Communities still at the heart of digital marketing- Broadley Speaking


‘Communities’ still at the heart of digital marketing

digital marketing

This article was originally published in February 2016. After two years, it is even more relevant. In the meantime, Omnia® has powered B2B sales for dozens of companies across the world and we have become an authorised Zoho Consulting Partner.

Broadley Speaking Director, David Conn reviews a personal journey and looks at the role of ‘communities’ in digital marketing

I was asked just the other day whether we had a view on digital marketing and how effective it was. Followed on quickly by – “Do you have direct experience of it, if so would you mind reviewing our current campaigns?”. This made me chuckle a little – if I might explain.

Purely by chance I was doing a bit of decorating at home and came across a museum piece of an article from ‘Marketing Week” dated December 6 1996.  Yes, almost 20 years ago!

Digital marketing

Entitled “Seeing the Sites” it was an in depth piece on the new phenomenon of ‘digital marketing’ by the UK’s leading marketing journal which featured an interview with me as a Marketing Director working at the bleeding age of digital marketing.

The digital world at its beginning.

To put this into some sort of context for those with shorter memories, or perhaps lacking the perspective that almost 33 years of sales and marketing brings, it’s worth considering what the digital world was like in 1996.

  • Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was recently launched and had under 5% of the browser market
  • Google’s launch was two years away
  • Only two years earlier Tim Berners-Lee gifted the development community the WWW
  • You probably used Netscape Navigator to browse the internet
  • Novell were the worlds network infrastructure company and although Windows NT did (just about) exist it fell over if you tried to connect more than half a dozen computers

The company I worked for was Softbank – a multi national high tech company that was busy investing in new web based businesses. For instance we had a 30% stake in “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”, which had been renamed Yahoo! (the Yahoo! Domain was created in January 1995). Somewhere in my business “treasure box” I must still have Jerry’s business card showing his job title as “Chief Yahoo”

Email, although it had been around quite a few years, was still treated with some caution. I had been to a conference entirely focussed on email as a business tool. One key stream discussed who in the business should be allowed to have access to email ?

Softbank were at the forefront of the new wave of digital technology; so as Marketing Director of one of their key divisions I was doing ground breaking work attempting to leverage the web for marketing purposes.

Probably best at this juncture to quote from the oracle that is “Marketing Week” : –

“David Conn, UK- based marketing director of hi-tech company Softbank says:

‘ Over the past 18 months, we have seen a huge switch to using the Internet. At our last exhibition, the biggest single source of or registrations was our Website.’

The process of familiarising people with the Website address was simple: we printed it on all the company’s communications; 2.6 million pieces in total.

 Conn is passionate about the need to extend a Website beyond the simple function of publicity medium during an event. He is dismissive of people who set up a site just because they feel they ought to.

 “The great temptation is to put up a Website while the show is on. It takes a lot of time and commitment to use the Web properly and to keep a site up to date, fresh and accurate, “he says……..

 …..A conference Softbank organised in May exploited delegates familiarity with the Net by virtually eliminating process from the entire process.

 Conn explains: ‘We started 12 weeks before the conference and attracted about 6000 people. We did everything on the Web and by email. We hardly printed anything at all.’

 …..there are important lessons learn from the comfortable familiarity of online communications, particularly email”

 ‘You find yourself building personal relationships by e-mail with people you have never met, ‘says Conn. ‘I am still corresponding with people now. Essentially each show becomes a physical manifestation of a community we’ve been building throughout the year. The show may run in eight places around the world, but we can extend that community worldwide, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using the Net’ he says.

The thinking behind the practice.

Now, we don’t sell Broadley Speaking as a digital agency BUT we do do a considerable amount of work using digital media on behalf of our clients running across their new business development programmes. The armoury of digital tools has, of course, broadened but many of the same rules apply. The practice has developed but the thinking is consistent. In 1995 I was using a CompuServe account (when email addresses were numbers); this was crucial as CompuServe hosted forums for a number of technical communities. We worked out quickly we could join those groups but also contribute to them, and subtly, introduce news of the events we were running. I guess this was some of the first online PR and I still wholeheartedly believe in the concept of ‘communities’ within organisations and sectors.

We see this all the time in our new business development programmes. In my view, we spend too much time viewing prospects as ‘data’ ( numbers, job titles, records etc) and not enough remembering that we are dealing with humans. In the early digital age the computer networking guys I used to work with not only talked of ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ but also ‘wetware’; the people that made the systems work or not. It is people who make decisions, and usually in groups; understanding this and their individual motivations and needs is what making big ticket sales happen is all about.

In the last years at Broadley Speaking we have developed Omnia.

Omnia® is a system that provides our clients with a best in class new business development solution. Response to it it has been huge; described as “best in class” , “outstanding” and “game changing” by FTSE Top 100 organisations.

In many ways Omnia® represents the apex of over 20 years work using digital marketing but combining this with a professional sales approach to deliver evocative new business development programmes fit for purpose in the 21st century. This sort of evocative syncretism has built a methodology and solution currently delivering outstanding results for our clients.

Call us on 0800 988 7253 and we’ll talk you through our approach and how you might want to use it to drive your sales growth.



B2B Sales, Digital marketing, Lead Generation , ,