Words of wisdom: James Keen, Tripleplay23 February 2018
Visualisation, openness and originality are three of the watchwords for this marketing manager.
When it comes to managing projects, I’ve always found that a deadline is good to focus the mind. Too often projects are left fluid, but a big red line always ensures things are done on time. Planning software can help, but the main method I use, taught to me by an old boss, is to imagine the final product – be that an expo stand, brochure or seminar room. What does that room look like when you first walk in? What is on the reception table? What is on the presentation screen? Who is there to greet the delegate? Then write down what you see, discuss what you see. Mental visualisation, as daft as it sounds, is a very obvious way to see the small details.
To help us plan our major projects and everyday tasks, we use an online project management tool called Monday.com. We also try to have regular catch-ups and chats; it’s essential to make sure everybody is on the right line and knows what the others are doing. January to April are always crazy months as we return from new year for CabSat, ISE, NAB, IT Partners and various other events, so we need to hit the ground running; having a project task list and an in-person discussion really helps.
Retro tech fan
It’s strange to say, as I have worked in technology for 15 years, that I’m really not a techie. I’m certainly no technophobe but I am quite minimal when it comes to personal technology. I have a running watch, smartphone and a laptop for work, but besides that I really don’t have much. I am quite a fan of older technology though, so I still have my VHS, Mini Disc and original GameBoy from my younger days; the MiniDisc player in particular is a great piece of kit, awesome sound quality.
Honest and open
When it comes to people I like a slow burner. Anybody who instantly comes on too strong and wants to be your best mate is somebody who wants something in return. My best business relationships have always been with people who I have gotten to know over time and have built respect for. I’m the kind of person who walks out of a shop if the assistant asks more than one question – a salesperson’s nightmare. I like simple, polite but to-the-point engagement: if a rapport builds then that’s great; if not, well, you can’t win them all. I’m also a fan of honesty and openness. If you like my product but have no budget, say so; I’ll still be happy to help and answer questions. If you just want a pen or a bag of sweets then that’s fine too.
‘The industry has done a terrible job of promoting itself to the wider world’
AV isn’t necessarily the industry most marketers dream of when they’re at marketing school; it is often a stepping stone or something people stumble across. The industry has done a terrible job of promoting itself to the wider world, so it is barely on anybody’s radar. So, when recruiting you need to look for a strong individual, somebody with potential for longevity and a chance to learn, as you will struggle to find anybody with knowledge of your products and services. AV marketing is a lot of organising, planning and writing; it’s multi-skilled; you cannot just be an online marketer, a social media expert or an events person.
Innovate, don’t imitate
When it comes to marketing in the wider AV industry, my biggest bugbear is a lack of originality. Too many businesses just try to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ and it really doesn’t do our industry any favours. Often this is down to the use of agencies, who generally don’t understand the tech or industry well enough, or through a lack of budget so marketing is tagged on to another role – copying is often an easy route in those circumstances. It is really important to look at your own business with an outside eye, understand your own strengths, weaknesses and place in the market in order to show others what you are; through imitation, marketers are missing their own USPs, their own value adds and their own place in the AV market. Copying means you short-change yourself and your employer.
Time to explore
At trade shows, I hate having too many diarised appointments; I prefer to have a few key meetings lined up but otherwise keeping my options open. This allows me to see where the wind blows and gives me an opportunity to explore. If you turn up to a trade show with your entire day planned, how will you see anything surprising or innovative? The whole point is to learn; if you wander about looking at your map and diary, you might never see the thing you didn’t know you wanted to see. It also frees up more time to share a coffee and chat with colleagues and contacts and use the time for networking and building stronger relationships.