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Thinking Smaller For Bigger Results

Posted: 15/03/2017

There are many clichés about thinking and dreaming big. In this article we’ll be rejecting this and extolling the virtues of thinking small and local, hyperlocal in fact.

We’ll start our support of the small by looking at search engine optimisation (SEO), a ‘dark art’ that almost seems like magic to the uninitiated (if you need any help, get in touch). Essentially it is the practice of ensuring that if a potential customer does an internet search for a product or service that you provide that your website appears as high up in the rankings as possible, and not on the dreaded page 2.

In SEO you are encouraged to get in the mind of your target audience. What would they search for? It’s tempting to base your strategy on the first generic word that comes into your head. For example an independent Oxfordshire-based shoe shop called ‘h2o Shoes’ basing their SEO strategy on the words ‘shoes’ and ‘Oxfordshire’.

In order for these keywords to gain any sort of traction at all, h2o Shoes would need to pump a vast amount of money into their campaign to compete with larger, more powerful rivals who are also using identical phrases. This therefore means that the cost and risk associated with these generic keywords determines that success is unlikely. There’s simply too much competition and noise to make h2o Shoes stand out, regardless of how reasonably-priced and breathtakingly stylish these shoes may be (and they would be, trust us).

A more effective strategy is to think smaller and more specifically. What do people actually search for? Would anybody actually type simply ‘shoes’ into Google and wade through the thousands of pages to find the arch-supporting running trainers they’re looking for?

Using keywords that are unique enough to give your brand a chance of appearing high in the rankings is a skill and requires a bit of time and effort (or a certain Oxford-based marketing agency…). Finding the correct phrases in the ‘long tail’ of the key phrase curve can have great results.

To conclude-small and specific-good. Generic-bad.

Our second example of the benefits of small, localised thinking is social media - a topic that we’re very passionate about. The theme is similar to SEO. it is nigh-on impossible to produce content that is generic enough to appeal to the masses whilst simultaneously engaging everyone. Unless you’re Innocent Smoothie.

A more effective way of conducting a successful social media campaign is to do your research and analysis.

You can use a social listening tool (or get in touch with a friendly marketing agency to do it for you) to discover what is being said about your chosen topic.

In our h2o Shoes example we could find out what themes are being discussed about our specific variety of footwear, and what our potential interests consumers in our local area. We can also discover what the characteristics are of a typical consumer of our product. We can then adapt our messaging and targeting so that it speaks to, and will resonate with, our target market. This may mean that it doesn’t get as many likes, shares, comments or retweets as if we were just sharing cat videos all day. But we can be confident that each follower will be more likely to to continue down the purchase funnel to becoming a customer. This is why businesses are on social media in the first place.

We hope we’ve convinced you that bigger is not always better when it comes to SEO, social media and ideally marketing agencies. If you’d like more information about anything we’ve talked about here, get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Although we are a full service marketing agency, in reality we do not produce or sell reasonably priced and breathtakingly stylish shoes. Sorry.

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Helping your 'Elf this Christmas

Posted: 16/12/2016

You may have seen from our Twitter and Facebook that we quite like Christmas, Elf and bad puns (we stand by all of them). Following this theme, we are incredibly excited to launch our ‘Help Your Elf’ Christmas game. Click here to play. We really hope you enjoy it and are better at it than we are...

The game isn’t just a chance for us to show off our digital and animation skills. We’re hoping it’s an opportunity to raise some money for a good cause. The h2o client placed highest on the leaderboard by the twELFth (see what we did there?) night deadline will win £250 to donate to a charity of their choice.

If your elf skills aren’t going to get you top spot, don’t panic. You’ll also find a link to donate to Oxford Homeless Pathways. They’re a great charity that helps homeless people get off the streets and provides them with the skills and qualifications to help them get a job and change their lives. For more information about Oxford Homeless Pathways, click here, or to donate, click here.

If we could help your business achieve its goals in 2017, get in touch with us here to arrange a chat. We’re a full-service agency, and don’t worry, not all of our marketing solutions are elf-related.

From everyone at h2o, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, an ecstatically happy New Year and hope you enjoy ‘Help Your ‘Elf.’ (If anyone asks, it’s procrastination for a charitable cause.) 

Happy New Year from h2o

Posted: 16/01/2017

We hope that you had a great festive period (although it does feel like ancient history now doesn’t it?), and are managing to stick to your New Year Resolutions. You may have seen we were a little bit obsessed with elves towards the end of last year. This was all for a good cause as our charity elf game helped to raise over £1,500 for the Oxford Homeless Pathways charity.

Our Lead Developer Nathan, who was the mastermind behind the game, has finally stopped having nightmares about leaping elves. I have just about got the game’s music out of my head, and our Twitter feed is relatively free of bad puns (for now, be warned).

We’re delighted that we were able to help this fantastic cause that does such valuable work around Oxford.

Gamification is big business in marketing at the minute and at h2o, we love a good game. So, if you’re looking for a new way to promote your brand, engage your employees, or to stand out from the crowd, feel free to get in touch and we can create a game just for your company— it doesn’t even need to feature elves.

Thank you to everyone that played our game and donated. It’s still not too late to contribute and help homeless people in Oxford get back on their feet. The funding page is staying and can be found here.

Thanks to everyone that played and shared our game—we’re already planning next year’s effort!

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Welcome to the Team Jake!

Posted: 21/02/2017

We’re delighted to announce the arrival of h2o’s newest member. Jake Barrow has joined our development team in our Leeds office as a Senior Developer.

Jake specialises in programming in C#, MVC Web Apps, Xamarin Mobile Apps on both Android and iOS. Essentially, if you want a mobile app, Jake is your man. His favourite aspect of his job is problem solving. It’s immensely satisfying solving puzzles and thinking creatively to find the best solution to address clients’ requirements - like a ‘fixer,’ but without the Mafia connotations.

When he was younger, Jake didn’t really have a dream to be a fireman or footballer. Programming had always been an activity that he enjoyed doing in his spare time, so making it his career means that Jake is one of the happiest developers you could ever wish to meet.

When Jake isn’t developing amazing apps and granting client wishes like some kind of technological genie, he enjoys a wide variety of hobbies. Golf, snooker, rugby and football are his sports of choice. As a proud Yorkshireman, Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos are his sporting teams of choice. (As this is being written in the h2o Oxford office, we question these choices...)

Given the choice of any super power in the world, Jake would opt for teleportation. This is very practical as it totally cuts out the morning commute and holiday travels.This is much better than flying, which is what most people would choose when asked the question (imagine flying to work in drizzle, or a blizzard?). This is the sort of high-level, strategic thinking that we employ at h2o.

If you think that you or your business could benefit from Jake’s development expertise, or any of the services we offer (we are a full service agency), get in touch here.

h2o and Invisible Robots

Posted: 27/02/2017

At h2o we love keeping tabs on emerging themes within the marketing arena. We’ve identified an emerging trend that we call Invisible User Interface (IUI) technology as something that we think is going to be huge over the next couple of years. “What’s that?” We can almost definitely hear you cry? Sit back and we’ll tell you.

‘There’s an app for that.’ This has almost become a cliché, however in recent years it has become reality. The mobile app market has undeniably matured and potentially peaked. iOS and Android app stores are saturated with a multitude of apps for almost every conceivable aspect of modern life.

Such is the diversity of apps available that it can almost be overwhelming. Consumers are starting to reject the idea of having 20+ apps on their phone to manage every minute of their conscious day, not to mention their sleep. Consumers want a more holistic, integrated and interactive method of simplifying their lives. Whether this is an indictment of our society or the next step towards the rise of the machines, we don’t know.

Brands are beginning to realise that having an app out there is no longer enough to achieve the market penetration and gain the attention that it was just a couple of years ago. The latest technological trend of interest to brands is messenger bots. These artificial intelligences that communicate in an almost-human manner are appearing on brand websites, home devices like Alexa and interestingly, social media. This conversational marketing can create what appears to be almost a personal human touch to what would otherwise be a faceless, anonymous online interaction. As we are all taught in marketing school (this totally exists), people develop almost personal relationships with their favourite brands. So if your messenger bot talks in a brand-appropriate manner, it can encourage this relationship, in addition to existing on a convenient and available platform.

From mid-2016 brands have been exploring possibilities of using bots on social media to act as a combined customer service representative, personal assistant and sales force for customers without the consumer having to download an app. At h2o, we always like to be ahead of the technological curve, so we created the phrase ‘Invisible User Interface’ as it’s hidden within the user-face of an existing platform e.g. Facebook Chat, Whatsapp, Amazon’s Alexa or a company website.

Advances in AI over the past 12 months has been made possible. The bots are more adept, nuanced and better at interacting and responding to users’ requests. This means that brand can be more ambitious than having its bots merely advertise the latest offers. With almost a billion users on Facebook messenger alone, this presents a potentially enormous audience for brands that are quick to adopt this new marketing opportunity.

When combined with big data, IUI can use your previous activity to either recommend potential new purchases, services you may enjoy, or provide feedback and analysis on your behaviour. An example of this is Cleo, who can help act as your own personal financial advisor. You can monitor and keep up to date with your finances to let you know how much of your hard-earned money you spend on food (and what type of food). You can also set up budgets and set financial targets for yourself, all through Facebook Chat. Cleo can communicate with you through chat, potentially chastising you for getting that foot-long Subway instead of the salad you’d promised yourself. This can potentially grow and expand so that Cleo can manage your life through IUI.

Showcasing how far the technology has come already is the example of Transferwise, who have recently unveiled their chatbot on Facebook Messenger. It enables you to transfer money internationally over the messenger tool. Skyscanner also has a bot that’s simplified the ticket booking process into a conversation rather than a tedious series of menus.

It’s not just banks and airlines that are rolling this out. Burger King have plans to introduce an ordering bot into existing platforms. This has enormous marketing and business ramifications for the industry as a whole – if I were one of the millions of Deliveroo drivers that now infest city centres, I’d be monitoring IUI very carefully (and brushing up my CV)...

The ability for IUI to link to text to voice and voice to text software means that this technology can enable users with sight or mobility problems to feel confident about interacting with the bot and making purchases online independently.

IUI is not limited to social media platforms. It can be hosted on brand websites to act initially as a question solver before offering cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.The key advantage of IUI is that it allows brands to offer all the advantages of a website or app – browsing product ranges, getting advice and making purchases within another interface.

The potential depth of IUI is astounding from a marketing perspective. This technology is still in its infancy, with bots for a single purpose: finance, mortgages or burgers over a single platform. However we’re anticipating that in the near future bots will be able to communicate over a variety of channels e.g. Cleo over Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and text. We also think that bots will soon manage other single function bots to undertake multiple functions and services to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for managing your life (Botception?). An example would be a bot that manages bots that monitors your schedule, food and transport. For example: “I’ve ordered your favourite salad from the shop round the corner from the gym, it will be ready 15 minutes after your spinning class finishes, your Uber will pick you up 20 minutes later to take you to your meeting. Don’t forget to buy flowers on your way home.”

To summarise, we think apps are out, and bots are the future.

If you’re interested in using bots to reach your marketing goals, get in touch with us, we’d love to find out more about your business and how we can help. If you think IUI sounds really interesting, but you’re not sure how you could apply it to your industry, don't worry, we’ve got plenty of ideas. Click here to contact us.

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