Becky has worked with some of the country’s most interesting agencies and brands. Her brand credits include NatWest, 3, Marks & Spencer, English Heritage, Microsoft, Schroders, and Santander.
Becky specialises in working with companies that sell complex, intangible or hard-to-articulate solutions.
Becky is an experienced business coach.
Jim’s worked in Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Holland. Now he’s in Reading.
He’s won awards and judged at D&AD, Cannes, John Caples, Campaign BIG Awards, the UK, US and New Zealand DMAs.
Brands he’s worked on include: Adidas, Nike, BMW, BA, Investec, PlayStation, Microsoft, McDonald’s, Samsung, Dunlop and UNICEF.
Luci is the newest member of the BH&P team. Luci comes to BH&P from a management background with a particular passion for charities, and has worked with some big brands in the third sector.
Her business experience ranges from start-ups to international corporations, so she understands many of the challenges facing organisations at any level. She’s also a keen traveller and has worked in Spain and Latin America.
A conceptual designer and creative problem solver who is equally comfortable designing for web or print, Rory’s worked for some of the world’s biggest agencies, where he’s been able to ‘design & create’ for clients including BA, GSK, PepsiCo, Danone, Castrol, BP, Wrigley, Legal & General, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest, RBS and Porsche.
Rory is an experienced Design and Studio Manager with a team of artworks, retouchers and developers, with considerable knowledge around workflow best-practice.
With a long career as a senior creative in well-known London agencies, there’s almost nothing Steve hasn’t written about – including how to assess agrochemicals, analyse end-of-day data and use leftover fruit salad as a face pack.
In fact he’s ended up so expert he even occasionally lectures in Brand Advertising and Creative Strategy at degree level.
As an award-winning art director, Karen has worked for some of the UK’s biggest brands including BT, the BBC, Bet Fair and Cable&Wireless.
She’s also worked on some of the most glamorous, including Moet & Chandon, for whom she created the prestigious champagne report.
Karen’s understanding of all things integrated led to her winning an impressive ISP Gold for a brand new product.
September 19, 2016
BH&P has been working with the national charity, Crimestoppers, since 2015.
We’ve worked on a wide range of local and national projects for Crimestoppers, including initiatives against pick pocketing, child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, and the newest campaign to encourage the UK public to speak up and report any evidence of suspicions of energy theft.
British Business Bank
August 18, 2016
BH&P were appointed as the creative agency to design and build the website to complement the printed version of the Business Finance Guide.
This followed a competitive seven agency pitch in which we showcased our experience of working with a number of clients across the financial services sector, such as Prudential, RBS, Natwest, and Santander. This, twinned with our experience of working with government led initiatives to support business growth, such as the Business Growth Service, gave BH&P the magic formula for a winning pitch.
The British Finance Guide is a tool that explains the different finance options available to businesses of all sizes requiring finance for growth. The online guide includes both a decision-tool to help business owners filter the options available to them, as well as a chart so they can quickly choose the information that they want. Link to the online guide here.
David Petrie, Head of corporate finance at ICAEW said:
“We were delighted to find BH&P. With recent experience working as part of the recently discontinued Business Growth Service, we knew that they would be the right partner for the project.”
David continued, “the guide is designed for businesses of all sizes, and it was important that we worked with a partner that had a full understanding of every step of the financial journey”.
May 1, 2016
BH&P was appointed to run a test campaign across the EMEA region for Epicor, a global business software business, in early 2016.
The challenge of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) campaign was to encourage CFOs to consider Epicor’s ERP software as a solution to solve their organisational challenges. (ERP – or Enterprise Resource Planning – is a software tool that allows businesses to manage and automate back office business functions related to technology, finance, services, and human resources.)
We tested an inbound campaign with digital adverts and landing pages using Epicor’s existing assets, addressing the two distinct stages of the CFO’s ERP journey:
1) CFOs that are aware of need for a solution to their problem, but not considering changing their ERP; and
2) CFOs that are aware of ERP but have not yet engaged with Epicor.
For this to be effective, we developed two creative alternatives.
The first featured the idea of rocket-like paperclips on a desk showing how Epicor’s ERP gets you the solution you need quickly.
The second focused on the idea that Epicor’s ERP helps you to make sense of the issues facing your business. The campaign outperformed all previous CFO targeted campaigns, with more than 1,500 landing page visits, 75 content downloads and more than 17 confirmed sales leads.
Following the success of the CFO campaign we were asked to work on Epicor’s global growth campaign, which was about encouraging healthy debate and promoting conflict of ideas at senior level within a company, as it is proven to lead to profitable growth.
The global growth campaign was an integrated global campaign, meaning that BH&P worked alongside Epicor’s large and complex network of stakeholders.
We created animated digital adverts, an e-book, an infographic and physical postcards for three distinct divisions, and in 20 languages. See our Spanish infographic below, or view and download the e-book here.
April 10, 2015
Putting the human back into HR
3gHR have been doing their marketing “right” for some time. The brand positioning, “Appreciating People” formed the basis for regular email marketing campaigns, blog posts and product development. And yet engagement levels and lead generation were down. It was time to make a change.
BH&P was engaged to develop a bold creative campaign, designed to cut through the “me too” world of learning and development marketing, with all its pictures of white middle aged men in suits, sitting in a training room. The chosen campaign route, “Empower, don’t impose” builds on the brand pillar but with a punchy, practical “let’s do it” and a ‘can-do’ tone. The emphasis is on listening, sharing, collaborating and empowering people in a bottom up way – placing behaviour firmly before processes, and putting the human back into human resources.
The campaign focuses on the role of performance management, and went live in May 2015. Comprising an infographic, article, case studies and taster events, promoted directly, through advertising and social media, the campaign has had high levels of traction. Within days, the London events were fully booked, and the Birmingham event swiftly followed suit. The campaign is still live, and will run through to the end of summer 2015.
February 10, 2015
Five ways recruitment fails brands
In 2014, Handle faced a problem. With the economy on the up, fast growing companies and brands alike were all fishing the same pool of talent. With twenty years invested in building long-term relationships with great candidates, Handle knew how to find the brilliant people to fuel brand growth. The challenge was communicating this with busy business owners, HR directors and recruitment managers. BH&P undertook a detailed customer research project, using both qualitative research and quantitative testing to unearth and then reveal the five ways traditional research fails brands, and to show the five ways that Handle could solve the problem.
“As market leaders in brand recruitment, we can be a challenging company to work with, with multiple stakeholders, a wide range of target audiences, and the constant need to balance client and candidate activity. BH&P worked hard to build a strong working relationship with me and all the team here at Handle.
This is Lynx
January 5, 2015
Working as the creative partner to Onefish Twofish, we took on a 60 day challenge to prove the case for marketing for this innovative cardboard engineering expert. Despite working with creative agencies, This is Lynx had never had the need to do any marketing to fuel their growth before. However, they recognised that overreliance on a small number of clients made them vulnerable, and so they wanted to reach out to a much wider audience. We crafted a campaign targeting creative directors and heads of creative services within top marketing agencies, with astounding results. The test email campaign achieved an average 35% open rate from a cold list, resulting in more than ten meetings generated with agency creative directors.
January 2, 2015
Strategy and brand
We’ve coached the leadership team at Magnet Schultz UK on their product, pricing and promotional strategies, and now the work is starting in earnest. We’ve developed a shiny new value proposition and brand positioning, and our digital strategy expert has pulled apart the website so we can build a new and more engaging user experience. We’re very excited about the creative work that’s coming soon (sssh).
“BH&P has worked with the leadership team over a period of several months, offering expert advice on our product, pricing and promotional strategies. Our sessions were always extremely productive and thought-provoking and I am confident will help propel our business into a period of growth.
Magnet Schultz UK
Harvest Fine Foods
January 1, 2015
BH&P are Harvest’s creative partner, working with this forward-thinking food distribution business to develop a quarterly magazine for chefs in restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals.
“Becky and her team have captured the passion for ingredients that really powers our business, and channeled this into the stunning design of the magazine, achieving amazing results with chefs across the region.
Harvest Fine Foods
January 1, 2015
During December 2014, BH&P was tasked with helping the Methven team build a deeper understanding of their UK b2b market, and to develop a new and more responsive, intuitive direct marketing strategy. And so the great DM audit was born.
The project led with the idea that you cannot change buyers’ behaviour unless you understand the key motivators in their working lives. So we interviewed house developers, builders’ merchants, plumbers and architects. We went on the road, visiting showrooms and looking at a lot of taps and showers. We spoke to the Methven sales team and systems experts, and got stuck into all the IT systems, data and platforms. We produced a comprehensive report and action plan for the marketing team, with clear recommendations and tips for improvement that could be implemented straight away.
With the global launch of a new product range in March 2015, this is a fantastic platform to make a real change in 2015.
We seek out the hidden truths and golden nuggets that fundamentally affect product and brand strategies. For established brands, we’ll workshop, research, test, refine and repeat. For small and mid-sized, but ambitious companies, we offer business coaching, consultancy and testing programmes.
We create bold ideas that bring your brand alive for your prospects and existing customers. With experience working with both consumer and business-to-business brands, our focus is always on finding new ways to challenge perceptions and to articulate your message in new ways that will achieve the best possible result for our clients.
With experience in large and small creative agencies as well as working directly for business owners and brands, we are ‘media anything, idea everything’, finding the best ways to create cut through. So we build brands and websites, email, social media, press, posters, film, animation, apps, native advertising, microsites, events, surveys, content and point-of-sale (phew!).
MeasureWe are firm believers in marketing that pays for itself. We’re not economists, but we do have a wealth of experience in data management, CRM, measurement and analytics. We work with every client to create a dashboard and set of KPIs, both for specific campaigns and for the business as a whole.
Marketing for non-profits
January 16, 2017
The rules of engagement have changed
The key challenge for charity marketing today lies in balancing the need stand out from the pack, whilst complying with ever more strict data protection and fundraising rules.
In recent years, members of the public have expressed frustration over the lack of control many feel over how, and how often, they are approached with fundraising requests. We’ve all heard the story of the Olive Cooke, the 92 year old who committed suicide because of charities pursuing her for money. Charity marketing is implicated, with organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children and the Alzheimer’s Society insisting that their actions were not to blame for Olive’s death. But many of her family have accused the charities of exploiting the poppy seller, with allegations that she was receiving over 260 begging letters a month
Managing charity marketing and communications
Whilst perhaps Olive Cooke presents an extreme example, the Fundraising Regulator is acutely aware of the need to manage the situation carefully. The regulator is guided by the principle that it should be as simple as possible for individuals to manage their communications with fundraisers, and to prevent this type of scenario. In response to concerns, the regulator has developed a system to ensure people can register their contact preferences more easily with charities.
With the creation of the Fundraising Preference Service or FPS (planned launch in 2017), people will have the ability to opt out – and this will affect not just the general public, but also those people that have actively engaged your charity’s fundraising campaigns, but perhaps not opted in.
For those that already have a highly engaged supporter database, this is unlikely to prove a significant problem. Yet for those who rely on email and direct marketing to purchase databases and lukewarm data, there is a need to tighten up significantly on the way they market to their supporters.
We recently met up with Gillian McKay, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector at the ICAEW (Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England And Wales), who had this to say:
“It’s never been more important that charities stand out with a message that will really engage supporters. These new rules that are coming in within the sector will have most impact on those that have not invested in, or understood, the rules of engagement. Charity marketing will only get harder“
Changes to the rules on data handling
Data protection rules are tightening up across the board, and charities are not the only sector under the spotlight. If we had chosen to remain in the European Union, brands and charities alike would now have less than two years to make sure they are compliant with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was due to come into place in May 2018.
But does Brexit change this? “Those businesses who have yet to prepare for GDPR – and are hoping that Brexit will mean they don’t have to – are the ones likely to be caught out,” says Frank Jennings, a partner at Wallace LLP.
Any organisation with operations in the EU as well as the UK will certainly comply with the new rules. If nothing else, it will be impossible for compliance teams to manage multiple data standards within the same organisation – brands and non-profits alike. And the deadline for compliance with the new GDPR rules will come around before the deadlines for completing Brexit’s Article 50. With this in mind, complacency is not really an option.
The rules around the Fundraising Preference Service muddy the waters slightly, not least because charities will have to pay for the privilege of membership (albeit the proposed pricing will be proportionate). Gillian McKay’s view on this is clear. “Lots of charities already have very good levels of engagement. In general their budgets are smaller, and their accountability greater than in the commercial sector. While they won’t be able to change the rules, they can certainly prepare for the changes.”
The first thing organisations that do not have this engagement level should do is raise awareness. According to John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal, at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA),
“Brands need to make sure everyone knows what is going on and the rules coming in and how they currently process their data. That can be an eye opener for lots of people.When the regulations come into effect brands will not get their doors kicked down straight away. But if you can show you spent two years doing what you could do comply that will be very helpful.”
The RNLI has taken a proactive approach, announcing in 2015 that it would switch to an opt-in model. Jayne Clarke, the charity’s head of marketing, says the move has showed her how important being ahead is and how long getting everyone in place can take. You can read more about this in this article, taken from Marketing Week: The RNLI on why it has become the first charity to switch to opt-in comms.
It’s all about the message
Since we launched in September 2014, the team at BH&P have worked on the principle “Idea everything, Media anything” – the premise that only with a big, bold, gutsy creative idea behind your marketing, will you actually change peoples’ behaviour.
Gillian McKay from the ICAEW echoed this principle, “those third sector organisations that are investing now – in systems, preparation and getting their message really clear – will see minimum impact. But the reality is that smaller charities may have neither the resources nor the expertise to prepare for the change, and some will struggle as the rules are tightened up”.
Gillian went on to explain that for those organisations without the internal resources, it will be vital that they choose to work with third parties that can help them articulate their point of difference, and that are doing everything possible to be compliant.
In recent years, many charities have turned away from fundraising emails and direct mail, and are increasingly looking to inbound activity and social media for both awareness and fundraising campaigns.
Make the most of Google for Non-profits
Google offers advertising grants of up to US$10,000 per month to charities and some other not-for-profit organisations, as well as a free, enriched version of YouTube.
BH&P runs inbound campaigns for a number of non-profits, including the national charity Crimestoppers, using the Google Ad Grant. For Crimestoppers, as well as generating a significant uplift in anonymous reporting, test programmes allow us to set realistic KPIs and benchmarks for future campaigns. Whilst the ad grant can be used only for search advertising, this is nonetheless a valuable way for charities to both maximise learnings and create supporter engagement with specific issues, whilst leaving their own media budgets untouched.
BH&P rolled out the launch campaign for stayenergysafe.co.uk, on behalf of Crimestoppers in September 2016. The Google Search campaign is currently running at a cost per click of 76p and clickthru rate (CTR) of 5.25% (that’s a 300% uplift compared to Google’s own benchmark for the charity sector). The associated Facebook campaign has also exceeded benchmark targets with a cost per click of 20p, and a CTR of 1.04% (more than 200% better than Facebook’s benchmark of 0.33%).
Micro-lending organisation, Kiva, shares its message using Google’s marketing tools to drive qualified online traffic to its website, and to fund loans that can improve thousands of lives in dozens of countries around the world. They use Google AdWords to raise awareness for their organisation and drive traffic to their website. They also leverage Google Maps as a visual way for donors to see the footprint of Kiva loans. Kiva recently ran a contest on YouTube inviting the community to create and upload videos to describe the value of what Kiva is offering.
The power of social media for charity marketing
Social media offers numerous opportunities for charities to create engagement with their supporters, to make more people aware of the work they do. Seth Godin describes social media as “the greatest shift of our generation”, and those charities that embrace this will be well-placed to thrive over the next few years.
A good example of a successful social media campaign is the #NTChallenge by the National Trust.
National Trust was one of the very first charities to connect with their audience effectively via Instagram. With more than 400 million people uploading 80 million photos a day, Instagram is now much more than the home of a thousand self-obsessed #selfies – it’s changed the way people around the world communicate, discover and travel. It’s become a powerful branding tool.
With the #NTChallenge, National Trust asked followers to upload photos of National Trust protected buildings, landscapes and coastlines, choosing one winning image each week. Their Instagram following is now over 154,000, proving that the #NTChallenge was a great way to celebrate their existing community whilst also attracting new supporters. At the time of writing, Instagram has 35,756 posts with the tag #ntchallenge (though with the aside that you should choose your hashtag carefully – some of these are definitely more Nike than National Trust – #ntc is a Nike challenge tagged in 432,345 posts).
People in 2017 expect to self-select the brands and messages they wish to engage with – and this is a trend that is set to continue. Social media and search marketing will become ever more important as they support this shift, and charities would be wise to embrace the change.
A final word
Whilst it is true that some organisations may lose valuable existing members when new rules on data protection come in to place, those that are both creative and diligent now, with high levels of supporter engagement, will see little change.
Social media and inbound charity marketing will continue to offer new and exciting opportunities to engage with supporters. But for many, the biggest challenge will remain in converting awareness and engagement into tangible and financial support.
What is clear is that rules around data handling will continue to be tightened – in and outside of the EU – and that charities as well as commercial businesses all need to be aware of the potential impact, and plan accordingly.
All figures correct at time of publishing, 16/01/17.
To find out more about BH&P’s creative solutions for non-profits, get in touch.
You can also sign up to receive updates from the fundraising regulator on the launch of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) via this link.
Merry Christmas 2016
December 21, 2016
A short Christmas message from all the team at BH&P
We’ve had a fantastic year, with lots to be thankful for.
This year, as well as running lots of successful campaigns for clients, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know lots of fantastic people in the Reading business and arts community, as well as helping several charities and not-for-profit organisations. We also ran in the Reading Rotary Santa run a few weeks ago. We hope to do lots more of that this year!
Highlights of the year, work-wise, include the very successful launches of stayenergysafe for the national charity Crimestoppers, and of the interactive Business Finance Guide on behalf of the British Business Bank and ICAEW. We also created a fully integrated global growth campaign for software giant Epicor, in multiple languages.
Since our lovely Luci has gone and gotten herself engaged this weekend, we also need to say a very special Merry Christmas and congratulations to the newly betrothed couple, Luci & James.
Have a wonderful Christmas, and a prosperous and productive new year.
PS Instead of sending Christmas cards this year, we’ve made a donation to the Humanimal Trust.
We’ve moved office!
October 18, 2016
We’re still in a great location in central Reading close to Reading train station, Broad Street, the Oracle shopping centre and the River Kennet.
It’s a great office space with a good view over the River too.
We’re all settled in now so it’s business as usual, but do pop in and say hello! We’d love to have a chat with you over a coffee (or tea), or feel free to contact us anytime.
If you’re looking for our new address it’s: Dukesbridge House, 23 Duke Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 4SA. All our other contact details are still the same as before.
Launching energy theft reporting service on behalf of Crimestoppers
September 19, 2016
We’ve worked with the national charity, Crimestoppers, to launch the ground-breaking new service to reduce energy crime in the UK.
The stayenergysafe service is a first of its kind and allows the public to come forward and anonymously report any suspicions or evidence of energy theft, either through the website or the dedicated number, 0800 023 2777.
An integrated campaign
We’ve worked with Crimestoppers throughout the project, offering a fully integrated creative service to launch the new stayenergysafe identity. We’ve created executions to target consumer and professional audiences, built a responsive website with its own secure portal, created a campaign launch video, a shortened launch video, implemented a multi-channel and contextual advertising campaign, and provided results based data analysis.
There are currently 150,000 cases of energy theft investigated every year. The charity aims to encourage more people to report cases of energy theft, a crime which has been known to have devastating effects following fires and explosions. There are horrific stories about energy theft on the website (link).
The public launch on Monday 19th September 2016 – which highlighted the real harm to individuals, property and lives due to energy theft – gained impressive media attention with publications in The Times, The Telegraph, The Sun, and a BBC Radio 2 interview, amongst others.
The new service received over 20 new reports of energy theft through its anonymous phone line and online reporting form within the first day, and we’re confident that the service will continue to encourage the public to report any concerns that they have about energy crime.
The website that we created for the campaign on energy theft can be seen at www.stayenergysafe.co.uk.
Why does a lot of small business marketing not work quite the way you’d like it to?
September 24, 2015
And how can you change it?
(First presented to Reading’s RG1 group at Artigiano Reading on Thursday 24th September 2015)
To answer these questions, we need to go back to the start of a business. When the business owner – let’s call him Nick – sets up the business, he has a number of things, but the two that I want to focus on here are that he has a really clever, unique idea, and a “little black book” of contacts. When the business starts, it is likely to go through a period of rapid growth, as Nick really works his metaphorical “little black book” (and these days, with the power of LinkedIn, this can be a pretty big black book).
It’s worth adding an aside – this is relevant for most people that want to grow their business, but particularly pertinent for anyone that is working in professional services, or that has an intangible, hard-to-articulate, very clever or niche business proposition.
Scaling the business
At some point, the business owner (Nick) will start to think about how to scale that business beyond his or her own network. This may be within that first four years or so, whilst there is still some leverage in Nick’s own network. Or it may be that the growth in turnover starts to slow, plateau or even drop.
So this is the point at which the business is likely to invest – perhaps in a sales director, who brings his own little black book, in a CRM system, or perhaps in working with a new marketing agency. And in some instances that can fill a gap, but often the initiative ends up disappointing for everyone. It doesn’t create growth – in turnover or GP. In fact there may be such an increase in costs that the business starts losing money.
Here’s why. When you start up the business, everyone you are talking to knows you – or thinks that they do. The trust is in the business owner themselves as an individual. And that’s great. That’s why I called my agency Becky Holland & Partners (we’re still in the first growth phase).
But as you grow, the people you are talking to are not presold. Until you engage with them, they don’t really know you as a person. And so they don’t trust you. So the number of real leads that come in to the business will be proportionately less. And your conversion rate is likely to not be quite as good.
I’ve spent the past few years working with businesses that want to reverse that trend. To pre-sell the business as a whole to a specific audience of people.
Scaling a business requires not just trust but, critically, reaching a point where that the trust is not just in the business owner and partners, but in something tangible that the business stands for in its own right. Something unique that prospects will build an emotional connection with, and which they will remember. Something that is greater than the sum of the parts.
There’s a name for this thing. Brand.
Armed with this understanding, you are then ready to scale the business.
Small business owners can get really bogged down with the sheer scale of what they think they are “supposed” to do – social media, writing blogs, making video, generating all sorts of content. And none of these in its own right is a bad thing. They just take a lot of time sometimes, and it can be hard to see how it will get the business to where you wanted to go. Fundamentally, without a strong proposition and brand, all this does is to create a level playing field with everyone else that is competing for the same customers. This stuff is practical, and tactical – but in today’s world, I’d hesitate to call it marketing. Effective marketing is all about the message, and articulating it in clever ways. It’s not about the mechanic.
Things you can do to get started
If your business is established, and you want to try to find a way to scale it – I mean properly scale it – so that it has a value in its own right, then I’d recommend two books that would really help.
One is “Tribes” by Seth Godin, which gives you some really great examples and advice about starting a movement. Capturing your passion and the essence of what you do – and in the process building a “tribe” of followers. Preselling your business in a way that will help marketing work harder for you.
And the second is “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries – because so many of the principles in there – particularly those around “failing fast” are directly relevant to what growing organisations need to do to create focus, and make marketing work for them. This is a pretty good article from HBR if you’d like to read more (link)
The impact of brand on business growth and marketing ROI
September 11, 2015
You could probably write a whole book on the subject of brands. But as it’s a Friday afternoon, I thought I’d keep this short and sweet.
“Brand” means different things to different people. To many, it’s all about logos, colours and typefaces. For others it’s about reputation.
But a great brand is much more than that. After all, how many established market leaders do you know, that don’t have a strong sense of their own identity. Something that people can relate to, and that they will choose to interact with (and buy from) almost regardless of the product?
Brand: in a nutshell
Here’s our guide to what ‘brand’ means in 2015. This is as relevant for small, growing businesses, as it is for established brands:
- Branding can most simply be described as “the relationships that account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”
- When a brand is strong and respected, it provides protection for the business during an economic downturn. This can blunt the effect of any crisis, because of the goodwill the company has in reserve
- A brand gives people an emotional reason to connect with a company. This leads to them considering new product innovations or offers in a positive light, even when these were not previously in their consideration set
- Having a strong brand allows a business to be valued as more than the sum of its parts. This protects the business if a key person or asset is removed from the equation (such as in a professional services firm, particularly in the legal sector, where business is often generated on the basis of an individual’s reputation rather than that of the business)
- A strong brand allows businesses to “scale” – to become presold beyond their own direct network, and to enter new and previously untapped markets. A strong brand means that when the company moves into new products or markets, it carries customers with it
- Businesses with a strong brand can charge a premium for products and services. Apple provides an extraordinary example of how to do this, with little or no resistance from the market
- A strong brand has a tangible value on a balance sheet, attractive to investors and VCs. This can be rather handy when you need to raise funds to support growth, or fancy retiring to the sun.
Can marketing automation help learning and development firms win new clients?
July 9, 2015
Every day, professional service companies such as training or coaching firms, lawyers, architects, HR businesses and recruitment agencies are becoming more attuned to the power of marketing automation platforms like ActOn and Marketo.
Automation is starting to be looked at as the pinnacle of marketing effort – the thing that’s going to make campaigns work much harder – more targeted, more timely, and ultimately driving up response rates.
It’s all in the name. Automation. It implies that you put stuff in, churn it through the mill (a bit like a marketing sausage machine) – and at the other end, out come sausages. That’s metaphorical sausages, not literal ones.
But like a sausage machine, what comes out the other end is directly related to what you put in.
In the world of L&D (where we at BH&P spend quite a lot of time), there are lots of people, generating lots of content. And most of it is very similar.
The UK training market
There are at least 15,000 private training providers in the UK. A wide range of learning options are on offer, which often overlap with other areas such as personal development, meaning that training providers may define themselves in many ways. In addition, the boundaries between different types of delivery are themselves being eroded by the use of learning technologies and blended learning approaches.
The market is very fragmented with many small businesses and freelancers – only 1% of training providers have over 250 employees, although there is consolidation at the top end, and a growing number of global training corporations.
Why automation won’t make your marketing more effective
There is a huge difference between being ‘effective’ and ‘efficient’. Marketing automation platforms are exceptionally good at making your marketing campaigns efficient, but they are rarely the reason campaigns are effective.
Let’s say you are planning a campaign promoting your leadership offer.
As an L&D business, you know your leadership solutions are brilliant. Big brand names buy your service, and get great results. Your programme design is unique, and your facilitators are experienced, quickly developing a rapport with participants. So all you need to do is to write some case studies, perhaps craft a piece of opinion leadership, knock up a few blog posts and add some testimonials to your website. Then stick it all into your marketing automation sausage machine.
If only it was this simple.
Marketing automation platforms will never, ever, make your marketing more effective. Perhaps a surprising comment coming from a marketing automation practitioner, and advocate of anything that allows you to get the right message to the right person at the right time. Here’s the logic.
Campaigns need several things to make them effective:
- Insight – research and planning to understand the challenges your core target audience is facing
- A unique proposition – absolute clarity on how what you are offering is different from all the other 14,999 UK training companies
- Creativity – a way to articulate that message that will stand out from the other hundreds of marketing messages that an L&D decision-maker receives every day
None of these things can be automated.
How marketing automation can help you become more efficient
Marketing automation is a great way of controlling a marketing process automatically, reducing human intervention to the minimum.
A straightforward example of automation would be to automatically send an email to taster event attendees 24 hours after the workshop with a follow-up message and link to a feedback form. (Incidentally, you can also use this as a simple way to collect post-learning happy sheets – automation systems can seem expensive, but if integrated with your CRM, can be used for all types of communication, not just marketing).
A more sophisticated example might include triggering a direct response campaign when a subscriber interacts in a certain way with content on social media or your website.
BUT if your message is not unique then it doesn’t matter how efficient your marketing system is. Your content will simply not stand out.
With a manual process, it’s easy to see how a marketer can reach 100% effort running just a few campaigns in tandem.
In contrast, marketing automation allows you to manage a lot more campaigns in the same time period. Marketing automation requires a lot more effort to set up in the early stages, but then the marketer’s effort reduces dramatically as the system starts to work.
As the marketing automation platform takes over in delivering marketing activity, the marketer can move on to set up another campaign.
This makes the use of the marketer’s time more efficient.
Can automation make a marketer more effective, too?
In literal terms, no.
Naturally, increasing the opportunity to run multiple campaigns, targeting several audiences, will improve the efficiency of marketing over time. However, it can also have an indirect impact on effectiveness. Not only will your team be able to address multiple challenges simultaneously, but your learnings, campaign refinements, and insights can be fed back in to make your targeting, messages and creative solutions more effective.
When time-consuming manual tasks are automated, there’s more time available for thinking, planning and research. These are the bedrock of an effective campaign.
Abseiling the Blade – Sunday 28th June 2015
June 24, 2015
Whilst I’m not afraid of heights, I’m definitely no adrenaline junkie. And so the decision to abseil down Reading’s Blade should have felt like a risky one.
I have surprised myself about how easy it was to make the decision. Yes, The Blade is 86 metres high, and I’ve never abseiled before. But it is all for a very worthy cause – Naomi House and Jacksplace. And that has made the decision very easy.
Please sponsor me – http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BeckyHolland
Naomi House and Jacksplace
Naomi House and Jacksplace are hospices that support families from seven counties in southern England – Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Surrey, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight. They offer a full palliative care service that includes respite, emergency and end of life care for life-limited and life-threatened children and young adults from birth and into their later years.
Naomi House is a purpose built children’s hospice that provides a homely environment to children and young people with life-limiting conditions. They provide individualised specialist care and much needed respite for the whole family, enabling them to feel refreshed, rested and supported through the good days, difficult days and last days.
Jacksplace is the hospice for 16 years and upwards and has been specifically designed to meet the needs of young adults. It is the only purpose built hospice for teenagers and young adults in our region, and gives life-limited young people the privacy and dignity they crave.
Each year the charity needs to raise £7million to run their whole service and deliver their plans. They receive less than 10% of their income from Government. The support they receive from individuals, groups, businesses and trusts means that they can provide care and support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, free of charge, when children, young adults and their families from our region need it most.
Please sponsor me
Whether you are able to give just a few pounds, or more, every penny counts. I’d love to raise as much money as possible for this extremely worthy cause.
If you’d like to sponsor me, just use this link to reach my fundraising page – http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BeckyHolland
Thank you so much for helping!
The art of the “not-a-newsletter”
May 6, 2015
Here’s the thing.
People like to read about good news, especially if it will benefit them directly.
They like to read bad news even better. It’s just more interesting.
But they don’t like receiving newsletters, for the most part. Why? Well, often they are boring, even more often they are irrelevant, and fairly regularly, they are simply a sales pitch dressed up as news.
Shock news! (not really)
Many so-called newsletters have no news in them whatsoever.
Here are our top 7 tips for creating a “not-a-newsletter” (Q: Why “not-a-newsletter”? A: To distance your updates from news items about new team members, company picnics, and charity bike rides, which are interesting to you, but not to your customers and prospects)
1. It’s not a newsletter
Give it a real name, that reflects what you do as a business. For example, “clever business news” or “game changer“. If it is not called a newsletter, it gives you a licence to include interesting information even if it’s not the latest news. And it gives the “rag” an identity that will allow you to rule content in or out based on its relevance.
2. Create a recognisable style or format
Create a style. Perhaps test it in different lengths, with different numbers of articles, with or without images – and then stick to that format so it becomes a familiar face in the inbox.
3. Give it regularity
Weekly or monthly is ideal. Quarterly will do if that’s all you have time or content for. But send it out regularly so it is looked out for, and welcomed.
4. Make it well-written
If someone in the company can write well, or if you work with an agency or freelance writer, get them to create the content. If subject matter experts are not writers, then get someone who can write to interview them (see my separate blog post on creating compelling content). You might even want to commission a freelance journalist or independent expert to create content or commentary, to give you a stronger voice (this will also have the benefit that they will distribute to their own network).
5. Create engagement
Give people a reason to read more, click through to your website, or (even better) engage in a dialogue, with polls and interactive content.
5. Make it timely and relevant
We live in a very big, wide world, so there will always be something new and relevant to your audience, about which you can have an opinion. Today, and over the next few days, for example, you will undoubtedly see a number of emails entitled “Election news: what this means for xyz (insert relevant audience name)”.
This doesn’t mean you can’t recycle old but relevant content, simply that you contextualise it in the moment, and give people a reason to engage with it.
7. Set realistic goals – and flex to achieve them
Why have you created a newsletter in the first place? What do you hope to achieve from it, and how does it fit into your overall marketing strategy? Set some realistic goals, in the context of a wider plan, and prepare to flex your plan if the goals are not being met. I’d advise using lean startup methodologies to constantly refine the approach to make sure all your outbound marketing (not just the not-a-newsletter) is fit for purpose.
Here’s the link to one we made earlier: GameChanger
Immediacy, “omnichannel”, creativity and brands
November 18, 2014
Highlights from the Festival of Marketing #FoM14
There were some strong themes that came out, and so I thought I’d share some of what we found out.
Theme 1 – Immediacy
I blew it. I admit it. I meant to publish this blog last Thursday, but work got in the way. The only person that’s really bothered about this (if I’m honest) is me. But for brands, the ability to respond quickly and appropriately is never more important than now.
Alastair Campbell (and other speakers, such as Mike Eames from Barclays) talked brilliantly about the impact that social media has had on reputation and “spin”. The ability to respond both honestly and very quickly is paramount. Hopefully the #FoM will post his talk on Youtube as it was brilliant (they haven’t done so at the time of posting).
In the spirit of immediacy, Alastair himself posted his script far more quickly than the Festival of Marketing – you can find the whole text here on his blog. – http://www.alastaircampbell.org/blog/2014/11/13/is-spin-dead-in-the-era-of-social-media/
Theme 2 – Omnichannel
I don’t know when the word “omnichannel” started to appear, but it was mentioned a lot last week, with the emphasis on providing a seamless experience for customers.
So what’s really changed? Omnichannel is on the face of it not much more than the rebranding of “integrated”. But we are in a world that is changing. A world where “integrated” quite doesn’t get across the idea that messages need to be both engaging and utterly consistent regardless of channel. As we move to a world where all television is in high definition, on demand, this is really exciting for marketing. By 2025 it’s predicted that we will have 48 million TV viewing options at any moment in time. For brands, this will require a fundamental shift, so a new word is probably appropriate. Is “omnichannel” the right word? We’ll see if people are still using it at #FoM15!
Theme 3 – Broken Marketing Paradigms
I attended a brilliant session by Coke’s Javier Sanchez-Lamelas, which I unashamedly steal from here, because it was so good.
1. Everything has changed
Marketers today are obsessed with media and channel, with NPS and social metrics. But that’s not what marketing is all about. Marketing is about engaging with people in new ways, creating emotional connections with brands that changes behaviour, and the subsequent changes in behaviour. He reminded the audience that everything Peter Drucker had to say is still true.
2. We haven’t seen this before
Javier talked about the explosion in channels and in consumer choice, and the impact this has on marketers. He showed us that this is not a new phenomenon, but that it happened before with the invention of the printing press, the radio, and then film and TV.
This change offers brands opportunities to create real connections with their customers (but will also spell the end for those who concentrate on media at the expense of creativity). This spells a move from “creative communism” (where brands pay media owners to air their content) to “creative Darwinism” (where poor marketing, that is not adaptable, will die).
3. Globalisation = Centralisation
As business becomes more global, Javier argued that this is a time to expand your reach, with cultural and local representatives all around the globe communicating and working together. If you try to centralise marketing or operations, or any other part of your business, you fail to recognise the many shades of light and dark, nuances and trends that impact on the success of your organisation.
He shared some of the fantastic global Coca Cola campaigns, pointing out the success of the Share a Coke campaign (from Australia), and the mini can campaign (from Germany).
4. It’s complex to predict the future
It’s not complex to predict the future. We have more metrics, more data, deeper understanding than ever before. We need to predict the future in order to stay ahead.
According to Javier “You must make sure the change inside your company is going faster than the change outside. If a marketer thinks they live in the future then they will not be able to progress their mind. Spend time talking to early adopters and kids if you want to be able to predict the future otherwise that’s a recipe for disaster. Without [external] guidance you’ll most likely be creating content for opportunities that no longer exist.”
5. Innovation is a central department
Javier’s point: “If you appoint someone as the head of innovation, then everyone else in the business thinks they can stop innovating”.
This was the second Festival of Marketing – some brilliant content, and great speakers. There were a few organisational issues, particularly with The Digitals award ceremony, but overall we’ve come away with a lot of new ideas.
Copy vs. Content – a guide for brands
October 9, 2014
These days, everyone is a copywriter.
It started with the invention of the email. All of a sudden instead of scribbling a memo, popping your head around a corner, or picking up the phone, everyone was writing more. With the rise of blogging, and social media, it has become a natural part of peoples’ lives for them to write, sometimes daily.
When you have a written dialogue with a person you know, that’s great, and fine and appropriate. But what happens when you need to write an account of an event, or create a newsletter? At what point does writing become copy, and when do you need to call in an expert?
We’ve come up against this quite a lot recently, particularly working with high growth businesses. In many instances, our clients have chosen to ask us to craft words on their behalf. But there are times when that’s impractical (for micro businesses as well as world-leading brands), and you need to be able to write the words yourself. Some options we have successfully offered to clients include running internal writing workshops, and creating a verbal style guide.
Here’s our quick guide to copy vs. content …
Copy and Content are not synonyms
But it is true they are both different to ‘normal’ transactional writing where you are just communicating basic information.
What makes them different is that they are both written in a deliberate and conscious way to create a very deliberate and conscious effect.
But one of them has a relatively straightforward and simple “purpose” – while the other has complex, layered and (usually) multiple objectives.
Basically, the old adage is true: “Copy sells, Content tells”.
Content has one simple purpose
The role of content is to interest people, engage them and hold their attention. To ‘tell a story’ (in the widest sense) and to be a narrator. Often today terms like “telling brand stories” are used to cover this sort of writing, but it typically include things like blogs, postings, newsletters, articles, videos and so on.
Copy has many jobs to do!
Copy, on the other hand is doing more than this (probably several things more). Copy is something that is deliberately written to get a response. Not any old response, but a very precise and particular one. It probably isn’t literally “a sale” (though it could be) but copy will always be aiming to get some sort of response which performs some important function on the ‘path to purchase’ (again, probably several functions).
First things first
To get copy right, you therefore need to know more than just the subject matter you are communicating. You need to know about human psychology, you need to understand the context your copy will be read in and, most importantly, you need to understand exactly the mind-set, motivations, attitudes and moods of the target market (who you may never have met) and the zeitgeist in their industry/demographic at the moment (which you might not have direct experience of). And because the aim of copy is a response, its success (or lack of it) is fairly quantifiable (all of which explains why copywriters tend to be paid more than content writers).
So it’s worth starting before you write by deciding WHY you are writing. Is it Content? Or is it Copy? This decision means you start with a clearer idea of what else you need to be doing apart from simply communicating subject matter.
These tips are taken from an article by Steve Cook, Creative Partner at BHP.
To find out more or to request a copy of our latest PDF with more handy tips:[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
Using Twitter to build trust and brand awareness …
June 10, 2014
… and to get people closer to actually reading your content.
In an ideal world you’d write a brilliant and insightful piece of content or thought-leadership, add it it to your website or blog, and wait for all your hundreds of follows to read it, share it, like it – and then as a result come to you later when they need to buy your product or service.
Unfortunately, back in the real world of b2b marketing, it isn’t enough for your content to be brilliant. If you don’t have anyone reading your work and sharing it then you may as well just save it to your server and leave it there.
It’s easy to forget when you’re creating content that there’s a world full of people out there, and that viewing your content is top of no one’s priority list (except perhaps for your mum’s). The biggest mistake to make is to not communicate with these people – and twitter is the place where you will find a large number of them, ready to engage with compelling ideas and content.
When you are ready to start sharing content outside your own network you’re not likely to be presold as a firm – people either don’t know you, or know you but don’t yet trust you. If you have been around for a while, have invested in marketing already, and have a “voice” in the market, then you’re part way there, but you should never underestimate how hard it is to get people that don’t really know you to even consider buying from you. This is particularly relevant where you are selling big ticket items in a b2b environment, or where what you are offering is a service, is intangible, complex, or brand new to your target market. It pays off to write a very personal one-to-one email or LinkedIn InMail introducing yourself and your content. But in a market where you’re not presold, there is no awareness and no trust, so you can’t just rely on contacting people directly.
#hashtags – how to get more out of Twitter
Twitter is one of the platforms that provides one of the quickest ways of getting your content shared. It’s instant and there’s the potential to have your brilliant written work spread really widely. In the b2b and professional services world, it is perhaps unlikely that your content will go viral, but nonetheless #hashtags are a great way to widen your network and bring your content to the attention of like-minded people or those who are searching for content just like yours.
Attaching a #hashtag is a really important (be certain yours isn’t already being used in an inappropriate way). The #hashtag needs to be short and sweet – and to read well.
In 2013, the hashtag #RoyalBaby was used more than 2 million times.
Top tweeting #tips:
- Be really careful how you compose your #hashtag and use overarching hashtags like #leadership or #legalservices sparingly to point people to the category you are operating in.
- Create your own hashtags that are brief but meaningful in context, and that you can own, especially where they relate to a product, event or campaign (for example Growth Accelerator’s first award ceremony #BraveBold, ProfitAbility’s unique simulation #MagneticLeadership, and tech innovations like #MongoDB or #MeteorJS.)
- Avoid clichés like #mustread – it’s not unique and is utterly pointless, especially when you only have 140 characters per tweet to get your message across.
On Twitter, give people a reason to engage
Sharing your work on your own Twitter feed is all very well but it limits who happens to see your post at the time and of course how many followers you have. The simplest strategy that many companies and marketers use is a free prize draw, competition or survey. This is back to “Marketing 101” – giving people a reason to engage. There is so much content out in the ether already (large amounts of it not really fit for purpose), that people that don’t know you may be sceptical about the quality of what you are putting out, so tactics like this can be a great way to increase your follower base before seeding your content. To do this effectively, the message needs to be really simple, with a great offer or prize, and a compelling hashtag.
I recently attended the @GrowthAccel #BraveBold awards, and the next day, noticed no one had posted a list of winners. So I set aside an hour to research the list of winners, and got it up on my blog before anyone else. With just 4 tweets using the #BraveBold hashtag, I received 2 favourites, 9 retweets to 20,813 people (of whom at least 1,000 and probably more are possible prospects), and 66 unique visitors to my blog. It’s not earth shattering content, but all these people, many of whom fit my target audience profile, now have some recognition of who I am. Will they engage me as a marketing coach, or want to engage with my agency? Maybe not yet, but I am on the radar, and ready to engage in a conversation with them when they have need marketing or strategy.
Why retweet (RT)? – and using social tools to make the process much easier
A simple search of a #hashtag will allow you to find businesses and people who are already talking about the same subject. Retweet your content to them by including their Twitter handle. The more followers they have, the greater the audience that is likely to see what you’ve said, and that may favourite or retweet the content.
You should also make a point of following your own clients, and retweeting or favouriting news about them – they like their content to be shared as much as you do, and it also keeps you up-to-date on what’s happening in their own lives or businesses. The new list feature in Twitter allows you to put clients in a separate list, so it’s easier to track who’s saying what.
Social tools like Feedly are brilliant for helping you find relevant content to share with your followers, without taking up too much of your own time. And tools like Buffer allow you to schedule posts and track their performance, if you don’t want to be on Twitter all the time monitoring the conversations.
Staying ahead of the game
As seasons and events change you need to keep up with the trends and fashions within your sector. In a law firm, changes to the law are an obvious area of interest for clients and potential clients. Look at what’s trending, seek out forthcoming events and occasions that are likely to have a #hashtag.
If you take the hashtag #budget2014 for example, you’ll see an abundance of content relating to the impact the budget has on businesses and consumers. Combine that hashtag with another that’s relevant to you, like #property for example, and you know the content is going ot be super relevant to your own prospects.
Twitter isn’t the only platform that is great for sharing.
Google+ is will allow you to target your content to a concentrated amount of people in a particular circle. The benefit of this is that it is really focused on people to whom it is relevant, and will create the link from your circle to their s, and then outwards, so there is an effect of ever increasing circles. Google+ is of course favoured by Google, so there are other benefits around link building and SEO that I won’t go into here, but that come from using G+.
For professional service marketers, the social media tool of choice is most likely to be LinkedIn. To maintain credibility in this space, you need to limit your posts a lot more than you might on Twitter. By posting content on LinkedIn first, and then tweeting it, you get the benefit of both worlds, with the authority that comes from a strong LinkedIn presence, coupled with the reach of Twitter. You can also experiment with some of the great new LinkedIn tools like showcase services, and sponsored updates, which can significantly improve your visibility. Just remember to add the #hashtag when you tweet about your LinkedIn posts.
There are many clever ways to use Twitter, combining it with other social media tools, to really raise your profile online, and to start the process of building a position of trust and authority beyond your existing base. It is this that is increasingly important in giving your firm a voice, and growing your business network far beyond the people you now personally, or that are sitting on your marketing database.
The Brave & Bold Awards – the winners!
June 6, 2014
As a marketing and strategy coach that’s new to Growth Accelerator, I was delighted to be offered a golden ticket for last night’s Brave & Bold Award ceremony. And it was a real treat! OneMayfair is a fantastic venue for an awards ceremony, and last night it was full of glitz and glamour, as coaches and award nominees gathered to drink champagne, watch some fabulous acts, and most importantly, to find out from the stunning host Natasha Kaplinski who were the winners.
The judging panel had sifted through hundreds of entries looking for businesses that represented growth and success in eight key categories. In addition to recognising GrowthAccelerator businesses, the event was also a celebration of how the support of coaches have contributed to their success.
In no particular order, the winners are …
Rising Star – The Beer Hawk
Offering free delivery of the World’s best beer, pick individual bottles, mixed cases or join the Beer Club. Hunting out and selling only the best.
Funding Champion – Happy Legs
Happylegs lets you exercise from the comfort of your chair and will help improve vital blood circulation in the lower limbs.
Innovator – Sky-Futures
Global leader for Oil and Gas Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Inspection Services
Market Mover – Lintbells
Dedicated to making tasty natural nutritional cat and dog supplements proven to improve your pet’s health.
Outstanding Growth Coach – Rachel Carr
Director of Business CheckMate Coaching & Training. Supporter of women in business, advocate of Growth Accelerator Coaching
Game Changer – Auto Insulations
Automotive Insulations is an industry leading company dedicated to finding the most effective ways to manage sound and temperature.
Market Trailblazer – Wiggly Wigglers
“Mostly Birdfood & Flowers from our farm” (bit of an understatement) – coached by Rachel Carr
People Pioneer – Language Connect
Language Connect delivers 24-hour fast, accurate language translation services to national and international businesses across multiple sectors, including marketing, legal and healthcare.
Globe Trotter – Microbiological Solutions
Specialists in all aspects of the microbiological testing of cosmetics, toiletries, personal care and household products
Auto Insulations also picked up the prize for overall winner, for their achievements as a high growth business.
Huge congratulations to everyone that was nominated and shortlisted – and of course to the winners and their coaches. Thank you too to the sponsors who made the whole thing possible, and to Natasha Kaplinski who managed to keep a very noisy mob under control. I feel honoured and humbled to be part of an organisation that’s doing such fabulous things, and look forward to coaching more high growth businesses over the next year.
Onwards and upwards!
You can view the full shortlist by clicking here
How to create compelling content: without bringing fee earners to a standstill
April 30, 2014
Content-driven marketing is widely recognised as one of the most effective ways to improve the reputation and visibility of a professional services firm. With a content-led strategy, you give your clients and prospects something that they will value, and find immediately useful.
But how can you create compelling content without bringing your top earners to a standstill? And how can you make certain that the content you create is fit-for-purpose?
The trouble is that there is a lot of content out there and 90% of it is mediocre at best, produced for search engines, not real potential clients. Searching for seemingly useful titles like “What the legal services act means for you”, “What makes a great leader” or “How to create a measurable, repeatable pipeline of leads” results in a huge number of articles, the vast majority of which don’t tell the reader anything they don’t know already.
What should you do?
- Can you create something that feels new? We call this the “man bites dog” angle on a subject. It’s the title that makes people stop and say “That’s different!”. You can sometimes craft this by bringing two themes or statistics together to highlight a gap – for example, “93% of CEOs think that [key industry theme] is critical for them in 2014 but only 3% believe they have the knowledge and skills to take the right action”. And if you can’t be truly new, then be brave and say something that goes against the flow.
- Give away knowledge. Knowledge may be power – but giving away knowledge is even more powerful. It positions you as a leader in your field and portrays confidence and a sense of abundance. There are very few “trade secrets” in the professional services world: things that can’t possibly be divulged. The more you share, the more you stand to gain.
- Create cut-through with authenticity: not only does content need to be relevant, current and immediately useful – but it must be real. Move away from gimmicks and storytelling, and speak with a genuine voice. Marketing Week’s trends for 2014 cites provenance as a key issue “People want to know more about the brands they consume, so the importance of authenticity and provenance will continue to play right across the spectrum,” says Charles Gibb, president of Belvedere Vodka. This is as powerful a differentiator in the b2b world as it is for consumer brands.
The role of content
The belief that content-led marketing is the way forward for professional-services marketing is received wisdom now. But most firms would hugely benefit from starting with WHY they want to create content. What does your firm need to achieve? What positioning does the content need to uphold?
“Differentiate between thought-leadership, which helps people to think in new ways, and can open up big long-term opportunities; and opinion-leadership (“how to…?” guides, “top tips” and infographics for example), which helps people to act, and is much more likely to result in business generated today”. Understand the difference in positioning that each creates in the marketplace. Opinion leadership may result in business now and in the immediate future, but it is more associated with expert tactical delivery than strategic, trusted advisor status.
Differentiating content in this way gives the firm freedom to choose the content – and modality of content – most relevant to your current needs and long-term strategic goals.
Using ‘profitable content space’ to minimise fee earner distraction
Many people in the firm have an interest in the content you release. The risk is that unmanaged opinions at different stages in the process can burn fee earner time, reduce confidence in marketing, stall publishing or result in ‘vanilla’ content that lacks the cut through it was originally created for.
The answer? Have one key individual fee earner that “owns” the output, and create a clear position on your most profitable content space that every stakeholder buys in to.
Firms that do this effectively build an understanding of what cut through looks like from the very beginning. This is most often achieved by asking every stakeholder to give their support to the relevant fee earner in masterminding content that exemplifies a particular combination of factors that will set the agenda. This in turn builds a position of confidence in the agreed outcomes, and leads to an agreement that not everyone in the business can or should comment on detail later on in the process.
The profitable content space is the overlap between three elements:
- Your core competence. Where does your firm consistently get “A” grades rather than Bs or Cs? It might be the service you offer, or it might be something different, like speed of response, or quality of training manuals.
- The burning issue: Ask your clients and prospects – what is the biggest problem they need to solve right now, and the biggest challenge coming down the track? Help them articulate this in a fresh way – and use this to create a ‘man bites dog’ moment.
- The differentiator: What you do or say or share that is fundamentally different from competitors. Be creative. For example, could you create content that is in a particularly easy to scan format and released within three hours of a news story breaking? Or could you be the firm that predicts the future more clearly than anyone else?
When you have done this, you can find your profitable content space. The overlap between these factors will provide you with a very short list of content and format ideas that will really stand out and are authentically yours. And then check these out against the industry buzz. What’s in the news? What content is most commonly downloaded or shared? What are people searching for on Google? What are the most active discussions on LinkedIn? What does this research tell you about how to frame and position your content?
Creating compelling content
To achieve this level and type of content is simply not possible without using the best brains in your firm. The challenge is in using their time effectively so that for the minimum amount of input, you get the best possible outcome.
You may have heard the term “PetchaKutcha”. The idea is that you get the best, most relevant person in the company to compress their thoughts on a key topic to just 12 slides that can each be delivered in 20 seconds (traditionally PetchaKutcha has 20 slides, but my personal experience leads me to believe that for marketing content, 12 is the optimum number). By asking them to do this you are getting the thinking up front, unlocking the story in a way that has clarity and purpose and forcing them to extract from their brain a story that holds weight when it’s delivered out loud.
The alternative – interviewing the fee earner and receiving a complete brain dump which marketing then distills into a piece of content – doesn’t work. Why? Because the fee earner has delegated the responsibility for inking in a credible story for the sake of short term expedience. This will show up later in the content production through hours of fee earner iterations and edits (or worse, content that won’t see the light of day).
Top tip: video or record the delivery of the “PetchaKutcha” style presentation so that you have available content in three formats – video, audio and transcript. This can be readily sliced and diced into many formats without extensive review cycles. Most firms have junior team members that are active in social media and enjoy blogging and sharing material. With great content as a starting point, this creates a platform for blossoming content creation.
A final thought
Creating content provides many opportunities within a growing firm – not just through the content itself, but also by the very process of its creation. The method of researching, verifying and refining content provides opportunities to open up peer-to-peer conversations with people and prospects who might not otherwise take your call. Invite them to speak at your event, or simply meet up with them for lunch. By recognising and incorporating their opinions, you build long-term relationships that go far beyond the content itself.
And of course you can bask in the reflected glory of their name and brand.
Brand fit with Daniel Eley
March 27, 2014
On Thursday March 27th, I was delighted to be the invited guest at handle’s “Brand fit for recruitment” event.
The venue: Portman Square’s stunning Home House, with guest speakers Daniel Eley from Jamie Oliver, Andrea Pattico from ASOS, and Carrie Bedingfield.
Brand fit at Jamie Oliver
“There are people in the room who are far more qualified than me… but I know more than you about Jamie Oliver, so that’s what I’m going to talk about”
Daniel was keynote speaker, and took the mic like a seasoned pro. One sentiment underpinned 30 mins of witty chat about what employer brand means to him – “be nice”. At Jamie Oliver, the values that prevail are– “keep it simple”, enjoy yourself”, “grow with us”, and “spread the love”.
“We’ve turned “Jamie” into a verb. People say ‘this needs to be a bit more Jamie’ or ‘we need to Jamify this’.”
Daniel’s thoughts on employer brand are not uncommon – it is “what people say about you when your back is turned”. A bad experience someone has at work will pivot his or her view of your brand. If they choose to share that, and others share the experience, then that becomes part of your brand, and is very hard to shake off. It’s often about things you can’t control, like a really good (or bad) cup of coffee, or the newly refurbished toilets, or the receptionist’s welcome.
The 40:60 recruitment rule If you have responsibility for hiring the right people within your organisation, then you do have some control over the employer brand. If you recruit, as Daniel does, 40% on skills, and 60% on the person, then you have a much better chance of finding people that will fit in well, be engaged and happy – and those people will become your employer brand. Daniel has the ultimate tool in his recruitment armoury – the people on his team. This means that candidates are filtered on who they are, and not purely on a list of skills and qualifications. The focus is always on the person. “As our recruitment partner, part of what handle does, is they chase the wrong people away”
The panel discussion: (from left: host Aryn Hurst-Clark from handle, Andrea Pattico – ASOS, Daniel Eley – Jamie Oliver, Carrie Bedingfield – Onefish Twofish)
Question: how do you use social media for recruitment? Ange from ASOS explained how ASOS uses social media a lot for recruitment. “Because almost all ASOS team members are also customers, what this means in reality is that most people that work there were customers first”. In this type of organisation, very visible and growing fast, social media is a critical tool to help find and recruit the right people.
Contrast this with Jamie Oliver. A number of years ago, Jamie himself decided that to recruit a new young designer, they should use Instagram. So Jamie designed an Instagram ad himself, asking for a young, passionate graduate designer to join the team. Now if you know how many social followers Jamie has, you won’t be surprised that the poor person whose email address was on the ad, was having a nervous breakdown by 9.30am, with IT furiously trying to stop the deluge of CVs
Question: What have you done to kick off a referral programme?
Daniel: “We have a real family feeling, and people seem genuinely excited to introduce roles and opportunities to their own network. Although there is no formal referral programme, we use internal job postings, and encourage people to share them, even creating 140 character links that people can copy into their own social media accounts,. That’s where a lot of our new team members come from” Ange: “At ASOS, employees are almost all “Gen Y”. They are very active on social media, and this really helps. There is a formal referral programme, with generous financial rewards for the referrer, and that works for them. We are growing so fast, and recruitment needs to keep up with that”. Carrie: “What if you don’t want (for a whole host of reasons) to pay for referrals? In all our work on engagement, we try to unearth “Urban Myths” – so for example, the urban myth that Ange shared, that the CEO of ASOS shared £2 million of his personal money with staff. Or that handle recruitment sometimes takes the team on holiday at the drop of a hat – once they went to New York.”
The brilliant thing about urban myths is that they perpetuate themselves. They start with a truth, but as it is shared, the story can become exaggerated over time almost to the point of legend. I love the idea that you can give your employer brand enormous value in this way. Not only is there the promise of a tangible reward, but there is this great emotional hook, and as brands get bigger, this emotional hook will be the thing that makes the different between recruiting competent people – and recruiting great people.
Question: What do you think of direct recruitment? Peter Tafler (handle): “If you can do it yourselves, then do it”.
For recruiters, this was one of the key takeaways from the evening: the role of the recruitment agency is changing to something much more consultative, and relevant, especially for brands that want their employer and external brand to fit closely together.
Daniel and Ange echoed this sentiment. “handle works best with the ‘too difficult to source’ roles”.
Question: How do you establish an employer brand in a varied company? Ange: “Be authentic, tell the truth, talk as if you’re their friend, work closely with the marketing team. Work on content, engagement and retention – ensure even leavers tell a good story.” Carrie: “Find something brilliant that everyone buys into, and use this as a hook. If you are a publishing house, with titles ranging from academic, to fiction, children and cookery, then find something that spans all those genres. One thing that works, for example, is a story. Firsts make a great story. So for example, the first publishing house to create an eBook for every single current title, or the first ever carbon-neutral publishing house. “
The final word: quick tips for creating “brand fit” Daniel: “Be kind” Carrie: “Find what you get A grades for in relation to everyone else, and place that at the heart of your brand” Ange: “Put employees at the heart of everything you do. They’ll tell the story for you”
This blog post was first published at http://www.handle.co.uk/comment/ideas/handles-brand-fit-event-0
The future of work: business reimagined
November 2, 2013
It has been just a niggling feeling until now, and I haven’t been quite able to put my finger on what it is. And then, on Thursday last week, I had a eureka moment at #SMI13 (The Social Media Influence Conference) which has crystalised the problem in my mind.
So what’s the problem? There is a lot of talk in L&D and talent management circles recently about social learning, and why it is so important. There’s talk about user experience, about reusing resources, and about the needs of an ever more demanding learner. And there’s talk about how to grow talent, and the application of learning.
That sounds like a lot. But actually it’s not. My new understanding is this:
The power of “social” is about so much more than learning. It’s about the whole future of work.
What does that actually mean though?
Let me explain! What we need to do is to focus on the big picture – how we create real business change. When we focus too much on learning, the danger is that the message seems to be relevant only to people in the learning and development function. And it’s not. It’s relevant to every person in the business. Because learning is just something that we do every day without even thinking about it. It’s a state of mind, not a function or a department, or a tool we decide to implement in the organisation.
I spent a fascinating half hour on Thursday afternoon listening to Dave Coplin (@dcoplin) from Microsoft speaking about “The Future of Work” and I’m sure Dave won’t mind me quoting him “Becoming a social business is about agility, pure and simple” (actually I know he doesn’t mind, because I asked him).
What does this mean? It means we need to recognise that people don’t like to change. Take for example the QWERTY keyboard – it was designed specifically to slow down productivity – and yet today, we are still using it. Why? Because we suck at change.
It’s time to reimagine business
The way we do this is to make it social. If we are social (and by this I mean that we open our minds, share more, and change the way we think and act), then we become more responsive to the market, by empowering a critical mass of people in the organisation to share – and chase – the same goal. This opens up the capacity for change, by harnessing not only the collective, but also the individual power of the people in the business.
It’s not about the technology
Social collaboration is not some new tool we can implement in the organisation. It’s about fundamentally changing the way we work. And to do this, the first thing the organisation needs are strong self-aware leaders, willing to make the change. Only with the right mentality will managers have the will, and power, to empower others. And if you empower others, then you create engagement.
And that is the power of social. Social learning – yes. But it’s more than that – because the argument comes full circle here. If we focus on outcomes and not processes, by working together towards a common goal, then the business can make a real change. Which can only be a good thing.
PS It is a bit about the technology after all. Strong leaders come first, without doubt. But when the organisation is ready to change, you will need the tools to do this. And the leaps in technology over the last few years make this so much easier to facilitate.
This article was first published by ProfitAbility in July 2013