As part of our Marketing expert series, we interviewed Jo Ashford, Technology Communications Manager at Imagination. Similar to our previous interviews, we asked a variety of questions, to learn everything we could about our latest marketing expert. 

  • What do you like to do in your spare time (hobbies)?

I’m a keen baker in my spare time, something which my colleagues, friends and family seem to appreciate. I’d say cupcakes and macaroons are my specialties. I also like going to the gym (probably a good thing considering the baking), photography, cocktails and shopping. Possibly not in that order or as standalone activities/hobbies!

  • What food do you like?

Everything except sprouts, swede and oysters! I’m a total foodie and I’ll try everything once, except for Chicken feet. When I was in China I just couldn’t bring myself to try them, even if they do go well with beer!

  • What other career would you have chosen if you weren’t in marketing?

If I had my time again, I’d probably do something more creative such as photography. I love capturing moments with my camera, whether it’s the Northern Lights in Iceland or my friend’s kids playing in the garden. I think it would be an interesting career, exposing you to lots of cultures, adventures and experiences.

We then asked Jo to share her future thoughts and insights on marketing, asking her questions surrounding effective campaigns, marketing challenges, and the main activity she would spend an increased budget on. 

  • What do you think have been the biggest changes to B2B marketing in the past 3 years?

From my perspective, I don’t think looking back at just the last three years highlights how much things have changed in the world of PR, you must go back further to understand the true evolution that has taken place.

  1. Increased channels. One of the biggest changes in B2B PR is the number of channels that we can now communicate to our audience through. While still highly influential, the media no longer controls everything. Today brands adopted a strategy that embraces both owned and paid media.
  2. Measurement. When I started out in PR Advertising Equivalent (AEV) was used in all reports when highlighting our successes to clients, along with the volume of press clients. Today, it is a completely different world (and that’s a good thing). Personally, I’m intrigued to see how measuring sentiment will evolve as no one seems to have cracked it yet.
  3. Social media. Can you imagine a world without Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Like them or loathe them, social media has changed the face of PR, providing a platform for companies to engage with their audiences, while building awareness, credibility and trust. Social media provides a way for customers to directly speak to brands, as well as acting as a targeting tool. A massive game changer in my opinion.
  • What do you think will be the biggest change in the way you approach your campaigns in the next 3 years?
  1. Will press releases still have a role in campaigns?
  2. Content amplifications will become more critical
  3. Better campaign measurement will mean more effective campaigns
  • What are your 3 biggest marketing challenges?
  1. Budget. Marketers always seem to be trying to do more with less. Sadly, I don’t think this will ever change as budgets will always be squeezed BUT on the positive side, I do think it breeds creativity.
  2. Measuring ROI. Tracking the ROI of every singly marketing activity isn’t always easy or possible.
  3. Reaching customers in a meaningful way. Today audiences are exposed to so much noise it can be hard to cut above the rest and deliver meaningful information that resonates with them on a one-to-one level and ultimately, converts leads into sales.
  • Describe the future of the trade media – will it thrive or do you think there are problems ahead?

The debate about the future of media in the digital age has often been dominated by the fate of national newspapers. I believe often the future of trade magazines has been absent from the discussion.  Many assume that, “if the nationals can’t make it, what hope is there for trade magazines?”

While it’s difficult to generalise about the future of trade magazines because each sector has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities, I do think they have a future. I believe that trade magazines are well placed to identify their respective niches and utilise them. It comes down to how Editors package their offering while ensuring they are profitable businesses.  Quality editorial is not enough, sadly.

  • What is the most over-hyped marketing tactic?

Mobile marketing. While mobile devices have grown massively in popularity in the last few years, it doesn’t mean that traditional PCs will become obsolete in the next few years. Desktops still serve some important purposes and have advantages that cannot be matched by devices with smaller screens. It’s crucial that businesses understand this and don’t get swept away by the idea that mobile devices and mobile advertising are the absolute future of online marketing. While it’s good to have a responsive website that can be viewed equally well on all devices, it’s important that business don’t put all their efforts into a mobile website. At least for the foreseeable future, users on devices of all shapes and sizes will be checking out your website.

  • What was the best campaign you’ve run?

The campaign that I’m most proud of was for Sensus, who were bidding for the GB smart meter programme. Compared to the likes of Vodafone and O2, they were considerably smaller in terms of budget but their product was better. However, they had limited experience in EMEA. I developed key messaging that appealed to all the audiences involved in the decision-making process, playing on Sensus’ strengths and highlighting the weaknesses of their competitors. The campaign lasted five years and resulted in Sensus winning one of the three regions that were up for grabs. That was a good day in the office.

  • If there is one thing you could change about the electronics press, what would it be?

To be honest, nothing. I know that sounds like a rubbish answer but they are a nice bunch and so far, they have been easy to work to. Ultimately, if do my job properly and get them interesting and timely news then all will be fine.

  • If there was one thing you could change about how agencies work with you, what would it be?

Having been agency side for several years before going in house, my advice would be simple. Make the client’s life easier, don’t add to their workload but make it lighter. Make yourself invaluable so that your client can’t live without you and they’ll love you forever.

  • How important will social media be for your campaigns in the next 3-5 years?

Social media is very important to our campaigns at Imagination and that’s only going to increase. For me, I see social media as a more informal way of engaging with customers and prospects and educating them on who we are and what we’re doing. If they have a question, they can ask us directly and get an honest and informative answer. I see that being more important in the coming years.

  • If you could get more budget, what activity would you spend it on?

Video content. Yes, content is still king but the kind of content the rules the web is changing. People are busy and don’t always have time to read a 1500-word opinion article or whitepaper. Let’s make life easier and give them more digestible content that they can consume when they like, on any device that they like. Let’s tell a story that can come to life through visuals and truly catch their attention.