This month marks my 15 year anniversary at PDMS – a milestone which led me to reflect on just how much has changed, both in PDMS and the marketing profession
This month marks my 15 year anniversary at PDMS – a milestone which led me to reflect on just how much has changed, both in PDMS and the marketing profession, since I embarked on my career as a technology marketer in a brave new digital world.
I joined PDMS early in 2001, when Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings were the most popular movies. In music, Shaggy had the bestselling single of the year with “It wasn’t me", closely followed by Bob the Builder!
As bad as the year may have been for music lovers, it paled into insignificance when compared to the turmoil in the technology sector. This was the year the over-inflated dot.com bubble burst – where the hype, which took precedence over the more mundane practicalities of business plans, cash flows and profits, got a reality check. However, the team at PDMS were more level-headed, and right from the start recognised the long-term potential that the Internet offered to drive down cost, open up new markets and improve the customer experience – by doing “commerce” better, rather than “e-commerce” somehow being completely separate from any other channel.
So while the stock market crash of 2000-2002 caused the loss of $5 trillion in the market value of companies and the liquidation of thousands of companies around the world, PDMS not only weathered the storm, but actually achieved year on year growth during the same period.
Back then, PDMS was a much smaller company - around 23 employees - but even then we were ‘punching above our weight’ - beating some much larger competitors to win some prestigious contracts. In fact, many of the clients we were working for in the early ‘noughties’, including Black & Decker and the NHS, we are still working with today! We were helping organisations save substantial amounts of time and money by moving systems online – for example we saved the NHS millions by replacing pharmaceutical catalogues, which were distributed to hospitals every month on CD-ROM, with an online equivalent.
Back in the day I was a marketing ‘team’ of one and the world of marketing looked very different to the one I operate in today. A typical week in marketing comprised of trade shows, advertising, press releases and pushing messages out about our software development services. This is what is now referred to as ‘outbound’ marketing – marketing that interrupts the customer, talking at them. Looking back with those nostalgic rose-tinted glasses – it may seem that the world of marketing was a much simpler place without the complexities of today’s multiple channels and constant noise – no Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Analytics.
In many ways it was simpler, but it was also less effective and less transparent. Remember when you wanted to go on holiday pre-internet? You had two options. You either looked at a glossy wide angle lensed photo and a paragraph of blurb before walking into the Travel Agents and parting with your hard earned cash or, alternatively, you read a line of text on TV (remember Teletext?) and made a phone call. Both required a leap of faith into the unknown – sometimes you’d get lucky with a good hotel and resort and other times you wouldn’t.
Today, I won’t book anything until I’ve read nearly every review on Trip Advisor and compared the price on multiple booking sites which automatically appear on the Trip Advisor review page. This can be an exhausting task but I’m in control – I’m seeking out the information I need to make an informed decision. This demonstrates the shift to “inbound marketing” – where communication is interactive and two ways, customers come to you via search engines, referrals and social media – and marketers provide value. Today it’s all about multi-channel engagement and generating content. With a wealth of data and analytical tools readily available, it is also much easier to evaluate whether your marketing is cost effective.
The biggest changes, both for PDMS and the marketing profession as a whole, have undoubtedly taken place in the last 10 years. We relocated from Castletown to larger offices in Douglas and in 2013 we celebrated 20 years in business, followed by our first major corporate acquisition in 2014 - not to mention that we now have our own ‘bean to cup’ coffee machine!
As a marketer, along with the rest of my profession, I’ve had to develop new skills with the explosion in social media and new technology platforms. The ‘mobile’ era too, has had a huge impact with marketing professionals having to create content for a myriad of mobile devices and having to learn how to connect with customers in real time.
Fast forward to 2016 and I’m working with a great marketing team supporting a much bigger PDMS Group, which has a portfolio of services and products spanning sectors including transport, education, government and financial and professional services. We have offices in the Isle of Man and Glasgow, nearly 70 employees and we work with clients in over 10 different countries.
Over the last 15 years technology trends have come and gone – we’ve had virtualisation, thin client, thick client, cloud computing, the rise and rise of mobile and now big data and the internet of things. The rapid pace of change is what has always appealed to me – as a technology marketer, life is never dull! However, despite all of these changes, both within PDMS and in the marketing profession in general, one thing remains constant. It’s not the technology or the channel to market that matters, it’s the people. Understanding people and how we can best work with them – using technology to help them achieve their goals – will always be a constant.