Thursday 22 September 2011

The Importance of Being 'Liked'

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? If someone writes a blog and nobody reads it, does it exist?

Getting people to hear your message has always been a challenge but as well as the traditional methods such as Press/Direct Mail/TV there are now a number of other channels which bring with them a different set of rules.

I recently saw a connection of mine on LinkedIn had a status update that referred to a ‘Like’ they had for an update made by a connection of theirs:

Over 6,500 Likes and Over 1,300 Comments!

The sheer volume of likes and comments on this update show how a comment or update can travel far beyond your own sphere of influence, after all, one of the principles of LinkedIn is the 6 degrees of separation where we are all connected somehow and ‘my connection used to work with you’ sort of warmish leads.

Each person who is connected to one of the 6,526 people who liked the post would have seen that as an update from that connection (as I did when my connection liked the update), so if you think of all the people who saw it, but didn't bother liking the update there were probably tens of thousands of people who saw that update.

Getting a Like on a status update such as the one above reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons where Bart’s teacher Mrs. Krabappel gets passing motorists to honk their horns, seemingly in support for the teacher’s strike but in reality the placard she’s holding says ‘Honk if you love Cookies’.

Getting a Like (or a retweet) on a more sober business related message is harder but if it’s interesting enough people will pass it on as they’ll want to be generating useful content for their followers and there’s only so much content they can generate themselves.

If you can prove to be a useful filter of all the noise that’s out there then people will value what you say whether it’s related to your own or someone else’s content.

The most important thing I’ve learnt though is if you don’t ask you don’t get, so please like/retweet this blog and help to prove that point.

Our next blog will look at the ‘half-life’ of a tweet/status update and how to maximise the value of your activity to increase the proportion of your followers that see your message.

Dan Barnett


Twitter: @analysismktg

Wednesday 7 September 2011

What train prices can teach you about Optimisation

As a Swansea City fan living in Hertfordshire, getting back to watch games is a relatively lengthy process with myriad options involving car, train and bus.

In terms of optimal solutions if you had an unlimited amount of time and wanted to minimise costs then you could walk or cycle, if you had unlimited budget and wanted the quickest time possible between the two points you could charter a helicopter.

In this blog I look at the pricing structure of train fares between London and Swansea as an example of how there are potentially hundreds of possible solutions and the difference in cost between a simple and an optimised solution.

If we look at the prices of day returns on a Saturday between London and Swansea, for just one mode of transport, one journey and one train operator there are 512 different combinations of train tickets to get between the two stations (e.g., Paddington-Cardiff-Swansea, Paddington-Reading-Cardiff-Swansea etc.,).

When looking at the price matrix the main thing that is apparent is the sharp drop in cost to travel to Swansea from Swindon onwards compared to stations closer to London.
e.g. Paddington-Swansea is £69 and Paddington-Swindon-Swansea is £63.20 (£39+£24.20).

Breaking down the Paddington-Swindon part of the journey even further, this can be reduced from £39 to £37 by breaking the ticket at Reading (or £30.70 if also breaking the ticket at Didcot Parkway, with the proviso that only every other train stops at Didcot Parkway, limiting your options).

In short you can pay £69 for London-Swansea or pay £61.20 for exactly the same service by splitting the journey into several tickets (without having to get off the train) or £54.90 if you get on trains that stop at Didcot Parkway.

“So what?” you may say, but if a business could get the same results but for 10-20% less spend then it could transform their fortunes.

What does all this have to do with Marketing? Well, if you consider your starting station as where you are now with your business and the end station as where you want to get to e.g., 1,000 sales in the next month, all the relative journeys you could take to get there could include one or multiple marketing channels each with their own levels of ROI and points at which that ROI dramatically starts to flag.

For example, from previous experience you find it costs £5,000 to get 100 sales via Direct Mail or £4,000 to get 100 sales via email. Notwithstanding the fact that not all new sales are made equal, at face value you’d say you should put your money into email marketing.

In reality there’s likely to be a point at which the cost per sale is far above the average £40 that you’re getting from email marketing at which point you should be sending people your brochure in the post.

With optimisation you can make things as complicated as you like with the number of channels, constraints on who gets targeted when (and how often) etc., but the key thing is the more you understand about who responds well to what the smarter your targeting will become.

On our website we talk about the ‘binary thinking’ that often prevails e.g., “We tried email marketing and it didn’t work”, “Door Drops are too expensive” etc., and how the mix of right medium and right message will outperform a one size fits all policy.

Dan Barnett

Director of Analytics


Friday 17 June 2011

Can Swansea City be Premier League off the pitch too?

Today saw the publication of football fixtures for next season and so the excitement from Swansea’s play-off victory is ratcheted up another notch as fans (including myself) start to pencil in visits to Eastlands first then the Emirates, Stamford Bridge and beyond.

With the riches that accompany the Premier League comes a greatly increased profile and an opportunity to maximise off-field earnings as well as those from TV and gate receipts.

This isn’t about bleeding supporters dry, it’s about engaging with supporters through the means of targeted and relevant content (both Online and Offline). Although it feels like treason to say it, I don’t think Swansea have done great things on this front so far.

Regardless of what’s been going on this season, the only contact has been a weekly email every Friday afternoon which has a couple of one line teasers to content on the website with the rest of it being advertisements.

It could be argued that the aim of a newsletter is to drive people to the website and so content in the newsletter isn’t crucial. Unfortunately, in my opinion the content in the newsletter is so bland that I rarely bother opening them as I know that I’m better off just looking at the website directly now and again (I’m sure in plenty of cases however people will neither open the email or visit the website).

For successful off-field business, a club needs to be able to identify who is doing what with them. The obvious starting point are Season Ticket holders, but then beyond that there’s everyone who subscribes to the email newsletter, everyone who buys Match Day tickets (both Home and Away), Club Shop sales etc.,

One example of where this may have helped is after sealing promotion they announced the sale of a final batch of 2,000 Season Tickets. Rather than being able to determine those who may be more deserving of the opportunity of buying these tickets, it was announced on a Thursday afternoon that they were going on-sale at the club ticket office at 10 a.m. the next day, in-person sales only.

This meant that those season tickets just went to the first people who could get down to the ticket office and didn’t have to worry about work the next day. Some would say that real fans would have bought their Season Tickets already but there will be others who would argue they have been forced out by those jumping on the bandwagon.

It doesn’t have to be like this though, by combining all customer interactions you can then have a more solid understanding of:
• Who your key supporters are
• Who to target to try and increase their interaction with the club
• Delivering different offers/communications for different segments e.g., Those who bring children to the game, those who travel to away games, exile fans etc.,

This approach could be a cost effective strategy for a non-league team let alone a Premier League side but all too often is overlooked as it’s too far removed from the day to day running of a football club but is about:

• Capturing data
• Consolidating data into a single area
• Analysing the data to gain insights on activity

Which of course is where we come in, so if there’s any football clubs out there who are looking to get more from their data then get in touch.

Dan Barnett

Director of Analytics

Sunday 12 June 2011

Spotify – Signing their own death warrant?

In a bid probably to improve profitability and maybe also to appease record labels who feel too much is being offered for too little, Spotify have recently changed their terms of use.

Usage of the free service will be limited to 10 hours a month and users will only be able to listen to a track 5 times ever before it’s blocked.

The aim of this is to persuade more people to join their £4.99 ad-free or £9.99 a month premium offering (which gives Mobile access and other benefits), prompting numerous comments from people saying they would just go back to illegal downloading.  The kind of people who illegaly download are probably not the kind of people you wanted anyway even on the ad-supported free model so are no big loss.

For those who would pay if the price is right, it seems as if Spotify have been too aggressive in the change.

I like Spotify but not sure it’s worth a tenner a month. How about £5.99 for the mobile version but with ads? I can afford £9.99 a month but it’s all about that perception of getting value for money.  It’s not necessarily a rational position to hold, but £5.99 seems low enough to not have to think about it too hard and can become more an impulse rather than a considered purchase.

Alternatively price the £9.99 version somewhere between £60-£80 up-front for a yearly subscription.  It’s so difficult when you’ve provided something for free to get people to pay, even if you are offering extra bells and whistles for that money.

If Spotify are thinking “If we make the free version less attractive, more people will move to paid” this would be a risky strategy and is arguably the wrong focus, a better idea might be to get more value from the ads in the free version.

Ultimately, Spotify’s move suggests they’ve not been able get enough value from advertisements to pay record labels what they would consider fair value for the content.

Anyone who has used Spotify on a regular basis will be familiar with having to listen to a small number of ads ad infinitum, including a large number of ones from Spotify themselves.

As Tesco have done with their Clubcard, Spotify have the ability to have a real understanding of who their users are and personalise communications accordingly. I would argue that my choices of what I listen to, how often and when would give a pretty good idea of the kind of person I am.

I get an email monthly from Spotify (it used to be weekly) which is a very generic “Here’s what’s new” email. They never try to sell me related content whether that be links to tours, merchandise etc., or even push me to particular bands websites or to try particular new artists they think I’d like. I don’t get the feeling they are ‘sweating the assets’, it’s more “let’s have a push on premium subscriptions this month”.

Spotify are sitting on a potential goldmine of data but I don’t get the feeling they know what to do with it. The responsibility to use this data however also lies with the record labels, here they are with an opportunity to tightly target their audience but it seems they are more interested in maintaining the current income model around royalties for plays and the odd download.

Any artist related ads seem to be the kind of polished ads you’d get on commercial radio, whilst I’m not advocating bad production values, there must be scope for smaller acts to have quick ads tightly targeted to their likely fanbase, a quick voiceover and thirty seconds of a track with a link to the band on Spotify or their Website/Facebook page etc.,

In such a competitive market as online music, Spotify’s changes could be the beginning of the end for them which is a shame as the service has a lot going for it. Personally, it’s encouraged me to listen to 6 Music a lot more with the paradox being I now listen to a greater range of music via a radio station (on BBC iPlayer) than I did when I had access to 13 million tracks on Spotify.

Dan Barnett
Director of Analytics