Category Archives: Marketing

Brilliantly Simple Marketing for SMEs – a diagnostic tool for #CIMSmallBiz15

I recently had the privilege of presenting to a group of small business owners at The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s SME Marketing event (#CIMSmallBiz15), where I attempted to cut through the jargon and present a very simple diagnostic tool to help SMEs to understand where to focus their marketing efforts for maximum effect.

The presentation is embedded at the bottom of this post*, but here’s some notes to provide additional context.


Two recent surveys by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and Elance/Odesk caught my eye when preparing for this presentation.

  • 59% of SMEs surveyed had sought external advice to help them grow their business…
  • …But only 7% had sought advice about marketing
  • …Yet 46% believe they spend far too much time on marketing, as they don’t have the necessary skills or a background in marketing

My aim here is to provide a simple, jargon-free tool that demonstrates how ‘marketing’ can help realise the growth potential of any business…and to give the 46% a method for prioritisation.

Identifying the blockages

This is a simple diagnostic tool to identify which areas of your marketing needs attention. You can then be more focused on addressing specific transition points within your marketing funnel and clear any blockages.

Here are the four constituencies within this basic funnel:

Strangers – people with a need for your service that don’t know you yet

Friends – people you have a connection with that have given some form of ‘permission’ to keep them updated (e.g. opted in to an email newsletter, followed you on Facebook or LinkedIn)

Customers – people who have actually placed an order and have paid you money

Advocates – loyal, repeat customers that are happy to recommend you to other strangers….

And so the loop continues.

Three key transition steps

As shown below, there are three key transition steps to move prospects through the funnel

A simple funnel, with the three key transition steps

A simple funnel, with the three key transition steps

Build – building an audience of interested, engaged prospects

Convert – adding value to and nurturing that audience over time and converting to sales

Delight – providing ongoing value beyond the sale, deepening loyalty and increasing likelihood of repeat purchase, referral and recommendation

Examples for strategies to clear blockages at each of these transition points can be found in the presentation deck* at the bottom of this post.

What to do next – 3 things I urged SME business owners to do

Ask for help – don’t be in the 93% of businesses that don’t ask for help. Speak to a marketing agency or freelance consultant.

Draw the funnel for your business – take some time out, on your own or with your management team, to map out the funnel for your business and where you feel there are transition challenges – at the build, convert or delight step.

Hijack your diary – dedicate regular time to working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business. I totally understand the pressures involved in finding time to think about marketing your business, but someone has to! You are the boss, but if you need it, I herby give you permission to make time for this – an hour or two per week, offsite, wherever you will not be interrupted.

Where are the challenges in your funnel? Do you need a fresh pair of eyes or external sounding board?

Feel free to contact me for an informal chat about how a simple, jargon-free approach to marketing your business might just make the whole topic a bit less daunting.

*Presentation deck from Steve Revill’s presentation at #CIMSmallBiz15:

The role of trust in content marketing

Life these days can be so complex, we don’t make the time to stop and reflect*.

In a recent piece in The Observer, Why the modern world is bad for your brainDaniel J Levitin opens with

“Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting.”

Two words immediately sprang to mind as I read this. Content marketing.

In this increasingly content-rich, multi-media, everyone-is-a-publisher world we live in, the rate of increase in additional information available to B2B buyers has exponentially outpaced the increase in the amount of time available to digest and process it.

Maybe it’s because I’m a marketer that I notice the ever-increasing tsunami of lead generation bait-disguised-as-content. You’ve all seen them – “3 reasons why these 7 killer tips will transform your business in 10 ways. Download this white paper today!” I exaggerate for effect. A bit.

Often, the content is flimsy and doesn’t live up to the hype of the headline. Yes, you’ve got my attention but is what you have to say worth hearing? Will it add real value to my day-to-day life? Does it address a common issue or problem faced by people like me? No? Then you’ve lost me and you’ve lost my trust. And if I don’t trust you I’m certainly not going to buy from you.

shutterstock_134893019 (2)

Worse still, your actions may have made me a little less trusting of content I see from other brands. So poorly conceived content marketing has the potential to undermine the trust  in (and thereby the effectiveness of) the technique for everyone.

Insights from the excellent Edelman Trust Barometer 2015** suggests trust may already be a barrier to overcome for brands seeking to acquire new customers – with over 2/3 of respondents distrusting content created by brands they do not currently use:

Edelman trust barometer - content creators

So what can marketers do to build trust into their content marketing efforts?

Here’s 3 thoughts to get the ball rolling:

  1. Make sure the content truly lives up to the promise of the headline – think more broadsheet, less tabloid.
  2. Make sure the headline addresses a known, real customer issue or pain point – not only will this help achieve cut through, this will also help your target audience to find it online (search engines were the most trusted source of general information and news in the Edelman survey)
  3. Make sure you understand the buyer’s landscape – do you know what trade publications or academics are relevant to your target audience? Can you partner with them to co-create content? Such a third-party endorsement from a trusted source will help provide validation of your content (and keep you honest in generating truly excellent work to boot)

How is your organisation using content marketing to build trust with your prospect base? Have you seen any particularly good examples of content marketing in practice? I’d love to hear from anyone with experiences and best practice to share.

**Here’s the Edelman Trust Barometer 2015

*with thanks to the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

Andrex Scrunch or Fold – has FMCG creativity found a new bottom?

Warning: this post contains contextually relevant toilet humour gags the author was unable to resist.

One of my first bosses in B2B Marketing told me why she had chosen to pursue a career in B2B as opposed to the (at the time) more glamorous world of FMCG Marketing “I didn’t find the idea of marketing nappies or tampax that challenging or interesting”.

Her words have stuck with me since and I was reflecting on this when I saw the recent Andrex campaign which asked the nation whether they “scrunch or fold” when using their market-leading product:

Andrex pack

Admittedly, there’s only so much you can do with loo roll (literally and creatively) – especially one that’s been market leader since 1961 according to the Superbrands Annual 2012. But there’s a reason for that. I may be an old-fashioned prude, but behind closed doors up and down the country, how we wipe our backside is our business.

Yet I couldn’t resist taking a peek at the results:

Andrex results

A staggering 14,728 people voted, although it is not clear how many others spoiled their paper.

Perhaps I’m missing the point and all will be revealed in a forthcoming awards submission for Andrex which will show results that during the campaign, the PCEI rose by 243% (Paper:Cheek Engagement Index – a standard measure across the industry).

Or maybe it was a test marketing exercise to feed into the new product development process? Was Andrex about to launch “pre scrunched” Andrex, one wonders, and have these landslide results flushed that idea down the pan.

I know it’s not possible to stick to the classic “soft, strong and very very long” for every campaign, but loo roll is loo roll. Use the full marketing mix to innovate and tell me about the features that make Andrex superior to the competition. I don’t need selling on the ‘benefits’ and certainly don’t want to segment myself as a ‘scruncher’ or ‘folder’ as some sort of lifestyle statement with deep emotional engagement to the brand!

All of this reinforces that, like my boss all those years ago, I am very, very happy to have spent the last 15 years as a B2B Marketer.

But how about you? Do you love or loathe this campaign? Does it make you proud to be a B2B or FMCG marketer? I’d love to hear your thoughts (about this campaign, not your toilet preferences please).

Creativity alive and well in print advertising – Blackberry

It’s rare that press advertising wows me with its creativity these days, but Blackberry’s ad in today’s Daily Telegraph really impressed me.

Promoting the ‘Time Shift’ functionality of the new Z10, the ad appears on the face of it to be a standard full-page press ad…

Blackberry press ad for Z10

…until it becomes clear that there is a half page covering a second part of the 1.5 page spread, which reveals as below:

Blackberry press ad for Z10

There’s no doubt that Blackberry have a huge task ahead of them to catch up with the likes of Apple and Samsung when it comes to smartphone market share, but with innovative ways of promoting innovative features such as this, I wouldn’t write them off just yet.

Nice work.

What’s your career game plan?

I was recently interviewed by B2B Marketing Magazine for a feature they ran in the January 2013 issue, entitled “Game Plan”. For those of you that aren’t subscribers to the magazine, I’ve included the article on my Slideshare account, embedded below with kind permission of B2B Marketing.

If you’re in B2B Marketing and not already a subscriber, I’d strongly recommend checking out the benefits of B2B Marketing membership. The article is also now live on the B2B Marketing Knowledge Bank, where you can see lots of other useful articles.

What’s your career game plan for 2013? How will you drive your career forward by implementing a personal action plan? What have you found to be effective in your own career to date? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

M&S Bank- Viva La Evolution!

I recently ran a Financial Services Marketing workshop at the CIM Northern Conference, entitled “Viva La Evolution”, where I urged FS Marketers to evolve the way they gather and use knowledge to think about their customers, their market and themselves.

One of the tasks I set the delegates was to look at the risk of new market entrants from firms in highly trusted sectors and that had excellent customer service. Marks & Spencer was one of the companies I used in this scenario planning exercise to demonstrate the need to ‘look for competitive threats in unusual places’ and to ‘regularly review and update market response plans’.

So Friday’s news that Marks & Spencer is to launch M&S Bank in the summer came as no great surprise to me, with the intention to offer a current account from the autumn and mortgages ‘at a later date’. With over 3 million customers already using M&S Money, the near immediate cross-sales potential of the current account is massive. Add in the fact that M&S has 21 million customers and the business case writes itself.

What did surprise me was the rebrand from M&S Money to M&S Bank. The word ‘bank’ has developed negative connotations in some quarters and the move shows clear confidence that the strength of both the M&S brand and the M&S Bank proposition is materially different (and better) to that offered by ‘traditional’ banks. It certainly looks compelling, as customers will have access to branches that are ‘open twice as long as high street banks, seven days a week’, and will have 24 hour access to online banking.

This is all made possible thanks to a joint venture with HSBC, who describe this as “our most significant innovation in retail banking since we launched First Direct”. Nothing to be worried about there, then.

What do you think about M&S’ move? Do the high street banks have anything to worry about? Or will customer apathy and a renewed focus on increasing customer service levels be enough to hold onto their customer base?

Here’s the slide deck from my workshop last month.

CIM Spring Conference 2012

The Forum, where BBC East is based

The Forum, where BBC East is based (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Along with around 100 other marketers from across the East of England, I attended the CIM Spring Conference for the first time last week at The Forum in Norwich. I’d encourage you to visit the conference microsite where I understand the slides will soon be available, so this post is intended to give a flavour of the content along with the key takeaways.

The event was chaired by Rachel Sloane who was an excellent host and facilitator throughout the day and provided a seamless link through the array of content, asking highly relevant questions and sharing personal anecdotes that really helped stitch the sessions together.

First up was Eamon FitzGerald, a former management consultant and wine blogger who is now Wine Development Manager at Naked Wines and travels the world finding new wine makers (a tough job, but someone’s got to do it).

We learned how in just 3 years the business has grown to 200,000 customers and now ships 10,000 bottles of wine every day with sales in 2011 totalling £20M.

The business philosophy seems to be built around a lovely phrase Eamon used throughout the day, whereby they strip out ‘what you can’t taste’ in the wine. For example, as all sales take place online, packaging is less important so heavy bottles, corks and fancy labels aren’t needed.

Key takeaways

  1. Invest time and money in creating a product so good that people want to talk about it anyway, rather than focusing on building a social media strategy (i.e. “strip out what you can’t taste”)
  2. An engaged and relevant audience can be a source of finance. £120K was raised in just 8 hours to fund Carmen Stevens (the first black female to graduate in winemaking in South Africa) to make her own wines

Next up, Luisa Leone of Cambridge-based Hewitsons LLP gave an overview of the potential pitfalls of marketing around the Olympics.

I won’t be able to do Luisa’s content anywhere near enough justice here, so look out for her slides on the conference microsite. As an acid test, if you’re planning on running any kind of campaign that includes these words… 

…then STOP!

Key takeaways

  1. If you’re even thinking about referencing the Olympics in your marketing activity there’s probably a provision in the act that prohibits it, so check the CIM’s Marketing the Olympics Fact File.
  2. Get professional advice
  3. Repeat 1 and 2!

After coffee we heard Robert Jones from Wolff Ollins and UEA give a fast-paced overview of the concept of ‘Brand Next’ by illustrating how the “5 immutable laws of branding” were mutating.

  1. Positioning….to purpose
  2. Persuasion….to platform
  3. Consistency….to variation
  4. Ownership….to becoming boundaryless
  5. Control….to liberation

I found the idea that these ‘laws’ of branding were mutating to be extremely thought-provoking and we could have had a whole day conference dedicated to this subject alone. Again, I’d recommend looking at Robert’s content from the day.

Key takeaways

  1. Marketers should remind themselves of Robert’s words before embarking on any new product development “Old model: Make people want things; New model: Make things people want”
  2. The Wolff Olins report, “Game Changers” is well worth downloading

Ben Strutt, Head of Industrial Design at The Cambridge Design Partnership kicked off the afternoon with a lively and participative session which was a great way to avoid the post-lunch lull these events can sometimes have.

He talked about the need to create products surrounded by an ‘ecosystem’ of touch points, the value being derived from the experiences generated. He introduced us to the Dollar Shave Club to illustrate the point that ‘More value = more unmet needs, more effectively satisfied’. At the time of writing, this had achieved 3.9M views in just over 3 weeks:

He then talked us through a case study for Akzo Nobel‘s Dulux brand, where the challenge was to make painting more convenient. By observing video footage of people using the product, they gleaned the insight that there were a number of stages that people went through to get to the desired end result (perfectly painted walls)

  • Purchase
  • Prepare
  • Paint
  • Clean up

The answer was to develop a product system, containing a durable and a consumable, and thus the Dulux paint pod was born.

Key takeaways

  1. More value = more unmet needs, more effectively satisfied
  2. Creating a product system provides a number of benefits to consumer and producer alike
  3. The cost of technology is plummeting, so use it to deliver more value to your customer base

For more of Ben’s thinking, check out the Wired article on ‘designing for greatness’.

Finally, Julia Kenyon, Head of Global Brand, BBC Worldwide gave an excellent overview of the regeneration of the Doctor Who brand in 2005 after a break of 15 years. The show is currently sold to 185 territories worldwide and celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013.

Julia discussed the challenges involved when people want content NOW, not when content creators want to give it to them and the need to seek mutually reinforcing, distributed digital ecosystems. This is not just about creating websites, but going where your customers are. The advice was to put your content on the platforms that are successful in reaching your target audience- why would you not ‘fish where the fish are’?

As the show is only on 13 times a year, Julia discussed the need to create engagement with the fans in other ways in a digital world and after building a presence on Facebook as recently as 2 years ago, it now represents their most successful ad platform.

Key takeaways

  1.  Know your fans; Go where they are; Be interesting; Be generous; Don’t just talk, listen
  2. Whether fans of a TV series or customers of just about any business, I would argue the above still applies
  3. Use social media insights to inform business decisions. Through analysing Facebook data, BBC WorldWide were able to demonstrate the large number of fans in Germany, which led to them selling the rights to German TV

Final thoughts

I have been to conferences in London at 5-6 times the cost of this event and haven’t learned half as much so will certainly be heading back next year. Well done to the CIM East of England team and I look forward to seeing next year’s programme.

Giving marketing a rebrand- step 3

Ivory Towers

Ivory Towers (Photo credit: James F Clay)

In previous posts on the theme of ‘giving marketing a rebrand’, I have suggested a number of steps marketers can take to raise their profile, credibility and effectiveness. I have called for them to Fight the Fluff and Manage the Magpie.

In this third and final post in the series, I feel it’s time to Trash the Tower.

Marketers are sometimes perceived by other functions as living in an Ivory Tower which, according to Wikipedia, is a place “where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life”.

Sometimes we are worthy of the ‘ivory tower’ perception because we have become internally focused and disconnected from the customer. Sometimes workload and organisational politics conspire to make it harder than it should be to spend more time with front line staff and customers, but how else will we get to hear firsthand accounts of how the products and services we are marketing solve (or cause) customer problems?

Does this sound familiar? If so, when was the last time you were able to escape the confines of the head office ivory tower and hear the customer’s voice at firsthand?

And I mean truly firsthand, not sitting through a 72 slide debrief on ‘wave 58’ of the latest customer satisfaction survey (showing a 3% improvement from ‘wave 57’ but with a +/- 5% margin of error!).

Here are three practical ways in which you can reconnect with everyday life in your customer’s world and learn some actionable insights to improve their experience:

  1. undertake regular customer site visits with front line staff and witness firsthand how your product or service is used in their business – look for new ways in which you can tell these stories to prospective customers
  2. listen to customer calls in contact or service centres – your colleagues in these teams have more experience of the day to day client experience than most in the organisation, so make sure you tap into it when developing new initiatives and campaigns
  3. read the 10/20/50 most recent customer complaints – look for emerging patterns and identify an issue you can own and solve, even if this means stepping outside of your organisational silo to do so

How do you gain actionable insights in your team? What are your best practice tips for getting out of the ivory tower and listening to the customer? Where have you seen innovative techniques employed that you wouldn’t expect to see being led by a marketing team?

Giving marketing a rebrand- step 2

Last week’s post on giving marketing a rebrand coincided with a piece on a similar theme in Marketing Week and was picked up and included in their Storify.

I suggested that there are three steps marketers can take to raise their profile, credibility and effectiveness. Step 1 called on them to Fight The Fluff.

English: Oriental Magpie Robin മലയാളം: മണ്ണാത്...

Image via Wikipedia

In Step 2, I’m suggesting that marketers should Manage the Magpie.Some are afflicted by the desire for the latest shiny new thing, whether it’s the latest technology gadget, social media platform or marketing technique. With advances in technology disrupting many traditional business models, there’s no doubt it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in business, never mind marketing.

Yet for many, this excitement causes a common sense bypass! Some are blinded by the brightness of the new thing, whilst others jump onto the ‘me too’ bandwagon to seek the reassurance that if other/bigger/more interesting brands are doing something, so should we.

Expectations and excitement skyrocket as early successes from case studies (most likely from outside your sector and country, but don’t let details like that get in the way) start to emerge as ‘proof’ that the cynical doubters are wrong. But of course what goes up must come down and when the glitter fades and the post-hysteria hangover kicks in, you wake up in what Gartner call the ‘trough of disillusionment’.

Which is why, more than ever before, marketers need to be better at managing the magpie within themselves and others. They should make a focused, objective and dispassionate assessment before leaping in. Yes be curious. Absolutely be alert to changing trends. But always be asking ‘how will this improve the customer experience’.

To put an objective structure around your thinking, try the following

  1. build an informal, cross-functional group from sales, marketing and operations so that you can draw upon the wider experience in the business when a shiny new thing comes along
  2. get them to help you define at least three ways in which it will measurably improve the customer experience.
  3. the harder you find this, the easier the decision not to jump on

Do you look before you leap onto the latest shiny new bandwagon? How do you decide which new technologies to adopt and at what speed? Or maybe you work for a magpie and have some coping mechanisms to share here?

Giving marketing a rebrand- step 1

This is the first in a series of three posts on a subject very close to my heart, ‘giving marketing a rebrand’, where I’d like to offer three steps which marketers can take to raise their profile, credibility and effectiveness when faced with cynical non-believers.

Step 1- Fight the Fluff

Marketing is too fluffy and doesn’t add any real value to the business.

English: Marshmellow fluff

Image via Wikipedia

Sound familiar? Has your marketing function been referred to as the ‘brochure and brolly’ team? The colouring-in department? I’ve heard all of these and worse, so why do marketers attract this perception?

A common trap is that some marketing people focus on outputs that matter to the marketing team rather than outcomes that matter to the business. Who has ever won a piece of new business because the logo is exactly 7mm away from the top right of the brochure? Or grown market share purely thanks to the consistency of the secondary colour palette in PowerPoint decks? Your customers don’t notice or care about this stuff, so why should you?

As experts in brand management, isn’t it time we applied this knowledge to develop our personal brand and reposition that of our profession, rather than obsessing over minutiae that purely serves to reinforce the stereotype?

Top tips for fighting the fluff

  1. Begin with becoming obsessively curious about the wider business performance and how marketing can drive or influence it.
  2. Celebrate new customer wins within your team and make sure every one of them understands the key financials.
  3. Make a public commitment to link your team’s outputs to directly driving these business outcomes.

I’ll be sharing steps 2 and 3 in subsequent posts, but in the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts. What has driven you to despair over the ‘fluffy’ perception of marketing, and what steps have you taken to overcome it?