Event Information Web Pages: Checklist

Roles for Managing Your Website

Who’s responsible for your company’s website? The answer is likely to be “it depends” and “several people”. This is as it should be, because there are many different skills involved in building, maintaining, and growing your website.

When talking to our clients about support for website (re)building projects, SEO, and ongoing content marketing, we break it down into three simple roles as follows:

  1. Management
    Someone has to have the overview and ownership of your website holistically. This person coordinates work among the different specialists. The overall website manager could be one of your specialists.
  2. Content
    A copywriter / editor who is responsible for controlling, arranging, publishing, and reporting on all the content in the site. This person should also have a grounding in SEO although she is not necessarily your main SEO person. In your general marketing team skills mix you will also need to make sure you have at least one person who is good at graphic design.
  3. Webmaster
    All the semi-technical and actually-technical stuff needed for a website to work, which is not actual content of the site. Typically your site will be run in WordPress or some other templated CMS, so the webmaster is not really there to build web pages – just to run the system, keep it running, and support users with the ongoing development of the site as a service and resource.

Looking at the list above, obviously the more a general marketing manager can delegate to specialists with the skills and capacity, the better. By separating out the roles like this it does become easier to get outside freelancer or agency help.

We created the following graphic to pick apart all the key skills and responsibilities needed to run a modern business website:

As you can see in the diagram (click to view full size png) we have suggested some “stakeholder interests” which are important to consider, as well as responsibilities directly “owned” by marketing. These include brand adherence, control of intellectual property and digital assets, connection with corporate IT (depending on how you host the website and manage users), and establishing / maintaining integrations with other software such as your CRM.

Design

The one major thing missing from our 3-role concept is design. It’s not one thing: for websites you will need to consider all of the following skills:

  • Conceptual and graphic web design
    Most likely you only need this kind of skillset and creativity when you are building a new site or overhauling the existing one.
  • Web design implementation in actual HTML and CSS
    Again, assuming you are in a templated CMS like WordPress, you likely only need serious amounts of work here in the form of theme design and customization, at the time of a new site build… Once you have a working site, anything on the “tweak” level falls into the scope of your webmaster.
  • Web development
    This is where you cross the line from theme design into custom coding and integration, typically involving PHP and javascript skills, if not more exciting stuff for custom web apps and plugins… Typically you will only need this kind of “dev” skillset on a project basis rather than any routine part of your website and marketing team skills mix.
  • Graphics for marketing
    You need this skillset in your team! Every marketing team needs a versatile designer for banners, photo editing, and document design; pair up your graphic designer with your copywriter to compose nice-looking web content and ensure at least one of them is capable of formatting and publishing it in your website by themselves.
  • Artistic illustration
    Consider partnering with an expert creative if you plan to create a new campaign theme, banner series, or other stand-out content that will benefit from original artwork rather than stock imagery.

SEO

Using the above three roles, we advise clients to join up work on SEO as follows:

Should you have a full time specialist working on SEO? No, not unless organic search is a high priority in your marketing strategy. Even then, it makes sense to focus on the overall content marketing strategy, and pay attention to the SEO aspect of this via periodic review of technical matters (get expert help from outside) and continuous partnership / alliance building for 3rd party content publishing (aka link building, e.g. via guest posting and content syndication).

If you need help with SEO, ask us to set up a workshop.

The Webmaster Role

“Webmaster” is neither a common job title nor a widely agreed-upon set of skills and qualifications. Put simply a competent webmaster is the person responsible for hosting, and all the bits around that for keeping a website running, performant, secure etc, i.e. the “ops” of a website even if she is not necessarily the original “dev”. If you have ever wondered how to migrate a live website from one hosting to another, or found that your website is inexplicably “down”, then you have encountered the scope of the webmaster.

Who to hire for this? Basically what you are looking for is a generalist ops and support technician with a proactive connection to your team and website goals. In other words, a distant reactive hosting support contact is not the same thing. A webmaster is someone who has ownership over technical aspects of your site and is going to be fixing and improving things “under the bonnet” and behind the scenes without being told what to do.

Most but not all website-focused web designers will be more than capable of providing webmaster support. However, if your website has been built by a designer or web design agency, even if they are hosting and supporting it, you would be advised to clarify exactly what the scope of proactive and reactive support is going to be.

Most design-focused web designers are not going to be interested in all of the necessary parts of webmaster work. As above, if your “graphics person” is also de facto your webmaster, make sure you and they are openly in agreement about what scope is and is not covered from a list of potential responsibilities..

Is webmaster work a full time role? For most businesses the answer is “no”, unless you are running a complex site, are active in ecommerce, or running several sites with the intention of changing and building on them. If the work is not enough for a full time person, then either look for a multi-talented person who can do other things in your marketing work, e.g. research, graphic design, or even copywriting… or assign this work to a freelancer or agency on a retainer / contract basis.

Free Webmaster Checklist

At Adastra we offer managed hosting of our clients’ WordPress websites: our packages include proactive maintenance and reporting, covering from some to all of the responsibilities of a webmaster depending on requirements.

We’ve open sourced our own general checklist to show the kind of things a webmaster needs to check and work on in at least a once-monthly sweep:

Download the PDF linked from the above image, or get it directly in Google Docs here: https://fntc.li/wordpress-checklist

To get help with website content, site rebuilds, or WordPress hosting and migration, contact Adastra for a friendly chat.

Event content marketing checklist

Events are increasingly powerful for B2B businesses to increase targeted awareness and capture leads, but marketing teams will often exhibit a Pavlovian stress reaction at the mere mention of exhibition projects.

Marketing team reaction to “by the way we’re doing another event next week” via GIPHY

Why? Two big reasons: there is such a lot of marketing preparation work that needs to be done in advance… copywriting, design, more design, revisions to the design, web pages, printing, merchandise, emails, social media…. and it always gets done with too little time before the deadline!

As with any campaign content work, the boring-but-true answer to this for marketing and sales teams is to prepare as early as possible: if you can, start as soon as an event has been booked, which should be months ahead.

Plan out what your main strategy and messaging are going to be, and then make a definite list of the work that needs to be done for each role in the team. A lot of this is content marketing that the whole team has to collaborate on, in order to research + copywrite + design + publish/print/promote materials which are high quality, relevant, and cohesive with the event campaign.

By getting ahead on content work for all three stages of marketing and sales communications – pre / during / after the event – you can share out the work and involve the right collaborators to make the event campaign stronger and that little bit less stressful!

Pre-event content must-haves

  • about us description for event directory / brochure
  • a comprehensive information page on your site about the event
  • an email to customers inviting them to meet you at the event
  • banners for social media (matching your event theme, see below)
  • campaign press release

In-event content must-get-right

  • a coherent theme for your event design: start with a choice of design concepts, including slogan/tagline, and proceed from approved combinations to a whole booth/backdrop/banner set
  • video / slideshow – you are likely to have digital displays on the booth
  • print brochure / flyers – give yourself a lot of time for this because it’s about copywriting AND design… and EVERYONE has an opinion 😉
  • one-pagers / datasheets about products/solutions – everyone will say they don’t want loads of paper on the booth, but if you have them, people will say it was great to have them there: if in doubt, think visual conversation aids rather than text-heavy handouts
  • lead capture forms (print or digital… or both!)

Event follow-up content to prepare so it’s ready to go:

  • post event follow up email script for salespeople to adapt and send 1-1
  • post event automated email sequence for general business card drops (for your Hubspot / Pardot / Marketo etc)
  • post event news / views roundup – the stay-at-office marketer can draft this during day 1 of the event
  • post event photo gallery – ensure you get plenty of views of your booth and the event generally, and feed them over to marketing ASAP for social media as well as a main gallery / blog post later

See below for Adastra’s full checklist:

Free event content marketing checklist

Free checklist: Click to download Adastra’s event content recommendations

This document is licensed CC BY-SA 4.0  meaning you are free to print, use, and adapt it however you want as long as you give fair attribution to Adastra Marketing as a website link https://adastra-marketing.com/ or quote our Twitter handle @AdastraUK

Organizational vs product marketing

We mentioned above that the marketing team needs to put together “materials which are high quality, relevant, and cohesive with the event campaign”. The key to this is knowing what you are trying to promote, or more accurately, why you think you will catch an event attendee’s eye and encourage them to come up and talk to you.

In our view this either needs to be to develop recognition and identity around your main organizational brand, e.g. “Atlassian”, or it needs to be about drawing people in to look at a particular need+solution story, e.g. “Enterprise git hosting and Bitbucket”.

When advising our clients we use the word ‘organization‘ to mean your company, the regional / industry vertical brand of your company or group, or it could also be a brand of a partnership, consortium, non-profit, movement, initiative, community, public sector department etc.

We use the word ‘solution‘ to mean product or service or product-family/suite.

Here are some reasons you may be focusing on marketing your organization:

  • Your solution is your brand and your brand is your solution – single-app businesses
  • You have not got enough approved information about your products, or consensus about what to promote, so the safe option is to go with a general “we are BRANDNAME” booth and let the personal conversations cover what you are actually selling
  • You are exhibiting at an event which is niche enough that everyone knows what everyone else does, and so you want to focus on exhibiting your organizational differentiators, e.g. awards won, accreditations, pure size of your platinum sponsor area etc
  • You are trying to draw in visitors with a special gimmick, promotion, competition etc where you want to make it about that theme and not overtly about selling a particular solution
  • You’re at a recruitment fair 🙂

Here are some reasons you may want to focus more on your solution:

  • The event has been chosen deliberately to launch or showcase one of your solutions – yay!
  • The marketing team successfully convinced the stakeholders to use an event to be part of a solution go-to-market instead of a generic “we are BRANDNAME” expo 😉
  • The event audience will respond well to a product-specific message, for example you will attract current users of your product, or users of competing products
  • You’ve researched the likely themes of competitors’ exhibition messaging and chosen a particularly different or leading solution that shows you in a better light

What if you want to exhibit two or three main products or categories? Our advice would be not to try to have your cake and eat it. Exhibiting as “we offer a wide range of solutions, look at these five different things we do” is an example of a non-differentiator when competing for attention on the expo floor. It would be more effective to pick ONE solution and draw people in, and then once you have people in conversation there is nothing to stop you finding out what people are interested in and explaining other things you do that match.

Finally, ensure your messaging connects organization to solution and vice versa. You don’t want a situation where people are like “Great widget, who are you again?” or “OK you are Acme, what do you sell exactly?” It’s surprisingly easy to overlook these obvious brand-product identity issues when you are so familiar with who you are and what you do.

Try to use events as a way to challenge assumptions and see your messaging through the eyes of people who genuinely have not heard of you… and make them care enough to find out more.


For professional content marketing support with your events, contact Adastra, and read more about our event marketing services here.

What are Marketing Differentiators?

What do these marketing taglines have in common?

  • We have what it takes
  • We go the extra mile
  • Providing excellence
  • Top quality at affordable prices

That’s right, they are all clichéd, meaningless statements that alert you to the fact that someone is trying to sell to you, without actually adding any value about who they are or why you should care.

Sloth yawn via GIPHY

We call these “non-differentiators”. They are words and attributes which fail to differentiate your brand or products, because anybody else doing what you do could claim the exact same things about themselves… and probably already do say those things, making it even more boring for your customers.

These safe, positive claims are all too tempting to include in taglines, ads, product descriptions, and other marketing copy… and many of them are important things to state about your features and benefits at some point. But you shouldn’t lead with them, because instead of helping you stick in your prospective customer’s mind… they do the opposite: people’s eyes glaze over and they yawn. Not a good marketing result.

Here are some more non-differentiators:

  • Universal
  • Professional
  • Expert
  • High quality
  • Affordable
  • Tailormade
  • Secure
  • Pride
  • Seamless (seriously, who advertises that they have seams?)
  • One stop shop / “not just a —” (heard the phrase ‘Jack of all trades…’)
  • Complete solutions
  • End to end
  • Caring / we care
  • Customer first
  • Service with a smile
  • Your partner

OK, you got me, how do we come up with better differentiators?

Glad you asked.

Think of things that genuinely make you better than the alternatives.

That’s it.

“Alternatives” means you need to know about your competition but also think about the need from your customer’s point of view – what options do they have… including doing nothing or doing what they have always been doing? Your differentiators need to be strong enough obviously to win out over other competing choices and over inaction.

Ideally, you can say things about your product (or your company) which makes it uniquely good.

Superlatives are good – the biggest, the best, the fastest, the newest…

Even better are statements describing you or your offering as “the only“.

Failing that, it’s going to have to be the combination of strengths which overall makes you unique. Kind of like the modern penathlon of brand positioning. (But remember not to market yourself as “we do everything”.)

 

Can you give me some examples?

Why yes we can, here is an entire cheat sheet of ideas for differentiators. Boom.

Cheat sheet of differentiators for marketing positioning – Adastra Fintech Marketing v2018 05 (PDF)

Pick what you are talking about – your company or a particular product. Work through with a colleague or three to create a shortlist of differentiating statements you feel confident making (and are able to back up when talking to customers), and then refine your differentiators to the final list.

It’s Creative Commons licensed so you can print it and even adapt it, even commercially, as long as you credit Adastra Marketing (adastra-marketing.com) as the original author.

Seriously, download the cheat sheet PDF, it will make you a smarter marketer, and it is freeeee.

Freeee? via GIPHY

 

What needs differentiators?

  1. Your organizational brand
  2. If applicable: each product line / suite – since this will have its own brand identity to create
  3. Each solution / product / service / package

Your organizational brand may be nothing more than “the people who sell Y” right now, but have a think how you can build that identity into something separate from your products. Sometimes a lack of strategy and marketing investment makes a company’s brand lag considerably behind the fame of its products: how many times have you found yourself saying “Oh I had no idea X made Y“.

A strong company (organizational) brand makes it easier to launch new products or product lines in future, and becoming a repository for differentiators like expertise, trust, quality, affordability etc which don’t necessarily reside in one single offering. A strong organizational brand is also an increasingly important asset in the eyes of prospective investors, partners, and employees as you grow.

Once you have a shortlist of differentiators that you’re confident about, this should not be kept just for marketing copywriters. Get it validated and shared by your leadership, top down to all stakeholders, and get everyone aligned with what’s good about you and how to explain it to people. You’ll notice this is extremely similar to running a workshop on creating a consistent elevator pitch, and we do indeed recommend to our clients to work through such an exercise with any new product or go-to-market campaign. Branding is about sales enablement after all, yay!

 

How many differentiators do we need?

At least one.

One may be enough if your differentiator is super-duper strong.

tfw you drop a strong marketing differentiator via GIPHY

If you do have a super-duper strong differentiator, stop there and play that top trump card the whole time. (And work very hard to put a competitive moat around it.)

Otherwise you are looking for up to four. By five you are straining the attention span and memory of your prospects.

 

What do we do if we don’t have any/enough strong differentiators?

Firstly, stop and congratulate yourself on avoiding the pain and expense of wasted marketing and sales efforts…

Secondly, go back to the drawing board of what your solution actually is, in order to improve your offering – intrinsically and extrinsically – so that you can come back and try again with some actually unique strengths.

(If you are feeling like what your business does is not that unique after all, here’s a quick tip for this, distribution, that is, the combination of visibility and availability, is the easiest thing to develop as a differentiator. As Woody Allen might have said, “Showing up is 80 percent of life“. Simply be visible and available to prospective customers where your competitors aren’t. But you still need to find a way to spin that into a parsable differentiator, because people want to feel good about buying from you, like they made a decision, not that they had no choice.)

If you (re)design your offering based on how you would like to describe yourself and how you would like to stand out, this is actually an excellent orientation because you are looking at something from the customer’s point of view, and you are designing something that is easy to buy. We call this “announcement page driven product design” – imagine the mega-strong headline on Product Hunt for your product at launch, then make the product that actually meets that claim.

Finally, don’t make up fake information…

via GIPHY

Differentiators and the moments of truth

Differentiators are not just about copywriting: they form part of your deliberate brand identity and product design. That is, your marketing copy speaks consistently about your priority differentiators because they are the true, defining features of your offering.

This makes differentiators really important to all four marketing “moments of truth“:

0. Your customers are researching their problem. They see you… and they also see loads of other competing options. How will they remember your offer to come back to it. Your differentiators.

1. When your customers are ready to buy, literally or figuratively standing in front of the store shelf weighing up alternatives, what is going to make them choose you? What is going to help them rationalize their choice so they put their money down and complete the purchase? Your differentiators.

2. When your customer is now the proud owner of your solution… what will they recall from the time of purchase to evaluate whether the actual performance meets – or exceeds – expectations? Your differentiators. (This one is a clear reason why your differentiators can’t be exaggerated or simply fake!)

3. When your customer is – we hope – a proud and satisfied owner of your solution, what might help her know if and when to recommend it to someone else? What will she say when that diamond-encrusted ultimate marketing victory moment comes: a word-of-mouth recommendation? Yup, you guessed it, your differentiators are what they need.

In summary, as we like to say when meeting a new prospective client for Adastra’s brand consultancy services:

marketing strategy shrink via GIPHY

Share and comment @AdastraUK on Twitter 🙂

Resource Planning for Content Marketing: 4 Tactical Approaches

A major benefit of partnering with a marketing agency is that you get some impartial input for your marketing strategy and planning around what is and is not possible within your real life budgets and capabilities.

Two marketers working together are better than one, when it comes to generating creative marketing ideas and the ability to model those into hypothetical marketing plans.

Marketers easily get a reputation for being creative dreamers, but effectiveness is all about the next step: can you resolve a clear and realistic estimate of the cost of execution?

Again, two marketers are better than one when it comes to estimating honest and accurate resource requirements. Spreadsheet work isn’t the most fun, but if you can choose a plan based on optimal use of resources that are finite, not infinite, then it’s a plan that might get put into action instead of going stale in “maybe later” pile.

Measure twice, slice once

Another thing about getting help with marketing planning and estimates: being more objective, providing evidence, and avoiding bias. It’s tempting to underestimate the resources needed, to make something sound cheap and easy so it gets the go ahead… but what happens when you have to go back to the business to ask for more later – or fail to execute the plan as originally proposed?

On the other hand, over-estimating (accidentally or through defensive padding) increases the chance of rejection of the business case, as well as tying up budget and preventing you from giving the green light to other valid ideas.

So accurate estimation is an important part of marketing strategy. It’s also crucial to help your activities gain focus. There will always be orders of magnitude more marketing activities you could undertake versus what you can undertake in terms of time, money, team, and sheer energy.

To be able to do some things well, you need to not do most things.

Knowing what marketing activities cost to spin up and execute is just as important as having ideas about what marketing to do and how to do it.

Results, Activities, Estimates, Resources

There’s a lot of collaboration and modelling that’s needed to move back and forth between the following questions:

  1. What do the business plan, or the management’s targets, call on us to achieve?
  2. What are the different strategies we could consider (each strategy being a mix of tactics and channels), which we believe could match those ambitions?
  3. For each strategy, what resources are implied?
  4. Can we actually get those resources for a preferred strategy? This may be presented as an annual or quarterly budget plan with a low, medium, and high strategy options.

Use content creation and publicity work as the two main tactical measures

How do you calculate the resources you are going to need for certain activities? By looking at content marketing activities we can see how breaking things down to the tactical level will help you build back up to a more accurate overall resources estimate.

The first thing to note is that “content marketing” is not one person, not one campaign / project, and not even a distinct strategy. Every kind of marketing activity involves creating, editing, and publishing various different types of content.

Since content marketing work is involved everywhere, if you have a model to estimate the tactics and work deliverables involved, you will be able to apply these ideas to overall campaign and plan estimation, and therefore be in a better position to win these resources and execute the plan for real.

Content marketing resources are not just about the cost of generating content. Don’t think just in terms of “cost per article”: think about media publication packages and promotional budgets, in-house staff costs versus outsourcing activities to agencies, and think about time costs. Thinking ahead about all the content creation and promotional work will give you a realistic basis on which to size up possible resource commitments.

Below, we take a quick look at four tactical areas of content marketing that will help you consider the complexity of work you are committing to, and thus make your resource estimates more realistic. Read more

Pre-History of the Point of Sale

2018: the year ahead in Finance, Banking, and Tech

What’s coming up this year in the world of finance, tech, and their love-child fintech? Adastra takes a look at some of the bigger trends:

Payments and open banking

Trend no.1 for payments in 2019 according to Capgemini will be “banks becoming platform players”. The API-ification of banking will have massive consequences and 2018 is going to be the start of many years of disruption.

Drivers of this trend include:

  • US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau promotion of open data and new technology
  • PSD2 in Europe: it’s now in force
  • Customer demand, expecting more choice and functionality and seeing desirable features from 3rd party providers
  • Banks innovating rapidly in-house to reduce disruption threats of fintechs

Download Capgemini’s report here.

In Europe, PSD2, while containing a lot of other regulation, is best known for mandating open banking, and this is a good thing for consumers:

Open banking is not just about more options in how to get and use bank accounts for consumers, but also about a potential explosion of choice in how we pay for things.

PSD2 also means the elimination of credit card surcharges in Europe:

It remains to be seen whether this will create unexpected effects of retailers wanting to work around and incentivize cash via discounts, store credit, or even cryptocurrency payment routes.

When it comes to point-of-sale, expect stores to throw out locked-down terminals and go for systems with more of a modern image:

…and fuelled by a lot more apps, see AEVI’s Global Marketplace approach for example.

screenshot from AEVI global marketplace website

AEVI’s open marketplace approach enables acquirers to create custom bundles of pre-installed apps on smartPoS devices, and easily add/update apps to a deployed fleet; read more at https://marketplace.aevi.com/

Accenture also has a good report on 2018 payments mega trends, stating:

Code will kill the physical card and upend the payments infrastructure as credentials become virtualized and can be embedded anywhere. The processing side changes completely if card providers become token providers and cut out the service layer. This is uncharted territory.

Accenture are certainly not pulling any punches:

accenture report screenshot: rip and replace required

Download the report “Driving the Future of Payments” here.

 

Lots of investment flying around

Probably the most predictable trend in payments in 2018 will be accelerating acquisitions as promising startups and high-performing small giants get snapped up by banks and other large tech brands.

2017 saw the following figures:

  • First Data acquires CardConnect for $750m
  • AntFinancial buys MoneyGram for $1.2bn
  • Paypal acquires TIO Networks for $233m
  • D+H and Misys merge in $4.8bn acquisition and form Finastra
  • Mastercard closes acquisition of Vocalink for $920m
  • Worldpay agrees to $10bn acquisition by Vantiv (now just called Worldpay)
  • Klarna acquires Billpay for $75m

Read more at: http://www.bobsguide.com/guide/news/2017/Dec/28/the-most-significant-fintech-acquisitions-of-the-year-fintech-recap-2017/

 

Contactless payments

Contactless transactions now account for over a third of all card purchases in the UK. In certain areas the trend is faster: Visa reports a 97 percent increase year-over-year for contactless transit transactions, and Transport for London has seen more than 1 billion Visa contactless journeys since launch.

According to Visa contactless FAQs:

“You can’t pay accidentally – your card or device must be within 1-2 inches of the terminal for the transaction to occur (and you won’t be billed twice, even if you accidentally tap twice).”

In Australia, merchants and consumers have embraced contactless payments even faster: in a market research survey of September 2017, 92 percent of face-to-face Visa transactions used a contactless method of payment. On a global scale, since Visa processes 160 billion transactions a year, imagine the amount of card swiping and PIN entry faff this is saving! (For more stats on Visa see: https://usa.visa.com/visa-everywhere/innovation/contactless-payments-around-the-globe.html )

So contactless has definitely entered the mainstream, and in 2018, if you are not using contactless all over the place, you are officially a laggard!

The even-less-contactful, tokenized methods of paying with Apple Pay or by scanning QR codes in payment apps are likely to become far more widespread in 2018 too, as consumers catch on to the benefits of not carrying around lots of cards, and more retailers offer upgraded payment terminals.

cornercard apple pay screens

Apple Pay added plenty of new banks and card schemes to their system last year: in the UK there are now 29 brands on the list of participating banks, including Swiss B2B card provider Cornercard.

To learn more about Apple Pay, visit: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204506

Tesco pay plus banner with man holding three watermelons and paying by app

Tesco in the UK offers a reward card incentive for using their payment app Pay+ and in 2018 we might see store-led payment apps start to cross over to be accepted in more places. Are you watching, Nectar?

What about the world fintech leader, China? Will we see the biggest Chinese mobile payments solutions, including Alipay and WeChat Pay from China coming to Europe and the US?

Well, it’s a hard job to get users in the West to adapt to ecosystems they don’t currently know and care about (the same as it is hard for Facebook to get anywhere in China)… but the huge numbers of Chinese tourists spending money overseas are likely to persuade major retail spaces and leisure/hospitality chains to prioritize acceptance. The Chinese fintech players are so big and innovative, 2018 is bound to see a lot of influence via partnerships if not directly.

 

APIs

night time intersection futuristic view animation

As of early 2017, the number of public APIs available surpassed 18,000, representing an increase of roughly 2,000 new APIs over the previous year.

API growth chart showing strong increase from 2005 to present

The above chart is from: ProgrammableWeb API Directory Eclipses 17,000 as API Economy Continues Surge

According to Deloitte:

Increasingly, APIs are becoming a strategic mandate. If every company is a technology company, then the idea that technology assets should be built for reuse seems intuitive. Reuse compounds return on technology investments in ways that couldn’t be imagined when IT departments were developing many legacy solutions.

Read more: https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/tech-trends/2018/api-program-strategy.html

Unlocking data means opportunities all round this year:

 

Data protection

Animation of cyborg typing scene from Ghost in the Shell

Almost the polar opposite from increasing openness of data and APIs, we predict data protection regulation will generate 245% more yawns in 2018 but it’s not to be ignored… it also continues strong year-on-year growth of scary risks for all businesses.

Everyone is affected:

In the EU, GDPR is already in force. Expect to see various details emerging about how this affects the UK after Brexit. As Computer Weekly puts it, “Don’t expect Brexit to save you”.

Meanwhile, in the US the New York Department of Financial Services is now enforcing new data protection rules, and in China put in force a new cybersecurity law in mid 2017, again implying various heavy penalties for data compromise among other infractions.

We expect to see a lot of growth in marketing and sales of related solutions, starting with data protection consultancy itself, and then anti-malware software and IT services, plus insurance and legal services.

 

Regulatory environment

Photo montage of Dodd and Frank

Dodd and Frank – by https://candysdirt.com/tag/dodd-frank/

Signed into US law in 2010 by Obama, in the USA the Dodd-Frank Act is a basis for revised regulation of banks after the 2008 crisis. Updates to this law continue to dominate speculation about how the regulatory environment for banks will change in 2018, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (born out of Dodd-Frank) continues to put a more responsible face on lending in the US:

Updates to Dodd-Frank may ease mortgage lending too:

Will Dodd-Frank change in 2018? It will probably not be repealed or rewritten, but there are likely to be adjustments.

According to analytics technology leader FICO:

With 10 Republicans and 11 Democrats co-sponsoring the legislation, there is enough support to clear the challenging 60-vote threshold that is needed to get controversial bills through the Senate. Despite a deep partisan divide, look for this bill (perhaps with a few additional tweaks) to make it to the finish line in the first quarter of 2018.

As with Basel II, increased regulation on capital requirements may lead to more consolidated, bigger banks:

The Committee on Banking Supervision is the source to listen to for continued developments around Basel III and bank capital requirements.

On the other hand, US regulators may follow PSD2 lines to facilitate more third-party relationships among fintechs and banks, such as exploring special purpose bank charters for fintechs.

At the international level, follow the pronouncements of the Financial Stability Board to get a view of what risks and regulations are top of mind for the banking industry as a whole:

Mark Carney’s term as chairman of the FSB has been extended through to December 2018, and he is likely to step down at the end of the year.

Meanwhile in Europe, The European Commission is expected to deliver updates this year to their consumer financial services action plan.

Miffy juggling stars

What about Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) II? If our graphic above seems silly, the Independent led a recent article with: “To many it may sound like nothing more than the name of an obscure Welsh hamlet”!

The main points in MiFID are stronger regulation and therefore reduced risk and increased investor protections in securities trading.

Caroline Escott, investment and defined benefit policy lead at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, quoted in the Independent, says:

“MiFID II offers an opportunity for in-depth consideration of the value of schemes’ fund management services. For instance, schemes could take advantage of the improved research cost transparency to assess where investment research adds value, or use the cost disclosures to improve their due diligence on managers and think about how to achieve better value for money,”

Not everyone is happy about more red tape, though:

The rules are in force as of January 2018, so it will be worth watching this year how this changes details of financial services.

If you can’t get enough 2018 regulation predictions, may we direct you to the motherlode: Deloitte Center for Regulatory Strategy

 

Other 2018 megatrends to watch

Brexit

It may be unconscionable but it seems the die is cast, the bridges have been crossed and burned, the baby has been chucked out with the bathwater, and Britain is off full tilt towards the windmill of stronger independent sovereignty:

On the other hand, you never know:

and:

Blockchain

Animation of metal bending to make chain links

Vast amounts have already been written about how blockchain changes everything and everything can be done with blockchain.

So for a change let’s look at two counterpoints:

Everyone says the blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, is going to change EVERYTHING. And yet, after years of tireless effort and billions of dollars invested, nobody has actually come up with a use for the blockchain—besides currency speculation and illegal transactions.

Ten years in, nobody has come up with a use for blockchain

“It could go to $0. I hope it doesn’t, but it could.”

– It Can All Go To Zero

And also here’s Alfred Kelly, CEO of VISA in an interview with CNBC, saying of Bitcoin:

“I don’t view it as payment system player”

Well he would say that…? We expect more retail online and offline to start accepting payments in a variety of cryptocurrencies … like Brisbane airport:

On further positives, how many new ICOs can we expect in 2018?

That’s a good prediction Donald.

We expect to see serious ones:

And lots of silly ones:

spoof ICO banner for fit vitalik

Fit Vitalik ICO

Seriously though, big new coin launches to watch include Japan:

Read more about Japan’s 2020 cryptocurrency plans here: https://www.equities.com/news/japan-to-launch-national-cryptocurrency-in-time-for-2020-olympics

Apart from that there is also MUFG:

…and here in the UK the Royal Mint:

Read more about that interesting idea at: https://www.royalmint.com/invest/bullion/digital-gold/

Animation making snow angels in a pile of cash

An overall cryptocurrency prediction for 2018? Lots and lots of scary hacks, scams and ponzis, crashes, manipulation, heavy-handed attempts at regulation, and office colleagues making millions and retiring to the Bahamas. (That’s my plan anyway)

 

Infrastructure

Let’s not forget that most things are actually centralized and that works very well:

Elon Musk

A one-man megatrend:

GreenTech

A bit of a buzzword but this is an important trend for all of us who are stuck on this planet to support.

Everyone in tech can have a think about being more environmentally friendly:

green investment infographic with many facts and figures

UK Green Investment Bank helps mobilise £10bn of capital into UK green infrastructure. –  Looking at investment figures like this, we think this is just the start…

Environmental issues feature strongly in the regulatory scene as well: the FSB has taken the lead internationally with its Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, essentially encouraging finance for green R&D and infrastructure. The Bank of England is also researching climate change, and the EU recently proposed to integrate environmental risks into the mandates of the European Space Agency as part of its action plan on sustainable and green finance.

Finally, talking of Elon Musk and green tech, here’s hoping for a repeat of a challenge-accepted conversation like this:

Read more about that amazing story here: https://twitter.com/i/moments/840050021521268736?lang=en

And here: http://www.smh.com.au/business/energy/mike-cannonbrookes-concedes-battery-bet-with-elon-musk-20171124-gzsj25.html

 

Trump

And finally a list of 2018 megatrend predictions would not be complete without predicting the demise of Donald Trump.

animation obama mic drop

 

Vision vs Mission vs Strategy

Have you ever had any of these experiences at your business?

  • You need to write a statement on company culture for new joiners, recruitment pages, or an awards application, but after 3 hours and 9 people nobody is sure how to describe who you are, what you do… and why you exist actually
  • You spend ages drafting and redrafting a brochure or short “about us” description but it gets more and more bland and clichéd… and then the CEO has a go at really nailing it down… and it turns out to be even more generic and meaningless (and full of spelling mistakes)
  • You do a root cause analysis on an operation problem or target-missing post mortem, and everyone violently agrees with each other that we need to be more clear about our mission and values… or is it our masterplan and vision… or is it our culture and targets… OK what we do agree with is that we need a 2 day retreat off-site to really hash this out with the executive time and 20 further carefully selected heads, remember to bring a lot of flipcharts and post-its…
animated gif of a panda beating up an office

Frustration or procrastination around defining your big value statements usually comes from nobody having an objective shared definition of what we are trying to say

What is common to these problems is that nobody actually has a shared reference what we mean by all these words:

vision … mission … positioning … strategy … roadmap … culture … goals …

And what about:

branding … logo … identity … slogan … tagline … assets … guidelines … style guide …

Without a shared definition of the words, nobody can make any progress about which comes first, which is dependent on another, and how to propose and confirm an officially agreed definition of the company’s wording.

Confucius Stone Figure Sculpture China Statue cc via http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/static/photo/1x/Confucius-Stone-Figure-Sculpture-China-Statue-1124611.jpg

A wise man said (and we paraphrase) unless you define and agree your terminology, you will just be faffing around endlessly

Confucius had it right when he said we need to begin with the “rectification of names”:

If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success

 – Chapter 13, The Analects Attributed to Confucius [Kongfuzi], 551-479 BCE by Lao-Tse [Lao Zi], Translated by James Legge (1815-1897)

In this article we’ve laid out our own definitions that we use when advising our fintech clients on marketing strategy and (higher/broader) business positioning.

Marketing vision, mission, strategy and more… let’s try to rectify the names!

What follows is a bit of a long read, but have a skim for any words which you’ve found ambiguous when your team discusses them, and bookmark this page if it helps you get to the point faster!

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