Category Archives: News

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.


Marketing support for small charities

Marketing support for small charities

Sophie Davies, BH&P Associate and former head of membership and retention at The National Trust, shares her thoughts on small charity marketing.


Charities – especially smaller ones – are under pressure. Demand is increasing for their services, and yet local and central funding is decreasing. 

This in turn puts pressure on resources, with small charity marketing especially affected, with both a financial and skills gap.The small charity marketing gap

A recent Local Giving study found that fewer than half of local charities surveyed felt that they would still exist in 5 years’ time*.

This could be a disaster for the communities they serve.

So how can we help to reverse this decline? We have all heard it; ‘the charity sector is in crisis’. It is certainly true that public trust has decreased significantly in the last 3 years. And this is not helped by recent crises at much larger charities such as the British Red Cross and Oxfam.


Public trust in smaller charities remains high

Charity fundraising just got harder

Yet both the Charity Commissions bi-annual survey in 2016 and separate Open University study have both shown that this is NOT the case for smaller charities.

This is great news.

It means that providing they remain transparent, and compliant, small charities are in a really strong position when thinking about fundraising.

Fundraising is known to be one of the most effective and sustainable ways to raise money to support the work they do. Typically, for every £1 invested in fundraising, a charity receives over £4 to support their work**.


Fundraising does more than just raise money

As well as bring in much needed funds, it also raises awareness of the cause and the work done. This in turn leads to a greater understanding of what the charity does and why.

A 2017 study by YouGov and the Institute of Fundraisers shows clearly that a deeper understanding drives further charitable and philanthropic activity. In fact, a whopping 63% of people go on to take additional positive actions such as volunteering or being involved in a campaign***.


Small charity marketing: Three tips for planning a fundraising campaign

Working out what you need to do can be quite daunting. But don’t be put off by the challenge of creating a campaign.

Here are three tips to start you off:

  1. Know your audience
    • Think about what you already know about your audience before you put together the campaign. Answering these questions will help you to work out what the best focus and methods are for your fundraising:
    • Who is it that is interested in supporting your cause?
    • Why are they interested?
    • What motivates them to want to donate to your cause?
    • What will most likely prompt them to donate? An event, direct ask face to face, crowdfunding?
    • What’s the best way to get in touch with them? Social media, email, mail, telephone?
    • How will they most likely donate? Online, or through their phone?
    • Would you prefer a large number of people to donate a small amount, or a small amount of people to donate much more? What is realistic for your audience?


  2. The power of social media
    • Start with what you know – use your audience insight to understand what social media platforms they use and only use those. That way you can make sure you reach your audience effectively.
    • Social media is diverse and constantly evolving. Continual testing of channels, messaging and formats is really important.
    • Just test one or two things at a time – once you know something works, try changing a small part, and see what impact this has.
    • It is unlikely that one person will see every single post, so you can use the same content across lots of different platforms – you can even use it for your newsletters too.
    • When you do set up a social media page, make sure you’ve always got the donate now button active.


  1. Other digital fundraising tools
    • Leverage the big donation websites for your small charity marketing. For example, can now be used to crowdfund – and they will support you through the process.
    • If you are a registered charity, you may be eligible for a Google Ad Grant. This can be a fantastic boost to media budgets – but does require an element of expertise to manage, as Google has recently tightened up the eligibility rules (December 2017)****
    • Email is a really cost-effective way of talking to those who have already donated to your cause. Using a platform such as Mailchimp to manage your email campaigns helps you to make sure you are following data rules such as the ability to opt out. They will keep that list for you and make sure you don’t email anyone you’re not supposed to!


If you feel that you would like further support, then do get in touch. We can give advice, coaching and support, advise you on how to deal with the new GDPR regulations, or help you set up small charity marketing campaigns so that you can go ahead and run them yourself.


With more than fifteen years’ experience working in marketing, Sophie recently headed up the fundraising communications team for the National Trust, before being promoted to lead the membership loyalty and retention programme at the charity.

Sophie is currently working as an associate with BH&P.


* Localgiving, Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report, 2016

** NCVO, Civil Society Almanac, 2016

*** IoF and YouGov, Insights into Charity Fundraising, 2017

**** Search Engine Journal, Feb 2018

Our new creative space

Our new creative space

After a crazily busy start to 2018, we’ve moved into some shiny new offices in the centre of Reading! Between getting our heads stuck into GDPR, creating a fire safety campaign for Stayenergysafe and helping client 3GHR launch their new website, we have managed to settle in.

The second floor of Spaces Reading is our new home and stands a stone’s throw from the station, which we can see from our sparkly new roof terrace.

As we are now settled into to the office we thought we would share our new creative work space.

As well as our dedicated offices, there’s a large communal creative space for more inspiring, informal meetings with great coffee and lunches.


Spaces - our new creative space


To welcome BH&P and all of their new clients, Spaces Reading threw the launch party of all launch parties. The building was opened by Sir John Madejski, a local celebrity and founder of Auto Trader.  The evening was filled with cocktails, delicious treats from Soul deli, a sushi table, blackjack, roulette, magician, DJ and great conversations with like-minded individuals from Reading’s creative and entrepreneur community.


Spaces launch - our new creative space


We’d love to invite you over for a cup of tea or coffee so we can share all our news and chat about our latest campaigns.

Find us at Spaces Reading, 9 Greyfriars Road, Reading, RG1 1NU.

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.


Marketing for non-profits

Marketing for non-profits

 The rules of engagement have changed

Charity fundraising just got harder

The key challenge for charity marketing today lies in balancing the need stand out from the pack, whilst complying with ever more strict data protection and fundraising rules.


In recent years, members of the public have expressed frustration over the lack of control many feel over how, and how often, they are approached with fundraising requests. We’ve all heard the story of the Olive Cooke, the 92 year old who committed suicide because of charities pursuing her for money. Charity marketing is implicated, with organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children and the Alzheimer’s Society insisting that their actions were not to blame for Olive’s death. But many of her family have accused the charities of exploiting the poppy seller, with allegations that she was receiving over 260 begging letters a month


Managing charity marketing and communications

Whilst perhaps Olive Cooke presents an extreme example, the Fundraising Regulator is acutely aware of the need to manage the situation carefully. The regulator is guided by the principle that it should be as simple as possible for individuals to manage their communications with fundraisers, and to prevent this type of scenario. In response to concerns, the regulator has developed a system to ensure people can register their contact preferences more easily with charities.

With the creation of the Fundraising Preference Service or FPS (planned launch in 2017), people will have the ability to opt out – and this will affect not just the general public, but also those people that have actively engaged your charity’s fundraising campaigns, but perhaps not opted in.

For those that already have a highly engaged supporter database, this is unlikely to prove a significant problem. Yet for those who rely on email and direct marketing to purchase databases and lukewarm data, there is a need to tighten up significantly on the way they market to their supporters.

Why charity messaging matters

We recently met up with Gillian McKay, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector at the ICAEW (Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England And Wales), who had this to say:

“It’s never been more important that charities stand out with a message that will really engage supporters. These new rules that are coming in within the sector will have most impact on those that have not invested in, or understood, the rules of engagement. Charity marketing will only get harder“


Changes to the rules on data handling

Data protection rules are tightening up across the board, and charities are not the only sector under the spotlight. If we had chosen to remain in the European Union, brands and charities alike would now have less than two years to make sure they are compliant with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was due to come into place in May 2018.

But does Brexit change this? “Those businesses who have yet to prepare for GDPR – and are hoping that Brexit will mean they don’t have to – are the ones likely to be caught out,” says Frank Jennings, a partner at Wallace LLP.

Any organisation with operations in the EU as well as the UK will certainly comply with the new rules. If nothing else, it will be impossible for compliance teams to manage multiple data standards within the same organisation – brands and non-profits alike. And the deadline for compliance with the new GDPR rules will come around before the deadlines for completing Brexit’s Article 50. With this in mind, complacency is not really an option.

The rules around the Fundraising Preference Service muddy the waters slightly, not least because charities will have to pay for the privilege of membership (albeit the proposed pricing will be proportionate). Gillian McKay’s view on this is clear. “Lots of charities already have very good levels of engagement. In general their budgets are smaller, and their accountability greater than in the commercial sector. While they won’t be able to change the rules, they can certainly prepare for the changes.”


Raising awareness

The first thing organisations that do not have this engagement level should do is raise awareness. According to John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal, at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA),

“Brands need to make sure everyone knows what is going on and the rules coming in and how they currently process their data. That can be an eye opener for lots of people.When the regulations come into effect brands will not get their doors kicked down straight away. But if you can show you spent two years doing what you could do comply that will be very helpful.”

The RNLI has taken a proactive approach, announcing in 2015 that it would switch to an opt-in model. Jayne Clarke, the charity’s head of marketing, says the move has showed her how important being ahead is and how long getting everyone in place can take. You can read more about this in this article, taken from Marketing Week: The RNLI on why it has become the first charity to switch to opt-in comms.

Charity marketing message


It’s all about the message

Since we launched in September 2014, the team at BH&P have worked on the principle “Idea everything, Media anything” – the premise that only with a big, bold, gutsy creative idea behind your marketing, will you actually change peoples’ behaviour.

Gillian McKay from the ICAEW echoed this principle, “those third sector organisations that are investing now – in systems, preparation and getting their message really clear – will see minimum impact. But the reality is that smaller charities may have neither the resources nor the expertise to prepare for the change, and some will struggle as the rules are tightened up”.

Gillian went on to explain that for those organisations without the internal resources, it will be vital that they choose to work with third parties that can help them articulate their point of difference, and that are doing everything possible to be compliant.

In recent years, many charities have turned away from fundraising emails and direct mail, and are increasingly looking to inbound activity and social media for both awareness and fundraising campaigns.


Make the most of Google for Non-profits

Google offers advertising grants of up to US$10,000 per month to charities and some other not-for-profit organisations, as well as a free, enriched version of YouTube.

BH&P runs inbound campaigns for a number of non-profits, including the national charity Crimestoppers, using the Google Ad Grant. For Crimestoppers, as well as generating a significant uplift in anonymous reporting, test programmes allow us to set realistic KPIs and benchmarks for future campaigns. Whilst the ad grant can be used only for search advertising, this is nonetheless a valuable way for charities to both maximise learnings and create supporter engagement with specific issues, whilst leaving their own media budgets untouched.

BH&P rolled out the launch campaign for, on behalf of Crimestoppers in September 2016. The Google Search campaign is currently running at a cost per click of 76p and clickthru rate (CTR) of 5.25% (that’s a 300% uplift compared to Google’s own benchmark for the charity sector). The associated Facebook campaign has also exceeded benchmark targets with a cost per click of 20p, and a CTR of 1.04% (more than 200% better than Facebook’s benchmark of 0.33%).

Google-for-non-profitsMicro-lending organisation, Kiva, shares its message using Google’s marketing tools to drive qualified online traffic to its website, and to fund loans that can improve thousands of lives in dozens of countries around the world. They use Google AdWords to raise awareness for their organisation and drive traffic to their website. They also leverage Google Maps as a visual way for donors to see the footprint of Kiva loans. Kiva recently ran a contest on YouTube inviting the community to create and upload videos to describe the value of what Kiva is offering.


The power of social media for charity marketing

Social media offers numerous opportunities for charities to create engagement with their supporters, to make more people aware of the work they do. Seth Godin describes social media as “the greatest shift of our generation”, and those charities that embrace this will be well-placed to thrive over the next few years.

A good example of a successful social media campaign is the #NTChallenge by the National Trust.

National Trust was one of the very first charities to connect with their audience effectively via Instagram. With more than 400 million people uploading 80 million photos a day, Instagram is now much more than the home of a thousand self-obsessed #selfies – it’s changed the way people around the world communicate, discover and travel. It’s become a powerful branding tool.

Marketing non profitsWith the #NTChallenge, National Trust asked followers to upload photos of National Trust protected buildings, landscapes and coastlines, choosing one winning image each week. Their Instagram following is now over 154,000, proving that the #NTChallenge was a great way to celebrate their existing community whilst also attracting new supporters. At the time of writing, Instagram has 35,756 posts with the tag #ntchallenge (though with the aside that you should choose your hashtag carefully – some of these are definitely more Nike than National Trust – #ntc is a Nike challenge tagged in 432,345 posts).

People in 2017 expect to self-select the brands and messages they wish to engage with – and this is a trend that is set to continue. Social media and search marketing will become ever more important as they support this shift, and charities would be wise to embrace the change.


A final word

Whilst it is true that some organisations may lose valuable existing members when new rules on data protection come in to place, those that are both creative and diligent now, with high levels of supporter engagement, will see little change.

Social media and inbound charity marketing will continue to offer new and exciting opportunities to engage with supporters. But for many, the biggest challenge will remain in converting awareness and engagement into tangible and financial support.

What is clear is that rules around data handling will continue to be tightened – in and outside of the EU – and that charities as well as commercial businesses all need to be aware of the potential impact, and plan accordingly.

All figures correct at time of publishing, 16/01/17.


To find out more about BH&P’s creative solutions for non-profits, get in touch.

You can also sign up to receive updates from the fundraising regulator on the launch of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) via this link.

Merry Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

A short Christmas message from all the team at BH&P

We’ve had a fantastic year, with lots to be thankful for.

This year, as well as running lots of successful campaigns for clients, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know lots of fantastic people in the Reading business and arts community, as well as helping several charities and not-for-profit organisations. We also ran in the Reading Rotary Santa run a few weeks ago. We hope to do lots more of that this year!

business-finance-guide-home-pageHighlights of the year, work-wise, include the very successful launches of stayenergysafe for the national charity Crimestoppers, and of the interactive Business Finance Guide on behalf of the British Business Bank and ICAEW. We also created a fully integrated global growth campaign for software giant Epicor, in multiple languages.

Since our lovely Luci has gone and gotten herself engaged this weekend, we also need to say a very special Merry Christmas and congratulations to the newly betrothed couple, Luci & James.

If you’re interested in finding out a bit more, click here to see our Christmassy article on LinkedIn, with lots of information about what we’ve been up to over the last 12 months.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and a prosperous and productive new year.


PS Instead of sending Christmas cards this year, we’ve made a donation to the Humanimal Trust.


We’ve moved office!

We’ve moved office!

BH&P office location in ReadingThe BH&P team have recently moved into a new office in Reading

We’re still in a great location in central Reading close to Reading train station, Broad Street, the Oracle shopping centre and the River Kennet.

It’s a great office space with a good view over the River too.

We’re all settled in now so it’s business as usual, but do pop in and say hello! We’d love to have a chat with you over a coffee (or tea), or feel free to contact us anytime.

If you’re looking for our new address it’s: Dukesbridge House, 23 Duke Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 4SA. All our other contact details are still the same as before.



Launching energy theft reporting service on behalf of Crimestoppers

Launching energy theft reporting service on behalf of Crimestoppers

We’ve worked with the national charity, Crimestoppers, to launch the ground-breaking new service to reduce energy crime in the UK.


stayenergysafe-videoThe stayenergysafe service is a first of its kind and allows the public to come forward and anonymously report any suspicions or evidence of energy theft, either through the website or the dedicated number, 0800 023 2777.

An integrated campaign

We’ve worked with Crimestoppers throughout the project, offering a fully integrated creative service to launch the new stayenergysafe identity. We’ve created executions to target consumer and professional audiences, built a responsive website with its own secure portal, created a campaign launch video, a shortened launch video, implemented a multi-channel and contextual advertising campaign, and provided results based data analysis.

There are currently 150,000 cases of energy theft investigated every year. The charity aims to encourage more people to report cases of energy theft, a crime which has been known to have devastating effects following fires and explosions. There are horrific stories about energy theft on the website (link).

The launch

The public launch on Monday 19th September 2016 – which highlighted the real harm to individuals, property and lives due to energy theft – gained impressive media attention with publications in The Times, The Telegraph, The Sun, and a BBC Radio 2 interview, amongst others.

The new service received over 20 new reports of energy theft through its anonymous phone line and online reporting form within the first day, and we’re confident that the service will continue to encourage the public to report any concerns that they have about energy crime.

The website that we created for the campaign on energy theft can be seen at

Challenging the norm

Challenging the norm

Our commentary on the Cannes Lions 2016

By Creative Director Jim Thomas, Summer 2016


A creative idea exists for one reason and one reason alone: to out think your competition.

Creativity isn’t something that comes from the sort of books that break things down into a formula. The 8 truths, or the 12 principles, or the 10 essential thoughts.

It comes from a different place. Understanding customers’ thinking. Then changing their behaviour. It’s thinking that comes from art schools and salesmen. Both know they have to stand out.

Award winning creative should do just this. There’s simply no point in being clever, if you don’t change the way someone thinks, and ultimately, how they act. And whilst Cannes 2016 felt rather more like a trade fair than a showcase of creativity, much of the work that was shared felt clever in a new way.

The overriding trend we saw was for work that showed, rather than told. Where the idea was so blindingly obvious, it made you wonder why nobody had thought of it before.

The best way to explain this is by example.



Some of our hot picks of award winning creative work


Breast cancer awareness in Argentina

Argentina breast cancer awareness


In Argentina, where there’s a catholic conservatism, women’s breasts and nipples are a sensitive subject on social networks. But men’s aren’t. So using a fat man with moobs, a breast cancer charity, MACMA, showed women how to carry out a breast examination.

This campaign also highlighted the fact that men can get breast cancer, in a simple, visual way.


How about giving people time?


For frazzled new parents who were up all night Carrefour offered  a special reward – time.

From midnight until 5am Carrefour opened a special online supermarket where mums and dads could do their shopping and get exclusive night-time discounts on baby products.

A benefit at last in sleepless nights!


Or how do you sell when your target market is too young to buy?


You can’t sell a pram to a baby. So how do you show parents that their baby will be in the most comfortable buggy on the market.


Stroller built adult-sized buggies for parents to ride in and experience how comfy they were for their children.


Interrupting micro-moments


You can use an idea to interrupt the very moment a consumer is thinking about buying a product. This is what Maserati did in Germany.

Maserati knew that their car competed with the BMW 5 series, Mercedes E Class and the Audi A6.

Where do people go to find out more about a car? The internet. So Maserati bought the words “BMW 5 series”, “Mercedes C Class”, “Audi A7” and ‘test drive”.

When someone searched using these words the first ad they saw was from Maserati offering them a test drive from their home to the nearest BMW, Mercedes or Audi dealership.

You beat your competition. Your target market get a test drive in a Maserati before any German car salesman gets anywhere near them. Maserati got a 150% uplift in test drives and 10% more car sales.


Everyone loves dogs


People hate to think of dogs being put to sleep. An Auckland dogs’ home used a very simple everyday insight to tap into this and reduce churn.

There is a common saying that owners look like their dogs. This clever Aussie charity built a digital product integrating facial recognition software. They asked people to scan their faces, to see which dog best matched their face. They called this device ‘Doggleganger’.

And how could someone refuse a dog who matched them?

It helped empty the pound of dogs, gave people the chance to own a dog that matched them –and, importantly, and stopped the dogs’ home from looking like the bad guys who put healthy dogs to sleep.

By injecting fun into the very start of a potential adopter’s journey, this digital solution not only created differentiation from other dog adoption services, but has the potential to increase the conversion rate – in this case, the number of people that actually go on to adopt a dog.


Put viewers at the heart of the experience


What better way to show oppression than to show the freedom we have?

Asking people to give Amnesty access to their Facebook accounts let Amnesty show Facebookers how many countries they could be arrested in, tortured or killed.

Such innocuous things as having a drink, posting something anti government were tallied up to show how the world’s most controlling regimes would punish you.


We’ve chosen all these creative examples for one simple reason. They may all use the media of the moment, but at the core is one simple thought – an involving demonstration.


Thanks to BH&P‘s favourite CD, Jim Thomas, for writing this article on award winning creative.

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.


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

Abseiling the Blade – Sunday 28th June 2015

Abseiling the Blade – Sunday 28th June 2015

Whilst I’m not afraid of heights, I’m definitely no adrenaline junkie. the bladeAnd so the decision to abseil down Reading’s Blade should have felt like a risky one.

I have surprised myself about how easy it was to make the decision. Yes, The Blade is 86 metres high, and I’ve never abseiled before. But it is all for a very worthy cause – Naomi House and Jacksplace. And that has made the decision very easy.

Please sponsor me –

Naomi House and Jacksplace

Naomi House and Jacksplace are hospices that support families from seven counties in southern England – Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Surrey, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight. They offer a full palliative care service that includes respite, emergency and end of life care for life-limited and life-threatened children and young adults from birth and into their later years.

NaomiHouseNaomi House is a purpose built children’s hospice that provides a homely environment to children and young people with life-limiting conditions. They provide individualised specialist care and much needed respite for the whole family, enabling them to feel refreshed, rested and supported through the good days, difficult days and last days.

Jacksplace is the hospice for 16 years and upwards and has been specifically designed to meet the needs of young adults. It is the only purpose built hospice for teenagers and young adults in our region, and gives life-limited young people the privacy and dignity they crave.

Each year the charity needs to raise £7million to run their whole service and deliver their plans. They receive less than 10% of their income from Government. The support they receive from individuals, groups, businesses and trusts means that they can provide care and support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, free of charge, when children, young adults and their families from our region need it most.

Please sponsor me

Whether you are able to give just a few pounds, or more, every penny counts. I’d love to raise as much money as possible for this extremely worthy cause.

If you’d like to sponsor me, just use this link to reach my fundraising page –

Thank you so much for helping!



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. –

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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Using Twitter to build trust and brand awareness …

Using Twitter to build trust and brand awareness …

… and to get people closer to actually reading your content.

In an ideal world you’d write a brilliant and insightful piece of content or thought-leadership, add it it to your website or blog, and wait for all your hundreds of follows to read it, share it, like it – and then as a result come to you later when they need to buy your product or service.

Unfortunately, back in the real world of b2b marketing, it isn’t enough for your content to be brilliant. If you don’t have anyone reading your work and sharing it then you may as well just save it to your server and leave it there.

It’s easy to forget when you’re creating content that there’s a world full of people out there, and that viewing your content is top of no one’s priority list (except perhaps for your mum’s). The biggest mistake to make is to not communicate with these people – and twitter is the place where you will find a large number of them, ready to engage with compelling ideas and content.

When you are ready to start sharing content outside your own network you’re not likely to be presold as a firm – people either don’t know you, or know you but don’t yet trust you. If you have been around for a while, have invested in marketing already, and have a “voice” in the market, then you’re part way there, but you should never underestimate how hard it is to get people that don’t really know you to even consider buying from you. This is particularly relevant where you are selling big ticket items in a b2b environment, or where what you are offering is a service, is intangible, complex, or brand new to your target market. It pays off to write a very personal one-to-one email or LinkedIn InMail introducing yourself and your content. But in a market where you’re not presold, there is no awareness and no trust, so you can’t just rely on contacting people directly.

#hashtags – how to get more out of Twitter

Twitter is one of the platforms that provides one of the quickest ways of getting your content shared. It’s instant and there’s the potential to have your brilliant written work spread really widely. In the b2b and professional services world, it is perhaps unlikely that your content will go viral, but nonetheless #hashtags are a great way to widen your network and bring your content to the attention of like-minded people or those who are searching for content just like yours.

Attaching a #hashtag is a really important (be certain yours isn’t already being used in an inappropriate way). The #hashtag needs to be short and sweet – and to read well.

In 2013, the hashtag #RoyalBaby was used more than 2 million times.

Top tweeting #tips:

  1. Be really careful how you compose your #hashtag and use overarching hashtags like #leadership or #legalservices sparingly to point people to the category you are operating in.
  2. Create your own hashtags that are brief but meaningful in context, and that you can own, especially where they relate to a product, event or campaign (for example Growth Accelerator’s first award ceremony #BraveBold, ProfitAbility’s unique simulation #MagneticLeadership, and tech innovations like #MongoDB or #MeteorJS.)
  3. Avoid clichés like #mustread – it’s not unique and is utterly pointless, especially when you only have 140 characters per tweet to get your message across.

On Twitter, give people a reason to engage

Sharing your work on your own Twitter feed is all very well but it limits who happens to see your post at the time and of course how many followers you have. The simplest strategy that many companies and marketers use is a free prize draw, competition or survey. This is back to “Marketing 101” – giving people a reason to engage. There is so much content out in the ether already (large amounts of it not really fit for purpose), that people that don’t know you may be sceptical about the quality of what you are putting out, so tactics like this can be a great way to increase your follower base before seeding your content. To do this effectively, the message needs to be really simple, with a great offer or prize, and a compelling hashtag.

I recently attended the @GrowthAccel #BraveBold awards, and the next day, noticed no one had posted a list of winners. So I set aside an hour to research the list of winners, and got it up on my blog before anyone else. With just 4 tweets using the #BraveBold hashtag, I received 2 favourites, 9 retweets to 20,813 people (of whom at least 1,000 and probably more are possible prospects), and 66 unique visitors to my blog. It’s not earth shattering content, but all these people, many of whom fit my target audience profile, now have some recognition of who I am. Will they engage me as a marketing coach, or want to engage with my agency? Maybe not yet, but I am on the radar, and ready to engage in a conversation with them when they have need marketing or strategy.

Why retweet (RT)? – and using social tools to make the process much easier

A simple search of a #hashtag will allow you to find businesses and people who are already talking about the same subject. Retweet your content to them by including their Twitter handle. The more followers they have, the greater the audience that is likely to see what you’ve said, and that may favourite or retweet the content.

You should also make a point of following your own clients, and retweeting or favouriting news about them  – they like their content to be shared as much as you do, and it also keeps you up-to-date on what’s happening in their own lives or businesses. The new list feature in Twitter allows you to put clients in a separate list, so it’s easier to track who’s saying what.

Social tools like Feedly are brilliant for helping you find relevant content to share with your followers, without taking up too much of your own time. And tools like Buffer allow you to schedule posts and track their performance, if you don’t want to be on Twitter all the time monitoring the conversations.

Staying ahead of the game

As seasons and events change you need to keep up with the trends and fashions within your sector. In a law firm, changes to the law are an obvious area of interest for clients and potential clients. Look at what’s trending, seek out forthcoming events and occasions that are likely to have a #hashtag.

If you take the hashtag #budget2014 for example, you’ll see an abundance of content relating to the impact the budget has on businesses and consumers. Combine that hashtag with another that’s relevant to you, like #property for example, and you know the content is going ot be super relevant to your own prospects.

Beyond Twitter

Twitter isn’t the only platform that is great for sharing.

Google+ is will allow you to target your content to a concentrated amount of people in a particular circle. The benefit of this is that it is really focused on people to whom it is  relevant, and will create the link from your circle to their s, and then outwards, so there is an effect of ever increasing circles. Google+ is of course favoured by Google, so there are other benefits around link building and SEO that I won’t go into here, but that come from using G+.

For professional service marketers, the social media tool of choice is most likely to be LinkedIn. To maintain credibility in this space, you need to limit your posts a lot more than you might on Twitter. By posting content on LinkedIn first, and then tweeting it, you get the benefit of both worlds, with the authority that comes from a strong LinkedIn presence, coupled with the reach of Twitter. You can also experiment with some of the great new LinkedIn tools like showcase services, and sponsored updates, which can significantly improve your visibility. Just remember to add the #hashtag when you tweet about your LinkedIn posts.

There are many clever ways to use Twitter, combining it with other social media tools, to really raise your profile online, and to start the process of building a position of trust and authority beyond your existing base. It is this that is increasingly important in giving your firm a voice, and growing your business network far beyond the people you now personally, or that are sitting on your marketing database.

The Brave & Bold Awards  – the winners!

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

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”

This blog post was first published at

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