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Can marketing automation help learning and development firms win new clients?

Can marketing automation help learning and development firms win new clients?

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:

  1. Insight  – research and planning to understand the challenges your core target audience is facing
  2. A unique proposition – absolute clarity on how what you are offering is different from all the other 14,999 UK training companies
  3. 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.

Creating efficiencies

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.

Find out more about how we work with growing HR businesses like 3gHR and Handle Recruitment at www.beckyhollandpartners.co.uk

The art of the “not-a-newsletter”

The art of the “not-a-newsletter”

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

Immediacy, “omnichannel”, creativity and brands

Highlights from the Festival of Marketing #FoM14

Coke mini can campaignLast week, we spent two action-packed days at Tobacco Dock, and my mind is buzzing.

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”.

Point made!

 

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

Copy vs. Content – a guide for brands

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:

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The Brave & Bold Awards  – the winners!

The Brave & Bold Awards – the winners!

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

The future of work: business reimagined

The future of work: business reimagined

Ever since I began talking to Ben Betts from HT2 about the Curatr Social Learning Platform, I’ve had a nagging thought.

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