Category Archives: Marketing

After Hours – Co-op Digital

Working in technology, I enjoy listening to the experiences of other professionals. These occasions allow me to learn from the experiences of others in technology, before applying them to my own work and sharing with others.

Recently I attended the first ever After Hours event at Avenue HQ, which was organised by Oh This Way (OH). This featured Gail Mellows and Matt Tyas of Co-op Digital, who talked about their experiences and how they have used the skills learned on their digital journey, to benefit Co-op Digital and their clients.

Listening to Gail and Matt speak, I picked up on several reoccurring themes. These included collaboration, experimentation, quality of content, and working with other people. These are very important themes required in every single industry, as well as in everyday life.

In addition, there were other useful pieces of advice, that l learned from the event. These correspond to the themes that I have already mentioned, and in the spirit of learning and sharing, I have included some of these below.

  1. Never assume what your customers want.
  2. Experiment with different ways of working.
  3. Use your skills from childhood (e.g. drawing, sketching with colours, or using Lego), to get your ideas across.
  4. Prototyping is the start of collaboration between designers, developers and customers.
  5. Duplication needs to be reduced as it causes inefficiency, is unfair on colleagues, and is ultimately bad for customers.
  6. Important to research thoroughly and involve everyone.
  7. Prototyping allows you to make mistakes safely, quickly and cheaply.
  8. Give teams the right tools to do their job.
  9. Content needs to be designed so that it is legible, readable and accessible to all.
  10. Content and customer needs dictate the design outcome.
  11. Good design should go unnoticed.
  12. Quality of content is perceived by how a customer interacts with it.
  13. What you leave out is as important as what you include.
  14. Use the right words and not more words.
  15. Learn from what succeeded and failed.

To summarise what I have learned, content needs to meet the requirements stated by the customer. This is achieved by using different working methods, techniques and the right tools, to constantly experiment with various scenarios, before creating content that meets the required outcomes. As well as the above, content needs to meet quality standards, be accessible to everyone, is user-friendly, and based on strong foundations of thorough research and robust testing, from all relevant parties.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Robyn Dooley and Victoria Murray of OH for organising the event. My thanks also go to Gail and Matt from Co-op Digital for sharing their experiences, and also to Avenue HQ for hosting the event. This was an interesting and very useful discussion for me, and I am looking forward to the next After Hours event.

You can find out more about Co-op Digital’s work by looking at their blog.

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BIMA & Microsoft Roadshow Liverpool – Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Working in the IT industry, it is important to keep abreast of the latest developments. For me personally, I like to take an interest in how the changing technology landscape, affects both the economic and social society we live in.

Earlier this month BIMA North West in partnership with Microsoft held an event at Avenue HQ, which looked at the above. I was looking forward to learning more about how Microsoft is developing technological solutions, which will shape the future for businesses and agencies. In addition, I also relished the opportunity to network with other technical professionals and creative minds.bima_microsoft1

The event began with an introduction from Andy Kent of Angel Solutions and Ian Finch of Mando. Both set the tone, by talking about the innovative work of their agencies, and how emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and cloud computing are changing how businesses operate.

Andy and Ian were then followed by James Akrigg of Microsoft, who delivered an informative presentation. This looked at using AI to understand and translate languages, as well as Microsoft’s ongoing research to improve its capabilities, including image recognition and cognitive services (vision, language, speech, emotion and audio). All of this sounds like science fiction, but they are becoming more entrenched in reality.

Following this, the event split into separate workshops that were delivered by Microsoft technologists, Philip Harvey and Jodie Rodgers. Each presented various aspects of how technology and data can be used intelligently by businesses. This included looking at good practices of intelligent handling, storing, processing, and cleansing of cloud-based data from its rawest form, to accurately visualise and present it. By using these innovations, this provides businesses with the opportunity to identify areas of improvement, and create further value.

What impressed me about James, Philip and Jodie, is they were knowledgeable, friendly, and able to explain technical content in a simple and understanding tone. Coming from a technical background, I was able to understand the terminology, and it was wonderful to sit and listen to them talk about such exciting technological innovations. Quite simply I shall say, the possibilities to enrich and benefit businesses and society, are endless!

So what did I learn from the event? The answer is that I picked up so much in great detail about Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution and Power BI data analytics tools. There were also reoccurring themes from the event related to data and technology, which I have learned and included below:

  1. Data is the new oil!
  2. It is important to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology.
  3. Technologies have to be the right fit for a business.
  4. Ability to process data is a vital skill in the marketplace.
  5. Today’s software is becoming smarter.
  6. Before using data, it is important to sort, cleanse, organise and secure it.
  7. If harnessed intelligently, data can bring value to any business.
  8. Quality of data is important, and security is everyone’s responsibility.
  9. Humans prefer data presented visually.
  10. Data needs to be accurate, cleansed, simplified and presented in real-time.

Following lunch, there was an opportunity to take part in a boot camp. This involved taking a fictional case study and applying the knowledge learned from the workshops to devise a solution. Working as part of a team, I was able to contribute ideas, but also to listen and take in suggestions of fellow team members, before helping to present a solution to other attendees.bima_microsoft3

To conclude, I loved every moment of this event. From the speakers, networking and those incredible Microsoft tools, this has given me an insight into the future. It has also given me fresh impetus to learn and write more about AI, ML and cloud computing, especially Microsoft Azure, which I am looking forward to sharing in the future.

I would like to thank everyone involved with organising a terrific day. This includes Andy, Ian, everyone at BIMA, Angel Solutions, Mando and also to Avenue HQ for their hospitality. My thanks also go to James, Philip, Jodie and everyone at Microsoft for sharing their knowledge, technical expertise, visionary thoughts, and their smiles and humour.

If you would like to find out more, why not click on the link below:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/partner/digitalagency/

Thank you for reading!

Social Media Meetup – Thursday 19th April 2018

Recently I attended Social Media Meetup, which was held at Launch22 in Liverpool. This was organised by Mark Russell of bmicro, and featured knowledgeable speakers in Peter Buglass of Objective Comment Consultancy and Edward Ridding of Umami.

I had never been to this event before, although others in my network had recommended it, through word-of-mouth on LinkedIn. Therefore as a blogger, I decided to attend the event, and see what I could learn. It was certainly worth the investment of my time and energy.

The event featured a brief talk from both Peter and Edward, who shared their professional experiences of using social media, as part of their businesses. Peter and Edward also gave their views on the recent announcement of JD Wetherspoons, closing down their social media accounts, and allowed the audience to contribute to the discussion.

From this, the discussion opened up a wide range of opinions, leading to other relevant issues surrounding social media. These included how organisations collect and use personal data, to provide personalised communications to their customers. A typical example is Amazon using data collected on customers, to send personalised ssm2_290418recommendations, based on browsing and shopping habits.

In addition, the event allowed the audience to ask each other questions, and discuss how to improve their online platforms. This was a good opportunity for me, to tap into the experience of the speakers and audience, who gave me some useful advice and pointers.

There was a real community feel to the event, as the audience was a diverse mix of professionals from different backgrounds, including entrepreneurs, digital marketers and bloggers. The bloggers I met included Jo Fitzimons who not only has a travel blog called Indiana Jo, but also a prosecco themed-blog called Visit Prosecco Italy. Another blogger I also met and was impressed by was Aditi Chawla, of Try New Today. Being surrounded by like-minded people, and a friendly dog called Buttons was very relaxing and pleasant, making this one of the nicest events I have ever attended, and one that I recommend to anyone.

If you have ever been to Launch22’s offices in Liverpool, I guarantee that it offers something completely different (in the words of Monty Python). As a co-working space, Launch22 has a quirkiness andssm1_290418 homely environment allowing for entrepreneurs and creative-minded people to launch their dreams. Such homeliness was evident, when I noticed a huge teddy bear in the office.

To conclude, I would like to personally thank Mark, Peter and Edward, and everyone at Launch22 for putting together an evening, rich in learning, delightful conversation, and for the popcorn.

I shall certainly be looking forward, to attending another event in the near future!

Professional Liverpool – Networking Lunch with Dean Currall

Marketing is crucial for businesses in every industry. From law, digital, construction, technology, manufacturing, finance and others, it is a key role shared by everyone. However one of the common pitfalls encountered are professionals talking about themselves and their businesses first, rather than listening and learning about what potential customers want.

I had the pleasure of recently attending a networking lunch organised by Professional Liverpool, which looked at marketing. The speaker was Dean Currall of Verb Marketing, who gave a presentation about how professional services can utilise marketing techniques, to develop fruitful and productive trust-based relationships.

There was plenty that Dean talked about, that really fascinated me. From the importance of giving solutions to customers, in the form of services and structured content, I found Dean’s presentation to be tangible and relevant for businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals today. In this era of digital technology, companies need to use the capabilities provided to tailor their marketing approach, in order to attract clients and promote their services.

In addition, Dean also provided other useful nuggets of wisdom, which I have listed below.

  1. You need to have a marketing strategy and objectives that are relevant, achievable and measurable.
  2. Create and give free content that resonates with people.
  3. Promote and boost content created and shared by others (e.g. blog posts, published articles and presentations).
  4. To sell content to boost your brand, you need to offer solutions.
  5. Your content needs to include tangible information.
  6. Become a thought leader and develop a relationship of trust.
  7. Do more seminars and blogs!
  8. Sell stories, experiences, solutions and benefits.
  9. Segment your content using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database.

From the points listed above, I was able to relate this to my blogging work, and how I constantly strive to create relevant and useful content, that resonates with people. Listening to Dean speak about structuring content, providing relevant information and how it needs to capture the personal attention of others, was a defining moment for me.

It also made me think back to a past experience, when I wrote and published an article about learning from failure, back in June 2016. When I published and shared the article, I discovered later on to my amazement, that it was viewed 88 times that year, which I was not expecting. Therefore I was taken completely by surprise with how the article struck a chord, and resonated with many people. It still surprises me today!

I was greatly impressed with Dean as a speaker. I not only learned plenty from him, but he presented and delivered his content, with a knowledgeable yet easygoing tone, that I could easily relate to and understand. In addition, I was also impressed with his knowledge of the mechanics involved with successful marketing. This has given me a greater understanding of creating and marketing my blog content.

A delightful bonus of the event was networking with familiar and new faces. These included Paul Trickett of Bathgate Business Finance, Agnes Fitzgerald of Irish Business Enterprise, Elaine Courtney of Courtney Reid, Jon Davies of Jon Davies Accountants and Simon Robb of The Alternative Board, amongst many others. Overall it was a pleasurable event, and I sincerely hope that everyone who attended also enjoyed Dean’s presentation, and found it to be as interesting and useful as I did.

I would like to personally thank Dean for sharing his marketing wisdom, and also to Alex Clark and Emma Rittenberg of Professional Liverpool, for organising a top-notch networking lunch.

What Does it Take To Be Successful?

This is something I have thought long and hard about. Yet it is a difficult question to ask, because there is no single or sure-fire way to be successful. In my opinion, success is a combination of positive factors and behaviours working productively together to reach a positive outcome or achievement.

Success can be defined as anything that an individual, team of individuals, or an organisation have achieved and feel proud about. They can be big or small, and either personal or professional. These can be from businesses winning multi-million pound contracts, entrepreneurs running their own successful ventures, or even of a personal nature such as raising a family, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.

To be successful requires you to commit maximum effort to whatever goals you have set for yourself. Secondly you must also have the belief and mental resilience to withstand the inevitable obstacles that you will encounter along your journey. It is through the above that successful people and organisations are driven by heartfelt passion, in addition to having the commitment and steel to rise above and overcome the obstacles they face.

There are also other important qualities required to be successful. I have provided some examples of these below, many of which are also applicable to your personal life.

  1. Never be driven solely by money as it is derivative and highly destructive.
  2. Think how you can help others first.
  3. Remember to always listen before speaking.
  4. Ensure you have the necessary skills required and continually learn new ones.
  5. Know your capabilities and limitations.
  6. Understand yourself as a brand as we are all marketers.
  7. Learn to be resilient and manage stress.
  8. Make the most of opportunities presented to you.
  9. Don’t be afraid to fail, but remember to learn from them.
  10. Be honest with yourself and others.
  11. List personal goals that are achievable, realistic, and that also ignites your enthusiasm.
  12. Be prepared to be flexible by constantly realigning your goals, with where your business/organisation is going.
  13. Communication is important to develop good personal and professional relationships.
  14. Learn how to deal with office politics.
  15. Treat everyone equally and with humility.
  16. Treat your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously.
  17. Network with people from different professions and backgrounds.

You must also remember to take the time to relax. Focusing entirely on your career, can neglect your physical and mental health, as well as relationships with family, friends, colleagues and even business clients. Even the successful ones, realise the importance of not only spending quality time with family, but also have a hobby or two that brings enjoyment and allows them to release stress. Having hobbies and interests outside of your career also helps to show you as a more rounded person.

There is no easy path to success. As the world changes, from politics, technology, economics and others, you will encounter many obstacles, both personally and professionally. These will test your personal belief in what you strive to set out to achieve. Overcoming them will not always be easy, as there will be occasions where some will grind you down. In addition, there will also be mistakes and failures that you will make and encounter, as you venture along your chosen path.

The key to succeed is to keep believing in yourself, your values, who you aspire to be, and to help others on your journey.

Anyone can be successful with courage, and a dogged determination to keep going through the good and bad times.

Thanks for reading!

Liverpool Girl Geeks – An Introduction

A common concern in the IT industry is the shortage of skills to meet demands of companies and organisations. Complicating matters further, is that there is no simple solution to this. However there is one solution, which I am interested in bringing to attention, which is to encourage more women into technology.

For this article, I have decided to focus on Liverpool Girl Geeks, an organisation who strive to encourage more girls into pursuing their passion for technology. Formed in 2013 by Chelsea Slater and Rebecca Jones, the organisation strives to provide positive interventions from coding, marketing and gaming, through events, courses and workshops.

Liverpool Girl Geeks is not only very important to help close the gender gap, but also to provide the UK economy with the digital skills required in the future. In my opinion, closing the gender gap is imperative, because the lack of women in technology roles in the future, will damage the IT industry and the economy if not addressed.

Closing the gender gap in technology will not only benefit businesses, but also men too. This is because a level playing field can be worth up to £2.6 billion per-year for the UK economy, and men would also benefit from the additional sharing and collaboration of knowledge, skills and ideas.

It was through last years’s Women in Tech event that I attended, that the size of the gender gap in technology was brought clear to me (you can read my thoughts here). Since then, I have thought a great deal about this, and have since concluded that businesses, industry experts, education and society must all come collectively together and work towards bridging that gap, and correct the gender imbalance. This is where the excellent work of Liverpool Girl Geeks is vital, and deserves to be applauded and supported.

I find it very heartening to see the work down by Liverpool Girl Geeks, to help bridge the gender gap. However there is more to be done, in order to ensure that women and girls are able to pursue their technological passions, on a rightfully equal basis.

On that note, I shall leave you with a famous quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”

Thank you very much for reading!

Provoke – An Introduction to Chatbots

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The ever changing world of digital technology brings new possibilities to drive improvements, solve problems and empower customers. An example of this is the growing use of chatbots, to address customer challenges and enhance branding reputations.

Last month, Mando Group in Liverpool hosted one of their Provoke knowledge events, on the subject of chatbots. The purpose of this was to explain about how they can be used by businesses, and of the benefits involved. Working in technology with a deep curiosity to learn how technology trends can be used to help others, I was keen to find more for myself. The event lived up to my expectations, as well as having the opportunity to listen and speak to fellow attendees.

As you begin reading this, I know you are asking yourself the question below:

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to simulate conversation with a person, via auditory or visual medium e.g. the Internet. As I discovered from the event, chatbots are not science-fiction, but a reality, and increasingly becoming commonplace, as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Examples of chatbots include Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon Alexa. Chatbots are also used by companies such as RBS, CNN, Disney and Domino’s Pizza.

The event consisted of three speakers, who were Jon Seal and Gary Pretty from Mando Group, as well as Alex Fawcett from Sage. Each one gave a brief, but informative insight into how chatbots worked, and how they can be used by businesses. What was pleasing was that Jon, Gary and Alex spoke not only clearly, but demonstrated their technical knowledge concisely in simple terms, with good body language.

I learned plenty of interesting facts from the event. These were related to how chatbots are used, the purpose of them and what needs to be considered when implementing chatbots into a business. As I listened and learned, I could visualise and understand how they can be used, to benefit businesses and organisations.

Some of the facts I learned about chatbots included:

  1. They will be able to serve customers better and simplify communication.
  2. Interaction with a customer is a conversation and not a transaction, meaning they are about emotional and deeper storytelling to engage with customers.
  3. Chatbots are used on multiple-platforms, meaning it is used with social media, devices, apps and other channels.
  4. The purpose of chatbots is to make life easier for people and businesses, by simplifying processes, which helps to drive down operating costs.
  5. Provides 24/7 real-time information to customers, and can also check and retain information learned, though AI.
  6. They do not solve all problems, meaning that a default fall-back position needs to be in place, to allow customers to directly interact with a human advisor.
  7. Employees can use chatbots for better engagement with brands, allowing for improved retention and attraction of talent.

I came away with a clear understanding of what chatbots are, and of the potential they carry. They provide a unique experience in assisting customers with their problems. If they are implemented well, they will be able to successfully interact with customers and employees on a human level, which will positively enhance a brand’s reputation. Implemented poorly, the effect will be the opposite, meaning detailed technical planning, strategy and successful execution is required.

Reflecting on the event, I was taken with the layout of the unique working environment of Mando’s office. I was particularly captivated with The Curious Room, which is a small technology-free room with leather chairs, shelves filled with books and a table with a chessboard, used for brainstorming of ideas. I was even able to sit inside, and I found it to be relaxing, as well as an ideal place to think (just like a conservatory).

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In conclusion, I was deeply interested and impressed by Jon, Gary and Alex’s knowledge. The best compliment I can give, is that I came away educated, having taken a small step into a new and exciting world. Therefore I would like to thank everyone involved.

You can watch the films, and view the slides of the event on Mando’s website.