The evening started with a buffet and bucks fizz and Lorna performing a wonderful selection of songs. We were all blown away with her brilliant singing voice and professional delivery. Isabelle Clarke was master of ceremonies and Lorna, Josh and Tom presented the awards.

The event was for both staff and students celebrating their contribution and impact they have on the School and University. It was held in one of the School’s rooms in Ashley
decorated by the students. As Josh said “it was great to see staff and student support each other hand in hand about the great achievements we had within the school” and It has been a pleasure as final year Event Management students to put on an event that gets to showcase how many talented staff and students are in the school. We hope that this event will be continued by the school and we hope that the other schools may take the initiative to host a similar awards ceremony.”

The evening ended with Lorna again singing, this time ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and ‘On My Own’ from Les Miserables especially for Carol and Angela. There was not a dry eye in the house – at least from Carol, Angela and me!

  

The winners of the awards were:

Exceeding Expectations Award

Given to a student who has gone above and beyond during their time here at the Staffordshire university Business School.

Dee  Rahmat

Commitment to Excellence Award

Awarded to a staff member who consistently and proactively help raise the reputation of not only the Business school but also Staffordshire University.

Karl McCormack

Outstanding Leadership Award

Awarded to staff members who lead students and or staff to achieve improved results across the Business school but also Staffordshire University.

Alison Maguire

Student Honours List

Awarded to students who have had a positive impact on Staffordshire University and the Business School throughout their studies.

The Hult Team, Daniel Griffiths, Danielle Nugent , George Balshaw and Sarah Wright

Future Leader Award

Awarded to a student who encompasses of the Staffordshire Graduate Attributes.

Henry Greentree.

Community Partnership Award 

Awarded to a member of staff who with the community while maintaining a positive image of the Business School at Staffordshire University.

Carol Southall

Exceptional Contribution Award

Awarded to a member of staff who has contributed to not just the business school but Staffordshire university for several amount years

Anni Hollins

Future Leader Award

Awarded to a member of staff who has developed an original and contemporary assessment with positive feedback

Angela Lawerence

Written by Anne Harbisher

How to sustain word-of-mouth advertising, the holy grail of marketing?

Staffordshire University is a proud regional university which is important to the local community, contributes to the local economy and society, and cooperates with local businesses. Indeed, we use our expertise to help businesses grow; by using sound research we can support practice by theory to help businesses make well-informed strategic decisions.

We are so committed to create a strong and sustainable relationship between industry and academia that we not only make our undergraduate and taught postgraduate curriculum practice-based, but we even have special doctoral programmes that are designed to contribute to the body of knowledge as well as to practice. Professional doctorates, as they generally referred to, are a great example of the relevance and importance of applied research (i.e. research that seeks to solve a real-life problem).

Doctor of Business Administration

Andrew Stephenson joined the Doctor of Business Administration programme when he was the Human Resource Director at DFS, a UK leading sofa manufacturer. DFS, like many firms all over the world adopted the Net Promoter System (NPS), a customer loyalty metric which was introduced by Frederick Reichheld in his paper ‘The one number you need to grow’, published in 2003 by the Harvard Business Review. The NPS is determined by asking customers one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?”. Customers are asked to record their answer on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 representing ‘not likely at all’ and 10 being ‘extremely likely’. Respondents are categorised in three groups – detractors (0-6), passives (7-8) and promoters (9-10). The Net Promoter Score is then determined by subtracting the proportion of detractors from the proportion of promoters. It is not surprising that NPS quickly gained popularity with management in many industries; the measure is very simple to calculate, it has face validity and intuitive appeal to managers and other stakeholders, and it is a comparable metric that companies seek to include in their reports. DFS was no exception and thus decided to start collecting information from their customers, including the ‘magic’ question.

 
Both DFS and Staffordshire University soon realised the potential of establishing a collaborative relationship on this project and the benefits such collaboration would bring to both institutions. Staffordshire University would be able to contribute to a success of a business through research; academics working on the project would use it to contribute to the University’s Research Excellence Framework submission; students would benefit from having their learning supported by practice-based cutting edge research. DFS on the other hand, would get answers to the numerous questions that needed answering so that they could drive their company forward. This led to DFS providing Staffordshire University with access to a large data set of responses to customer satisfaction surveys.

We have now cleaned up the data and set it up for econometric analysis which is already yielding some very interesting results that will not only contribute to the existing body of knowledge on NPS but also directly to industry practice. One of the aims of the project was to determine what drives customer propensity to recommend a brand. We used factor analysis to reduce the large number of survey questions to a manageable number of explanatory variables which we then used in a logistic regression model to determine what influences the likelihood of a customer becoming a promoter.

The most important factors have been identified to be satisfaction with product quality and sales experience, and the ability of the company to exceed customers’ expectations. Therefore if businesses get their product right, implement basic sales techniques to deliver great sales experience, and exceed customers’ expectations, customers will reward them with glowing recommendations which in turn will attract more promoters, creating a multiplier effect which will sustain the word-of-mouth advertising, the holy grail of marketing.

I am very excited to be a part of this project where cutting-edge industry practices meet cutting-edge research; where theory meets practice; where outputs of robust econometrical analysis are interpreted in business context and applied to make well-informed strategic decisions; and I very much look forward to discovering the endless possibilities and opportunities this project will bring.

By Dr Jana Fiserova

Pottery Places in the heart of England by Kelly Jansen (Final year student)

 

Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire is the capital of Potteries in the UK. Stoke on Trent is the home of several international household names such as Emma Bridgewater, Wedgewood, Middleport Pottery (home to Burleigh Pottery) and Royal Stafford who all produce china and earthenware. Famously, these pottery places attract tourists to Stoke to visit the brand they know and love.

I was eager to learn about the different visitors and their reasons for wanting to come to Stoke on Trent, so I carried a Visitor Survey at Emma Bridgewater on behalf of their Marketing Team, as primary research for my dissertation.

One of my findings was that for 60% of visitor’s at the factory, the main reason for visiting Stoke on Trent was the Emma Bridgewater site. So how has it become a destination venue?

There are plenty of things to do whilst at the Emma Bridgewater Factory, although they get really busy so where possible, I recommend booking the activity prior to arriving.

Activities available include:

The Decorating Studio – Pick your choice of item to decorate (from a mug to a dog bowl). The price of your decorating experience is dependent on the piece you choose to paint and a £2.95 studio fee. You can either collect your master piece 2 weeks later or pay a £5 postage fee.

In the decorating studio

Factory Tours – Tours around the factory to see how everything is made for a small price of £2.50 and Under 16’s are FREE.

Experience Days – Includes a behind the scenes tour, Afternoon tea, a session in the decorating studio and it includes 10% off at the gift shop. All for £30 per person!

Afternoon Tea – A great price of just £12.50 for amazing sandwiches, soups and beautiful cakes.

Café – Great homemade food that was fresh (I would recommend the Pesto chicken sandwich). The café is open to the general public, so you don’t have to be taking part in any activities, you can just enjoy the daily specials.

Secret Garden – It’s a secret… you’ll have to visit and find out yourself.

Special Event activities – for example at Halloween they had Owls, a pumpkin counting competition and fancy dress. More detail for further upcoming events available on their website – http://emmabridgewaterfactory.co.uk/

Another bonus is the factory offer FREE parking and great transport links for example it is a 10-minute walk from Stoke train station and a 2-minute walk from Hanley bus station.

Factory Website – Facebook – Twitter – Instagram

Kelly Jansen is in her final year of BA Tourism Management she tweets at @KellyJansen95 and is on Linkedin 

Kelly Jansen and Danielle Barnsley

Kelly Jansen and Danielle Barnsley on site at Emma Bridgewater

 

Event – Tourism Management the ‘Smart’ Way 17th May

SMARTOUR logo

UPDATE – The SMARTOUR Tool is now online ! 

 

Do you have staff that would benefit from some training? Maybe you would like to develop some knowledge in a new area such as social media or service quality? Would you like to strengthen your links in your region?

We carried out an international survey with managers and staff in the tourism industry to identify the topics that the tourism industry wanted to produce a set of learning materials, workshops and an online training tool. On the day, we will also demonstrate the online tool that has been developed so that after the event you or your staff can do the training at a time that is suitable for you.

Come along to this FREE event to network, update your skills and learn about future opportunities.

Venue: Ashley Building, Staffordshire University, Leek Road, Stoke on Trent, ST4 2DF

Schedule

9.00 Registration (teas and coffees) LT111/3

9.30 Introduction and welcome Prof Jon Fairburn

9.50 – 11.00 Workshops

Workshop 1 –– Managing service quality in tourism – Carol Southall and Tonia Barrett LT14

Workshop 2 – Saving money on your energy costs – Neil Packer LT 111/113

Workshop 3 – SMARTOUR Online learning tool – Prof Jon Fairburn and Tom Ward LT 12

Workshop 4 – Food for thought – Tom Pridmore LT11

11.00 – 11.15 Time to register for online tool or network

11.15  Promoting and sustaining your business with Ron Lawrence owner of Colton House, Lichfield and Gillian Thomson from the Green Tourism Awards LT111/113

12.15 Lunch LT111/113 and LT 115 if needed

1.00 Close

Please register on the link https://smartour.eventbrite.co.uk if you have any queries about registration please contact Tom Ward t.ward@staffs.ac.uk or 01782 294902

About the presenters

Ron and Gay Lawrence have won many tourism awards including Green Tourism Gold Awards and Gold Tourism Awards from Enjoy Staffordshire and Visit England. Colton House is a luxury 5* Gold rated B&B, with awards for breakfasts and dinners from VE and the AA. Colton House is the highest rated accommodation provider in Staffordshire, with the facilities of a boutique country house hotel. www.coltonhouse.com  Tel: 01889578580

Prof Jon Fairburn leads the SMARTOUR project, teaches on the MSc Digital Marketing Management and runs the No1 twitter account for Business Schools in the world (according to Edurank) @BusinessStaffs

Carol Southall is a senior lecturer and the Award Leader for Tourism Management courses at the University she has also worked extensively in the tourism industry over the last 20 years. @cdesouthall

Tonya Barrett has previously worked in the tourism and hospitality industry and current lectures at Staffordshire University

Neil Packer is a Senior Lecturer in Engineering he has previously worked in the private sector and public sector on energy issues before joining the University.

Tom Pridmore has worked in the tourism industry for over 30 years. He is currently a Ribble Valley Tourism Officer and a director of TEAP Associates and a leading member of the Tourism Management Institute 

If you are a member of a professional organisation then attendance should count as 4 hours CPD accreditation (more details to follow soon)

Useful links

logosbeneficaireserasmusrightfunded

 

A new and rapid way of marketing – Digital Marketing

Aside

Whilst supporting businesses, I’m often asked “What is Digital Marketing”, and frequently people think it’s just social media marketing, for example marketing via Instagram or Twitter.  Digital Marketing encompasses much more than this, so in this article I’m going to give a brief overview of digital marketing and discuss some key points about how to make it effective for businesses.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing unlike the traditional means of marketing, encompasses marketing of products or services through the numerous available electronic media. It presents marketing of these products/services in such a way that the channels and methods utilized will enable the service provider or product manufacturer to analyse, survey and review marketing trends, and therefore know what is working effectively. This part is very important, marketers must prove, with data, that each part of their digital marketing is working and providing a Return on Investment etc.

Blog 1

If done correctly, Digital Marketing can put customers in control, drive brand loyalty, reduce the selling cycle, build your brand, and it should be measurable and cost-effective.  The key areas Digital Marketing encompasses are:

  1. Social Media Marketing (SMM) These days, most people are on some form of Social Media e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Periscope etc. Social media marketing, involves using these platforms to gain website traffic or improve brand awareness and customer service. These platforms usually have analytics and a particular target customer base, e.g. LinkedIn for business people to network and also find employment. Therefore, each of these platforms can be used in a targeted way. As with any marketing tool there are good and bad ways of using them, for example, response rates can be shown to be higher with videos and pictures rather than just text. With good content curation, readers will share your social media with their networks and in effect become advocates. Readers are more likely to look at Social Media from friends than direct marketing from organisations, so it can be one of the most cost effective forms of marketing.  If this sharing becomes widespread it’s known as Viral Marketing. An example is the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, ALS did not invent the challenge but it became widespread and included Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates taking part.
  1. Website design Website designing is the process of gathering ideas and concepts, and the implementation of these concepts for the purpose of creating content on web pages or the internet, for the benefit of end-users to utilize and get the necessary information with any web browser. However, done properly it is much more than this. The website has to be easy to use and navigate, pleasing to the eye, and work in such a way that it gets results. The website design includes the website layout, colours, font, multimedia, interactive features and compatibility e.g. being mobile compatible. An organisation I have worked with, 6 Towns Radio, in some months can have over 60% of their website visits via tablets and mobile phones (see 6townsradio.com). Websites such as blogs can be developed in such a way that they can have a high SEO ranking and be monetised to earn income e.g. via affiliate marketing.
  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is using a range of tools and techniques, so that ideally your website appears at, or near the top, of the not-paid for (organic) area of the search engine page, when people do an online search for your product or service. This is so that you can drive online traffic to your website and create awareness about your products. It involves the web-site and web-page design, words you use on your page, keywords terms, number and quality of web-sites linked to your page, how often it is updated and developed, etc, and being structured in such a way that search engines understand and rank it ideally higher than competing websites. On top of this, it has to be done without diminishing the value of what you have to offer.
  1. Pay per Click (PPC) is a way of buying visits to your sites rather than attempting to earn them through SEO. This is because PPC is a medium where marketers adverts should appear near the top and/or side of the first page of a search result and they will pay for every click made on their advert. The advantage of PPC is that if done correctly it can create instant results, the dis-advantage is that once you stop paying you stop getting results, whereas good SEO will carry on working. Creating an effective PPC campaign involves research, content curation and continually testing the results.
  1. Display advertising (banner ads) As technology advanced, advertising began to take new forms with the advent of digital advertising techniques. Essentially, it entails the use of ads that can be in form of text, video or audio for advertisement purposes on a website. With increasing sophistication of mobile apps and technology, banner advertising can be geo-demographic and person specific so that these become very targeted.
  1. Email marketing The electronic mail set the initial trend for internet advertising and even though many predictions have talked about the decline in its usage, it can still be a very cost-effective form of marketing. Email marketing can be a vibrant means of communication and helping a business to grow, by employing a very direct and cheap marketing means of sending newsletters and other types of information to a target audience. Online systems such as Email Servers and CRM systems can automate the subscription, sending, un-subscribing etc. of emails, for example auto-responders can send out targeted emails on a timed basis or automatically respond to an enquiry. Increasing concerns about receiving unwanted emails (Spamming) will soon mean that that you need to be able to demonstrate that customers have subscribed to your emails and they are not on an exclusion database, similar to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), but for emails.
  1. Content Curation I’ve put Content Curation as a separate topic as it is a key factor in all of the above topics and in today’s digital world, content rules the space. Generally, content marketing cuts across infographics, webpages, podcasts, videos, books, eBooks, apps etc. It is a technique used for the creation and distribution of invaluable content in a consistent manner to a target audience. The aim of spreading the content and feeding it to the target audience is usually so that they can take some actions e.g. buy a product, apply or subscribe to a service etc. Content curation can take a company near bankruptcy and change it into one of the worlds most powerful brands as demonstrated by Lego who have developed an  interactive customer friendly website and even have Lego based films so customers are happy to watch, what is effectively, a very long advert.

Screenshot of Lego website

As mentioned a few times above, a key point is that if you are involved in marketing you need to be able to prove, with current data, what you are doing so that you can improve upon it.

When marketing via social media, websites, etc. you need to monitor and review:

  • which platforms your customers are using,
  • when they are using them, e.g. which days and what time,
  • how are they using them, e.g. a casual look or actually interacting with your marketing and using them as part of their decision-making to purchase,
  • And how this all links together to make a purchase, in what is known as the customer funnel.

If you do not use data you could be wasting your time and money marketing in areas that do not work, for example marketing on Twitter when your customers are using Instagram and Snapchat, or, marketing to potential customers on Snapchat during the working day when they typically use it early or late in the day and weekends.

An area that I get involved in with businesses and Social Enterprises is something called Conversion Rate Optimisation where we can improve the number of customers visiting and purchasing products/services. Typically this includes :-

  • checking and mapping how you are marketing and how your customers are using the internet;
  • measuring what customers are doing with your marketing, e.g. via Google Analytics or Facebook Insights;
  • testing via split-testing to improve results (also know as A/B testing),
  • continuing to test and improve customer conversions and the size of purchase.

As we can monitor and improve online and see instant results, it has led to a form of marketing called Growth Hacking. This is where we undertake and monitor rapid experimentation across online platforms to find the most effective and efficient ways to engage and grow a business customer base. It should develop long-term sustainable growth, not just short term profit.

The above and much more is covered in MSc Digital Marketing Management and BSc Digital Marketing Management at Staffordshire University.

 

Paul Dobson BSc(Hons), DIT, DMS, MSc, MA, MBA, PGCHPE, FHEA, FCMI, MAM

Senior Lecturer in Digital and Strategic Marketing – Staffordshire University Business School

Email: P.M.Dobson@staffs.ac.uk

 

The end of experts and the threat of the 140 character argument

It seems that there is a bout of soul-searching underway as we search for certainty in a changing and tumultuous world. The authority and legitimacy of the ‘expert’ is being questioned and routinely dismissed in a way that seems to suggest that anyone with a modicum of freemium reading believes they are empowered to refute or ignore the arguments of subject experts.

The issue surfaced substantively following the crash of 2008.  People questioned why experts hadn’t foreseen it and. Even the Queen asked a gathering at the LSE why nobody had noticed it coming. More recently during the Brexit referendum politicians of both sides were not seen as credible by the people they were trying to scare.  The ex-justice secretary Michael Gove in an interview in 2016 said that “people have had enough of experts.   More recently the UK government criticised The Bank of England governor Mark Carney for running dubious monetary experiments an argument subsequently endorsed by William Hague.  Lately the theme was picked up by the Bank of England’s chief economist Andrew Haldane who argued that people had lost faith in the theoretical models used by economists and that economists were guilty of talking mainly to themselves and failing to reflect on the gap between theatrical models and real outcomes.

At a time when information is both cheap and must be served in easy to digest lightweight chunks and meaning is up for debate, making business decisions without critical thinking and the expertise of the expert runs the risk of succumbing to the cult of the individual.  Indeed, the cult of the individual over substance is a trend that Alain Sylvain, founder of strategy and planning consultancy Sylvain Labs believes has been developing since the financial crash and dotcom bust.

Dismissing the opinions of experts in both business and society is a simple way of avoiding a change of opinion or use evidence based analysis to form a decision.  Indeed, such refutation is a repudiation of both critical thinking and of fallibility.

What are the implications for marketing?   The risk for the discipline lies in the rejection of craft and deep understanding that is expertise for the gloss of the web guru state of marketing.   Here the latest list of must do things to ‘win’ in online marketing is the first thing management turns to.  Who needs a marketer when the answers are just a click away?  Superficial list based marketing promises that the answers to your marketing problems lie on the page.  That all you need to do is keep reading, subscribe and bookmark.  But such an approach has real dangers.  First of all everyone has access to the same list.  But more seriously real expertise and results that flow from it come from deep understanding of principles and their application in the world.  In other words, expertise understands that performance is contextual to situation and is an amalgamation of different types of knowledge often referred to as tacit and explicit.   This offers a level of subtlety that no list based promise can match

The message for companies is that in a discipline which so easily succumbs to the new and shiny, the lure of succumbing to the cult of the self-promoting proselytizer can obscure true expertise.   Companies should therefore be careful to ensure they understand the difference between expertise and self-promotion and develop means to propagate the emergence of expertise.   Nonaka demonstrated how the potential to create performative knowledge which has real traction in the world is accomplished.  It is through challenging existing knowledge, bringing in new knowledge but adapting it.  It is through a dialogue between theory and practice that enables new knowledge capable of creating epistemic work beyond that provided by following explicit instructions or some pundit.    It is through the creation of genuine expertise and a commitment to creating a culture of knowledge creation.  This is a storey that the most successful companies already understand

Dr Malcolm Ash,  EdD, MSc, MBA, DMS