Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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2017 – The Year of Change

So after what seems a long and hard 2016, this year promises to bring a time of change and opportunity.  I have swapped the five-day a week commute from Bedfordshire to Manchester with boohoo for a more balanced life.

2017

Already under the belt are a couple of freelance projects, one a strategic project international expansion using marketing as the vehicle and the other a full content and brand marketing strategy for a new(ish) business.

One Non-Exec/Advisory role is already confirmed with the young and ambitious team at music festival/events company Strawberries and Creem, lead by the very impressive William Young.  Other discussions are underway in terms of Non-Exec roles which I cannot obviously reference unless I sign up to them.

Alongside this, I face the gruelling dilemma of whether to fiercely progress my own company as my sole focus or get a grown up job.  Either way, I do believe I have the network and people in place to also progress the content marketing idea that I have long held as important and a focus since my days at Dixons.

Obviously I have neglected the blog and looking at some of my older posts, I can’t believe how far both myself and the industry has gone in the five years or so, since I last regularly posted.  I almost deleted the blog and started again, but I think its good to see the journey.

I will do my best to keep this up to date, posting largely opinion based pieces of content with an honest, rather than industry accepted point of view.  You can expect comment on brand, content, digital, international, social and anything else that catches my eye.  I hope you find this of interest and if not, then I am sure you have thousands of sources already that you can rely on.

If anybody has any ideas on areas they would like covered, please feel free to let me know.


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New Series of The Apprentice Starts Tuesday

Whilst writing about the new series of The Apprentice is hardly a normal topic for a Marketing blog, I make no apology for it.  For me The Apprentice is up there with the top programmes on TV.  Both from a creative point of view and the way they have made people understand that a career in commercial organisations need not be boring.

My main hope for this series of The Apprentice is that they have selected candidates that want to be on the show for business reasons, not to try to catapault themselves in to a mini-celebrity.  The likes of Saira Kahn, Ruth Badger and more recently Kate Walsh have been good candidates but seemingly as intent on celeb status than a job with Lord Sugar.

The challenges provide great tests of the candidates talent and commercial acumen, although they quite often focus a lot on sales.  The characters are often so far out in terms of how exagerated they become to achieve stand-out for the crowd, some end up becoming parodies of themselves.

People in my network of friends have often said I should enter The Apprentice as they believe I could do well.  Frankly I don’t think I could put up with some of the candidates and how they behave, so its probably best I stay away.

Anyway, the show starts on BBC 1, Tuesday at 9pm and the candidates have already been unveiled.  We have people from all walks of life including the usual suspects from Sales and Marketing Backgrounds. I for one will be glued to my set to see how the candidates shape up and will expect the losing project manager to go in the first episode.

One element of sadness is that Margaret left the team.  That isn’t a negative around Ms Brady (Peschosolidio), more an endorsement for Margaret.  You could tell both her and Nick had an honest working relationship with Lord Sugar and none of it was forced.  With Karen because she was added to the show it fills a little more ‘done for TV’.

That being said, I can’t wait to hear Lord Sugar say for the first time, You’re Fired!

Oh one other slight negative, I really don’t like the after show half as much now Adrian Chiles has left.


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Using Social Media in a B2B World

Without a doubt Social Media is a really important element of modern life.  Individuals use it to connect with friends, old acquaintances and even celebrities.  Organisations of all sizes are using the likes of Facebook to make contact with their customers.  This doesn’t appear to change, if anything Social Media is likely to play an increasingly prominent role, especially now that Google states it will use buzz as an influence in its ranking.

When I speak to friends who work in a B2B environment they often ask what can they use it for.  I am also asked the same question when I speak at conferences.

Despite the repeated questions on how should B2B organisations adopt Social Media a Bizreport study outlined some interesting and surprising statistics.  86% of B2B firms already have an active Social Media presence compared to only 82% of B2C companies.  However the same report suggests that those B2B firms aren’t making the most of their presence with 32% engaging with their base on a daily basis, compared to 52% of B2C companies.  This is backed up by the fact that 34% of B2B companies aren’t tracking their activity in any way either.

Gut instinct is the same as if I was in a B2C environment. Use the channels in the way they should be used and create approaches that are right and targeted to your audience. The key thing I would advise anybody to do first however is understand why your business should be in Social Media and what is your aim of being there?  Can you offer the audience something they can’t get elsewhere or provide them with a point of view they don’t easily get.

Once you have defined your sense of being (in Social Media terms) you should integrate it into both your overall business processes and your overall Marketing strategy.  The reason for doing this is to ensure it becomes a part of your everyday activity in your business, automatically enabling you to avoid the pitfall of engaging in the stats in the report.

Perhaps more importantly in B2B than in B2C you really need to define what each channel will be used for.  That being said this is still an important factor in B2C however there is also more of an overlap of channels for B2C.  Remember, just because all the buzz and scale is with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you may decide that one or all of these channels are not suitable for your business.

A key part to any social media strategy is the reason for being.  Offer your customers something to engage with, provide a currency that will ensure they want to engage with your company. This will be different depending who your business is, what it does and your position in your sector and with your customers.

For example, if you are perceived as an expert in your field then your strategy will be completely different to if you are purely a distributor of kit.  We need to take one step back to the start of that sentence, the key part is how you are perceived by your customers, not how you perceive yourself.  You don’t need to undertake expensive brand studies just generally ask your customers some new questions, unless you already know the answers.

Obviously in a B2B environment customers are often as concerned by the commercial aspect so if you are in a position to offer something unique for those that engage with you via social media (voucher codes or free services) that could provide a boost to your numbers, however that alone will not necessarily help you achieve your goals unless its a continued programme of activity that provides real additional value.

The whole ethos of being an expert provides real social media gold.  What can you give to your customers that will help interaction and engagement.  A great example is to provide content they wouldn’t get elsewhere.  A builders merchant could provide HowTo guides for builders on ways to save money and time on specific projects such as building a conservatory.

A distributor of electrical components could provide a service to the end user but as an aid for their B2B customers.  The distributor could provide a mash-up of the UK map which is fully searchable and links to electricians in their area, with examples of their work and testimonials.  The distributor in theory could also create income from charging electricians to appear on their platform if scale was achieved.

IT training companies could really demonstrate their expertise by providing a community and forum on their own website where their trainers can answer delegates questions on site and in theory offer clinics at agreed dates to really give in-depth support to their delegates.  This would really add ongoing value to delegates and support them and their employers further in to the lifecycle.

These were just some basic ideas that could be adopted and across a number of sectors.  If you are in a B2B environment, feel free to make contact and I can see if I can devise something specific for you.  Also check out this B2B Social Media infographic


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I’m Back!!!

Well this isn’t a quote from a film.  Its to announce I am trying to get back in to my blogging.  Haven’t done it for some time and feel that I have neglected my regular readers.

So first and foremost, apologies for that.

What have I been up to.  Well the main reason for the lack of blog posts is the day job.  Hopefully it won’t have escaped your attention but we have now successfully launched the Best Buy website and of course all the marketing that goes with it.  How has it gone? Well obviously I won’t be revealing any commercials here, but overall the launch and our first peak went well.  We have certainly made a dent on the sector and helped ourself to a fair share.

We have managed to combine social media and acquisition marketing to drive business and traffic to a national website with low brand awareness.  Not a mean achievement.

Anyway enough of this, I have a post in draft which I hope to put live soon.

Take care and feel free to read any previous posts and leave feedback or comments.


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Location, Location, Location

This isn’t a post as a homage to Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsopp’s property show but more a view on one of the latest developments in online, location based Marketing.

From the rise of geo-targetting on Google. To the regional Tweets on Twitter to probably the fastest emerging elements, Facebook Places and of course FourSquare.  So some commentators question the long-term validity of these mediums as marketing channels. Others distrust the security. Some  however see these emerging channels as unique methods to undertake targetted activity of a stellar level.

In terms of geographical targeted advertising some channels are better than others.  The likes of Google has constantly refined and improved its offer in its core PPC offer but also with the introduction of LBC and within their display (content) network.  Facebook has placed substantial emphasis on developing its advertising platform and using the API there are numerous sophisticated targeting opportunities, not least geo-targetting.  Others, at present, are a lot less sophisticated. Twitter’s advertising platform(currently in its infancy)  is currently only open to a global audience, ensuring no matter how great your promotional message is, at present if your business is domiciled within a particular country, you will suffer unavoidable waste.  If Twitter’s ad platform is in its infancy then, others such as Foursquare, are at best babies or even yet to be conceived.

However, the paid for advertising component is only one thread we need to investigate.  The beauty of social media and the emerging opportunities are the organic methods of targetting.  These organic components are released by the channel owners and brands are actively encouraged to develop or promote on them, as long as it add value to the user base.  Twitter has a great site for developers and like Facebook they understand the benefit the developer community provides to their offer.  So enough of my ramble, what geo-targeting, geo-tagging, location based tools are out there at the moment?

Google Places

Formerly known as Google LBC (Local Business Centre) takes advantage of Googles open API on its map solution.  As a business owner you can simply upload your business with its address and pin it up to Google maps.  This is great, if like most people, your customers search for your locations on Google Maps.  It can also integrate with your PPC.  Great hygeine factor to include, but reliant on people knowing you already.

Google Geo-Targeted PPC

Google has moved a great distance in terms of its geo-targeting for PPC. Its relatively sophisticated PPC engine now allows you to target people in postcodes, towns or areas.  The best part of the latest enhancements is the fact that you can define a bespoke area by placing points on a map.

Facebook Places

Facebook Places is still at the beginning of its journey in the UK.  Whilst no advertising opportunities exist, plenty of organic opportunities are available to companies.  However your brand is much more likely to get referenced if you have a loyal following on Facebook.

FourSquare

This is one of the latest most talked about social applications. Very bascially it is a tool to ping people where you are at the moment, started out as used for places to eat but has quickly spread.  Not really sure it offers much differentiation from Facebook places, but it already has a decent level of uptake.

Twitter

Its only a matter of time before the sponsored elements of Twitter go regionalised.  The fact you can add a location to your tweets means it will go that way.  Then it is obvious targeting will become easier on the platform. At the moment, it is lagging a little behind the others.

What can you do?

So the question for marketeers has to be what can we use these tools for? Aside from the obvious distributing very regional messages, which is obviously of benefit there are other options.  You could make the use of these tools by your customers feel a little viral, offering incentives to them for becoming Mayor or first to mark your location a given number of times. 

You can also mark local events or openings via these mediums and minimise wastage on your promotions.

If you can operate social commerce, these mechanisms in the long-run could provide great opportunities for regional promotions, special events or even the selling of display or open-box items.  You could limit who the messages and promotions are distributed to.  This will not only minimise wastage and provide efficiencies on your effort, but it will reduce the likelihood of poor customer experience, when users from out of district see your promotion.

You should also reaserch the areas properly, there could be simple areas to target within established social media presences.  Think local student unions, Chamber of Commerce and Sports Clubs. These are users bought in to social and their particular interest. If you can get coverage with these communities, you are likely to succeed.

Remember these mediums allow you to provide ultra targeted (based on location) communications. However, remember you have to have a reason to be present. This can be slightly different if you are using the newer advertising based modules.


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Blendtec – Will it Blend

Will it Blend?

Blendtec is not really unique. It isn’t a particularly inventive idea. It isn’t even particularly well produced (although that is the point).  So why am I featuring it?

The simple truth is that Blendtec founder, Tom Dickson, took one of the 5 F’s of Social Media and used it to bring to life, a quite frankly, dull subject, blenders.  While most manufacturers were trying to make the products either sound like a must-have or focussing on key features, Blendtec took the unprecedented step of trying to make the topic of blenders fun.

What is it?

Blendtec was created after Tom first tried to blend a box of matches.  The mess created, inspired Tom to kick-off his unusual marketing campaign, which has turned into a viral success.  Blendtec now has its own sites with regular videos being placed on the site.  Tom Dickson still stars and utilises his inane grin as he subjects the items to the blender.

The campaign took off from almost day one.  The fact that the episodes offered shock value was enough, but the fun factor hasn’t tired.  Each episode centres on an item that really shouldn’t be blended, lighters, cans of fizzy drink and even a 6ft garden rake.

Part of Will it Blend’s appeal however is the fact that Tom normally offers up a reason for things being blended.  A common request from fans of the show is to blend a crowbar.  In one episode which appeared to bow to viewer demand it appeared Tom was going to attempt to blend a crowbar.  Completely by chance, this was interupted by a mobile phone.  Tom’s response was to blend each and every phone of the crew.

He has also earned money by doing shows based around the superbowl, blending in relation to movie launches and a disc of GTA IV.  Perhaps the standout feature was when Tom blended his iPhone citing the reason that he needed to upgrade.  The shock value in one of the most in-demand products being destroyed in front of your eyes made this episode one of the most watched in the series.

Fun

For me this is a perfect example of a campaign that just works.  It strikes a chord with people as it demonstrates a rather dry subject and creates theatre, involving something that the general public wouldn’t consider.  The main underlying theme for me is that the deliberately cheesy set-up and low-cost production values make the whole thing, a lot of fun.  This is truly one of the most successful viral/social campaigns there has been.  Not purely because of the buzz created.  Not purely because of the sheer volumes of views it has received.  This campaign has delivered real commercial return.

It is rumoured this very low budget viral has delivered up to 500% sales growth.  Proving that impact campaigns can deliver real commercial benefit.


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Do us a Flavour

Walkers – Do us a flavour

So in the first of the case studies to illustrate my 5 F’s theory, comes Walkers and “Do us a flavour”.

The Context

Walkers has always enjoyed a special closeness with the British public.  A relationship that has brought them huge commercial success and an almost dominant position in the crisp market.  Unlike most dominant players in their sector, there seems relatively little animosity towards Walkers.

Part of this has been down to product development but this significant position has also been achieved through great marketing.  Picking up on the status of national hero Gary Lineker was a masterstroke, and it is a relationship that still lives on today.  Walkers are responsible for creating some magic moments with some of the in-demand public profiles.  The classic example of this was when Walkers created a football execution involving Gary Lineker and a tearful Gazza (Paul Gascoigne).  Other celebrities such as Charlotte Church and more recently Cat Deeley have appeared.

Rather than develop the same theme and just extend it, Walkers created a real point of difference.

The campaign

In 2008, Walkers “Do us a flavour” campaign moved their advertising on by taking participation to a whole new level.  Capturing the mass love of social media and User-Generated-Content (UGC), Walkers created a campaign that involved the public and created a genuine national debate.  The beauty of the campaign was that it didn’t live in one space or develop through one-channel it almost became part of the British way of life.  The campaign obviously lived online.  However it also crossed TV ads, in-store, outdoor, radio,  mobile and even IVR (Interactive Voice Response).

The fact that the public suggested over 1.2m flavours (that equates to 2% of the UK population submitting a flavour) and over 1m votes on the final shortlist, proves what a storm the campaign created.

The campaign essentially became the first large-scale initiative to put the British public in control.  The election process was clear and straightforward.  Crowd sourcing at its best.  In hindsight this was a masterstroke as the campaign was also live when realtiy TV was at its peak.  All shows that centre on the population (viewers) being in control.

On top of all these factors, Walkers didn’t throw away the heritage and familiarity of its previous campaigns, Gary Lineker remained a focal point of the campaign.

So why did it work?

Well, partly down to the fact that Walkers spent a hell of a lot of cash on the campaign.  However, you could argue that this was no more than they would have spent on a standard campaign.  So Fortune was a factor in terms of spend.

For me the F’s that really made the difference were Fame.  The chance that “normal” people could get a massive amount of coverage regardless of whether they won.  Their creations, designs or concepts would reach hundreds of thousands of people, very few opportunities like that exist, unless you have an immense Talent (then maybe you could get on X-Factor).  The second success factor was Fortune (not the campaign spend).  The winner secured a huge £50,000 prize.  If that wasn’t enough, they also got 1% share of the revenue for all future sales, in theory, thats the pension sorted.

In my view the combination of social media nuances, putting the people in control and a massive fortune to the winner was a sure fire hit.  Yes the campaign spend did help.

And the winner is…

I suppose after waxing lyrical about the campaign it is only fair to reference the winning flavour – its was of course – Builder’s Breakfast.