I had a great day at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School this week. After reading the article in NMA by Michael Nutley about how Creativity in digital goes way beyond advertising I was keen to learn how the next crop of leaders in the digital sector may take on the challenge.
My brief was to give the students an insight in to how a digital agency approaches a pitch and enable the team to gain some experience pitching an idea to a prospective client. I worked with the students studying a range of MSc and MBA courses.The scenario we worked on involved a small independent high street cycle shop with a modest online presence. The outcome is essential reading for any small retailer wishing to get the best out of online trading or any prospective digital employer looking to recruit exceptional talent to lead their online strategy.
The students divided in to teams of four. Each team assumed the role of a digital agency.
All of the teams were given the same brief and were asked to present their recommendations in only three hours. The resulting presentations were first class. A downloadable PDF shows the diverse range of ideas and suggestions that the team produced. This is a model any independent business with an ecommerce presence should follow.
The brief focussed on a real life cycle shop so the teams could do some real world research. I have changed the detail to protect the anonymity of the cycle shop in question:
Craig Johnson Cycles has had a website for a number of years but doesn’t get much business from it. You have twenty minutes out of Mr Johnson’s busy schedule to identify areas for improvement in his online marketing strategy and show how he can benefit from the following digital services provided by Photolink Creative Group:
• Website Design and Development
• Email Marketing
• Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
• Pay per Click Advertising (PPC)
• Social Media (SMM / SMO)
In this scenario you have already had a fact find meeting. You know that Mr Johnson currently spends £50k each year on his marketing in the regional press, website updates, directories and leafleting. His website is three years old and cost over £10k to build. He has a database of 10,000 clients with email addresses. Most people who find the website in search engines use terms like ‘Craig Johnson’ or ‘Hexham Cycle Shop’.
His biggest seller is the Specialized Rock Hopper mountain bike and his average order is £250. He makes a 40% margin on this product. If you need any other facts to complete your pitch just make them up, or use your questioning skill to tease additional information from Mr Johnson during the pitch.
Identify ways to convince Mr Johnson that this budget could achieve a better return on investment if channelled through digital options. Look at the existing website and identify areas for improvement with regard to the wording, design and its ability to perform in search engines.
The resulting presentations were first class. A number of diverse themes were highlighted in detail:
- Web Design: The teams identified many improvements to make the site easier to use and showcase products more effectively. One group even presented a wireframe design despite the fact there was less than 3 hours for the task!
- Web Development: Using an off the shelf ecommerce system with a simple checkout process was highlighted as a way to make buying easier and also save time and money updating the latest offers.
- Website Content: Diversifying content to include reviews, suggested routes, videos, 360 degree images and professional photography was suggested to improve the sales message and engage potential customers.
- Search Engine Optimisation: Technical, content, linking and research elements were correctly identified as areas for improvement to increase customer numbers, generate sales, improve brand perception and grow market share.
- Email Marketing: Growing the database, more targeted messages and effective tracking were identified as essential to keep existing customers coming back for more.
- Social Media: Utilising Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and LinkedIn were highlighted as online places to engage with new customers whilst portraying a softer sales message.
- Pay per Click: The return on investment calculations highlighted by some of the teams were compelling and worthy of commitment from the client on the day. One group correctly identified the return on investment on an easy to follow spread sheet.
- E-CRM: The need to collate all marketing data to analyse customer habits and formulate effective targeted campaigns was presented in an effective manner.
- Competitions, Promotions and Events: Using offline events and viral competitions would reach out to new customers.
- Usability and Information Architecture: The detailed knowledge demonstrated in these areas by some students is close to that one would expect from a professional designer!
When collated together the collective creative ideas and lateral thinking from the students was more than a match for many small digital agencies.
The compelling way that the different approaches were presented was more than a match for many journeymen sales people currently trying their arm at selling digital services.
The day was very enjoyable, worthwhile and rewarding for all. If the crop of students studying at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School is representative of future entrants in to the digital marketplace than I am convinced the future for creativity in digital is bright.
Don’t just take my word for it – download the online marketing tips for cycle shops PDF summarising the collective thoughts presented on the day and give me your comments below.