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Culture shock: how I learnt to stop freelancing and love the job

Categories: At the Barn

When I moved to the UK from South Africa, I was convinced that I wouldn’t trade in my freewheeling, freelance lifestyle for anything (except, maybe, large sums of money). But time, boredom and an unkind Rand-to-Pound exchange rate forced me to revise my outlook, so I got a copywriting job in a large company. I should have been happy about finding a real day job, in my chosen field. There was a killer canteen with a whole counter just for cake, spacious parking, and even a swanky staff shop. I was spoilt. And I stuck it out for one whole week.

The work wasn’t particularly difficult, the schedule wasn’t exceptionally punishing, and the people were actually quite nice – my manager was like a Disney Princess in skinny jeans. But it wasn’t right for me. By the third day of driving into work, in tears, I realised that I wasn’t doing myself, or my new colleagues, any favours by pretending I wanted to be there.

 

Born free(lance)

In the aftermath that followed, I convinced myself that I had simply worked alone for too long, and was no longer fit for office life. Like a house pet turned feral, too much time had passed for me to be safely reintroduced into polite society.

Fast forward a few months and I’m back in an office, working as a copywriter at The Marketing Practice. The work is challenging, the schedule is packed, the expectations are high, and I couldn’t be happier. There are the obvious perks: great coffee, free food, a charming pub next door and a bucolic village setting.

But the major differentiator comes down to something that gets the spotlight in corporate brochures, and yet is often lost in the shadow of looming deadlines and delivery pressures… culture.

 

Principles or profit?

Every effort has been made to ensure that I feel like part of the team here. Time has been spent making sure that I understand not only what the company does, and how, but also why. They’ve kindly accommodated my wanderlust and considered my working preferences – although I notice I am still waiting for my hammock-desk to be erected.

It’s the importance of this cultural fit that is also reflected in one of, what I think, is The Marketing Practice’s most attractive qualities: their fussiness.

One of the best (and worst) parts of being a freelancer is the freedom to say ‘no’ to clients and projects that are not compatible with your own beliefs and values. But ask any freelancer if they prefer principles to payment and you’ll see an expression I like to politely call ‘conflicted’. Creative freedom is all well and fine, but rent doesn’t pay itself.

During one of my induction sessions, Clive McNamara (TMP Founder and CEO) explained that The Marketing Practice’s approach to taking on new clients was as discerning as it was towards taking on new staff. Only companies who share TMP’s values and objectives make the cut. There are few agencies who have the luxury, or the gumption, to be so choosy about finding the right fit when it comes to clients, but the effect on the work and the environment is obvious.

Every word in every message, every action, and every meeting has a purpose and point. Nothing is done by halves. The employees here don’t just feel obliged to deliver results – they feel personally accountable for them. It’s a completely different mindset to ‘churning out’ work to meet deadlines and then fluffing the numbers come award season.

Company culture is so much more than some waffle on your website, or an abstract word cloud in a CI guide. It’s the energy and the essence of an organisation, it’s the meter by which big decisions are measured and hard asks are answered. Your company’s culture can’t be defined in a snappy campaign, a vision statement, or a cute photo montage at the back of internal newsletter. It has to be lived, by everyone, every day.

And hey, when it’s right, it’s right.

 

When it's right, it's right.

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Posted by Jade Mitchell | April 28, 2016

Social selling: beyond the hype

Categories: Best Practice

A short guide to starting the conversation with your prospects

 

Ever noticed that if you repeat a word enough it loses its meaning?

Well it’s happening to social selling. Social selling. Boastful selling. Social smelling.

Social selling is everywhere right now: from blogs to boardrooms. So does that mean it’s just another meaningless buzz phrase?

Certainly not. If you can understand and execute social selling, you’ll build a network of prospects that’ll turn your competitors green with envy. It’s just a question of knowing how.

 

What is social selling? Really?

Buyers are choosing to talk to sales people later in the buying process than ever before, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t talking about you. The conversation has simply relocated.

92% of B2B buyers start their search online.

Social selling is a way of making sure you’re still part of that conversation. Done well, it opens up the opportunity to influence prospects before they’ve even started doing their research.

 

How to use social selling to build your pipeline

Our step-by-step guide reveals how we’ve made social selling work in a B2B world. Discover how to develop social sellers within your business, engage C-suite executives and measure the ROI of your social activity. Get the free guide

 

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Posted by Fran Gibbons | April 11, 2016

Welcome to the Funnel, by Jason Miller - Review

Categories: Best Practice

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Turkey on the menu, KISS playing in the background… the ingredients of a Saturday night for some, the foundation of ‘Welcome to the Funnel: Proven Tactics to Turn Your Social and Content Marketing up to 11’ for Jason Miller.

 

His motto is: ‘If you can inject your personality into what you do and the message you share, you’ll be one step ahead.’ In a world where prospects are increasingly in control of how they consume content across the buying cycle, marketers are playing catch up, and an excellent ‘Big Rock’ (piece of content) can be a game-changer.

 

The book is all about practical tips to improve content programmes. For example, Miller reminds you that spending time on a whitepaper (‘Big Rock’) can result in demand generation gold through a stream of smaller pieces of content (the ‘Turkey slices’), because that one piece of content can inform an entire email campaign later in the year.

 

Beyond content, Miller aims to remove the stereotypes which act as a blocker to excellent content marketing; this extends to ‘thought leaders’. We’re all guilty of thinking that writing as a ‘thought leader’ simply means writing top-level as a self-prophesised expert in a certain field. Miller breaks this down further – he says a thought leader can be:

  1. Industry-focused – writing the news, shaping trends and the market(s) you serve
  2. Product-focused – giving a business a means of getting from A to B, sharing ‘best practices, strategic roadmaps’, etc.
  3. Organisation-focused – reflecting ‘your company’s vision, innovations and uniqueness’

The barriers are also broken down in the relationship between content and social as he details ‘the 4-1-1 rule’: ‘For every one self-serving Tweet, you should Retweet one relevant Tweet and […] share four pieces of relevant content written by others’.

 

All in all, it’s a good book with some simple tips if you’re looking to establish a content programme. Miller’s words will surely resonate with every marketer in 2016 as our industry struggles to keep content relevant, exciting, and socially viable. But they have quickly become second-hand as the industry moves beyond the buzz of ‘content marketing’ into more considered, precise marketing tactics.

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Posted by Bryony Smithers | March 21, 2016

Why B2B marketing has had enough of the ‘57% of the buyer’s journey’ statistic

Categories: Best Practice

104990-004_TMP_Sales-enablement-presentation5.jpgIt’s surely one of the most used statistics in B2B marketing over the last couple of years. Sirius Decisions started it by declaring that 57% of the B2B buyer’s journey was complete before engaging a salesperson. In 2013 they added to it, claiming 67% of the buyer’s journey was done digitally. Google and others have since added their own estimates.

At Sirius Decisions’ 2015 summit, they admitted it might be time to ‘retire’ the statistic. But since then, I’ve seen more people than ever reference it. Marketers need to realise it’s not just about it being misleading. It’s about the fact it could be doing harm.

I worry that misuse of the 57% statistic creates a sales and marketing divide.

Too many times it’s used to suggest marketing’s responsibility for the sales process has increased. So we scrabble around, trying to work out how we can use marketing automation to nurture opportunities. Spending a fortune on new platforms, new personas and new content. Forbes’ claim about the ‘death of the B2B salesperson’ starts to ring true.

But we’re over-complicating it. Yes, automation can be very valuable. But not at the expense of the salesperson. We forget about the other truism in B2B marketing – the whole “it’s not business-to-business, it’s human-to-human” thing. A horrible phrase, but take it alongside the rise of digital and social, and what we’re talking about is a reframing of the sales and marketing relationship, and of the role of the salesperson. Not the rise of one at the expense of the other. Engage properly with sales, and they can be an integral, human part of your digital demand generation machine.

There are three more important reasons why we’ve had enough of the statistic:

  • It’s fundamentally flawed. This is the big one – I think a lot of B2B marketers instinctively realise the statistic just doesn’t make sense. Social has actually increased the importance of the salesperson. Now, engaging a salesperson isn’t about taking a phone call and giving up a couple of hours to run through some creds and case studies. It can be about connecting on LinkedIn and casting an eye over their blog. Connecting over Twitter at an event. Having a quick Skype call to run through a demo.
  • It doesn’t make you look good. In fact, it can make you look behind the times. Digital has moved on so far since the days when its importance in the sales cycle had to be justified. B2B marketers’ use of digital has had to move on too – too much B2B marketing isn’t properly integrating digital channels. You used to be able to get away with a few landing pages, some form captures and a handful of LinkedIn posts to support a campaign. It was a ‘hygiene factor’, while traditional demand gen was responsible for most of the commercial results. Not any more.
  • It’s no longer needed. Any marketer that still needs to justify their focus on digital and social to their business is facing an uphill struggle. Stats aren’t going to get them anywhere, if their business is missing the blindingly obvious. This isn’t to say that we don’t have to justify digital spend by showing returns. In fact, quite the opposite – it’s not enough any more to justify digital investment with theory; it should be tangible.

The topic of digital and sales integration is explored further in this report about the 3rd era of demand generation.

If you would like to discuss the topic further, I'd love to hear your thoughts  you can contact me here.

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Posted by Matt Harper | March 2, 2016

The Marketing Practice opens its doors in Germany

Categories: At the Barn

Photo credit: Moveandstay.com


PRESS RELEASE:

The Marketing Practice (TMP) opened its first office outside of the UK on February 5th 2016.


Over recent years, the agency has won multiple awards for its pan-European campaigns for clients. In Germany TMP has an especially strong track record, with successful demand generation programmes for Atos, Canon, Salesforce and HP Enterprise Services. These have delivered outstanding results: every €1 spent by Atos on marketing leading to €284 incremental order entry.

Germany was chosen as the location for this move due to its strategic importance for TMP’s existing clients – the result of the size and growth of its IT and technology industry. The move to Germany is the next stage in TMP’s ambition to deliver groundbreaking B2B marketing across Europe.

TMP’s Germany practice is headed up by former client Andreas Bernhard and is based in Munich. The team will begin with three members and work hand-in-hand with the agency’s existing team of native German Inside Sales executives in the UK.

“It’s an exciting venture”, TMP chairman Clive McNamara reported. “TMP’s model has already proven successful in Europe. TMP focuses not on just pure lead generation but the entire sales cycle. We provide a holistic offering for demand generation, account-based marketing and pursuit marketing, which brings us into a unique position in the German market”.

Germany boasts the fourth largest economy in the world and the largest in the Eurozone. The German technology industry alone is worth more than €800bn every year.

If you’d like to find out more about TMP’s work in Europe, please contact Paul Everett at peverett@themarketingpractice.com

 

Photo credit: König Büro Management GmbH

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Posted by Dan Squire | February 26, 2016

Metrics and chill? How closed-loop reporting can help you seal the deal

Categories: Best Practice

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There is an ever-increasing number of marketing channels, and with that comes an abundance of campaign data for B2B marketers to contend with. This abundance makes it harder for marketers to achieve closed-loop reporting from campaigns. Symptoms of this could include:

  • Producing content that gets views, but doesn’t contribute to long-term goals (e.g. clickbait)
  • Gathering data about leads but not passing it on to the people who need to know about it
  • Waiting until the end of a campaign to report on ways to improve, and missing out on that feedback when you needed it

In summary: you might be able to report on everything, but you need to make it actionable. And the quicker you can action it, the better.

Let’s take an example. You’ve been posting useful content and keeping track of your interactions on LinkedIn for six months. You need to justify the time spent on social media, so you show your manager a report that shows your interactions have gone up by 5% month on month. That’s great, but how much better could you be doing? Is 5% good? And what’s the commercial value of that 5%?


There are a few simple ways to make that report even more compelling.


If someone comments, you reply, connect with them, or send them an InMail inviting them to your next event. Perhaps they never respond to your InMail – if the response rate is very low, you know to rethink your nurturing approach. On the other hand, perhaps they start a conversation with you, come to an event, download a whitepaper or set a meeting. Now you’ve proven which responses work and which don’t work, so your success is repeatable and more efficient. Not only that, but you have a much clearer idea of how to engage prospects when their first touchpoint was on LinkedIn.


Apply this feedback approach to any other marketing practices – content marketing, email, events, digital advertising, sales enablement – and the principle works pretty much the same. It all comes down to a few main actions:

  • Think about metrics in terms of their business value in a wider context (lower engagement on social media may not be an issue if that engagement is with the right decision-maker and delivers pipeline)
  • Frequent communication between delivery teams about what their insights and goals are
  • Constant re-evaluation of your strategy based on data-backed reporting

Here’s an example from TMP.


We recently ran two concurrent programmes for the same professional services client – a demand generation campaign and a thought leadership campaign for the C-suite. Salespeople on the demand generation programme gave feedback about which subjects were engaging prospects and which weren’t. They also wanted more support to articulate the company proposition in those areas. In response to this feedback, we re-evaluated our content marketing programme and aligned it with what the sales team needed and reported, making it more relevant and stand-out in the mass of content found online. This approach helped us deliver 120% of our lead target over a nine-month period.


We are also trialling a new approach for capturing feedback from our Inside Sales team more quickly and efficiently than ever before, and feeding that back to our planning and content teams. For more information about how to integrate your sales and marketing teams, see our Sales & Marketing Charter.

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Posted by Dan Squire | February 17, 2016

Creativity – A Logical Business Case

Categories: Best Practice

If I were to say the word ‘creative’ to you, what would you think? Big square media spectacles? An office painted in primary colours – possibly located in Shoreditch?

If you’re a marketing director or CMO of a business services or business process organisation, the answer might be ‘not a lot’. After all, your customers deal in rational decisions when it comes to purchasing your products and services. They want to know you’ll deliver ROI, that you’ll help them build credibility – even that signing a deal with you won’t cost them their job.

So creativity is for those flakes in B2C right? You’re in the business of marketing and selling serious services to serious people. They, like you, want to see results.

Well, there’s no easy way to tell you this, but you’re wrong. As wrong as Motörhead appearing on the X Factor, or Graham Norton becoming the next Bond. That wrong. Creativity does play a role in the B2B space – one that when done properly, leads to cold, hard sales.

That’s not me saying that by the way. You could be one of our clients, or a prospect – I’d be mad to offend you. That’s straight from the marketing and advertising body the IPA, and the Marketing Leadership Council of CEB.

What an analysis of work by both organisations reveals, is that building an emotional link to a B2B brand through the use of creativity is a critical driver of purchasing decisions. Simply put, you are more likely to buy from a vendor that you trust – and that creatively-driven campaigns are 10 times more efficient at driving market share than non-creative campaigns.

Is it possible to do the subject justice in a blog? Probably not. That’s why we produced a more in-depth piece of work, put together by our former Marketing Director Robert Ainger. Balancing Reputation and Revenue: a logical argument for creativity, shows why combining the emotional with the rational when speaking to B2B purchasers benefits the bottom-line (in terms of what people think of you and actual cash money) over the immediate and long term.

And that leaves you with a clear and logical business case for building creativity into your campaigns.


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Posted by Ray Philpot | February 12, 2016

Help Take Over The (B2B Marketing) World

Categories: At the Barn

Join us as we grow. And grow. And grow.

2016 is the year The Marketing Practice takes over the world! Okay, well, world domination might be taking it a bit far, but we are growing pretty quickly, whilst delivering award-winning marketing for our industry-leading clients (we’ve been the most recognised agency at the B2B Marketing Awards over the past 3 years). We’re moving into a third barn at our rural Oxfordshire home this year, and we’re opening two offices overseas too. And as exciting as this is, we can’t do it alone – there’s 120 of us now, and we need another 10+ exceptional B2B marketers to join us and help with our huge plans – from graduates to copywriters, and Account Directors to Inside Sales. Sound good to you?

I joined TMP a little over two years ago as a grad and haven’t looked back since. It’s a culture of exceptionally talented, fun, focused, diverse and rather different people. And as well as genuinely enjoying the work we do, we love to have fun too:

  • we’ve raised over £15,500 for the Footsteps Foundation over the past year with our Chains for Change initiative
  • we raised over £10,000 for Parkinson’s UK with a 24-hour table football marathon
  • our social committee opened our Friday after-work-drinks bar in 2015
  • and someone decided it would be a good idea for us to build and race our own go-karts at our annual Hall of Fame company celebration ‘away day’ last year…

So ask yourself this… Are you looking for a challenge in 2016? SYN_TMP_Grad_Social_life_create_fb_shared.jpgBecause if you’re an exceptional B2B marketer, and you think you could help us in our quest of continuing to conquer the B2B world this year, then you should probably let us know. Before you do, you can find out more about us on our website, then either drop us an email to tell us why you think you’d fit in well around here, or give us a call (01235 433 435) and have a chat with our Recruitment team – ask to speak to Joanna.

I’ll leave you with this. It’s a video of me from a couple of years ago, not long after I first joined TMP, feeling a little more embarrassed than usual… I was told I had to write this bit…

 

Matt Jones
Senior Account Manager

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by Matt Jones | February 4, 2016

5 B2B buzzwords that have lost their buzz

Categories: Best Practice

This blog post is going to make you reach out. Reach out and touch those tangible benefits. It’s going to immerse you in puddles of innovation. Leverage your vision. Synergise your solutions. Optimise your… you.

Feeling uncomfortable? You should be. You’ve just experienced the full force of B2B marketing jargon. Everyone’s innovative. Every leader’s dynamic. Of course, this means that no-one is. Readers have heard it all one thousand times before. If they respond to jargon-filled marketing, it will be in spite of the copy, not because of it.

 

So why do we do it? There are four reasons:

        1. Hooked on the “language of business”

The more that people in positions of power repeat jargon, the more we begin to believe that this really is the language successful people use. We have to say these things to make ourselves look “in the know”. These are words that make money!

        2. Not trusting the audience

We think our audience is familiar with this language and if we stray from it, they won’t understand. The issue with this thinking is that, in one way, all audiences are the same. They like things to be spelled out in a clear, concise way.

        3. One crime leads to another

Sometimes the real crime isn’t using a banned word, but the lack of understanding of the topic. The writer throws in a few buzzwords to muddy the waters. With a bit of luck, any readers who don’t get it will assume that this is down to their own stupidity.

        4. It’s really hard to say no

There are times when these words are difficult to avoid. You need time and you often need a longer character count – which may or may not be available.

 

Think twice before using these words…

First, a disclaimer: this isn’t a hit list. These words don’t have to be Tipp-Exed out of the dictionary. These are words that should be handled with care. Here goes…

Innovative

A word that means “doing new stuff” has been used so many times that it’s become old hat.

Are you doing something no other human has ever done before? Do employees freely share controversial ideas? If the answer is yes, then you might be innovative, but that doesn’t mean that you should shout about it.

Innovative people don’t tell people they’re innovative – they prove it. Talk about the work you’re doing. Explain what it is about your product or work culture that’s new and exciting.

A few alternatives to consider: inventive, original, new, advanced, groundbreaking, pioneering.

Scalability

Scalability may well be relevant to the product you’re writing about. For example, it might be a system that can be tested on a small team and then rolled out to a large number of users. The key here is to ask in what way is it scalable? How does scalability help my readers? Don’t gloss over the details – these are often the bits that will bring your proposition to life.

Strategic

Strategic. Sounds like a respectable sort of a word. And it is – except when it’s applied to topics that are innately strategic.

“The Board’s strategic plan”

Is this ever not strategic? That’s the question to ask yourself every time you find your fingers typing those nine letters. Do the board ever make plans by accident? Do they set out proposals that are unrelated to their long-term goals? If the answer is no, then all you need to do is hit delete.

Vision

I have a dream. If it’s good enough for Martin Luther King, it’s good enough for you, right? Wrong. Visions have to be big. World peace. Curing cancer. Changing lives.

A vision isn’t just a plan. It’s thinking about the future “with imagination or wisdom”. The OED will back us up on that one. Making more money and organic growth don’t count. If your long-term objectives aren’t transforming the way your customers work or live, let’s just call it a plan.

Tangible benefits

You’re either trying to say people can touch your benefits or that they are real. The first option is probably not correct. The second option probably is, but it’s also not necessary. Unless you’ve given readers a reason to think that you’d present false benefits, there’s no reason to say that this isn’t the case.

So we’re back to plain old “benefits”. Admittedly, this has been used a lot. You could try replacing it with “advantages” or “differentiators” or, even better, state what difference the benefits make. Tell the reader why they should care. How the product helps them. Then you might not need to say “hey, this is a benefit” at all.

 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg…

There are plenty more words that deserve a place on this list. Which terms do you see too much of? Do you have any tips on how you avoid them? Let us know what you think.

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Posted by Fran Gibbons | January 21, 2016

Smarketing: the rise of the sales and marketing hybrid

Categories: Best Practice

Matt Harper, Head of Content at The Marketing Practice, discusses the changing relationship between Sales and Marketing and why those who can merge the two fields bring the most success to their B2B organisation.

B2B Marketing has experienced the same formative changes affecting every industry. Once again, it’s down to digital.

This word has distracted marketers. It’s divided Sales and Marketing even further. The world of content marketing and infographics is remote for the salesperson consumed by customers, pipeline and bids. But, marketing profs have reported that “Companies with aligned sales and marketing generated 208% more revenue from marketing.” 

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This gulf has given rise to a new breed of Sales and Marketing hybrid. A smarketer.

 

The smarketer

The smarketer understands the salesperson. In fact, they’re more than likely a former salesperson themselves (the one that led social, and had lots of bright ideas for that event stand).

Not only do they deliver more revenue opportunities by understanding effective demand generation, but they deliver the right ones because they can identify a good opportunity.
 

They understand marketing too. They know it’s not just about hitting the phones and sending emails. Integrated marketing isn’t a pipe dream for the smarketer, it’s just good selling - communicating with customers on their terms. 

McKinsey have said that “90% of companies who embrace a new approach to marketing, sales and pricing are delivering above-market growth and sustaining it over time.” The smarketer creates a bridge between insight and feedback from sales, and input and support from marketing.

They keep everyone happy. And, they’re responsible – for sales and marketing integration, for pipeline and even for revenue.

Smarketers are on the rise. They’re bringing with them a host new approaches, demands and agencies. But, most importantly, they’re bringing an improved approach to delivering effective reputation and revenue for B2B organisations.

For more information about why sales and marketing integration is crucial for modern marketing, read our charter here.

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Posted by Matt Harper | January 14, 2016

The Marketing Practice generates demand and builds customer relationship programmes for clients including Atos, AXA, Canon and Oracle.

themarketingpractice.com

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