Working on a Saturday rarely tastes so good! Our business development director, David Johnstone, and myself were invited along to this year's Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations Conference at the stunning Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel on Saturday to do a talk on 'embracing digital culture for commercial gain' and enjoy some fine conversation, local cuisine and entertainment, with a Scottish (/tartan) theme running throughout.

Set in 1000 acres of beautiful Scottish countryside the Conference was organised by our new client RHASS (Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland) and ran for three days. The event brought together those working within the agricultural show industry from across the UK to discuss common challenges and educate each other on forward-thinking business processes and strategy.

Our session was chaired by the Chief Executive Officer of The South of England Agricultural Society, Iain Nicol who warmed up the crowd with a quick 'technology quiz' highlighting how, while we all consider digital and the Internet such an ingrained part of everyday life now, it's history is in fact short-lived and barely stretches back (in mass consumer terms) a decade. The core message here - don't panic, the train has not left without you, you just need to get on board! Accompanying After Digital in the presentation panel was our friend Andy Hamilton from Company Net in Edinburgh. The session saw both speakers present on digital technology and how it can be utilised for business success, as well as trends and best practice, for ten minutes each before the topic was opened up to the floor for questions.

"The digital train may have set off but it has a very long platform"

- Iain Nicol, ASAO 2014

A few points that were raised during the 'embracing digital culture for commercial gain' session:

  • Make the most of free or low-cost / low-risk resources, such as Analytics and social media
  • Facebook advertising allows you to test campaigns with small budgets and see in real-time how effective they are. Due to highly accurate targeting you can reach the people you want to more efficiently. In fact, one delegate we met told us how they reassigned their print spend into social media advertising and attained equal ROI through Facebook advertising for a tenth of the original investment (vs print)
  • Content, content and more quality content
  • You can't ignore the importance of a mobile friendly web experience any more
  • Digital enables your customers to be more self-sufficient, thus reducing the administrative burden on your business (if efficient digital solutions are put in place)
  • Don't bend your business around technology, make sure you pick the right systems for you and let them shape themselves to your needs
  • Data allows us to create personalised communications. In today's consumer world your audiences expect to receive tailored messages not be broadcasted at.

The 100 or so organisations present at the conference were eager to learn and share their knowledge, making the question and answer sessions hugely interesting and informative, and ensuring we felt hugely welcome. We were lucky enough to spend some time with some very interesting individuals and delve into some of the issues their organisations are facing, whilst considering how digital technology and marketing could assist them.

Finishing off the day delegates were treated to a deilcious three-course dinner, complete with bagpipe band, Scottish country dancing and 'Secret Opera Singers' (if you've never head of them before, check them out) entertainment, all with a touch of tartan.

Thank you to the RHASS for inviting us along and running such a brilliant event, to all the delegates for being so open, friendly and welcoming, to Adele Thomson (Society Secretary, RHASS) for keeping us all organised and to Stephen Hutt (Chief Executive, RHASS) for being a hugely entertaining and accommodating host.