As we're now deep into November it can be difficult to find a location for a Saturday outing with the kids. So after a recommendation from a friend we decided to try the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge. This also afforded us the opportunity for the excitement of a train ride from Hitchin and with the weather on our side, we set off on the 30min ride (and mile long walk) to see what it had on offer.

We were pleasantly surprised with what we found with every significant console from 1977 onwards plugged in and ready to play. The working Big Track and Oculus were big favourites too. The hands on nature of the museum definitely meant we had plenty to keep us occupied as I lost three rounds of Street Fighter 2 Turbo against my daughter!

I was particularly struck with how these old machines were all still in perfect working order. Some of them were around forty years old yet were in perfect working order. they certainly don't make them like they used to!

The importance of building something with the focus being on longevity also struck me when I visited the Mersey Gateway project last week. The marketing team there rolled out the red carpet for me. I even went up the forty or so stories to get a view from the pylon (not recommended for those with a fear of heights!) The work being carried out there is awe inspiring and the team and I managed to share some good practice as well.

So, how does all this relate to the world of digital marketing? Well, the message for me is that when designing new web services longevity is key. Too often companies design a website and leave it to rot only to completely redevelop it and to then start the cycle again.

This is not a sustainable work ethic as it means having to continually budget for a large scale revamp. More importantly it means the website is not allowed to develop based on the behaviours of the users. It's not 'future-proof'.

With this in mind we need to look beyond simple, fixed scope projects and instead focus on continual testing and iteration. This method is the ethos of all big B2C companies where they look to evolve their web services rather than to redesign them.

Lean UX explained which aims
for the delivery of the product first
Generally the ethos there is to begin with a Minimum Viable Product. Essentially starting small with few features then relying on gathering insights to advocate/prioritise features. This is particularly useful in campaigns where starting small and learning in stages ensures the best hit rate and value for money. These basic principles are the basis of an excellent new book entitled 'Lean UX' which contains various case studies as an alternative to agile project management.

Of course, the hard bit is selling this approach into senior management. if you're unveiling a new website then they expect to see it with all the bells and whistles attached. By educating them that delivering a staged approach is due to be more cost effective with the developments dictated by users you can reference other agile approaches. For example, we use this method for our social media content planning. Our three month content calendar contains all our important milestones but otherwise a lot of our content is penciled in.

This means we can then reassess and priortise content which is likely to achieve a greater level of engagement. This works in a similar way to an ongoing snagging list when buying a new build home. Our colleagues at Kier Living have this part of the process written in their contracts- without them they would be walking away from their commitments. No-one gets it right first time.

In digital marketing the most important thing will always be the ability to test and learn. This can also relate back to the retro-gaming experience offered at the Computing Centre in Cambridge. If you lose one round of Street Fighter 2 to your seven year old daughter then there's always the chance to learn for your mistakes for round two...!
You are the Prince of Pay Per click, the Sultan of Social Media and the web Content King. You know the brand back to front and are measuring every activity in the most minute detail. But do you know your product?

Too often Marketing and Communications professionals are stuck behind their desks. They rarely venture out to understand the company's product, how the customers use it every day and the value it delivers to the business. Quite often they ask their favourite sales engineer or product manager to summarise it for them. That way they can continue to just focus on the work they enjoy with easy access to a kettle - such as updating that blog post or new corporate presentation.

Those of us who work in marketing will know that quite often the focus is on them to sell whatever is being offered. They will then often shoulder the blame if sales are below what is expected. It is not always marketing’s fault, but often it is true that a great product is misrepresented by marketing. When this does happen you will find a marketing team that doesn’t know the customer, is struggling to work with the product team, or worse has no idea the extent of what the product actually does.

It is essential that marketers do not avoid the product or ignore the business. Only by engaging from the ground up can you then determine the best strategy to sell each unique service. The best marketing professionals operate from a position of customer and market insight while taking on the responsibility of learning the company’s products and solutions.

Colleagues in action at Wellingborough recycling plant
There is no better learning experience than hands on use. This is why I've been out and about road testing our latest brand audit app. The idea behind this is that colleagues from around the business fill in a series of questions on their designated office, site or depot. Everything is captured from signage and livery to cleanliness and email signatures.

The results are then interrogated to determine which division are the most engaged. We also can see the locations in dire need of an immediate makeover! As our team has led on this project the only way to ensure it is as user friendly as possible is to go and undertake audits ourselves.

The welcome bonus of this has been the opportunity to see various operations in action. Whether it was procurement, housing maintenance or environmental, I have learned something new at each location. I'm particularly looking forward to a visit to Mersey Gateway at the end of the week. that will teach me something new on a grand scale!

Coupled with the work on the brand audits we also held our quarterly marketing council. This comprises 50+ marketing and communications professionals from around the business. Topics of discussion include the latest digital strategy and tools (my slot) and the sharing of best practice. We also invited our suppliers and agencies to meet and discuss future developments with colleagues throughout the business. Many of these colleagues are embedded in the business overseeing various contracts and joint ventures. For me this was another opportunity to understand their individual challenges and to learn how we can guide and support centrally.

The Kier group marketing council in action
This traveling around will also stand me in good stead for a massive new project which is looming on the horizon. It will be a first for me so I'm going to need a bigger understanding of the business than ever before..

Another first for me which I've been alerted to is my being shortlisted at the Digital Awards: Champions. This takes all gold winners from the 2016 events for Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Milton Keynes and Surrey and pits us against one another for overall supremacy. The winners will be decided by public vote from 1st December 2016. This means I'm going to have to call in every favour possible in order to be in with a chance. It's not like there's much else going on in December...!
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