My thoughts on coaching and the business context – part 2

With everyone settling into their training well, and a 5k personal best for one of our runners in a recent time trial, some final observations I’m keen to share.

Mental strength – I came across this interesting article in Forbes which provides a good summary of how mental toughness benefits athletes, but can also be of benefit in business. The author, Christine M. Riordan is the Dean and a Professor of Management at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. She highlights six areas and gives some great examples:

  • Flexibility
  • Responsiveness
  • Strength
  • Courage and ethics
  • Resilience
  • Sportsmanship.

These were all inherent within the group as they undertook a journey into the unknown…but clearly we can all relate how each applies to a project we’ve worked on or led – and how much harder it is to be successful if any are missing.

Health and well-being – Running isn’t just a sport, for many it is a lifestyle choice. So many of our runners expressed an increasing feeling of health, fitness and well-being throughout the programme and into their lives. Their mental health improved with greater concentration and happiness at succeeding their goals. Their stories are inspirational.

You need only visit the UK Government website to find extensive research on the benefits working brings to people. There is also much evidence, both UK and internationally of the positive impacts Well-being has on people, work and society. And this research demonstrates how sport and culture have a positive impact on people’s happiness and well-being. This piece in The Telegraph explores how companies who embrace and support well-being improves productivity. Running and fitness are and can be a key contributor to this. And this piece in HR Magazine also provides compelling evidence. Employers who embrace well-being in all its forms (including sport and fitness) will have healthier, happier and more productive employees.

Community – The beginner’s group have made much comment about how they have felt so welcome into the running community. Anyone who has studied marketing and business will be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The stages are described as follows;

  • Physiological – the basics of life like food, water, air
  • Safety – security of you, your family and friends and your things
  • Belonging – those things such as love, friendship, camaraderie and community which make you feel part of a greater good
  • Esteem – this is where other’s perceptions of you and your perception of yourself become important and their approval / respect for you develops
  • Self-actualisation – this is where the building blocks from the previous stages allow you to be free of mind, body and spirit to excel.

The theory states that without the basics of life, you cannot move up the pyramid – so physiological needs need to be met before you can move to safety, then to belonging – all the way to achieving self-actualisation. All of our runners went through these stages – and they are currently in the ‘esteem’ category as they develop as runners, and gel with the group and fellow runners. Community for them is crucial for them to improve, as is positive feedback and encouragement they get from more experienced runners.

There is an interesting article in Women on Business on how this applies to the workplace and achieving goals in a small business. The guiding principles hold true for large organisations, employees and athletes too!

Enthusiasm – “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.” This is a great quote from Vince Lombardi – an American Football player, coach and executive. 

As we all know, enthusiastic people are great to work with and for, and it’s infectious. This article from the Institute of Supply Management identifies 4 elements of effective leadership – Vision, Enthusiasm, Motivation and Courage. It talks about behaviours which demonstrate enthusiasm. These include a sense of urgency, excitement in your voice, body language, increased gesturing and an upbeat attitude and tempo.

In the workplace we all respond to these characteristics and gravitate towards those leaders who excite, inspire and enthuse us. Their passion and drive give us confidence, encourage participation, energise us and make us want to be part of the ‘feel good’ factor it generates. The athletes in our ‘Couch to 5k’ course all responded to these factors too, and as their confidence grew, demonstrated them too in their interaction with the coaches, helpers and their fellow runners!

Conclusion – I hope this series of blogs have been interesting. I have had lots of really positive comments from runners, ex-colleagues and the beginner’s themselves. It has been great writing them and reflecting on my career to date, but also my coaching career and the many inspiration and talented people I have worked with and run with.

My thoughts on coaching and the business context – part 1

So many of the beginners are making their way into the main group following successfully completing the course. Many have completed their first Parkrun over the Christmas period and one of them was first in their age category – which is fantastic! 

So, looking at some of the observations I made during this time, I thought I’d pull some of the main ones out, and draw some examples how they relate to my career so far! I was planning this to be a final blog, but feel the points are important so will split this into 2 parts to make it more digestible!

Confidence – I have often found leadership and confidence go hand in hand. A good leader encourages, nurtures and empowers their team to be the best they can be. Poor leadership, that micromanages, is overly aggressive or lacks clarity of vision often leads to withdrawn, nervous, timid and unproductive staff – this CIO Blog explores this in more detail. In the case of the ‘Couch to 5k’ group, as coaches believing in our ability to successfully get the group to then end was key. As each milestone and target was passed, this permeated the group members to the point that they began to believe it too – and encouraged each other they could do it…confidence breeds confidence!

Teamwork – Over my career I’ve delivered a ‘world first’ and won many awards. As the focal point for these accolades I was always quick to recognise the considerable contribution others made to this success – as without them, the campaigns would have been limited to only my knowledge and experience. As this article in The Harvard Business Review discusses, some of the key factors include:

  • Compelling direction
  • Strong structure
  • Supportive context
  • Shared mindset
  • Team evaluation.

These were the cornerstone of the ‘Couch to 5k’ beginners group…and the pillars of my successful workplace collaborations to date.

Measurement – In athletics or business, performance measurement is key to tracking improvement or decline. A business metric is used to track and assess the general status of the business. A key performance indicator (KPI) is used to measure a critical area of performance. Both are crucial for providing evidence that what you are doing is working (or not – so remedial action can be taken). This useful article in Forbes discusses some of the key ones for growing businesses. In marketing we monitor areas such as return on investment (RoI), marketing qualified leads (MQLs), client satisfaction, pipeline, revenue and profit. In the ‘Couch to 5k’ we put measurements in place for overall and specific performance areas and also ‘softer’ elements such as confidence levels and ‘determination’. This ensured that at the end of the 8 week training cycle – we could confidently predict that the group would successfully complete their goal.

Training – As a member and also alumni of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, I understand clearly the benefits of formalised training to support experience gained on the job. It provides a framework within which to work, tools to provide consistency in approach and also the confidence of proven techniques and methodologies to support strategy, delivery and measurement of activities. What it also provides is the ‘language’ of the marketing profession which enables effective peer to peer engagement. But, like the ‘Couch to 5k’ group demonstrate…training is about continuous development and improvement – not just to achieve a specific goal – reaching the goal should enthuse and excite people enough that they want to continue to learn and develop.

This interesting article in Harvard Business Review discusses the role management should play in talent development…or athlete development.

And age shouldn’t be a barrier to training and development. One of the ‘Couch to 5k’ group won her over 60 category at a recent Parkrun…and I’ve just started the CIM Digital Marketing Diploma – so you’re never too old to learn new skills or enhance your existing ones!

In my last blog (I promise) I’ll cover off the final 4 areas of learning from the Couch to 5k course.

Insights from my ‘Couch to 5k’ running course – the story continues…blog 2

So, they did it! 5 very brave, determined and dogged individuals, successfully completed the ‘5k challenge’. In tribute to them, here are some further things I’ve learned over the athlete’s journey from ‘Couch-2-5K’.

Mental strength – Wow – what strength and determination they all showed – and that has been pretty much the case through the whole programme. It takes a while to believe the training is making a difference. Huge improvements in the final bleep test results created a buzz and a belief that they could achieve their goal. Doing it is another matter. What the group achieved was inspirational – even when they were tiring towards the end…it was clear they dug deep, believed in themselves and their training and pushed themselves to the finish.

Health and well-being – All of the runners, like most of us, have busy lives and conflicting priorities. Finding the time to include exercise is often a challenge – especially if you’ve not been in the habit of doing it for a while. If you’ve not run before…the prospect can be daunting. Much is known of the positive physical benefits of running – and this article in The Telegraph discusses a number of these. Running also has a number of mental health benefits – just take a look at the article from Women’s Running UK to find out more. All of our beginners over the last week or 2 have stated they’re fitter, they talk passionately and confidently about the benefits running has given them and many are now planning their own race goals to keep the momentum they have built – a step toward a healthier lifestyle. As 1 of our finishers said ‘I’m not a couch potato anymore, I’m a runner’. 

Community – Much is made of the running ‘community’. At races, you often see familiar faces from other clubs. Out running, there’s often a friendly wave or acknowledgement of a fellow runner as your paths cross. For me, being a runner is not just about performing to your best ability, but also taking joy from seeing others excel – even if they are your main competition – as it drives you to work harder. This sense of community has been evident throughout the group – but also beyond. Southend AC members gave up their time to help out with sessions. Graduates from the summer beginner’s group, who knew what the current intake were going through, provided positive support and words of encouragement. Such was the enthusiasm to help, we even had ‘buddies’ from the club who volunteered to run the 5k time trial with group members. This for me sums up what community is about – whether in a coaching or a business environment.

Enthusiasm – My final learning is really a reminder – of the immense power enthusiasm can have in effecting change – whether at work or as a coach. It’s infectious, it makes you feel good, it makes you want to try harder, it makes you feel you want to be part of it. All of these and more were experienced over 8 weeks with a formidable bunch of people. The energy, enthusiasm, camaraderie and determination to improve and succeed shown by the group with each new challenge they faced was humbling. I can honestly say, they taught me as much (if not more) than they learned from me – and for that I will always be thankful.

Coming soon – For my next blog I’ll draw out some of the areas I’ve discussed over the last couple of blogs. I’ll try and draw some examples of how I’ve used them in my work life over the years…however I’m also sure many of you will already see examples in your careers where lessons like these apply.  

Insights from Southend AC’s ‘couch to 5k’ beginners group – blog 1

Haven’t blogged for a week or 2, so thought I’d share some thoughts with you from my recent coaching exploits.

So we’re coming to the end of our latest ‘Couch-2-5K’ beginners group at Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club. Over the next couple of blogs, I’ll share with you some of the things that I have learned from leading it over the last 7 weeks!

Confidence – is often something we take for granted – especially when we’re in a familiar environment. Change the situation, and it often needs to be nurtured. I am always amazed how tangible this is as we see the nervous beginners blossom into enthusiastic athletes.

Teamwork – many see running as a ‘solo’ sport – they’re wrong – running is all about teamwork. Each of the athletes in the beginners group have their own strengths and challenges. What impresses me is how quickly the group members pick this up. They actively support and encourage each other to overcome their weaknesses.

Measurement – generally speaking time and distance are constant – a minute is a minute, a mile a mile – and if you run a mile faster this week than last – you’d be happy to see that as improvement.  It’s actually a lot more complicated than that as you add in factors like Vo2 max, cadence, incline, the different energy systems we have to fuel running, training loads and cycles etc – but it is easy to overcomplicate things when people are starting o%name %titleut.  However, it is crucial for people working really hard to see and feel it’s paying off – and all the effort and pain is not in vain. We always start and finish the programme with a bleep test. This provides us with a baseline we can measure performance consistently against – and prove improvement at the end of the cycle. We have other measures – the final one being the 5k time trial – but all of the athletes have started to think about their own performances – intrinsic feedback and each other’s.

Training – the goal for the group is to complete a non-stop 5km time trial by the end of week 8. The programme starts with fun-based, interactive activities – to keep people moving. This changes to more specific run / walk activities mid-way through. In the final weeks, the intensity of training increases.  By building on marginal gains week by week, the group has excelled. One of the most common things we hear is ‘I could never have done that a few weeks ago’ – as each week they break new ground in what they achieve.

What’s always illuminating in these times of reflection is how much cross over there is between business and performance coaching. Take the scenarios above and place them in a work environment, it’s clear that the skills and disciplines are transferable. So to be a better leader at work – become a volunteer coach!

In my next blog I’ll share a few more of my thoughts – once the course is completed…and I’ll also try and include some feedback from the athletes taking part!

I’ll also write a final blog highlighting the positive business benefits of applying the lessons I’ve learned to work!

The Internet of Things (IoT) – creating a whole new ‘place’ in marketing

“The traditional model we all grew up with is obsolete”.

Jim Stengel, global marketing officer, P&G

My mobile phone finally gave up. I’d had it for ages. For such a ‘simple’ lifestyle device, the options are many. Sim-only or contract? 3G or 4G? Android or Apple? Direct through the network provider or via a mobile phone retailer (or even my supermarket)? However the latter point got me thinking about what some of the likely impacts on the distribution channel for enterprises might be in an IoT world.

In the digital world ‘disruption’ is one of the latest buzzwords. But does this really apply to the current ‘place’ part of the traditional marketing model where there is a simple choice. You could either choose indirect distribution (via intermediaries), direct (to customers) or a combination of the 2. It’s a model that worked pretty well.

In early 1997, Dell created an internal sales and marketing group dedicated to serving the home market and introduced a product line designed especially for individual users. Fuelled by the Internet, domestic customers could configure and buy PCs to meet their individual requirements. This certainly changed the market dynamics and more importantly customer expectations. Why pay for features you don’t need when others you do aren’t included? At the time this was pitched to tech-savvy buyers rather than mass market…but it did provide a seismic shift in the home PC market.

So roll on almost 30 years…and enterprises face a similar scenario.

My former colleague Danny Wootton wrote a really interesting blog about digital product personalisation – and how long before it became the norm – you can read it here – Carrying that through into the discussion on distribution channels, it’s clear that there are likely to be far reaching implications. Indeed, it could be argued that IoT has the potential to make intermediaries obsolete…unless they can establish a way of adding value, above and beyond what the product provider offers as part of their service, or that the customer can do for themselves (or even a combination of both).

With increasingly sophisticated Generation Y customers, with a clear understanding of what they want, companies able to provide an exceptional, flexible and agile product or service configuration platform can by-pass their intermediaries, by allowing the customer to do for themselves, what the intermediary may have done for them. But there’s more. Advanced and predictive analytics can directly include the buyer in every stage of the production process at the touch of a button – so you can not only see how the product is coming together…but where the components are in the supply chain (and even change them if you find something better) – to truly customise your product or service. The ubiquity of sensors is increasing all the time. Cost has dropped significantly making them much more viable for lower value ‘devices’ which means individual components can be IoT enabled. Overlaying a platform that allows the sensor data to be aggregated and used, empowers the business…but can also provide a unique view to the customer at every stage of the production cycle – which from a customer engagement and service perspective could render the middleman completely obsolete.

When you buy a new car, it’s through a dealership – but what value do they really add? You can get information on the car, test drive a similar car, configure the specs, get updates on build progress and delivery, and after-service elements%name %title such as service and MOT reminders. One could argue that almost all of these could be provided by the car manufacturer themselves (or even by the diagnostics and sensors in the car) – and who knows in the future of driverless cars, which are due to appear in 2017 on the UK roadsthe car could even come to you to take out for a test drive.

So what role could the intermediary play in an IoT-enabled world to provide that value-add (and improve their chances of surviving)? Put simply, specialisation on core elements of the supply chain, and the expertise to be better than the manufacturer or self-service customer on delivering them is key. And where the intermediary brand is weaker than the manufacturer…marketing becomes increasingly important for those who want to continue to exist.

If you’re interested in reading more on IoT, marketing and my experiences, take a look at my previous blogs – The Internet of Things (IoT) and its impacts on the stuff we use everyday, The Internet of Things (IoT) – a game changer in product development, What does the resurgence of vinyl records say about the Internet of Things (IoT)? and IoT and The Marketing Revolution.

If you’re interested in finding out more about IoT, download a free copy of CGI’s IoT for Dummies Guide which formed the cornerstone of my award winning IoT campaign.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and its impacts on the stuff we use everyday

Concert, music

‘If you want to create a great product, just focus on one person. Make that one person have the most amazing experience ever’.
Brian Chesky

There’s nothing worse than a poor product or service experience. We’ve all been there and know how frustrating it can be.

I was listening to some music and it kept cutting out, so I immediately thought my broadband was playing up. I checked it and it was fine. So next I checked the music hub I stream through and that seemed fine too…so it must have been the streaming service…right? 

Wrong…it was a combination of the service and the hub. The problem it turned out was that my streaming service had recently updated its software, but the music hub manufacturer didn’t know, and hadn’t made the necessary updates to carry on delivering the service. But it was worse than that…the hub manufacturer, being a sound system manufacturer and not a software company…took weeks (and countless complaints) to write and send a fix to the hub. Amplify that across multiple device manufacturers, all with their own software, and supporting many streaming services, all changing at breakneck speed…and it was clear this was a problem that would continue to grow in frequency.

But think about this from a business perspective and how costly the same type of software problem would be to put right in a business to business solution. There’s the financial hit, but also the impact on user experience and the knock-on effect of customer satisfaction, reputational damage and lost revenues. And in my example, when it’s not actually caused by the part of the service you offer, and the solution isn’t part of your core business skills, the problem is much worse and harder to solve.

So this got me thinking about the Internet of Things. Much is made of IoT and what it’s driving. Smarter, more ubiquitous devices, universal connectivity, the ability to integrate old and new devices and systems, and the ability to free up data are all frequently discussed. Opportunities include using joined up data to create insights allowing companies to win more business. Alternatively, predicting challenges and potential faults and stopping them from happening saves money. This is especially true where companies in the service chain are prepared to share data, i.e. the music hub company and streaming service company share data to understand the end to end user experience.

%name %titleBut my experience with music streaming can be easily looked at in a business context in an IoT world, with similar challenges.

My ‘device’ is supplied and managed by one company. Another provides the broadband ‘connectivity’. My music is provided by a paid for streaming service. For it to work, all 3 need to work together…if one fails, the whole user experience fails – and all have very different skills focused on the bit of the chain they provide. Expand that across all manufacturers, internet service providers and streaming services, it’s clear universal interoperability is a long way off…if even achievable.

So what’s the answer? If the question is ‘how do service providers and manufacturers keep ahead of the changes to ensure they understand the whole value chain they are part of and become experts in all of them to ensure the user experience is first class?’…then the answer’s ‘never’.

But a solution may be found by changing the question. By creating dynamic interfaces and bandwidths, it can customise the service you want based upon the device you are using and the bandwidth available – so the device drives the appropriate content source rather than the service provider…change device and the menu of options changes…change from one ISP to another and the content reflects the bandwidth available to provide the best user experience available through that device. Add in end to end user experience monitoring as outlined above and hey presto…a great user experience.

So as the quote above suggests, sometimes it’s not about fixing the problem for everyone and trying to anticipate every scenario. Sometimes it’s about looking down the wrong end of the telescope to find the answer – whether it be music streaming or embracing IoT.

If you’re interested in reading more on IoT, marketing and my experiences, take a look at my previous blogs – The Internet of Things (IoT) – a game changer in product development, What does the resurgence of vinyl records say about the Internet of Things (IoT)? and IoT and The Marketing Revolution.

If you’re interested in finding out more about IoT, download a free copy of CGI’s IoT for Dummies Guide which formed the cornerstone of my award winning IoT campaign.

The Internet of Things (IoT) – and the pricing conundrum


“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett

The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a profound effect on the role of marketing.

As a keen runner, I use technology such as heart rate monitors, GPS, cloud-based performance analysis and tools to monitor my training and race performance – so connected devices are part and parcel of my life, both business and personal.

I recently entered a couple of longer distance cross country races…both the same distance, both similar terrain, both organised by local running clubs. One had a flat entry fee, the other asks runners to pay what they think the race is worth to them to enter as a donation (which allows the club to also claim gift aid…a smart move)…so fixed price versus value-based pricing. This got me thinking about pricing in the context of the Internet of Things.

In a recent blog, ‘The Internet of Things (IoT) – a game changer in product development’ I discussed the blurring of ‘what is a product’. Without clearly understanding what a product is, how can we possibly decide what its value is to the user, and therefore price it accordingly. But it goes further. The ‘product’ is now a device creating data. The data it creates also has a value to someone, but that value will be met by different components of the value chain. The device and user, also provide opportunities to sell associated services, based on the profile, characteristics and activities of the user, and how they interact with other people, organisations and devices. And this will be different for every user. So how do we sift through this deluge of data, extract the key elements and meet the customer’s priority needs, whilst demonstrating the extra value this precision profiling and targeting has provided – and charge a price that reflects the value.

Take music as an example. An artist still writes, records and produces a song, but the ‘product’ the consumer buys has radically changed…as has the way they access and use that product. Music was originally only available live. This was transformed in 1877 by the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison. Suddenly you could hear the music with no orchestra present. In 1922, the BBC was founded and people got used to consuming music through radio, and subsequently TV. Along came 78’s and 45’s which improved the quality of the recordings, and tapes meant you could customise your music and listen to it on the go. CDs made the music digital, then we had downloads which moved the consumer from owning a physical product. We now have music as a service through streaming which is a totally different business model. In essence, a product is now just a piece of data – but one with a value.

%name %titleYou may be interested in my recent blog which discusses the re-emergence of vinyl in an IoT context – What does the resurgence of vinyl records say about the Internet of Things (IoT)?’ One of the key questions IoT will pose is – with so many companies owning different parts of the value chain, who will own what the customer values most and how will they be rewarded as part of a multi-value transaction? Indeed the other dynamic is that with as customers get more sophisticated and confident, they’ll start defining their own pricing strategy where they decide what they pay based on the ‘value’ they get, or they will go elsewhere.

It’s early days, but what is clear, that value-based rather than product-based pricing will be an integral part of IoT and the new business models it creates, both on a B2B and B2C front.

And to close, if you’re interested in the answer to my conundrum about how much, if anything, I paid to enter the ‘free’ race…well some knowledge of the time, effort and commitment to put on the race, the fact it’s a beautiful but very tough course, and the glass of fizz to all finishers at the end, meant its value was more to me than the fixed price race so I donated more!

If you’re interested in reading more on IoT, marketing and my experiences, take a look at my previous blogs on the site – The Internet of Things (IoT) and its impacts on the stuff we use everyday, The Internet of Things (IoT) – a game changer in product development, What does the resurgence of vinyl records say about the Internet of Things (IoT)? and IoT and The Marketing Revolution.

If you’re interested in finding out more about IoT, download a free copy of CGI’s IoT for Dummies Guide which formed the cornerstone of my award winning IoT campaign.

The Internet of Things (IoT) – a game changer in product development

“Who should ultimately design the product? The customer, of course.” – Philip Kotler

I saw this quote recently, and thought ‘well isn’t that obvious’. However it didn’t take long for me to recollect a number of examples where it wasn’t obvious enough…remember ‘new Coke’ in 1985. The recipe was changed and outraged customers campaigned for it to be changed back. It took just 79 days for consumer power to win out and for Coca Cola to relent. In today’s connected world many similar examples exist.

%name %titleThis got me thinking about IoT and what possible impacts the smart, connected consumer would have on product development – a world where the consumer really is now at the heart of shaping what they want to buy, where they want to buy it, what value it has to them and how they want to consume it (and indeed where the consumer is also a ‘product’ in their own right – just look at Facebook).

But as companies try to harness consumer insights, this creates its own challenges. Of particular interest is the ‘blurring’ of what a ‘product’ is and will be in the future. IoT will see a convergence of product development models, and the creation of a whole new definition of products – which includes the data generated by increasingly smart devices and indeed people themselves.

So what’s a product?
In the world of IoT, as discussed in this excellent article from Forbes, the meaning of the word ‘product’ is blurring. IoT not only enables new uses for devices, sensors and wearables, but actually redefines what a product is, how it is designed, developed, distributed used and even priced. And this includes the data and insight it creates which are becoming marketable in their own right. What is clear is the move from a product as a ‘capital’ item to more of a service offer.

As a demonstration of where IoT may shape the future direction of products, you need only consider the wrist watch and its evolution over many years to become the smart device we have now.

Watches were generally passive devices telling the time and date. With marketers looking to define new markets, they moved from being passive to more interactive. The inclusion of features such as Global Positioning System (GPS) to track speed and distance, sensors to detect altitude and depth, and the inclusion of heart rate monitoring enhanced their purpose. What we have is an integrated training and performance device, providing real-time data, any time, any place. Add the ability via GSM, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, to upload this data to the cloud, and a whole new level of analysis is possible. You can not only track your own data but can also compare against other people’s anonymised data to track performance improvement…and areas that need work. The humble watch is now a performance management device generating real insight that drives behaviour.

Combine the technological development outlined above with the expectations of Generations Y and Z (people born after 1980) and its clear how far this can go. The convergence of lifestyle elements such as music, web browsing, diary management, making payments, and an inbuilt health tracker is the start. Even now, product development teams will be looking at how else they can exploit the Internet of Things to create even more value by managing and informing even more aspects of your life.

The boundaries between product, service and experience are becoming increasingly blurred, which creates new challenges for design teams, fuelled by our desire to be continuously connected to each other and the things around us.

IoT is clearly a game changer that needs to be embraced, whether in developing consumer products and services, or B2B solutions for enterprises.

If you’re interested in finding out more about IoT, don’t miss my previous blogs, What does the resurgence of vinyl records say about IoT? or IoT and the marketing revolution.

What does the resurgence of vinyl records say about the Internet of Things (IoT)?

“Digitally delivered – the one thing the business thought the consumer wanted which was convenience, but I don’t think it did anything to strengthen the connection between the music and the fan. When you reduce the visual marker to a thumbnail, it’s not like holding a CD let alone a 12″ LP.”
Billy Fields, the vice president at Warner Music Group that oversees vinyl for the company.

%name %titleHaving recently had a sort out of the loft at home, I stumbled across a box full of records…remember them…black vinyl discs which were the backdrop to most of our formative years. Looking through the covers, memories flooded back and it got me thinking…I really loved playing records – it was the music, but also the experience and physicality of doing so.

With lots of CDs and digital downloads, and the ability to stream music without ever owning it, it got me thinking – ‘how do I embrace this ‘old’ technology and get it to work with my ‘new’ digital system to maximise the value of both?’ It also led me to think about vinyl in the context of an IoT ecosystem and the user experience

So let’s start with the existing ‘infrastructure’. I had a digital system which allowed me to stream music, play CDs and also listen to the radio…and a music ‘hub’ that connected to both hard wired and wireless speakers around my house. So you could replicate that scenario across businesses in an IoT context.

Having made this investment in digital technology, I’d forgotten about the ‘value’ I used to experience by playing vinyl…so the record deck and albums were ‘archived’. In truth I was so keen to embrace the new digital era, I never really considered one day I’d want to integrate the old with the new. Is this sounding familiar?

Anyway…I decided that I’d like to listen to some of the albums again…so I had a couple of choices…invest in a new deck (the old one was well past its best) and some headphones and speakers and have it as a ‘silo’d’ music experience, or try and find a way of crossing the vinyl / digital divide – and integrate the deck (a legacy system) into my 21st century music experience. The first would cost more and mitigate some of the investment I’d made in digital, the latter…well I wasn’t sure it could be done.

So, I spoke to an expert…and realised I wasn’t the only one with the problem…and deck manufacturers had seen the upswing in demand from music lovers who also pined for the vinyl experience again as well as wanting to leverage the investment, both monetary and emotional, in vinyl collections built up over many years. Fortunately we found a way of connecting the deck into the main music system – so I didn’t have to live with 2 music silos running side by side!

What’s even better…is that by doing so, the vinyl music ‘data’ can be heard as it should be (with the odd crackle) through any of the wired and wireless speakers I have. I can thumb through album boxes, pick out a record, read the sleeve notes and place the vinyl on the turntable…move the arm over and lower onto the disc…and experience the music as it was meant to be heard…through my modern day digital system.

So, what does this experience tell me about IoT. Well the parallels are many. Businesses face similar challenges to leverage investments in digital, but retain the old, often silo’d technologies which are core to their successful operation. The difficulty comes when trying to integrate the old and new. By doing so it’s possible to release significant value, both in terms of data and user experience…which is exactly what IoT provides.

%name %titleAnd as Billy Fields alludes to from the digital / vinyl debate…convenience isn’t always the most desirable element of the user experience – sometimes old and new working together provide a much richer and harmonious sound.

IoT and The Marketing Revolution

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been described as the next ‘Industrial Revolution’ – but it also has major implications for marketers.

At a former company, we defined The Internet of Things (IoT) as a world where smart objects are seamlessly integrated as part of a global network; where smart objects interact without human intervention to deliver new services or improved processes. IoT redefines the way humans and machines interface and the way they interact with the world around them.

But just how many machines are we talking about? According to Gartner’s IoT forecast, “Endpoints of the IoT will grow at a 35% CAGR from 2013 through 2020, reaching an installed base of 25 billion units, with over half of them consumer applications. IoT will support total service spending of about $263 billion in 2020; most of this spending will occur in the professional domain.”1

This rise in installed base, coupled with Gartner’s forecast that 10% of IoT devices will be designed to allow contextual analysis and autonomous interactions – ie these new devices will be aware of their surroundings and automatically interact with them, has major implications for the marketing community. Data volume and immediacy coupled with device ubiquity and intimacy, means that as marketers, we are about to be hit with a data tsunami that is unlike anything we’ve seen before. And according to the same analysis from Gartner, the consumer segment of “things,” including health and fitness, information and infotainment, and home automation/security/energy monitoring, will account for more than 53% of all installed things – so creating major opportunities for the business to business, business to consumer and B2B2C marketing community.

So what does this mean for marketers?

If you look at the traditional marketing mix for services, the 7 P’s;

%name %title…the implications of all this new, often real-time, business and lifestyle data are huge. The potential for marketing-savvy organisations that get it right in terms of speed to market, customer acquisition and retention and differentiated offers are obvious, not to mention marketing cost reduction and agility. The perils for those who don’t are also clear – just look at the changing face of the high street and the winners and losers in the drive to digital business models – well known and long standing brands such as Woolworths, HMV and Jessop’s whose business models didn’t adapt quickly enough to the digital business world we now live in have all ceased trading or are a shadow of what they used to be.

Over the series of blogs, I’ll look at the potential impacts of IoT on each of the 7 P’s, and provide an insight on the opportunities and threats it will create. What will the impact be on product design and speed to market in an IoT world? As devices get more ubiquitous and cheaper, how will organisations monitise IoT…and with an ever increasing range of channels, what are the impacts on the promotional mix? IoT is seen as the next major transformational lever for an organisation.

1Source: Gartner, P. Middleton, T. Koslowski and A. McIntyre, Forecast Analysis: Internet of Things, Endpoints and Associated Services, Worldwide, 2014 Update, 02 December 2014