The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Member Blog: 4 Major Industries Augmented by VR and AR

4 Major Industries Augmented by VR and AR - By Noir Agency

Anthony Logan - CEO & Alex Mellor - COO

It is no secret that the changes brought by the digital era are making brands fight for space in new and crowded markets. New technologies are being born every second and the companies need to think of innovative way of incorporating them to their strategies, in order to stand out from the crowd.
One type of innovation that is already increasingly adopted in different markets is Virtual and Augmented Reality technology. VR represents the device that creates a whole new digital world, where the user is immersed in, while AR incorporates digital elements to the real world.

Thinking about this, here are a few ways in which the advancement of VR and AR technologies can impact brands within different markets:

Entertainment Industry
Probably one of the industries that takes advantage of this innovation the most. Virtual Reality spaces are being created more and more each day to promote movies, TV shows and specially games. So it is a great marketing tool that sets products apart from others. Recently, brands like Live Nation Channel and Samsung are partnering up to transmit live concerts through the Next VR app.

The use of VR and AR is already revolutionizing the prototypes. Through VR experiences, companies are able to show what they are building and also present their products to the customers without the need of a physical store. This new level of prototyping is making it easier for companies to get feedback on the product in early stages of development, which implies a huge improvement in production.

In the healthcare industry, Virtual Reality can enormously improve the service offered by professionals. One example is the use of controlled environments in therapy. It usually helps people to overcome their phobias by immersing the patients in virtual reality experiences where the doctors can actually examine patient’s reactions.

Market Research
Virtual Reality environments are also helping marketing departments to understand their audience in a better way. According to OgilvyAction study, 39% of purchase decisions are made right before buying, so it is helpful for marketers to know how people behave in store, by reproducing this environment virtually.

It is clear that brands should start thinking about how technologies such as VR and AR can bring benefits to their companies, in order to build a strong customer experience that can make them breakthrough in the ever changing digital world.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Member Blog: The Marketing Spectrum – from Brand to Promotion

The Marketing Spectrum – from Brand to Promotion
By David Wright - Founder-Director of BSA Marketing

Although closely related, there are clear and recognised differences between Selling and Marketing.
What is considered less often is the Marketing Spectrum. At one end is sales promotion, where the marketing goal is generating leads. Typically this is a short-term process.
At the other end of the spectrum is brand marketing – a longer-term process – where the goal is building awareness, perception and understanding of the value your company delivers.
Achieving this goal helps to ensure that when people in your market think of the products/services you supply, they think of you as a good place to buy.
In larger (i.e. non-SME) companies, much of their marketing effort focuses on:
  • Press Relations
  • Brand Awareness
  • Market Engagement
  • Market Perceptions
This marketing activity isn’t so much about generating leads as managing how the company is perceived by their customers and markets. i.e. building the Brand. They know that a strong brand adds real value to their business.
The value of a brand
According to US business publishing giant Forbes, the most valuable brands in 2016 were:
  1. Apple.                                     Brand value: $154.1 billion.
  2. Google(Alphabet).               Brand value: $82.5 billion.
  3. Microsoft.                              Brand value: $75.2 billion.
  4. Coca-Cola.                             Brand value: $58.5 billion.
Clearly, building a brand is a great way of adding real value to a business!
The fundamental value in these businesses is their brand. Think about it, if any big brand launches a new product or service, they get noticed, and they try to be very careful that their new offering reinforces their brand – though if you remember Dasani Water launched by Coca Coca-Cola in 1999, even the big boys don’t always get it right first time! You can read the article here
This said, despite the initial problems, the power of the Coca-Cola brand marketing machine didn’t let them down! In the year to May 2016, Dasani held a US market share of 9.9% worth some $1Billion in sales (Source)
But is Brand Marketing relevant to the SME sector?
So what has this got to do with me?
Every business – even your’s – has a brand, and your brand has a real and sustainable value; yet for the majority of SME businesses, when owners and managers think of marketing, their primary focus is on sales promotion, generating leads. Leads can deliver short-term revenue but it is a growing brand that delivers sustained business value.
When a business focuses on sales promotion, if a particular activity doesn’t deliver on expectations then the ‘marketing’ stops. There can then be a period of little or no market communication and engagement while the next lead generation plan is put together.
Don’t get me wrong, lead generation is important for sales and revenue but sales promotion isn’t really building the business brand which is what grows the business value.
SME brand building
By building your own brand you grow real substance in your business – a platform which can deliver value, performance and impact to your sales promotion.
A well-structured marketing process should encompass
brand building as well as lead generation
Amongst SMEs, brand building is too often ignored. I think a key reason for this is cost perception. Brand marketing can be seen as an expensive luxury because it doesn’t drive perceptible short-term sales which are the focus of many SME businesses.   However, building your brand in the shorter term can have a real impact on your sales promotion in the medium and longer term.
The more people know and trust your business, the more
notice they will take of your promotional efforts.
Although it is true that 20 years ago, brand marketing needed deep pockets, it is absolutely not the case today; yet there is still an issue – there is a quandary in SME marketing.
The lure of Sales Promotion
Because many SME businesses equate marketing with sales promotion there is a plethora of companies that have grown up offering marketing (sales promotion) services to meet this demand. These services can look appealing so the bias continues – even though, in practice, the services offered (and paid for!) don’t always quite meet the expectations of the SME => Time to go and look for another source of leads!
There is an untapped opportunity for SME businesses...
I guess the lead generation dilemma will continue but there is still an untapped opportunity for SME businesses to benefit from exploring the wider marketing spectrum and consider brand marketing.
As I mentioned above, as well as building business value, effective brand marketing will also have a positive impact on sales promotion – it is win-win.
How do I bring brand marketing into my business?
Here are my top 5 tips for making brand marketing a core element of your business development strategy:
  1. Create a written plan defining:
    • Your key business proposition
    • Your target market
    • Why your proposition delivers real value benefit to your customers
  1. Use the above to develop a practical communications strategy and action plan to get your message out to your market
  2. Regularly review and refine your plan
  3. Stick at it
    Brand building takes time. You should see it as a consistent function of your ongoing business, something that you keep doing all the time.
  4. Don’t spend too much!
    This may sound like an odd thing to say but if you over-commit your resources (could be time, or money, or both) you will struggle to stick at it and sustained activity is essential.
    As a guide, I suggest limiting your ongoing brand marketing budget to no more than 0.5% -1% of your business turnover.
There is absolutely nothing to stop you developing and running your own brand marketing. There are lots of free tools online to help you. If, however, you would appreciate some support to get you going or keep you going please get in touch.

David Wright is a Founder-Director of BSA Marketing –

Member Blog: 5 Ways to Start a Presentation

5 Ways to Start a Presentation
By Buffalo7

You have a maximum of a minute to capture your audience’s attention. Failure to do so and the remainder of your presentation will fall on deaf ears. With this in mind it’s important you start strong so we’ve put together this blog of five different ways you could start your presentation.

1.       You can quote me on that
A great quote doesn’t have to be a famous one it just has to be memorable. In fact, you should probably avoid clich├ęs. We’ve all heard the Confucius quote a million times “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” so try to stay clear of quotes you expect the majority of your audience have heard before.

Get your audience interacting from the off. You could put half of the quote on the first slide and then ask your audience to finish it.

“A good speech is like a pencil;………”

Have you got it? Course you have.

2.      Share a secret
Don’t delve into your private life, what you get up to at the weekends is your business but something along the lines of;

“Hi. My name is James and I’m going to share a secret with you. When I started this job, my greatest fear was public speaking.”

This shows your human side and can help you connect with your audience. They should immediately empathise with you and will you on from this point onwards.

3.      Be a contrarian
Not for the sake of it but if you have an unconventional approach that goes against popular beliefs then be brave and go with it from the start. If you’re talk is on sales techniques for 2017 your opener could be;

“We all know that cold calling as a legitimate sales technique died a long time ago. Well I’m here to tell you that that’s simply not true. Here’s why…”

They may not agree with you but they’ll certainly be listening.

4.      A picture says a...
Starting with a powerful image can do the hard work for you. If you can evoke strong emotions early on you’ll have your audience rapt from the get go and this is far easier done with a powerful picture than a plethora of text. Make them feel with a cute puppy or an iconic historical photograph, for example.

5.      Tailor your opening gambit
Think about your audience and what would appeal best to them. Try and tailor your opener to their industry and interests. A room of coders will respond better to a joke about Linux than a room of architects. A group of philosophy students will find a Socrates anecdote more relatable than one about Picasso.
Start strong, finish strong
Once you’ve chosen your opener, it’s a good idea to return to it when closing your presentation. This completes the storytelling loop and leaves your take-home message fixed in your audiences mind. A good speech is like a pencil; it has to have a point.

Buffalo 7 is the UK’s leading PowerPoint presentation design agency working with names including UEFA Champions League, Dell, Red Bull, Facebook and the BBC. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Chamber Blog: Fixing our broken housing market?

By Christian Spence - Head of Research & Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

The publication on Tuesday 7 February 2017 of the government's housing white paper Fixing our broken housing market is a welcome addition to the policy landscape if only for the tacit acknowledgement that the failure to deliver an adequate supply of housing in the UK is a long-term problem that requires significant remedial action to fix. However, it is not clear that this publication offers any new answers to this critical issue.

The paper correctly states that the fundamental problem is one of under-supply, and that the lack of suitable land and sufficient planning permissions lie at the heart of the issue. Local authority plans are often incomplete or not up-to-date which slows down the planning application process, a problem that has been exacerbated over the recent past by significant cuts to local authority planning departments caused by fiscal constraints imposed by central government. Coupled with an old-fashioned and out-dated approach to Green Belt use where the arbitrary caps on city growth established in the 1940s are considered suitable for today and a lack of acceptance that brownfield land can only provide a limited amount of development and that much of it requires remediation of a scale that makes development commercially nonviable, the system overall seems incapable of delivering what is needed and some of the changes proposed fail to take into account the challenges of developers.

Introducing timescales within which development must be completed after planning permission is approved misunderstands the complexities and financial risks that developers face in bringing forward proposals, particularly of a large-scale. Government and planning authorities must work more closely together to ensure they understand each other's position and that the length of time required to move proposals from conception to delivery, often slowed down by the planning system itself, exposes builders to ever-greater risks. Combined with other issues such as difficulty accessing capital and skills and increasingly complex regulations and requirements, together these push up the development costs requiring ever further intervention to provide affordable homes.

Planning, at a local and city-regional level must develop beyond simple land-use allocation and seek to release greater areas of land for development alongside the development of all other infrastructure, whether physical, digital or social, required to support sustainable communities of the future. Our response to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework consultation highlights these issues in detail. Identification of land for housing development, seemingly chosen because it is politically easier to justify rather than ensuring that the road, public transport, digital, school and health facilities are in place, or at least the needs have been identified and planned, is not in itself sufficient.

For too long this country has been held back by artificially introduced barriers to development. Government and local authorities should approach this problem not through further interventions, but by removing the barriers that exist. It is not clear that this white paper, or the GM Spatial Framework, as they stand, answer these questions.

You can read the GMCC consultation response to GMSF by clicking here.