Category Archives: Insight

How to improve your marketing ROI

How to improve your marketing ROI

Download the article collection by Epicor’s former International VP of Marketing

Our new collection of guest articles explores the stresses and strains of modern marketing, and how to improve your marketing ROI, consistently and systematically.

Make your own luck image

Make your own luck

Each article offers a new angle, and a potential solution for marketing teams looking for a way to improve the ROI on marketing without the risk.

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GDPR is coming

GDPR is coming

What you really need to know before 25th May.

You need to have been living under a rock to not realise that the GDPR is coming.  The hype is growing – you could be fined up to 4% of your turnover or up to £20 million. 

But what does it really mean for you?



Here are nine things that you absolutely need to know:


1.    If you hold any personal data, you must be registered with the ICO

This is the Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority that promotes information rights in the public interest. Don’t delay, visit the and register.


2.    B2B data isn’t exempt from the GDPR

Under the Data Protection Act B2B data was largely exempt from the rules that governed personal data.

This isn’t the case with the GDPR – an email address that can be attached to a specific person such as is personal data.  As such you’ll need to make sure you have a legal basis for storing and using the data.


3.    You must have a legal basis for storing & using data

For many people this will be one of the following:

  • Contract – you’re holding the data because you have a contract with that person – i.e. they’re a customer.
  • Consent – you’re holding the data because you have received explicit consent to hold & use it – i.e. your marketing campaigns have explicitly asked for opt-in to communications.
  • Legitimate Interests – you have a relationship with this person which allows you to store their data, this may be customer or membership data.

There are 3 others: 1. necessary for compliance with a legal obligation; 2. vital interests; and 3. public interests.  These are less likely to be relevant unless you process things like financial records.


4.    If you’re using consent as your legal basis…

It must be freely given, unambiguous & given with an affirmative action.

Pre-ticked boxes, silence, or no activity don’t constitute consent.  If you’ve used any of these in the past, you need to find another legal basis for holding and using the data.  Or you need to get consent from those you’re holding data for and emailing.

Remember, existing data must be GDPR compliant from the 25th May.  If it doesn’t comply with the rules you can’t use it.  So if you do need to get anyone on your database to consent to you holding and using their data, then you need to do it before 25th May!

You must record the fact that consent has been given on your database

Not only this, you need to log when that consent was given, and what wording was used to get that consent.


5.    Data profiling is now included in the GDPR

Previously you didn’t need to inform people that you would be profiling their data e.g. using geodemographic data to segment personal records, directing offers based on previous marketing behaviour.

Now, whilst you don’t need explicit consent to profile data, you do need to make sure that those on your database are notified and told that they have a right to object.  This is best done through your privacy policy.


6.    Legitimate Interests & Direct Marketing

Recital 47 outlines that processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest.  This should cover you with existing customers or donors, particularly if you hold their data because of a contract.

However, you shouldn’t assume that this covers your prospects – you need to think “would this person reasonably expect me to hold this data and send them communications”.  If the answer is “no”, then don’t do it as it won’t be covered by Legitimate Interests.


7.    Are you someone who handles data on behalf of someone else (a Data Processor)? You’re liable under the GDPR

Under the GDPR, the data processor now shares the liability for compensating for damages in the event of a breach.  They will also need to prove data protection compliance.

Any Data Processor (and don’t forget that’s anyone who stores the data as well as the people who use it) needs to have a contract with the Data Controller that outlines their responsibilities and liabilities.

The Data Controller can’t use any Data Processor unless they can provide ‘sufficient guarantees’ that the requirements of the GDPR will be met and the rights of data subjects protected.


8.    Make sure you’re clear as to what you will be doing with the data in your Privacy Policy

This is the main communication vehicle to tell people what data you’ll be collecting, why you’re collecting it, and what you’ll use it for.  Make sure you’ve got everything covered through this, and that includes if you’re likely to profile data.  If you’re using cookies on your website, you’ll need to include a policy on this too as these are considered as collecting & keeping personal data.


9.    You may be OK under the GDPR, but don’t forget PECR

The Privacy & Electronic Communication Regulation layers on top of the GDPR.  This stipulates that you must have consent before you market to someone via email, mobile or text, unless they fall under the exception rules which are:

  1. you obtained an individual’s personal data in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of a product or service;
  2. the communications you send are only marketing similar products or services; and
  3. the individual was provided with a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details were collected, and if they didn’t opt out at this point, they are given a simple way to do so in all future marketing communications
We hope this has helped solve some of your questions on what the GDPR means for you.

On 24th April we ran an interactive workshop designed to demystify the GDPR, and arm organisations with the tools they need to prepare for it.

If you’re still feeling unsure about the GDPR and how it effects your organisation, get in touch and we’ll arrange a call to help you become data compliant by May 25th.


Creative. It’s good thinking.

Creative. It’s good thinking.

Cannes Lions, touted as the “Oscars” of the marketing industry, is a real showcase for the sort of work every agency would love to do.

Creative catwalk trends However, like a fashion-show, it touts the sort of work that – in the real world – not every business or charity would wear. A lack of budget is the most common complaint (or balls, some would say).

The reality is that clever ideas, and clever use of media, don’t need to cost the earth.

What’s needed, instead, is an understanding that unless an organisation embraces the type of creative solution that makes people think something different, they will never do anything different.

And that – in our view – is the essence of marketing.


From Cannes to the DMA Awards 2017 – a sense of social purpose

Notable in all the creative awards from 2017 was creative work eschewing the more obviously commercially minded work released over the year, in favour of campaigns or projects that showed social purpose or included a higher aim than ‘mere’ selling.

OK. If you’re an out and out fundraiser this work might seem esoteric at best, and wasteful at worst. But increasingly, agencies are keeping social issues in the public eye. And this can’t be a bad thing.

It’s not only at Cannes that a social conscience has won out.

The 2017 DMA Grand Prix went to The British Army’s “This is Belonging” campaign. The combination of impactful film, with beautifully crafted copy, brings this to life

A sense of belonging may sound like a small thing. Yet it fuels you as much as food and water, because it doesn’t just feed your body, it feeds your mind and soul.

The stronger the sense of belonging – the stronger you become.

Sure, you could look for belonging in a football team or club, but the sense of belonging you’ll find in the Army – well, that’s the next level.

The less cynical amongst marketing teams will appreciate that creative brains are trying to do ‘better’. And in each of the following instances, all winners at Cannes 2017, they do.

Public safety with a twist

First off the block is a film showing how the human race might evolve to survive car crashes. A familiar public safety brief with a twist: showing the ugly new breed of survivors.

Ad creative: Public safety campaign: evolution to allow humans to survive car crashes


Making it personal

In Finland a bank wanted to show the effect of every financial transaction you make.

A very poignant topic as the Baltic Sea around its shores is severely polluted.

The Finnish bank Ålandsbanken’s biologically degradable credit card not only lets users see the average carbon footprint of their consumption, it also gives them the option to make up for the footprint of their purchases.

“The sea is never far away when you are based in the Åland islands, and we can’t avoid seeing the effects of pollution. Only if we all get involved will we be able to save the Baltic Sea”, says Peter Wiklöf, CEO of Ålandsbanken.

With every transaction users make using the Baltic Sea Card, users can track how their consumption affects the environment and then have the opportunity to make up for their carbon footprint, and hopefully make different choices over the longer term.

Ad creative: Finnish Bank - How can the bank save the sea that couldn't breath


Picking up the Cannes 2017 design Grand Prix was clever use of space

A non-rectangular football field, created by property developers AP Thai for teenagers to play on in an over-populated area of Bangkok, won the coveted Cannes Grand Prix.

Ad creative: Non-rectangular football field so football can be played even when there isn't enough space

And even the film craft Grand Prix was awarded for a film that celebrates everyone’s abilities – Channel 4’s brilliant trailer for the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

Ad creative: Channel 4's Rio olympics advert

Ad creative: Channel 4's Rio olympics advert


One of the most awarded campaigns was “Fearless Girl”

This campaign has quite a back story.

The striking bronze statue placed on Wall Street by McCann New York to coincide with International Women’s Day.

It appeared with no warning on Wall Street in New York on March 7 2017 deliberately in juxtaposition with the iconic Charging Bull sculpture, itself a piece of guerilla art, placed within New York’s financial centre.

The Fearless Girl is shown squaring up to the bull, in a clear act of strength and defiance.

Unlike the bull, however, Fearless Girl began life as a marketing campaign.

Asset management company State Street Global Advisors created Fearless Girl to promote gender diversity on the boards of the companies they own on behalf of investors. They also wanted to promote one specific investment solution, SHE. SHE invests in companies where a significant majority of the leadership are women, at senior levels or on the board. Because, “organisations that have diverse leadership outperform organisations that don’t. That’s a proven fact”.

Ad creative: Fearless girl with iconic charging bull


And finally … Care Counts

In the project Care Counts, Whirlpool installed washers and dryers in schools to see how having clean clothes effects attendance rates. The insight was that kids from poor and homeless backgrounds with dirty clothes had lower self esteem and were more likely to stay away from school.

Ad creative: Care counts - clean clothes improve school attendance

Ad creative: Care counts -clean clothes improve school attendance

Ad creative: Care counts - clean clothes improve school attendance

The cynics might say that the banks, multinationals and governments are the very people can afford to do this sort of work. True.

But it also looks like a case not of just doing things better, but doing better things.

And whilst a self-congratulatory award show such as Cannes may not represent typical campaigns, or budgets, what it does achieve is to open our minds to new possibilities.

The client brief may not be to create an L-shaped football pitch, or a bronze statue. But as the interpretation of a brief, these experiences – and the potential they have to create a movement of their own – is aspirational.

If only we were superheroes

If only we were superheroes

Change your Luck blog series – Article 5

Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor

time is a gift Until recently, I was in the kind of senior marketing job where time seemed to be the one thing that was impossible to enjoy. It was always moving so fast and there was never enough of it. Straight from meeting to meeting with barely enough time for proper planning before the urgency of execution, rinse and repeat. If only I’d known a superhero with the ability to turn back time.

Yes, of course we analysed performance, refined and reviewed tactics, but there were (and I suspect still are) lots of immovable objects that made the pursuit of excellence a challenge.

Looking back now, with the gift of time now firmly on my side, I can see a number of ways we wasted one of the most valuable resources we had. Time.

We procrastinated and hesitated.

We repeated mistakes and re-lived successes.

We were quick to execute and slow to stop. We were busy and we were achieving goals, but we weren’t excelling. We were human, not superhuman.

We were typical, I’m sure, of many marketing departments. Achieving a lot – but perhaps not always the right things – and with little time for reflection.

If only we were superheroes

I’m reminded of the 1978 Superman movie where Christopher Reeve flies so fast around the earth he reverses the world’s spin, turns time backwards and is able to prevent Lois Lane from dying in a car crash. Imagine being able to go back in time, make changes to your campaign and start again. You could repeat the process over and over until you knew exactly which version of the past performed the best, repeat it and then let time continue.

You’d definitely be a marketing superhero if you could, but it’s unlikely – however much I want to believe in superheroes (yes, I do still really want to believe it’s possible!).

So until Superman actually makes himself known to us, we’ll have to make the best use of the real time we have.

Known knowns and unknown unknowns

The problem of getting the best possible results from a campaign requires that we use time effectively and efficiently, speeding up execution and feedback so we can eliminate waste and improve performance. But just doing things right doesn’t always mean you’re doing the right thing. I’m reminded of this quote from Donald Rumsfeld (former US Secretary of Defense),

“There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

Even the most experienced marketer can only develop and execute campaigns within the bounds of their own experience.

The known knowns.

Even if you know there are technologies and techniques that you have no knowledge of that may improve results, they can be inaccessible to you.

The known unknowns.

Chances are, there are marketing techniques, tactics and technologies of which you have no knowledge that may be equally promising.

The unknown unknowns.

Eliminating procrastination

Three things might really help at this point:

1. a way of identifying what you don’t know;
2. a way of prioritising their potential to improve performance; and
3. a way of acquiring the knowledge to implement them.

The challenge is the same, no matter how experienced or capable you or your team are. Your bar may be set low or high, but you are limited to your known knowns.

With an ever increasing pressure to deliver better ROI, no-one can afford to ignore the need to seek campaign performance improvement month on month, year on year.

By ring fencing part of your marketing budget (and resources) over a period of time, there may be a viable solution to this dilemma. Take £10k a month, for example (perhaps £5k for media, and £5k for the time to manage and create the necessary assets). And build an experimental framework. Every month, try running 2, 4, or more experiments. This experimental budget does not even need to touch on your main marketing activity, but will allow you to test like crazy, and find out exactly what combination of sign up forms, offers, calls to action, form fields (etc, etc) will give you the best ROI.

Rinse and repeat on a monthly basis.

All of a sudden, you have the real data needed to eliminate procrastination when managing multiple tactics, campaigns or programmes.

Suddenly it’s much easier to decide know what to do next. You know where the greatest improvement potential lies, and how to test for it.

And you always have next month to test something new.

Planning the right things right

Having the confidence to execute is half the battle.

Having access to a rich database of tests relating to almost every marketing tactic imaginable, each quantified with performance improvement potential derived from tests run by other marketing professionals, enables the creation of such a plan.

Everyone’s situation, programmes, audiences, technologies and tactic choices are different, but a rich database with thousands of potential performance improving tests can help anyone and everyone improve.


Eliminate procrastination and hesitation

Build a new plan. A framework with experimentation based in.

Don’t repeat your past, replicate someone else’s.

Don’t just succeed, excel.

Don’t be limited by your known knowns – explore your unknown unknowns.

We can’t promise to make you a superhero, but we can show you how to gain the gift of time.




Can you fix the odds?

Can you fix the odds?

Change your Luck blog series – Article 4

Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor

I was able to enjoy watching a lot of sport this summer and even though I’m not a betting man, autumn sporting events like the Invictus Games, the UK Masters Golf, a whole host of Rugby Internationals, and of course, the upcoming Ashes, have started me thinking about the similarities between marketing and gambling- and how alike gamblers and marketers sometimes are.

However much we attempt to predict outcomes, carefully researching, planning, testing and measuring changes we make to our marketing plans, sometimes what actually happens is still unexpected.

Probable or improbable, we’re all trying to beat the odds.

Going for the long-shot

Some gamblers are lucky. So are some marketers. They place their bet or launch their campaign and win big. A big stake, long odds and a huge return. It’s a gambler’s dream. It’s a marketer’s dream.

Correction. It’s an inexperienced gambler or marketers dream.

Basing your success strategy on picking a long-shot is not an approach anyone with a track record of success would recommend. They’ll tell you that you have to do your homework and be smart, know when to bet and just as importantly, when not to.

They’ll also tell you that in marketing you can make your own luck.

Risk, reward and consequences

When you bet on the winner of a sporting contest you don’t just predict the outcome, you weigh up risk and consequences with the potential reward.

Check your own gut reaction to the opportunity presented by a million to one chance.

Imagine betting £1. Then imagine betting £100,000.

They feel completely different. The more you bet, the greater the risk, and the faster your heart rate. But the event you’re betting on and the odds of winning are the same. When does it start to feel risky? With a £10 bet? A £100 bet? £1000? More?

Everyone has a different perception of risk, and different circumstances that describe the consequences of losing your stake. What if you could place a stake within your risk threshold at the start and then choose to increase it during the contest as you see it unfold? What if you could test the outcome of choices during the contest before you change your bet? Hit the next shot down the line or try a lob? Shoot for the green or lay up?

Cut your losses or double-down?

Gamblers can limit their exposure by not betting any more when the result isn’t going their way, and “double-down” if it is. Fortunately for marketers, this is exactly the situation we enjoy.

The creative campaign development process will always require an investment of both time and money, but gambling on a marketing campaign isn’t necessarily an “all or nothing” proposition.

As investments increase, so does the consequence of underperformance. Testing the effects of both tactical and strategic choices during the campaign allows us to choose when to bet, and importantly when to stop.

In recent years, with the advent of new marketing technology such as the Ladder marketing tactic database used by results-focused agencies such as BH&P, A/B testing has become a lot easier. BH&P clients will typically run between 6 and 20 experiments every month, allowing them to ramp up or drop tactics almost in real-time. And whilst entire strategy pivots are less common, they are possible.

Can you pause the game?

Choosing what to test and when to test it, is where knowledge and experience pays off. It’s the reason why marketing technology on its own can’t help you fix the odds.

The best sports’ people know intuitively which choice is right for the moment. They can’t stop the game, test a couple of options, and then choose which one to take. They have to know instantly that the right shot is the passing forehand drive down the line, or the lay-up on a long par five in front of the water. It takes experience and practice.

For most marketers it’s just as difficult and impractical to stop the game. It can also make bad business sense to stop a campaign mid-flow. But you can test changes that are intended to improve performance during a campaign.

Yes, it’s still a gamble. But with the right tools, you can reduce the risks and improve the odds of this gamble quite dramatically.

Play the shot that’s already played

Marketers today have the opportunity to use the experience of others who’ve played the same shot.

You can identify which possible change to a campaign tactic is most likely to improve performance by selecting it from a database of previously executed experiments. It’s no guarantee, but it can improve the chances of improvement more than threefold.

This database, documenting past experiences of other marketers executing thousands of tests on their campaigns and tactics, combined with sound creative thinking from an agency partner that really understands this type of testing framework, is like having a personal coach and tipster at your side. It will help you become a better marketer, one who places more winning bets than those who play every shot as if it were the first time it had been played.

If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact me. I’d be delighted to help you explore the possibilities.


In the final blog of this series I’ll explore further how this data can help the most resource constrained, inexperienced or even high-performing marketing teams deliver exceptional results.
If you missed Martin’s last blog post “The joy of the happy accident, you can read it here.


The joy of the happy accident

The joy of the happy accident

Change your Luck blog series – article 3
Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor

One of the best parts of my recent career break has been the opportunity to develop my (limited) skills with watercolour. It’s been a long time since I picked up a paintbrush and it isn’t proving easy. Satisfying, yes. Easy, no.

With the luxury of time I’ve been able to explore the vast resources of the web, absorbing advice from much more accomplished artists than me. The advice is varied but there are common themes.

Don’t just start, first prepare to start.

The first piece of advice is nothing to do with paint. The foundation of a great watercolour is a great drawing. Composition, scale, proportion, perspective. Not where a novice like me wants to focus when I have dreams of a great masterpiece.

Second is to experiment. Copy techniques of others, find what works and how, what fails and why. Use their experience to build an understanding of the fickle nature of watercolour. Learn to layer and blend colours into the hues and tones you need, learn when to paint and (importantly) when to stop.

Watercolour is also about happy accidents. The effects caused by water, pigment and paper reacting to each other in unplanned and unexpected ways. Learn when to intervene and when to hold back, learn when enough is enough.

Finally, it’s about volume. You have to be prepared to sketch and sketch and sketch, paint and paint and paint. Learn to move spontaneously and make quick decisions. Practice will make perfect, but there’s a lot of failure on the way.

Satisfying, yes. Easy, no.

Can you ever know enough?

Is it possible to practice every conceivable technique with every conceivable variation in hue and tone? Transparent and opaque colours, staining colours, wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, textures, brush techniques, paper types. The possibilities are endless and knowing enough to master watercolour can take a lifetime.

Who has a lifetime? I’m too impatient, but the web allows me to absorb the experience of others. Collectively we’re spending multiple lifetimes practicing and sharing our experiences with each other. Someone, somewhere, has tried it before and posted the outcome online.

Use shared knowledge to reduce your fails.

As a novice I know the value of knowledge and experience. As a marketer I know it too. When you read back over the advice above, imagine I was talking about maximising the return on investment of your campaign.

Build a solid foundation, know your market, your audience, your value proposition, your positioning, your message. Know it before you start building campaigns.

The difficult part comes when you have to practice and experiment, learn what works and what doesn’t, what has the best outcome, what destroys the work you’ve done before. As an aspiring artist I may struggle to accept it, but the stakes are usually much higher in marketing than in watercolour painting. Failure can be much more costly.

This is where you need a way of accessing the collective knowledge and experience of other marketers who have gone before, and of those who are developing new technologies and techniques. Unfortunately, this knowledge has significant value to those who have it and quantified performance information is very often confidential, or expensive.

Making a breakthrough by accident.

The infinite variations in value proposition, positioning, message, market behaviour, communication channel preferences, cultures and tactics make it impossible to predict every campaign outcome perfectly. Some marketers are fortunate enough to guess correctly. They get their masterpiece, but it can often be a happy accident.

The fastest way to success is to test changes to campaigns quickly and efficiently. Get the first washes of colour down, then layer and blend to produce the best effect. Rather than acting randomly, using collective knowledge and experience to pre-select choices will massively increase your success rate.

The gift of experience.

Rapid performance improvement of campaigns demands the rapid execution of multiple tests. Time is the enemy, resources are scarce and ROI is king. If you could access the quantified past experiences of other marketers, and a ready source of knowledge to replicate their experiences, why wouldn’t you?

A database of qualified and quantified techniques to improve the performance of any and all of the tactics you are using would be invaluable. You would pre-select those that have worked for others, focussing time and resource where it has most chance of success.

It would be just the same as me watching videos of watercolour experts, wondering how they make it look so easy, and then deciding to try it myself. I’m absorbing a little bit of their lifetime of experience every time.

Time will tell if I ever produce a masterpiece. I’d settle for a few ‘wow!’s. Where’s your next ‘wow!’ coming from? What chance do you have of a ‘wow!’ campaign?

In my next blog I’ll explore the relationship between marketing and gambling, and ask ‘Can we fix the odds?’.
If you missed Martin’s last blog post Surfing the next wave, you can read it here.
Surfing the next wave

Surfing the next wave

Change your Luck blog series – article 2

Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor


Lately I’ve had the previously unknown luxury of time – and with this came the opportunity to revisit some of the magnificent coastline, towns and villages in Devon and Dorset. I’ve been able to enjoy great weather and explore new things without the pressure of deadlines and targets to return to.

On my latest trip I was struck by the behaviour of the huge number of surfers also enjoying the conditions.

They sit on their boards patiently waiting and watching the surf, bursting into action to paddle furiously in pursuit of a wave, ride it as best they can and then return to repeat the process.

Surfing, it seems, requires a lot of patience, the right tide, and a certain element of luck.

Waiting for the perfect break.

Some waves they let pass, some they paddle to catch. Some they time perfectly, and some they don’t. Some they ride and on others they fall.

It struck me as I watched how similar their behaviour was to the marketers I had been working with for so many years. Watching and waiting for the next big marketing wave, the perfect break that will catapult their programme forward.

So how do you choose when to paddle, which wave to ride, or how long to ride it for? New marketing technologies, techniques and tactics are constantly emerging. Some are big and powerful, others tiny tweaks, but full of promise that never quite delivers, fading out as quickly as they rose up.

Learning from failure, yours or theirs.

Is it better to wait for the one big one and ride it right in, or to ride lots of smaller ones so you can jump on and off more quickly? Expertise and experience become really obvious when you have the opportunity to observe at leisure, from the cliff-top.

To maximise your surfing performance (the equivalent of your surfing ROI i.e. ‘maximise your return on effort invested’) it seems to me that it’s about riding as many of the waves you have the skill and energy to catch. Every now and then they can be bigger and more testing than you expected, but more importantly, it’s about knowing how to recognise a ‘fail’ so you can peel off and paddle back out for the next one.

You can tell a lot from those around you and can use their choices to influence your own. Wasting energy and time on waves you don’t have the skill to ride, or coasting to the shore on a wave with no break, brings little reward.

In the same way, marketers need to constantly look for new ways to improve their ROI. New tactics, new techniques, new technologies. It’s impossible to catch them all. Making good choices about which ones to paddle for, and which ones to let pass, is paramount.

Using the wisdom of the crowd.

There are surprising statistics that show how tough it is to make a change to a program or campaign that improves your marketing performance in
this blog
at (whose technology BH&P uses with every new client BTW),

“Noah Kagan, an early employee at Facebook and founder of AppSumo, only sees a 1 in 8 success rate. An industry study by VWO shows a 1 in 7 success rate. A study by Harvard Business Review pegs the failure rate at 80-90%.”

Having others around you with more experience and knowledge definitely gives you an advantage, helping to spot the right wave, encouraging you to go when maybe you wouldn’t, offering advice and guidance, watching and providing feedback to help you develop and control your own skills. There’s a lot to be gained from working with others who collectively spend a lot of time in the water.

This is huge. More marketing initiatives fail, than succeed. Period.

All resource constrained organisations, small or large, face significant challenges to improve their marketing.

Relying on your own innate capability and existing knowledge isn’t enough, particularly in the current build up to changes in the rules surrounding the use of prospect data. Your expertise in one technique won’t always translate into capabilities in others.

Coaching through failure to achieve success.

The collective experience of other practitioners, either individuals or agencies, are an invaluable resource. Used properly they can accelerate the improvement of your marketing programmes, campaigns and tactics.
Their reservoir of knowledge and experience can be used to quickly identify where the most significant improvements can be made, one after the other, to maximise marketing programme performance.
Knowing how different tactics, techniques and technologies work, what to try next, how to execute on the proposed changes, evaluating the results and quickly changing the plan in response are the attributes of a great marketing partner, and inevitably of a surf coach.

Fail fast to succeed sooner.

Maybe this summer has been the one where you donned the wet-suit, paddled out into the waves and started working with a surf-coach on improving your skills. Or maybe not!
Even if surfing is not your thing, hopefully the analogy rings true. If so, you’ll be inspired to think about experimenting more, testing and enhancing your marketing, to put you and your organisation on a path to improving not just marketing ROI, but business performance.

However you decide to go about this, you’ll build a better return on your investment of time and money, faster, if you can learn quickly from the successes and failures of others.

In the next article, I’ll be exploring why it’s a good idea to fail fast, and how you can turn this to your advantage quickly and (almost) without risk.


If you missed Martin’s first blog post Watching the World go by, you can read it here.
And if you’d like to request a free ideabook showing how BH&P can help you structure some tests to improve the ROI on your marketing, get in touch
Watching the world go by

Watching the world go by

Change your Luck blog series – article 1

Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor


This year I decided to take a break from work and bring a bit more life into my work-life balance. I’m getting the time to relax and rediscover my natural curiosity and creativity, and to take a much more objective view of the pressures and practices of marketing that governed my career.

I’ve worked through a period of massive change since leaving university in the early 80’s. Watching from the outside magnifies how much the pressure, pace and pervasiveness of work has changed.

Even though I’ve disconnected from my previous job (surprisingly quickly!) I’m left with a ghost of myself in many social channels that continues to attract news, commentary and content relating to my interests in business, technology, communications and marketing.

Having the luxury of time.

Now I have the time to watch this world go by clear of the goals, targets, deadlines and pressures of a full time job, I have the luxury of time to consider the opinions, propositions, technologies and techniques being described by vendors, consultants, observers, practitioners and experts alike.

Time is the key. I now have it, where I didn’t necessarily have it before. Time was (and is) such a valuable commodity the question is always how to invest it most wisely. Hidden in the tsunami of news and opinion, research and promotional content are the gems that every marketer seeks.

Marketing techniques, tactics and technologies are developing so fast, the lifecycle of an effective programme is becoming shorter and shorter.

What works today might not work tomorrow.

Experienced marketers know they should be constantly looking to improve, enhance and even re-invent their programs and tactics to maintain and improve performance, but what, how and when? How do you chose experimentation over execution when time and budget are so constrained? It’s hard enough getting things done, let alone experimenting with improvements once they are up and running.

For a small enterprise, having a marketing programme that is working and delivering results is often an achievement in itself, attention and resources will then naturally move to other areas of the business that need attention.

For larger enterprises, having programmes in some markets or channels that work allows attention to shift to those where it doesn’t. Add more complexity with the dimensions of the buying cycle, changing buyer behaviour, the proliferation of communication channels, multiple products, markets and geographies, the varied expertise and experience of those who are responsible for the programmes, the shortening life cycle of the tactics deployed, the variety of specialised skills required to master marketing technologies, competitor behaviour, time and resource constraints, the need to improve return on investment…

It’s no wonder that most marketers need more time.

There’s no organisation that can afford to apply and evaluate every new technique, tactic or technology. You either don’t have the knowledge, the skills, the tools, or most importantly the time. If you have (or make) the time, how do you decide what to change, what to test, what to improve? Which programme, which campaign, which tactic?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of slowing time and speeding up action; identifying opportunities prioritised according to their predicted improvement on ROI; and then acting on them quickly and effectively. A marketing time machine if you like. Something that allows us to build a plan that evolves dynamically, that we can pivot at will, and that guides organisations to better performance.

Stay with me on this … if the improvement plan is built based on emerging best practice, uses the knowledge of experienced practitioners, is specific and action oriented but can remain agile, it would eliminate hesitation and procrastination. It could (and should) direct the actions of an individual or team, and maximise the way they use their time.

I’m watching the world go by. I’m watching other marketers watching the world go by. For those that want to stop it but can’t figure out how, when or where, I think there’s a better way to maximise ROI.

The value of your investment may go up or down.

A bit like watching the stock market, the skill is picking those tactics and ideas most likely to go up and making it happen quickly, evaluating as you go so you can abandon those that don’t improve performance. No breakthrough technology, no over-hyped pseudo-methodology, no repackaging of old ideas with new names, no over-intellectual hypothesising. No snake-oil. Just a common-sense, practical approach to maximising return on marketing investment that will make life easier, more enjoyable, more productive and more effective.

In the next article I’ll look at how you become a more savvy marketing investor. One whose choices are more often the right ones and whose ROI is most likely to keep improving.
You make your own luck

You make your own luck

Guest blog post by our good friend, Dr Mark Mason MBE. Originally posted on LinkedIn, September 2014


Dr Mark Mason​, lately CEO of Mubaloo, received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2017 for services to the Digital Economy.


Dr Mark Mason MBEIn July, I was honoured to receive an honorary degree from the University of the West of England. Now, I am officially a doctorate of technology. As with those bestowed the privilege of delivering a speech at graduation ceremonies, I spent a long time considering the best thing to say to inspire a new group of people going into the world.

Throughout my career, I have taken risks and chances, as does anyone who is an entrepreneur. The speech gave me the chance to really reflect about the journey I have taken, so I thought I would share some of that with you.

I consider myself a lucky man. To some degree I was born lucky. Born to parents who gave me a roof over my head, food, water, a great education and of course, an abundance of love. But there is another type of luck, the luck that we create for ourselves.

We look at some people and say that they have been lucky in life. They seem to get the right job; spot the right opportunity; meet the right girl or boy. Luck seems to shine on them.

But what is luck? And why are some people clearly luckier than others?


Gary Player, the great golfer once said, “the harder I practice, the luckier I get”. Statements like this may lead us to believe that it’s just about hard work. In my opinion, it’s more than that.
In the last 10 years, psychologists have turned their attention to understand why some people are lucky and others aren’t. Their studies suggest that luck is something that can be cultivated in every one of us. An internal belief that you are, in fact, a lucky person is a vital ingredient in creating luck in the first place.

A study at the University of Cologne in 2010 backed these findings. Subjects were asked to perform 10 golf puts. Half of them were told that their ball was ‘lucky’. Those people showed a remarkable 35% improvement on their game, compared to the other players.

Luck it seems is not a magical ability or the result of random chance. Nor are people born lucky or unlucky. Whilst we have almost no insight into the real causes of our good or bad luck, our thoughts and behaviour are often responsible for much of our fortune. For example, video experiments show that lucky people smile on average twice as much as those who consider themselves to be unlucky.

So how can we develop the lucky gene in ourselves? How can you graduate today and go forth into the world positively overflowing with luck?

As you go through life, it is easy to get into a routine. Routines are, after all, comfortable ways in which to live our lives. However, routines are also where we exhaust the opportunities in our lives. If you go on talking to the same people in the same ways, and keep taking the same route to work, or going on holiday to the same place, you’re going to get the same results.

Being open to new, even random experiences, introduces the potential for new opportunities. I consider myself to be lucky.

When I join the dots back through the pivotal moments that have changed my direction, they can largely be defined by the times that I’ve gone out on a limb. It happens when I step out of my comfort zone and talk to people I’ve never met before.

Everyone is able to get opportunities.


They are rarely obvious and often along the way, you will have to fail to find opportunities, but they are there. They are often hidden in subtle comments, or developing thoughts, hints at something that might be. To spot these you have to have all your senses open to receiving them.

For me, my opportunity came out of being turned away from a job at an advertising agency in London, because they were looking for a female applicant. I persevered and wrote again, saying that they really should interview me – I was really very good!

In the end they did.

After the interview, in the lift, the CEO casually mentioned to me they had been thinking about setting up a specialist technology arm of their business. It was nothing more than a passing comment. But it resonated so deeply in me that I had no choice. I went back home, and with a friend, immediately started writing a business plan. That moment was the spring-board to the rest of my career.

I decided I wasn’t just going to be an account manager, but to open up a new branch of the agency, focused around technology. This led me to new opportunities and create new businesses. There were failures along the way, but throughout it all, I persevered and kept on searching, exploring, trying different routes and new experiences.

So how do you become lucky?


Here are a few suggestions that may swing the luck-o-meter in your favour.

  1. Speak to people you’ve never met before. On the train, plane, park, wherever you go. It’s a very un-British thing to do and can make many people feel out of their comfort zone, but that’s the point. It’s a challenge that, if you can overcome, will make you more confident and more willing to try new experiences. Not to mention, be the conversation that could spark new ideas.
  2. Take time in your day to stop and think, or if you like, meditate. Research has shown that lucky people are 20% more likely to practice meditation more regularly.
  3. Develop a wide and varied social network and make the effort to get back in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Research shows that lucky people tend to be in regular contact with a wider social network. Today, with Facebook and LinkedIn, there is really no excuse.
  4. Introduce random chances into your life. Make a list of six new things you would like to try, then throw a dice to decide which one you’re going to do this weekend. Trying new experiences maximises your chances of a lucky break.
  5. Smile more – it might not bring you instant luck, but it will certainly make people wonder what you’ve been up to!


You make your own luckAs Shakespeare wrote in the Merry Wives of Windsor, ‘The World is mine oyster’. It’s important that we all remember this. The World is here for us to make the most out of it. We only get one chance to make a difference and experience life.

I wish you the best of luck.

Dr Mark Mason MBE is an entrepreneur, NED, mentor, chairman, angel investor and governor of UWE. Experience in marketing, technology, start-ups and M&A. He invests in driven people and innovative businesses, directly or through the Bristol Private Equity Club.

If you’d like a helping hand in making your own luck, get in touch.


Why does a lot of small business marketing not work quite the way you’d like it to?

Why does a lot of small business marketing not work quite the way you’d like it to?

And how can you change it?

(First presented to Reading’s RG1 group at Artigiano Reading on Thursday 24th September 2015)
RG1 meeting at Artigiano Reading

RG1 meeting at Artigiano Reading

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

The impact of brand on business growth and marketing ROI

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:

  1. Branding can most simply be described as “the relationships that account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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)
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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.

We have some great examples of how this works in practice for our clients. If you’d like to find out more, just get in touch.


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. –

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.


How to create compelling content:  without bringing fee earners to a standstill

How to create compelling content: without bringing fee earners to a standstill

(this article was first published in PM Forum Magazine, April 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?

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Brand fit with Daniel Eley

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’.”

Employer Brand

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”

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