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What I’ve Learned: Chris Rennie, digital and content director

What I’ve Learned: Chris Rennie, digital and content director

Welcome to the first of our regular What I’ve Learned columns, in which Niche people and partners reflect on their work and reveal some key learnings. 

First up, Niche digital and content director Chris Rennie discusses some of the points that he has picked up on while working in the digital space. 


People know a whole lot less about digital than you think

Sitting in countless meetings about all things digital, there are very few people who truly know what they are talking about in this space. It’s easy to feel overawed by all the technical jargon and hence the propensity to make it out to be a lot more complex than it really is (of course I am excluding coding and dev work). In truth, like most businesses the key is going back to the basics of knowing what your customer wants and what problem you are trying to solve. As a business owner or leader, you can get people to handle the technical side, but you’ll know you have found someone unique when they can articulate your customer journeys and improve them.

SEO is still like the Wild West and people who make guarantees of success shouldn’t be trusted

I’m amazed about the number of ads and even billboards that proclaim to get your business to the number one spot on Google – it’s all smoke and mirrors. If you do indeed get there by some sneaky tactics, it’s unlikely you’ll remain there, and you’re likely to be unpicking issues for years to come. Being ranked well is a combination of making sure all your digital foundations are in place, you have relevant and engaging content and you’ve put in a lot of work. That work just isn’t in the backend, but it’s about creating a business that warrants people’s attention. It’s incredible how many people are on the first page just by focusing on building a great customer experience with a lot of relevant content. Don’t trust inflated promises.

Digital roles are in a constant state of flux, it’s hard to know what to invest in

Social media managers were all the rage 12 months ago, yet now most publishers or businesses expect their content managers/editors to manage those channels. It’s why contracting is such a big part of the industry. My belief is if you can afford to have someone looking after your digital assets, you need to split the function of technical support to the broader role of audience acquisition. This role needs to encompass SEO skills, social, e-commerce and general understanding of customer experience. This will give you some scope for both the business and the team member. Of course you may be a larger business that can afford multiple specialist roles. Still the most important digital roles, will be across strategy, UX, audience acquisition, e-commerce conversion and of course the technical teams.

If you’re not AB testing your site or your direct mail regularly, then you’re likely missing big opportunities.

It takes a dedicated approach, as people don’t inherently like testing and retesting. Most of us like to complete a job and move on. Change the navigation headings, tick. Change the hero images to a slider, tick, job done. But there is no excuse as free programs such as Optimizely make it so easy. Demand that your team is constantly testing. If not, you can’t expect to win the race.

Every small business needs to harness their data

There are a huge number of platforms that offer high levels of personalisation or other technology solutions. Often companies will end up purchasing powerful platforms that will only ever be used to less than 10% of their capacity. However the focus should be about getting your data in place. What sort of information are you capturing in your newsletters? Is it consistent? What will you use it for? These questions need to be answered first. Often there are huge opportunities in your existing data if the time is spent sorting it and understanding it, prior to deciding on a customer-based platform.

Customer experience is everything

People are so unforgiving online. In real life people are a lot more polite, but with a simple click, your customers are gone. People hate slow sites. With anything above eight seconds you are making life very hard for them. We still have quite a number of our sites that are slow, and it shows in our bounce rates. Slow sites are often a result of poor site design and a large number of plugins that have been installed by lazy IT departments. Don’t settle for a slow site.


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