10 ways your website is more than a marketing channel

Paul Boag

The web is often reduced to just another marketing channel. In this week’s show we explore 10 ways it can be used to transform your entire business.

Paul Boag:
The web is so often reduced to just another marketing channel but in this week’s show we explore 10 ways it can be used to transform your entire business.

Add your own suggestions or view the links mentioned in this weeks show.

Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul and joining me as always is Marcus. Hello, S-Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Hello, S-Paul.

Paul Boag:
S-Paul? Did I say S-Paul?

Marcus Lillington:
S-Marcus and S-Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yes. My voice is – I am going to cough and splutter and vomit all over the microphone. Not vomit. It’d get stuck in all the little grooves wouldn’t it? This is not a good way to start the show. Hello.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, hello.

Paul Boag:
[Coughs]. There we go.

Marcus Lillington:
So basically you’ve gone to America. You’ve got some horrible lurgy and you’ve brought it back and we’re all going to die.

Paul Boag:
Well, you are closer to the truth thank you know because of course the Ebola outbreak was in Texas, which is where I’ve just been.

Marcus Lillington:
Alright, so you are going to die. Well, it was nice knowing you, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Well it was really interesting. When we came – flew out of the country, you’re going through security and you put your bags in and all the rest of it, you walk through with a machine where you have to put your hands up in the air like you just don’t care.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And then…

Marcus Lillington:
And they giggle at you with no clothes on.

Paul Boag:
Yes. And then you had to stare at a man. I’ve never had that before. Seriously, you have to walk up to a security guard and he looks you in the eye, right?

Marcus Lillington:
To see if you are a bit dodgy?

Paul Boag:
Thinks you are a bit dodgy and takes you to the side. No, I found out afterwards, it’s checking for Ebola.

Marcus Lillington:
Wow.

Paul Boag:
Apparently one of the symptoms or something, is something to do with your eyes. I mean this might be complete bull – because I don’t know, that was just what I was told but that’s a weird thing to do.

Marcus Lillington:
I bet.

Paul Boag:
So there you go. So I presumed because I was let through, I don’t have Ebola.

Marcus Lillington:
Phew.

Paul Boag:
I know, I fully expected it – to get Ebola. I mean it’s like when Mad Cow was in England, we all got it, every single one of us, didn’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, obviously you thought that you would. I never thought that.

Paul Boag:
You never go any near…

Marcus Lillington:
Or chicken flu or whatever it was.

Paul Boag:
You live in the suburbs don’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t live in the suburbs. I live in the country side.

Paul Boag:
Well you do really, no you do.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes I do.

Paul Boag:
You’re kind of just in London’s suburbs really. You are not out west like what I am.

Marcus Lillington:
Well one day, I think what you are saying might well be true.

Paul Boag:
No, it’s not quite true yet. But I don’t see a lot of cows around your way.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, there are some, just over the road actually.

Paul Boag:
Yes, well, there you go.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Fascinating.

Marcus Lillington:
There is a big farm just over the way but as I’ve probably said before on this podcast, when I come out of London, out of Waterloo station, it’s I don’t know – 20 stops on the line and it’s the one before my one when the countryside suddenly opens out.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
You are right, eventually I will be part of, I will be one of the many London suburbs but hopefully…

Paul Boag:
Hopefully you’ll be dead by then. No that’s not – no that doesn’t sound good actually does it? Now I say that out loud. You know what I meant.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Hopefully it won’t happen until you’ve died? I don’t think that sounds a lot better either. Let’s just move on. Hey, I found that a really depressing conference I’ve just been to.

Marcus Lillington:
Pete said he thought you enjoyed it.

Paul Boag:
I did, I enjoyed it hugely but it was depressing at the same time.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Yes, do you want to know why?

Marcus Lillington:
I am sure you’re going to tell me anyway.

Paul Boag:
The number of people that came up to me and said, hey, I used to listen to your podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
I saw you tweet that.

Paul Boag:
And it’s like, what do you mean you used to listen to it? You know, are we shit? You know, have we gone downhill? Well we have gone downhill but it was like, why used to? And it’s basically because they all think we stopped. That’s it, seriously.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, we did for a bit.

Paul Boag:
I know, so I am starting a campaign.

Marcus Lillington:
I blame you by the way.

Paul Boag:
What, for stopping?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it was a mistake but I was bored. You bored me, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it was only me. I am – actually it’s my fault.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely, of course it is. You should know that. No so I’ve started a campaign entitled we’re not dead, we were just resting.

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag:
So a nice Monty Python reference there.

Marcus Lillington:
Indeed.

Paul Boag:
So there’s a blog post, I will put a link in the show notes. Look guys, if you are listening today, if you are one of the ten, then what you need to do is, go along to this blog post and you will see an embedded tweet from me, right, and all you’ve got to do is share that tweet, we need to get out the message that we’re not dead, there we go.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
That’s it. So, we might as well stop the show until you’ve done that. Yes, so there we go. So that was depressing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes and other things were depressing too.

Paul Boag:
Well I was a bit ill but no it was mainly that.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
But in other ways it was quite encouraging, it was a good conference. I hate saying this because it feels dirty but I actually really quite like project managers. They’re really quite nice.

Marcus Lillington:
They’re all so sensible, aren’t they?

Paul Boag:
Well…

Marcus Lillington:
Oh no, obviously not.

Paul Boag:
They are when they are on the clock.

Marcus Lillington:
Right, and then rock and roll off the clock.

Paul Boag:
No, actually. Do you want to know a really embarrassing thing, the project management community needs to be ashamed of this, right? The sponsor that sponsored the after party, he does a lot of these things and so he just puts X amount behind the bar every time he does these things.

Marcus Lillington:
What, and they didn’t drink it all?

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Dear oh dear.

Paul Boag:
If that had been a developer and designer conference, it would have run out half way through the evening.

Marcus Lillington:
Easily, easily. We have done that, haven’t we?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
We have done parties at South by Southwest where the siren goes off about an hour in, you’ve spent all the money.

Paul Boag:
But no, these guys, in the end they were handing out high quality Bourbon to anybody that would take it just to meet the bars minimum. So project managers need to be ashamed of that.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m quite glad I didn’t go. That would have poisoned me.

Paul Boag:
Oh, it poisoned Pete. Pete was not a well bunny. He started off on beers, then went to margaritas and then went to Bourbon.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, dear, I would have been ill.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. I went home to bed.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, you are poorly, fair enough.

Paul Boag:
Right. So, yes, but other than that that was good. It was the digital project management conference in Austin, Texas. It will be on next year. They are also doing, one’s in the UK, so I will put a link in the show notes to them because actually if you are a project manager, it’s a really good thing to go to and I will tell you why I like project managers so much, is there was a very different vibe, it was fascinating, it’s different character types, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
If you go to a designer or a developer conference, there’s kind of lots of people standing around vaguely awkwardly, right? I am exaggerating for comic effect, obviously, but there is a kind of, you know it’s different, with project managers they are all so social, right? So you could just walk up to any random group of people, right, and go, hey, I am butting in, and they are really friendly and they include you and it’s great.

Marcus Lillington:
And they say, we used to listen to your podcast.

Paul Boag:
And they say, I used to listen to your podcast but now you are an irrelevance to me. And yes, it’s great.

Marcus Lillington:
It must have been awful being in Austin in October.

Paul Boag:
It was, it was terrible.

Marcus Lillington:
Because it’s so cold here now.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Well, yes and no, it was actually for my – for me it was a little on the muggy side, it was a bit humid.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, I quite like that.

Paul Boag:
Oh do you, you like steamy, do you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, well, any kind of hot really. But no, no, I do like that kind of jungle-y.

Paul Boag:
Right, okay, well you would have quite liked it, it probably, it wasn’t jungle steamy but it was a little bit on that side.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a nice Segway on to the fact that I’ll be in a jungle quite soon.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yes, you will, that’s really soon now isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Four weeks today.

Paul Boag:
Oh, I am so envious. That is really going to be superb. So where is it, you are going Vietnam, Cambodia?

Marcus Lillington:
And Vietnam again.

Paul Boag:
And Vietnam again.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes well do you want the full list? It’s interesting actually well I will get to this point but we’re going to Hanoi, staying a couple of day in Hanoi, then we go to Halong Bay which is the bay where all the kind of limestone rocks stick out.

Paul Boag:
Yes, the Top Gear location.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Dragon’s teeth they call it. And we’ve got an overnight cruise in amongst all that. We then go to Cambodia to, oh what’s it called? Really famous but I can’t remember…

Paul Boag:
Oh, the kind of – the old ruiny bits.

Marcus Lillington:
The temple. Yes, the kind of – oh it’s gone, everyone will know and they’ll be shouting – shouting at the radio.

Paul Boag:
The radio?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I am so old. We then go back to Hoi An, which we’ve got a week and that’s more sort of beachy and then we go to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it was known and we’re staying with a friends of ours’ brother, who is also a friend of ours but he is living out there, has been for the past two or three years. And he’s just literally just before we starting recording this, sent me an email saying, I am sorting out the agenda or the itinerary for when you get here. One question, would you be up for going on a tour on the back of a Vespa and I said yes and Caroline’s like no!

Paul Boag:
That sounds like a hoot I think you might not make it back alive but…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I said, I am going but I am an idiot. But he is thinking about it.

Paul Boag:
That sounds so much fun. I am really excited for you and obviously hate you at the same time. It’s very confusing.

Marcus Lillington:
Everyone hated – it’s a similar sort of hate that you had last Christmas?

Paul Boag:
Yes, exactly which is fair enough. It is good. Okay, so this week’s show. We’ve had a suggestion, an audio suggestion at that, wow this must be an old school listener because it’s a long time since we used to ask for audio but he knew that we liked it and that obviously if you send in an audio suggestion we have to do it, it’s compulsory.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s dangerous. Those are dangerous words you’ve just used there.

Paul Boag:
I know. So, we’ve had a suggestion in from Henry, so I think what I will do is I will just play this suggestion.

Henry:
Hey, Paul, hey Marcus. How are you doing? It’s Henry here from Fridge Magazine. So in this top ten series I think a suggestion that I’d really love to hear your views on is the top ten things a website could be apart from a marketing machine. What other top ten uses are there of a website, so take it away guys, love to hear what you’ve got to say on this one?

Paul Boag:
So what I really like about Henry’s suggestion is one simple thing. I’ve already written a blog post on this. So it is brilliant because it means that I don’t have to do any work or preparation for this week’s show.

Marcus Lillington:
Marvelous.

Paul Boag:
So what we are looking at is the ten ways the web is more than just a marketing tool. I will put a link in the show notes to the original blog post if you want a coherent and well put together thoughts on this rather than the rambling that is the podcast. The other reason I thought would be worth pointing at the blog post is because this is a good blog post you can kind of hand to a boss or a manager or somebody that doesn’t get it. So you might want to check out that as well. But actually it’s a really, I think it’s a really interesting thing because I see a lot of people really not kind of fully getting the web if that makes sense, so senior management look at the web and they kind of just try and fit it into their existing mental model of or their existing organizational structure. So what ends up is the – web gets crowbarred, well originally it would’ve been crowbarred into IT wouldn’t it, because everybody goes, oh, it’s to do with computers.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So, but now it’s crow-barred isn’t it? Normally into marketing and of course it is great for marketing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a wonderful marketing tool but I think it’s got a lot more potential than that and sometimes I worry when it’s put in marketing departments because it skews it’s use just towards marketing, which there’s nothing wrong with it being a marketing tool but just in this podcast I want to look at ten other things it could be. So that’s basically the show for this week. So should we kick off with the number one thing?

Community management

Okay, so number one, community management and so again you can think of this as a marketing thing, right, because sure we use the web, social media for example, we’re always using it for marketing and word of mouth, recommendations and all of that kind of thing, you know to create buzz around your brand but I think that’s just one aspect of community activity really, I think there is a lot more that community can do. So the web could be used by a charity to manage or encourage its volunteers that would be community management. Or it could be used to mobilize public opinion against the competition or government legislation. So I mean the great example of that is the pasty tax, do you remember the pasty tax?

Marcus Lillington:
The what?

Paul Boag:
Don’t you remember this?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
So, a little while ago, the government decided that it was going to tax pasties, Cornish pasties.

Marcus Lillington:
Pasties.

Paul Boag:
Pasties, well I say it properly.

Marcus Lillington:
Pasty.

Paul Boag:
Because they used to be like most foodstuffs don’t pay VAT, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But they decided that they needed to pay VAT on things like pies and Cornish pasties, well it’s a conservative government, right, so they are bound to tax kind of working man’s food. You wouldn’t have found them taxing caviar, but pasties, they were –

Marcus Lillington:
I love that, pasties.

Paul Boag:
Pasties. How do you say it then?

Marcus Lillington:
Pasties.

Paul Boag:
Pasties? No, pasties.

Marcus Lillington:
We brought back – we were in Cornwall, was it last week? Was it the week before? Anyway, very recently I was in Cornwall and we brought back lots of pasties.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
They were lovely.

Paul Boag:
So they were all ready to do this but then they started using the pasty industry, started using the web and social media and things like that to mobilize a no to Cornish pasty tax campaign, right, and they succeeded.

Marcus Lillington:
This isn’t true, is it?

Paul Boag:
It is true, this is true. In the article there is a link to the BBC website, government does u-turn over Cornish pasty tax.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s true, I am looking at it.

Paul Boag:
It’s a real thing.

Marcus Lillington:
How did I miss this? Oh, it was two years ago.

Paul Boag:
So, but, I pick it because it’s a particularly stupid example but it is true, you can, you really can change public opinion, you can lobby against things and the web is a great way of doing that and this is a basically a commercial organization, it’s not like a charity or anything like that, these are people that sell you Cornish pasties, you know Ginsters and all of that using the power of the web to mobilize people to support them in them making more money, which I think is great. So, absolutely I think pasties are important that they are not taxed and so I am fully behind this campaign.

Marcus Lillington:
Well I couldn’t agree more.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I mean it can also be used as a tool, talking about community stuff. It can also be used as a tool to create internal communities within your organization, especially if you’ve got an organization that’s kind of spread around geographically. So there’s so many opportunities to use the web and digital to support community management and community activities, apart from the kind of social media marketing kind of stuff. Well let’s move on to number two.

Customer support

Next one is a more obvious one, it’s customer support. So the web has kind of I think really revolutionized.

Marcus Lillington:
I was going to say this as part of number one, and thought no I’ll bet you this is another one later on.

Paul Boag:
Yes, which is that customer support is this huge thing now. A minute ago it was going to revolutionize things, but I don’t seem to be able to say that, so it’s had a huge impact on customer support and we used to have companies that would swallow considerable expenses to provide telephone support and that kind of thing and now they’ve got a wealth of considerably cheaper web based options. Many companies have also been able to gain a real competitive advantage by offering outstanding web based customer service. For example, where once I could only complain about the cost of my energy supplier, a moan about, they cost me so much money, I wish my electricity bill wasn’t so expensive. Now, when I log into my energy supplier’s website, they give me loads of personalized advice about how to lower my energy bills, right? So, that’s not just answering, using customer service to answer complaints, it’s also using the web to enable you to provide outstanding customer support and real ideas about lowering my energy bills.

Marcus Lillington:
Customer support isn’t done that well though online I don’t think.

Paul Boag:
Sometimes it is.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it’s always the smaller companies that do it well, the ones that you want to do it well, this is my experience anyway. You just get kind of go and look at the FAQs or here’s our knowledge base.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
It just makes you want to kill people.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’ve got to say, you are right, it is the smaller people normally that provide better customer support. But then, do you know, my energy company, they provide good customer support and they are larger. And the other great thing that I could do using my energy company as an example, is I can do some of those administrative tasks like submitting my meter reading where they used to – you used to have to call up to do that, which was always a pain in the ass, and now I get an email from them saying, time to submit your energy reading, I go and have a look at the box, then I just click on a link on the email, I don’t need to login, I don’t need to do anything like that, I literally just type two numbers in a box and I am done.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that is good. And it’s a very good example of more than marketing.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. So, number three.

Payment management

So next one is like payment management and I am not talking about ecommerce because obviously there’s enormous advantages to ecommerce, being able to sell things online. And the web provides lots of advantages for improving that payment process and making payment easier but what I am really talking about here is the kind of online services that are emerging that are dedicated to automating and managing invoicing and I think this is a really perfect thing for smaller companies in particular that don’t have a dedicated accounts department. So there are all kinds of services out there that – FreshBooks is a really famous one where you can invoice directly through it and it will – allow people to pay through it and it reminds you to chase stuff and… So there is all these kind of software as a services kind of things out there that help lots of different parts of your business but payment management is definitely one of them. I don’t understand why Chris won’t use these kinds of things. I think he’s such a control freak that he doesn’t like using third parties, also he is too tight to pay for them I suspect.

Marcus Lillington:
Well it’s a kind of an extension of banking facilities, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yes, I guess.

Marcus Lillington:
Banks offer online payment facilities, so why not use theirs I guess.

Paul Boag:
No, no this is – but this will do things like send out the invoice as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh I see so, yes, sort of, yes, that is a different thing, rather than us paying for the particular service it’s a way to kind of invoice our clients et cetera.

Paul Boag:
Yes, quickly and easily without a lot of paperwork and having a kind of nice easy thing of who’s paid and who hasn’t and all of that kind of stuff. I think this doesn’t just apply to small companies, I think it also applies to larger companies and they probably won’t want to use one of these software as a services thing but I think there are a lot of opportunities to use the web to dramatically cut the cost of invoicing and chasing late payments by reducing the amount of physical mail that they have to send out for this kind of stuff. And then of course there’s the ability for users to manage their own accounts and payment details online, so reducing management overheads and keeping customer records up to date and that kind of thing. So actually I think there is a lot of cost savings to be made in terms of payment management and it amazes me that more organizations don’t do it and are still using very verbose systems and very kind of manually intensive systems.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, like us.

Paul Boag:
Like us.

Marcus Lillington:
But I think there is probably a case of and I am not quite sure why I am saying this but I think there is a case of it’s nice to have everything that you’ve ever done from day one all in the same system. So I wonder if you can export – I am sure you can into these kinds of systems so that all of your invoicing that you’ve ever done to all of the different clients, we’ve got all of that, it’s all in spreadsheet format and that’s kind of an interesting thing – and it is only interesting really I suppose to go back and look at sometimes.

Paul Boag:
Yes, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know why I am saying that but I suspect that’s why.

Paul Boag:
That’s a pretty weak argument, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
It is weak.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s quite interesting, there you go.

Paul Boag:
There we go. Fair enough, we’ll move on, we’ll just leave your weak argument hanging.

Marcus Lillington:
I haven’t got one.

Supply chain management

Paul Boag:
Okay. Next up is supply chain management. So supply chain management is a crucial component for a lot of businesses really.

Marcus Lillington:
This is dull, Paul, dull.

Paul Boag:
I know it is, but it’s another example about how the web can be a lot more than a marketing tool. You can’t argue that.

Marcus Lillington:
Is whizzy things on here anywhere?

Paul Boag:
Whizzy things?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, is that one of the items?

Paul Boag:
Whizzy things, I am not following you.

Marcus Lillington:
Well we’ve got supply chain management, recruitment tool, whizzy things.

Paul Boag:
Oh you just want something fancy?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
No. This is proper business grown up stuff, Marcus, and that’s why you’ve lost interest in it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I’m going to go and look for jokes.

Paul Boag:
Right, well while Marcus is looking for jokes, I’ll talk about supply chain management because it is a crucial component for many businesses. If you’re going to – if you want to improve your cash flow, many companies work really quite hard not to hold large amounts of stock, because if you have a large amount of stock sitting in your warehouse and you’ve paid for that already, and yet your customers haven’t, so it screws your cash flow and this means that a lot of suppliers work really hard to kind of minimize the amount of stock that they are holding, so they want to be able to send it out quickly to people when they order, so they have to hold some stock but on the other hand they don’t want to hold too much stock, so the web is often used to manage the relationship between the supplier and also you as a company. So, for example, Headscape have worked in the past with a retailer who had a franchise model, right? And so we built them a management system, so I don’t know why you are saying this is boring Marcus because we’ve done this, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, everything we do is exciting Paul.

Paul Boag:
Okay, you have a point there. So, we built a management system that handled the stock levels between the individual franchises and the central warehouse. So that’s an example about how – and that saved them a lot of money.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it’s useful, I was just kind of trying to add a comedy angle.

Paul Boag:
This is why people think this show is lightweight, it’s you Marcus that undermines it.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s my fault.

Paul Boag:
In fact somebody actually said that once on Twitter.

Marcus Lillington:
What?

Paul Boag:
Yes. They said, Paul is a really clever, intelligent person, up until the point you put him with Marcus. That’s pretty much word for word, what they said.

Marcus Lillington:
Actually you can take that a different way. You can just say that, it isn’t saying that I am not clever and intelligent, it just means that you become not clever and intelligent when you are around me.

Paul Boag:
Oh it’s saying you are a bad influence, which is probably true.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Let’s move on to the next one.

Recruitment tool

Okay, the next one is that digital is a good recruitment tool, many websites already contain a section promoting jobs that are available within the company but the web offers so much more than this. So this is where I do get frustrated when we have this kind of narrow view of what the web is. Actually I’m going to go off on a little tangent because I tell this story in my talks about when electricity first came along and have I told this story before on the podcast?

Marcus Lillington:
Probably but hey who cares?

Paul Boag:
I’ll tell it again anyway. So when electricity first came along, right, organizations were trying to work out how to integrate it into their operations and they did quite successfully and 10 years passed of electricity still being used pretty heavily within factories in particular, you know and before electricity factories had been powered by water and the water wheel and steam and that kind of stuff but pretty much it then got replaced by electricity but what was really interesting is that people were still building their factories next to the water, 10 years on when they didn’t really need to be anymore because they had electricity and yet they hadn’t allowed it to really sink in as to what the potential of electricity was and how big an impact it was having and that’s really what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about yet we are using digital and we have been using digital for 10 years, yet we’re still metaphorically building our organizations by the water and there is so much more we could do, and recruitment is one of those, it can do so much more than just promoting jobs on your website. You know the website can be used to manage job applications or expose job opportunities to a larger audience through third party websites. The website can be used to manage the induction process when somebody joins the organization and it can provide staff with a portal where they can access all their personal information, all the HR stuff relating to them. So we just need to think so much bigger than we are at the moment when it comes to this kind of thing. Rant over, let’s move on to the next one.

So what’s this now, number six?

Marcus Lillington:
It is. And my wife was talking, you’ve got a cold, my wife’s got a cold and I’ve just got that sort of nasty little tingling feeling coming in the back of my throat.

Paul Boag:
Why did you feel a need to tell everyone that?

Marcus Lillington:
Because you’ve moaned about feeling poorly. I want to join in.

Paul Boag:
You’ve got a little tingle in the back of your throat.

Marcus Lillington:
This could be the start of something bad and I’ve got a big gig tomorrow night, fortunately I am not singing.

Paul Boag:
Hey, actually, an interesting tangent. This show can be educational even when we go off on a tangent because I have discovered that Americans don’t know about man flu, it’s true. I was telling everyone in America I had man flu and they didn’t know about it.

Marcus Lillington:
They looked at you very strangely.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so man flu if you are an American, this is what man flu is. Man flu recognizes the fact…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a cold.

Paul Boag:
…that men get ill much worse than women. And that when we get a slight sniffle, we are going to die. That’s what it basically boils down to, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So I’ve found an absolutely brilliant YouTube video, I’ll either embed the YouTube video or link to it in the show notes of a sketch show doing a thing on man flu, it just made me laugh so much because it’s so true. So there we go, yes. So your wife may have a slight sniffle and you will get exactly the same virus but it will be very serious with you and you will have to lie in bed, watching Top Gear episodes for weeks.

Marcus Lillington:
But I can’t, I’m too busy. I’ve got a gig. Anyway, yes, carry one, what’s the next exciting installment Paul?

Paul Boag:
I feel a slight sense of sarcasm in your voice, Marcus, like you are not respecting the show.

Marcus Lillington:
I am respecting it, I am respecting the show.

Paul Boag:
Do you know what I am going to do? I am going to, if you carry this on, I am going to insist that next week you do the show. You ought to.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, okay, but not this time.

Paul Boag:
To 10 things about cricket.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I could do that.

Paul Boag:
That’s not, I don’t think that’s relevant but anyway.

Marcus Lillington:
Although I am very sort of guitar orientated at the moment.

Paul Boag:
Are you?

Marcus Lillington:
It should be top 10 geeky guitar things.

Paul Boag:
See now that’s even duller.

Product testing environment

Right, next one number six is the product testing environment that there was a time when testing the market for a new product was really expensive and then of course there was the cost of initial prototyping and stuff like that, but the web has changed all of that quite dramatically. It’s easy to get contact with consumers, to canvas interest in a new product and all of that kind of thing. In fact, you have a problem shutting them up, all the time customers are providing you with feedback online, they are either moaning to their friends and family about – and their audience online about how rubbish your product is or alternatively they are emailing or tweeting you saying they want this feature or that feature. We used to have to – you used to have to do things like focus groups to get that kind of information and now digital makes it so much easier and then there are services like get satisfaction that is just one of many tools out there that kind of facilitate getting feedback about your products and services and it is just a great way of deciding how you are going to evolve your products and services and consumers are essentially sharing their opinions for free when you used to have to pay them and so yes, it’s a brilliant product testing tool to find out about your products and to improve them, so yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And usability testing and design testing and all these online services.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. So let’s start using it more for that, hurrah. Okay let’s move on to what? Number seven.

Research tool

Okay number seven is kind of closely related to be honest, I may have been stretching it a bit here.

Marcus Lillington:
Slack on your phone has a really annoying ping.

Paul Boag:
I know I just heard that.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got to turn it off.

Paul Boag:
Okay, that’s a good plan.

So the next one is a research tool, so not only is it easier to develop new tools, it’s also considerably easier to understand your audience. So where once you would have to do market research and that was quite a big expense to the business, now consumer data is available for all to see, you can go and find out all kinds of things about people on Facebook or Twitter and it can provide real insights into your customers and what they want and also of course the web allows you to do directly gather information from your users via polls and surveys and even good old-fashioned email. So it is a brilliant research tool and we don’t take it seriously enough for that.

Delivery mechanism

And then we come on to number eight which is that it’s a great delivery mechanism. So the web has revolutionized the way that many products are delivered. So do you remember when you used to go and buy your music in a music store, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Do you miss those days, I bet you do. Flipping through vinyl.

Marcus Lillington:
I was never that big a vinyl kind of buyer.

Paul Boag:
Were you not?

Marcus Lillington:
But yes, definitely, they were kind of cool places.

Paul Boag:
And going into a book store and smelling those books. That’s what people always say, I don’t understand this, oh I like a physical book because of the smell. That’s just a bit weird.

Marcus Lillington:
I still like book stores very much and still go and have a look. It’s more for a case of, if you’ve got everything laid out in front of you then you can kind of absorb it better as to what you might be interested in rather than whole of the Internet.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a bit the same as an iPod with 30 million songs on it, it’s like oh I don’t know which one to listen to, if you’ve got a shelf full of CDs or vinyl then you can kind of browse through it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, almost a choice paralysis type of thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes but that’s still – yes I mean it’s great to – what I particularly like about music is if you’re sort of sat around late at night with friends round and somebody says, oh, have you got that song, and you go no, but two seconds later you have.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I think that is fantastic.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that is really good. Or services like Shazam where you can hear something and go…

Marcus Lillington:
That’s witchcraft it is.

Paul Boag:
It’s witchcraft is it?

Marcus Lillington:
It is totally witchcraft, Shazam is witchcraft. How? Honestly because you are playing some obscure you know not the original version of something and it listens to two bars of the middle 8 without any singing on it and it knows what it is. Total witchcraft.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I guess because I don’t really understand music, I just kind of accept it.

Marcus Lillington:
But more to the point, music is quite a finite thing, I mean alright there are – the way people play things obviously makes it a completely infinite thing but you’ve got 12 notes effectively and those two bars of that middle 8 on that song probably sound identical to something else, somewhere else, because all pop songs are 3 chords effectively, four if you stretch it. So hence witchcraft again.

Paul Boag:
Yes, well there you go.

Marcus Lillington:
I think it’s amazing. Sorry I found something I am interested in.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I mean it’s the web has very much revolutionized music, hasn’t it, really? Probably almost more than in any other sector, it’s quite incredible but other products are delivered electronically beyond just books and music. Even things such as consultancy services can be delivered online, so do you remember when I used to do those consultancy clinics.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And you may think your product isn’t deliverable online but there are many approaches – may be approaches that you haven’t yet considered even if the product itself can’t be delivered electronically you may find that it can be supported by the web instead of creating multilingual manuals for example that have to be printed, when you get a – it always amuses me that when you get a manual through for a product and it’s like 3 feet thick and actually only two pages relate to English.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that’s normally quite a relief actually.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it is, that is true. So actually there are lots of opportunities to put things like that online. I recently purchased a smart thermostat that I was able to install myself and instead of having this kind of hefty manual and intimidating instructions I was just pointed to a website and it kind of took me through a video of one, two, three steps of installing a thermostat, now I am not a plumber or whoever does these things, electrician or whatever, yet it made it really, really easy for me. So, there are so many ways that even if you can’t deliver the product, you can deliver the things that are around and supporting the product and hell that small thermostat itself has actually enhanced and improved my product because I can manage that thermostat online and it knows when I am leaving the house, so it turns the heating down and all of those kinds of clever things. So you might have the most mundane and boring product that can be enhanced quite considerably by the power of the web. I mean look at things like the Nest smoke detector or there are hundreds of products like it. So, yes, good, like that. Let’s move on to number nine.

Comms tool

This one is a kind of, you may go, this is kind of obvious and that’s the idea of that the web is a great comms tool but I am not just talking about a marketing comms tool it also applies to communications between staff and between businesses and their existing customers and those kinds of things. So I mean in many ways the web is the ultimate communication tool, so it’s ideally suited isn’t it really to communication between various parties involved in your business, that might be suppliers, it might be staff members, it might be existing customers. You know, I’ve been involved in developing extranets to bring together multinational teams or enquiry management systems to ensure that customer communications end up with the right person in the organization and there are also many kind of third party web based tools for intranets or ticketing systems or streamlining communications within organizations. There’s so much that the web can do to help organizations do this kind of stuff and over the years we’ve been involved in helping develop custom systems to handle specific workflows and challenges within companies. I mean do you remember when we did Travel Bag work back in the day. I mean that was a long, long…

Marcus Lillington:
All I can remember about Travel Bag was that really, really, complex Flash map generator thing.

Paul Boag:
Oh yes. Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Which was awesome actually.

Paul Boag:
It was.

Marcus Lillington:
Where you could basically plan your trip around the world by clicking on the cities and it would join it all up and then I don’t know if it priced it up at the end but it made an itinerary for you, that you would then go and discuss with a…

Paul Boag:
I mean that was late 1990s, wasn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
No, that was the beginning of Headscape which was…

Paul Boag:
Oh, 2002

Marcus Lillington:
Early 2002.

Paul Boag:
Because what I remember, the project I remember doing with them was the one where they had – so somebody had an inquiry, right, so I was interested in booking a trip around the world or whatever, I would send an email to their team and then that email was then sent on to whoever it was that was managing it and they had all kinds of problems where emails were getting lost or not getting passed on or not getting followed up and we built a system for them that basically allowed them to track all those emails through and reporting could be produced from it and all of that kind of stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
I do remember now.

Paul Boag:
Yes and that’s what I am talking about as one potential use as a comms tool. Then obviously the stuff that we did with Wiltshire Farm Foods had comms elements into it and what annoys me, I mean again this is a bit of a tangent but how many of these people – obviously these days you don’t need to build all those things from scratch because there’s so many tools that are out there but what really pees me off is that people just roll out these tools with not really considering whether they match the workflow with the way people work within their organization or whether customize the user experience so that it works well. So often these tools get rolled out and they are never adopted because it doesn’t match the way people work in the organization and we’re actually having a conversation with one of our clients at the moment that were – want to get a customer relationship management system and we’re saying to them, hey before – just don’t go out and buy a system because if you do that then everybody has to adapt to that system and the way that the system works, instead what we need to do is understand how people work and how they operate and then buy a system that supports that. Yes, anyway, rant over. Let’s move on to number 10, our final one.

Marcus Lillington:
The final one.

Productivity and cost savings tool

Paul Boag:
Okay, so the final one is productivity and cost savings. That when management think about the web, they tend to think about it as a tool for generating revenue through increasing sales, however, that’s really only half the story, the other half is that the web can make a significant difference in terms of cost savings and increased efficiency and…

Marcus Lillington:
It can put people out of their job, definitely.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you can fire loads of people, it’s wonderful. I mean that may be through savings in customer support so you can get rid of your call center, it might be through use it as a recruitment tool, it could be through the creation of an efficient Intranet, notice I’ve used the word efficient because of my previous comments about the number of people that just throw share point at it and think that’s going to solve everything. Many intranets I think just fail to live up to their potential because they are hard to use and confusing. However, a well designed one has got the real potential to empower staff and make them more effective and efficient in the way they work, it just amazes me how many organizations will pay for a great marketing site while largely ignoring the other benefits the web can bring and you know I think we’ve kind of glossed over a lot of areas here but there is so much that the web can do, so much, and yes. Rant over, tell a joke Marcus. Lift my grumpy ass mood.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay this is – what have I done with it? Here it is, this was Ian and Dan, it’s one of their jokes.

Paul Boag:
Oh, from Slack.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Yes, they were telling a few, I can’t remember what they were but they were funny.

Marcus Lillington:
How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb?

Paul Boag:
Yes, that was it. Now, can I remember? No, go on.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a really obscure number and you’ve probably never heard of it. That’s a good joke.

Paul Boag:
It is a good joke. There was another one, wasn’t there? Have you got the other one?

Marcus Lillington:
How did the hipster burn himself with his dinner?

Paul Boag:
I can’t remember this one either, go on.

Marcus Lillington:
He ate it before it was cool.

Paul Boag:
I love that, brilliant, right, there we go, that’s it. Another show done.

Marcus Lillington:
You can go back to sleep, Paul.

Paul Boag:
I can go back to sleep, you can go and have man flu.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got to edit this now.

Paul Boag:
You do, it has to go out today.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, so I better get on with it.

Paul Boag:
You better get on with it¸ right. Well thank you very much for listening and we will be back again next week. Good bye.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

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