Blog Archives

Big Data: Finding the incremental value

I recently spoke at a conference on the topic of Big Data. In preparation I asked my contacts for their opinions on the topic. I also read a mountain of academic papers, business articles and a new book on the topic titled “Creating Value with Big Data Analytics”. It’s clear that Big Data divides opinions! Read more ›

Posted in Business

How to accelerate business growth

Business growth creates complexity. Complexity kills growth. This is the paradox of growth which, over the long run, affects the growth ambitions of 90% of companies.

In this post I’ll review new research on the ways to identify and resolve growth challenges. Read more ›

Posted in Business

Methods for designing and communicating Marketing Technology architecture

In this post I’ll review four frameworks that digital consultants can use in developing and documenting marketing technology architectures. Read more ›

Posted in Business

The Hunt for the Great British Start-Up

Why hasn’t the UK (or for that matter Europe) been able to create a significant number of tech companies? Both the US and China have created tech companies with staggering valuations.

This week, legendary Silicon Valley investor, Michael Moritz, took a sharp jab at the UK’s failure to build unicorn (valuations of $1bn+) tech companies.

In light of recent press and governmental anger over the aggressive – yet legal – tax avoidance schemes employed by the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook; Moritz suggests that we ought to be more concerned with building our own big businesses, not trying to scrape more tax from Uncle Sam’s successes.

It’s unfair to say that the UK Govt has done nothing. Change is happening in this space with the Government backing entrepreneur’s tax relief, founding catapult funds for incubation of high growth business, and creating great hype surrounding Silicon Roundabout.

Will favourable taxation and pots of growth funding provide the fertile ground for a £1bn+ UK business to emerge? Possibly, but I personally feel that there are two major blockers that sit in our way. The first is our somewhat reserved culture; the second a gap in business and finance education.


“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker

Nothing defines British culture better than the Very British Problems Twitter account. We are cripplingly polite, avoid open confrontation, emotional expression and excessive promotion (particularly of one’s self).

Our rebellious cousins on the other side of the Atlantic, share our language but certainly not our culture. To avoid offence to the American reader, allow me to quote from Harvard Business Review:

“Americans aren’t shy talking up their accomplishments and selling themselves. We do it all the time — at job fairs, interviews, sales calls, performance evaluations, and when vying for prized internal assignments and positions. The overall point is that self-promotion is clearly a necessary and useful skill for getting ahead in the U.S. professional world.

“In the U.S., it is culturally acceptable — even admirable — to show enthusiasm. When arguing for a point in a meeting, for example, it is quite appropriate to express your opinions enthusiastically. Or when speaking with a potential employer at a networking event, it is appropriate to express your interest enthusiastically. In fact, in this particular situation, the employer might interpret your interest as real and genuine because of the enthusiasm you express.”

All of these characteristics are vital elements in creating and raising funds for a fledgling business. Not only are they vital for the founders, but they are also required by all of the team who are genuinely excited and not ashamed of evangelising their company.

I’d contend that Brits either need to find a new means of raising funds, one that doesn’t require pitching to VCs or we need to become more comfortable with outward enthusiasm and self-promotion. Either way our reticence to toot our own trumpet may be off-putting to potential investors who want to place their bets on the next big thing.

Business Education

“Nothing happens until a sale is made” – Thomas Watson Sr (Founder of IBM)

Sales and commercial astuteness are absolutely crucial in business.

More needs to be done in the UK to train and educate business students at an under and post-graduate level on the selling skill set. A quick analysis of the top 10 European MBA programmes reveals that the topic barely features on the curriculum. It may get a mention as an element of supply chain dynamics or as marketing’s poor relation but it isn’t taught outright as an essential part of business life.

Those who have worked in the field know that there are very specific skills that can be taught to improve both education on the topic and academic research on it.

Personally I’m pleased to see the development of business and computing apprenticeships. These I hope will be the grounds from which a UK Zuckerberg, Gates or Jobs can emerge. There are also other new education initiatives (Alacrity based in Newport is the best example that I’m aware of) that could provide the perfect incubation environment for a big UK tech company.


So whilst politicians can huff and puff about tax avoidance, ultimately the result will be determined by our ability to throw off the shackles of Britishness and ensure that we’re training the future generation of business leaders with skills to help them compete on a global level.

Posted in Business

The problem with estimates

How long do you think it will take to build each of these Lego kits?

Lego set A should be easy to do; let’s assume it will take around 20 minutes. Set B is perhaps more challenging; maybe an hour. Perhaps two?

Now let’s add some real-world complexity:

  • You need to provide the estimate but somebody else is going to do the building
  • You will only get the time requested to do the build
  • Going beyond the time in the slightest will result in criticism and a sense of failure
  • Some of the instructions are missing (you don’t know this yet)
  • Every 5 minutes you need to provide a detailed written report on your progress of completion
  • Parts for the last half will be provided at half way through (or maybe they won’t – whatever, it can’t affect your completion time)
  • Approval to start will be five minutes late but your completion time will be fixed
  • Failure to complete on time will result in a personal financial penalty
  • You need to allow time to have your construction quality checked against the instructions
  • Your competing against other people to see who can give the fastest estimate
  • Oh and whatever time you estimate will be dropped by 10% to meet the quarterly Lego building target

Considering all of these conditions how would this effect your estimates?

Whilst I understand the need to estimate and to set plans, it is difficult to do, inaccurate, and complicated by commercial interests. So with all this in mind, perhaps its time to consider new approaches to commercial management of technical build projects.

The main point for me, is not to expect perfection of estimates. In fact, create plans for estimates to be wrong. Create plans that enable the builder and manager to collaborate in open discussions without risk of blame or fault finding.

Ultimately when we’re trying to build amazing things, we should work with positivity and energy to do a good job. If our motivation is only to get it done in the window of time that was – despite the pseudo-science – a guess, we can wave goodbye to any idea of fun and expect quality to suffer too.

For a final mental exercise, why not try to estimate the time required to build this Lego monstrosity:

Posted in Business

Halfords: Eight Steps to Put Customers in the Driving Seat

In my LinkedIn post on Halfords’ new customer strategy, I set out an eight stage plan to maximise customer lifetime value. Read more ›

Posted in Business, Strategy

Rules for simpler, more direct business emails

To whom it may concern,

It’s this simple; you need to write emails that start with the conclusion and use no more than three sentences.

Recipients – who like me are drowning in emails, texts, Inmails and so forth – are far more likely to appreciate and respond to this approach.

Attachments, meetings or even a phone call are better methods for communicating more indepth or complex messages.

Finally, be prepared to break the rules for impact.

Yours faithfully,

David “too many emails, not enough hours” Sealey


Further reading

And some books worth picking up

Posted in Business

Yes you do need a Chief Marketing Technologist

70% of marketing decision makers believe that they will be hiring a Chief Marketing Technologist (or equivalent job title) in the next 5 years. This is great news given the rising importance of martech in delivering personalised customer experiences. Read more ›

Posted in Business

It’s time to create a winning multichannel marketing strategy

Fast and secure checkout

Smart companies are using the All Channel Excel file


How to use the marketing channels file

all-marketing-channels-sortUse the full list of channels to find new opportunities to reach and serve customers. Also the spreadsheet can help you determine whether you’re getting the most out of the channels you currently use.

To get started, open the file in Excel and then begin using the filters to find channels that you use. Compare the channel attributes to how you’re using the channel. For example are you personalising your email marketing? If not, perhaps it’s time to start.

To find new channel ideas, filter by the channel function that you’re looking for, and then sort the sheet based on the Channel Index to discover valuable channels that you should be using.

The basis of Omnichannel - Every channel

Omnichannel strategy relies on a business being available in every channel and then providing the same experience in each channel.

With the All Channel list you can ensure that every channel that is required to reach, convert and engage customers is covered.

Channel attributes and ranking

35 different attributes have been recorded against each channel to provide you with an easy means to find the right channel for your needs. These attributes are:


  • Group, the primary group that the channel belongs to
  • Definition, link to Wikipedia or another source that defines the channel
  • Direct Response, whether the channel can be used for direct marketing
  • Personalisable, whether the channel can be personalised to individual customers or not
  • Inbound, is the channel an inbound marketing channel
  • Above the Line, can the channel be described as serving mass media
  • Scales, does the channel easily scale from 1,000s to 100,000s
  • Brand Awareness, whether the channel can be used for brand awareness activities
  • Brand Reinforcement, whether the channel can be used to reinforce brand messages
  • Brand Score, of the two brand attributes – how highly does the channel score (out of two)
  • Customer Acquisition, whether the channel supports customer acquisition
  • Customer Conversion, whether the channel supports conversion events
  • Customer Engagement, whether the channel can be used to engage with and improve engagement with customers
  • Customer Retention, whether the channel can be used to retain customers
  • Customer Score, score out of four based on the number of customer activities the channel supports
  • Function Marketing, can the channel be used for marketing activities
  • Function Service, can the channel be used to support customers
  • Function Transactional, can the channel be used for conducting transactions
  • Function Delivery, can goods (digital or physical) be delivered through the channel
  • Function Score, score out of four based on the number of practical functions the channel can provide
  • Channel Digital, can the channel be delivered digitally
  • Channel Email, is the channel reliant on email
  • Channel Outdoors, is the channel typically placed outdoors or can it be
  • Channel Person, does the channel require a human (i.e. it is not automated)
  • Channel Physical, is the channel tangible
  • Channel PR, does the channel rely upon public relations
  • Channel Print, can this channel be printed onto physical materials
  • Channel Phone/Mobile, are (mobile) phones required for the channel
  • Channel Social, does the channel connect with social networks
  • Channel Store, is the channel delivered through physical retail outlets
  • Channel TV/Radio, for channels that are delivered via TV or radio
  • Channel Score, total score for all of the channels
  • Cost, relative cost marked out of 5
  • Total Score, total score across channel, functionality, customer and branding
  • Sealey Channel Index, unique score based on the channels flexibility, value and personalisation to the customer

What do I get

omnichannel-people-1Excel file containing the All Channel list (in XLSX and XLS formats)

Set of visuals that can be used in your strategy presentations

Satisfaction guaranteed

If for any reason you’ve purchased the file and didn’t like it, Storm81 will provide a full refund.


Can I use the download in my paid for work?
Yes. The download entitles you to use the Excel sheet as you please in a single project. Of course I can’t enforce this but please try and be honest in your use of my work.
Do I need to attribute you as the source?
It’s not necessary to do this providing that you paid for the file. I won’t mind if you do attribute me in your final work but there’s no imperative to do so.
Can you make some custom downloads for me?
That’s not really my thing but do get in contact if you have specific requirements – contact page.
I need some help downloading the file...
After making payment you should be redirected to a download page and receive an email with the download link. If this doesn’t work, get in touch with your order details and I’ll email you the file directly – contact page.
Posted in Business

Facebook Instant Articles – Everything Marketers Need to Know

Facebook has been a giant in the world of content distribution for a few years now. Every hour 3 million links are shared on Facebook and because of this marketers and content creators are finding it incredibly difficult to get their content noticed. “Average” content isn’t likely to find the same number of people it did 2 or 3 years ago.

Thankfully, Facebook is working to help us to create quality content and they’re doing this by introducing Instant Articles.

What are Instant Articles?

Do you remember Facebook Notes? It was Facebook’s attempt at entering the world of blogging. “Notes lets you write full-length posts with formatting, tagging and pictures. Use Notes to publish content that is too long to post to your Wall or that requires formatting.” –

Although Notes are no longer commonly used (are they used at all now?), Facebook has come back with something much more incredible. Instant Articles. In a video posted by Facebook on their Instant Articles Facebook page, Creative Director from, Shezad Morani, describes them as “a living page. This is a living, breathing article that is beyond just words.”

Instant Articles’ aim is to help quality content get the attention it deserves. It does this by doing these three things.

1) Moving images

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t simply mean videos.

Instant Articles have a short video that instantly plays when scrolling through the news feed. What makes it different to a normal video? The whole thing is a link. That’s right. Click anywhere on the video at any time and you’ll go straight to the article. This is how they’re grabbing consumer’s attention.

2) What’s the fastest way to get from A to B?

If you said move B closer to A, then you’d be right and that’s exactly what Facebook have done. An Instant Article is built into Facebook, so there’s no leaving the site, thus reducing the time taken to load.

I’ve just clicked on the first link on my news feed; a link to a article. It took 5 seconds on 4G to show the article and 10 seconds before all of the content was available. When I click an Instant Article, before I’ve even had chance to take a breath, it’s fully loaded.

I imagine the drop off rate from clicking on a link to reading an article will plummet with connection speeds like this.

3)  More interaction

Working like a featured image, the video shared on Facebook (the one designed to grab your attention) continues to play at the top of the page, giving the reader some consistency. They then have the option to click on the video to open it and play with sound. A landscape video will show full screen on your smartphone and you can tilt your phone from side to side to display the edges of the video.

With a variety of other interactive features including images, image galleries and videos (including embedded Facebook content) there is plenty to keep the consumer engaged. There is also the option to play audio clips over still images or image galleries to create interactive images without resorting to video.

Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook page for Instant Articles

Instant Articles over blogs?

You’re probably thinking the same as me. Why would a blogger, news outlet or business choose to keep their content on Facebook when they’re goal is to create traffic to their site?

This one is a tough question that I think there will be a lot of debate over.

For some organisations, getting people to read their content is their goal. There are a bunch of ‘other posts by the same author’ links at the bottom of each Instant Article, but the links I’ve tried to click have just given me a blank screen, so I wonder if this is a work in progress. I’ve also noticed some ‘sponsored’ content, so it looks like Facebook will be inserting some of their adverts within each article, perhaps monetising them for content creators in a similar way to Google.

How can I try it out?

The short answer is… You can’t. Not quite yet.

Facebook is trialling Instant Articles with nine publishing partners and hasn’t released any indication of when it will be more widely available. You can contact Facebook to request more information about becoming an Instant Article publisher here. I’ve sent a request for information and received an email advising me to join a the Facebook Group for news, media and publishing to hear updates.

Instant Articles Launch Partners

Instant Articles Launch Partners

I’d recommend heading across to the Instant Articles Facebook page to check them out for yourself. At present they only work on the latest version of Facebook on iPhones, but I’m sure they’ll be working on an Android version soon.

What are your thoughts on Instant Articles? Could they be the big shake up that content creators need? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Alan Milner

Posted in Business, Digital Marketing, Marketing
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