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Dark Social – still a problem

Categories: Best Practice

When people hear “sharing” they immediately think of Facebook, Twitter and other popular social channels. There is a missing piece which gives more holistic view of social engagement which marketers tend to forget about. This missing piece is called dark social and as it turns out, it can take up to 72% out of your social media metrics.

So what is dark social? It’s a silent sharing of your content that happens outside the usual social media networks. In a nutshell, people copy and paste the URL and share it using email, apps and instant messaging services. If your monthly social reports are only based on metrics provided by social networks (i.e. Twitter analytics), you don’t get the real picture of how your content is performing on social.

To put things into perspective, here’s a real life example of the impact it may have on your social reporting.

A client shared their Twitter reports with us last week and was interested to see how low the clicks were compared to our reports through link tracking tool po.st. While Twitter analytics showed only 13 clicks, po.st registered 137 for the same period. Confusing? Well yes, but if you look into referrers information provided by po.st, you will soon realise that 84% of all clicks came from Email Clients, IMs, and Direct and only 11% from Twitter.

Dark Social2


What is also interesting is that dark social generates clicks even two months after your content has been posted on social networks. The maximum lifespan of a tweet is 48 hours. This is when people are able to share and click on your content. It seems like Twitter and other social networks are just a starting point, while dark social drives content further and for a longer period of time.

It all sounds positive but dark social still remains a problem because it’s hard for brands to monitor and pinpoint where exactly the traffic is coming from. So what would be the best approach? Instead of purely relying on analytics provided by social media networks, use advanced link tracking services and combine this knowledge with the analysis of your content (number of views and traffic sources). This will not only give a better view of how your content is performing on social media, but will also help you better understand your audience’s ‘digital’ behaviour.


Posted by Monika Lazarowicz | December 15, 2014

For successful lead generation, turn your proposition into a campaign message

Categories: Best Practice

It's possible to generate leads for pretty much any proposition. Not that you should, of course - if it's going to be impossible to sell, then it would be a good idea to reconsider the proposition.

But let's assume that the proposition is a sound one, and that any right-thinking buyer would bite your arm off to sign on the dotted line - if only you could spend an hour with them to explain it (followed by 6-12 months going through the sales process...).

All you need is to sell them on the idea of spending an hour with you. Easy if you're Megan Fox. Less so if you're a 'leading supplier of business services'.

Let's also assume (it's a dream scenario) that your data is entirely accurate and you have a contact strategy which is a thing of beauty (say, an integrated campaign plan with multiple touch-points over several months).

So you push 'go' on your lead generation campaign, but you only get a trickle of opportunities back. Why? 9 times out of 10, it'll be because the strong proposition wasn't converted into a strong set of campaign messaging.

What's the difference between proposition and message?

The short answer: it's the difference between a campaign that sounds good to an internal audience (strong proposition) and one that actually works when it reaches customers and prospects (strong message).

The longer answer:

The proposition is the articulation of the superior value (compared with the competition) that you can bring to bear on solving an issue that a prospect faces.

The campaign messaging is what happens when you take the proposition and think about what the audience needs to know there and then, what/who they are most likely to listen to, what will capture their imagination, and what will convince them to take the next step with you.

Let's take the 4 elements of successful messaging in turn

  1. What the audience needs to know - depending on what stage the market is at for your proposition and what stage of the buying cycle your ideal prospect is at, they will respond to very different messages. The simple example would be to compare a prospect who doesn't even know they have an issue with one who is already evaluating different solutions. Clearly you need to share very different information with people in these two scenarios - the same applies to the difference between a proposition that is brand new to the market with one in a category that's well established.
  2. What/who they are most likely to listen to - really an extension from the previous point, the idea here is to think about the kind of information people will respond to and what sources will hold most authority (analysts, existing customers, their peers, your delivery experts....).
  3. What will capture their imagination - this is an invitation to get more 'creative' than any standard value proposition would allow. That could mean 'creative' in the design/copy sense - for example, we took a client proposition about joining up strategy with execution and turned it into a campaign about great weddings (complete with pieces of wedding cake sent to their key customers). Or it could mean 'creative' in a more business sense - for example identifying that building a 'maturity model' around your proposition will help you to open doors and sell more consultatively.
  4. Convincing them to take the next step with you - the best campaign messaging is entirely context-aware, and is rooted in the knowledge that buyers will be going through several stages and can be speeded up by focusing on selling the value of taking the next step (e.g. an hour's meeting) rather than always focusing on the end solution. What's the value of the hour's meeting? What will they get that they couldn't get from someone else? How will it help them to do their job? (In a way, this part of the campaign message is like building a little proposition all of its own for the next step in the sales process)

Get all of these 4 elements right, and prospects should be beating a path to your door - and having spent so much time on crafting vaue propositions it would be a shame for some of the mega deals to get away for lack of campaign messages.


Posted by Paul Everett | December 13, 2014

The Marketing Practice raises over £10,000 with cheeky charity event

Categories: At the Barn

TMP Foundation has raised over £10,000 for Parkinson’s UK by hosting a 24h table football marathon. Over 100 members of staff took part in the marathon, which was kicked off by the Cheeky Girls. Parkinson’s UK is a support and research charity leading the search for a cure for the disease.

The Cheeky Girls, who achieved success in the charts with four top ten hits between 2002 and 2004, are keen supporters of Parkinson’s UK because their grandmother lived with Parkinson’s for many years.

Members of staff played through the night at the Oxfordshire offices and a sub team then took additional tables to London the next morning and continued to play at various locations across the city.

The inspiration for the marathon came from a client of The Marketing Practice who has Parkinson’s. Tim Isaac was diagnosed in 2009 and wrote a powerful poem titled ‘Tick-Tock’ which has been used by Parkinson’s UK and the associated South London Young Parkinson’s Network for their ‘Stop the PD Clock’ campaign. Dame Judy Dench performs the poem alongside younger people with the condition at slypn.org.uk/stopthepdclock.

Tim, who is the Global Marketing Director of the industry leading research firm TNS says: “It is difficult to precisely communicate the physical and emotional 1-2 punch that one experiences if you have Parkinson’s – and the collective effect on family, friends, carers is often ignored or sugar coated. I wrote “Tick-Tock” as a reflection of how I felt – and it seemed to strike a chord with others who have donated their talent towards this campaign. Finding a cure in my lifetime is the lifeline that keeps me strong, and events such as this make that more achievable.”

As well as donations from staff and the public, clients of the Marketing Practice including Canon, TNS, HP and O2 sponsored the event, and people were given the opportunity to bid for items such as a 9-day stay at the Wildfitness retreat in Zanzibar and hospitality tickets for the 2015 Capital One Cup Final through an online auction.

You can still make a donation by visiting www.justgiving.com/TMPmarathon.


Posted by Claire Lund | December 3, 2014

3 reasons behind the prime number trend

Categories: Experiments

It started off as a bit of a joke around the office here at TMP. When writing a listicle, the best way to generate interest is to get a prime number in the headline.

But after a while we started spotting them more and more. In fact, they’ve become such a trend across the web that we decided to do a little digging to see if there was anything to it.

It turns out prime numbers have always been a bit of an enigma.

They seem to crop up every now and then and befuddle us all by doing things like helping us communicate with aliens or keeping cicadas alive, before quietly returning to their regular day job of only being divisible by one and themselves.

Now they’re back and they’re lending their mysterious magic to the marketing world.

So why are prime numbers such a popular headline choice? We think it’s due to three fundamental copywriting facts:

1) People really love reading lists.

With the seemingly endless supply of marketing related information and advice available online, dividing things in to lists makes it easier ‘to make infinity comprehensible.’

It also has a clear advantage for the viewer as it a) gives them at least a vague idea of how long it will take to read, and b) demonstrates an instant guaranteed result: i.e. if you read this, you will learn this many things.

2) Odd numbered lists seem more convincing than even numbered ones.

It’s a strange phenomenon, but statistics suggest that people are generally more likely to read a list consisting of an odd amount of data. This is mainly because people find the unevenness more authentic. Since all prime numbers are odd, this means that you’re more likely to come across them.

But intriguingly, there are also studies that show that the brain automatically processes things in groups of three or five. So even if you don’t actively use a prime or even an odd number, they’re still sneakily weaving their magic in your subconscious.

3) We’re easily wooed by alliteration.

It’s the sort of thing you learn in primary school: if you want a snappy headline, alliteration is your ally. But studies have shown that alliteration actually helps the brain retain information, making your headlines instantly more memorable. And it just so happens that prime numbers work really well with the staples of alliterative listicle headlines:

3 things you need to know…

5 facts about…

7 business secrets…

See what I mean?

So given all that, it may be that the magic marketing power of prime numbers is all just circumstantial. It’s only TMP’s pet theory for now. But why not give it a go and see if it works? We’d love to hear from you either way.

And I should add for my own safety that when I was researching this article I did discover that prime numbers are secretly worshipped by the illuminati, so if I go missing you know who’s to blame.



Posted by Rconstable | October 6, 2014

Your subject line’s sidekick: the pre-header

Categories: Best Practice

When a potential or existing customer is wading through a sea of marketing emails on their mobile device, a well-worded pre-header could be the difference between them opening or archiving yours. Because this is what they see:


A pre-header is the text following the subject line when an email is in preview on a smartphone or tablet, (or some desktop email clients, such as Gmail). Which means pre-headers are now very important.

The facts are these: more and more in the B2B sector, buyers are opening their emails primarily on their smartphones. The stats from one of our own campaigns show a 13% growth in this trend from 2011-13, and it’s forecast to rise another 23% between now and 2017.

And according to Forrester.com, the amount of marketing emails sent per annum is sky-rocketing into the billions. Naturally, this means recipients want to be able to gauge what’s trustworthy and what’s spam as quickly and easily as possible.

So if you’re not sure what an e-mail pre-header is or how to use it, now’s the time to find out.

So how do I get a pre-header?

Email clients that have a preview function will automatically use the first text they find at the top of any email – which is often your ‘View in browser’ or ‘Unsubscribe’ links. But just doing this is a wasted opportunity. You can in fact dictate to email clients what the pre-header says – which means you can use them as another way to get the recipient to engage with your email and to further promote your message.

One way to do this is by putting the words you want in the very top left of your email (see below). However, this can sometimes look a bit misplaced when you view the actual email itself.

It’s better to ask your friendly HTML developer to put your pre-header copy into the code of your email. Then your pre-header is still displayed on the preview, but will not be visible when you view the email itself.

What’s the most effective way to use them?

Look at it like this: the pre-header is to your subject line what Robin is to Batman – a chance to give the reader a WHAM! to go with the POW! of your subject line. So the pre-header content needs to follow the same rules as the subject line: ensure it is compelling, engaging and leaves the reader wanting more.

And the best way to achieve this? Keep it honest. Get straight to the point. And most importantly: make sure it’s benefit led. The recipient needs to see immediately what’s in it for them. So ask yourself the questions (you should be doing this for all of your emails anyway):

  • What do I want the recipient to do with this email?
  • Why should they do it?

The key to your subject line and pre-header message is in the answer to these questions.

The bottom line is: various email clients are giving you a certain amount of extra text to get your message across and encourage the recipient to open the darn thing. So make sure you are taking full advantage of that, and not missing out on such a simple and easy method for adding to the potential selling power of your email.

If you’re going to hit them with a powerful subject line, make sure you are also calling in the pre-header to finish the job. Holy click-through, Batman.


Posted by Georgia Constable | October 3, 2014

How to use contact profiles to engage with your customers on an emotional level

Categories: Best Practice

When it comes to personalising marketing messages, merging in a company name and industry sector just doesn’t cut it anymore. “Change is the only constant in [insert industry sector]!”

So how do you get enough info to deliver meaningful personalisation and capture your customer’s attention – without breaking the bank? Contact profiles are an invaluable way of gaining insight into someone’s mind-set to find the messages that will resonate most strongly with them.

Whilst working on a bid support piece for a client, we discovered that one of the key decision-makers at the target company had been very vocal about a bad experience in a previous role. It turns out that during a similar bid exercise, the staff redundancies were handled particularly badly.

Since that point she had noted in several interviews and online posts that the people aspect of bids was always at the front of her mind. We were, therefore, able to tailor a targeted message that would resonate with her directly.

There were 12 decision makers and each received a similar treatment. The bid (for the largest IT project of its kind in Europe) was a success.

Insight like that can be priceless to you and your teams. And it doesn’t just have to be as part of Bid Support. It can also be used in Account Based Marketing programs and for New Business accounts.

Before you even have a conversation with them, you may find that your audience…

  • enjoys golf – so why not invite them to your next corporate golfing event
  • or that they went to the same university as you – what a great way to start a conversation with someone
  • or even that they are particularly interested in the impact of digitisation on their business – something that you also know a lot about.

Many marketers stress the importance of finding out organisations’ business problems to equip the sales team with the knowledge to close a deal. But contact profiling can add the personal information that allows you to stand out from the crowd and engage at an emotional level.

We've put together a 1 page guide for building an effective contact profile:

Profiles 1 page image

Although the profiling exercise naturally fits within the marketing department, it is crucial that they are developed in conjunction with the sales team who will be using them. Anecdotal conversations that the sales team have had with customers can also often offer interesting insights into the internal lines of responsibility as well as further information on key priorities and interests.

Once you have finished the profiles don’t forget about them, maintain them and keep them up to date with their latest speaking engagements, blog posts and job titles – you never know when they may come in useful!


Posted by Jenny Leighton | October 2, 2014

Stuffocation and why experience is the new marketing battleground.

Categories: Best Practice

The shift from materialism to experientialism is the key cultural trend of the 21st century. So says James Wallman in his book Stuffocation. And, for what it’s worth, I tend to agree.

The basic premise of Stuffocation is that we are drowning in stuff. We have too much on our plates, too much to think about, a bewildering list of little worries in large part self-manufactured.

“Instead of thinking of more stuff in positive terms, like we used to, we now think more means more hassle, more to manage, and more to think about”, explains Wallman. “Instead of looking for status, happiness, identity, and meaning in material things in the future we’ll be finding those things in experiences instead.”

So where you used to demonstrate status by showing off physical objects in your house to dinner guests, you now do it by sharing photos on Facebook of experiences you’re having.

Profound stuff, if you’ll forgive the pun. It resonates with me personally but it also points to a couple of things I feel quite keenly about the state of B2B marketing.

It feels like most marketers I meet are running to keep up with the sheer volume of things they have to do. They are managing so many programmes and producing so much content they don’t have time to get their heads up and think. The content and marketing automation zeitgeists haven’t helped. The reaction seems to have been to run faster, produce more content, do more programmes.

Trying to do so much, inevitably, comes at the expense of quality and effectiveness. I can’t help but feel that, when we aggregate all the content programmes now running, all the SlideShares, e-books, webinars, automated email streams, all we are doing in the race to create more is to contribute to a deluge of screen-based, mediocre stuff.

The danger is we alienate our audience. Just as marketing sees its much talked-up chance to ‘get back to the top table’, we only strengthen the sense of our irrelevance. So what do we do about it?

  1. Stuffocation contrasts physical objects (which add hassle and clog up our lives) with experiences (which we now look for and share). B2B marketers should recognise and take advantage of this. While the mass of content marketing will begin to feel unwelcome, instead what the audience will increasingly respond to are experiences.

Let’s look, then, for ways to put experience at the heart of marketing plans. Don’t just say what you do; do what you say. Ask how we can create programmes like IBM’s brilliant Watson Jeopardy! or O2’s Flexiday that demonstrate your value, rather than just writing it in an e-book and Tweeting about it (disclosure: O2 is a client). It’s got a much better chance of creating some positive connection.

  1. There is a need to do less. Focus on a few big programmes that will genuinely influence the underlying factors of market performance. Be very discerning about what content you produce and make what you do produce exceptional. Do a few things wonderfully rather than many things slavishly.

For those of you with a thirst for more detail about the principles of Stuffocation, here’s a presentation from the author:

[Turns off computer and goes for a pint of real ale.]


Posted by DvanSchaick | September 29, 2014

Why I love working in  B2B marketing

Categories: At the Barn


I heard somewhere that as many graduates are now going into B2B marketing as into B2C. Probably wasn’t true when I started 10 years ago (and the fax-back form was the height of ‘best practice’).

So when I have the opportunity to bore our prospective graduate recruits about why I love B2B marketing, there are three things I say:

1. When you understand B2B, you’ll know what makes the world tick

We’re helping to shape and sell the services that make the world go round. They’re how supermarkets get the right products on shelves, the government collects taxes, mobile phone companies decide whether or not to give you a free upgrade... I don’t think you can beat it as a grounding in business and the modern world.

2. It’s the best bits of being a spy and a psychologist rolled into one

Every day, we try to change the way that some of the world’s busiest people act. Anything from clicking a link or attending an event through to signing a deal. We tend to work with very targeted audiences, so we can’t just play the numbers – it comes down to whether or not we can affect the behaviour of a specific person.

And it’s not as simple as getting someone to choose a different brand for something they were going to buy anyway. We work in a world where buyers may not know they have a specific-shaped challenge (let alone have a supplier in mind already), so we get to do the work upfront to create or shape their need.

3. You get to work with some brilliant/unusual people

B2B marketing is attracting some awesome talent – I only have to look at the graduates who have started with us in the last few years to see the proof of that. Which makes me massively optimistic about the future of our profession.

Who could ask for anything more?

If that whets your appetite for B2B marketing, or if you're a considering your graduate options, visit our careers page or get in touch with us for more information at careers@themarketingpractice.com

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Posted by Paul Everett | September 22, 2014

What do you stand for?

Categories: Best Practice

Building a strong brand is tricky, particularly in B2B marketing. But get it right and the rewards are clear, writes copywriter Damien Seaman. Here’s one very powerful way you can do it.

As the UK Design Council says, “If a brand results from a set of associations and perceptions in people’s minds, then branding is an attempt to harness, generate, influence and control these associations to help the business perform better.”

The trick is to move beyond the overly-simplistic and often futile search for the Unique Selling Proposition and look instead at what resonates with the people who pay your salary.

I’m talking, of course, about your customers.

To stand out as a brand, you need to stand for something – something your customers care about. We’ll explore how you can do that in a moment. First, here’s one company that did this brilliantly.

Back in the early 1960s, car rental firm Avis was the David to Hertz’s Goliath. With just a fraction of its bigger rival’s market share, Avis turned to advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach for help.

Agency copywriter Paula Green didn’t try to fake uniqueness. Instead, she made a virtue of the reality, coming up with a slogan you probably recognise:

“We try harder”

The company treated it as a manifesto and overhauled its customer service standards to match. Within four years, market share rocketed from 11% to 34%. The slogan is still being used today.

This is the first secret to making sure you stand for something. It’s more than just throwing words at a wall to see what sticks. “We try harder” is specific and makes a promise to the customer – try us out and you’ll get better service.

It’s something a company can believe in and put into action. It’s also one, simple, big idea, easily grasped.

So, how do you achieve this?

Step 1: Work out what you’d like to stand for

Try this exercise.

Gather your key stakeholders together. Show them some famous brands. Ask for their impressions of each, and then ask how they think you compare to them.

This is something I went through recently with a client. Not only did we discuss other brands in their industry, but also the likes of Starbucks, Apple, Microsoft and others.

This is a great way to work out where you’d like to position yourself in the market.

But this is just the first step.

If this is all you do, you end up with the Echo Chamber effect. You’ll only get back what you put in. And usually that’s not enough.

Thankfully, there’s one very powerful – even obvious – way out of this conundrum: to work out where you really do stand in the market.

Step 2: Ask your customers what they think

Sounds so simple. But so easy to get wrong.

What do you do for your customers that they really value? Why did they choose you? What do they think of your service? Your prices? The answers to these questions should give you the raw material you need to present your brand more powerfully.

You might be tempted to use a survey. But tread carefully, because research – and experience – shows that surveys often don’t work.

The one big pitfall of customer surveys...

If you don’t ask the right questions, you can easily end up leading your respondents to give you the answers you want – another variation on the Echo Chamber.

The only sure fire way to avoid this is to hire a good research firm, tell them what you want to know, and leave them to get on with the details.

A cheaper, more practical alternative is to listen in on customer service calls or review call notes. Review the feedback you get in emails, letters and social media. Google your company, look on industry forums and read relevant blogs to see what people are saying about you online. Phone up some clients that like you – and some who’ve made complaints. This has a double benefit. Not only can you see what you’re doing right, you’ll also see where you need to improve.

And, with a little luck, that last point will give you a clue as to how you can stand out – I mean really stand out – from your competitors. Because if you’re falling down on something then maybe they are too. Improve in this area and you’ll have yourself a genuine point of differentiation.

Step 3: Put it all together on paper

Having worked out where you’d like to be and where you actually are, draft a positioning statement.

You do this by listing out all the benefits you offer. Start with what your customers say, then throw in what the stakeholders have said and see how it matches up.

Step 4: Work out where you can really add value

The result of all this is that you have a list of both existing benefits and ones you aspire to.

Now you need to take a good, hard look at whether you can achieve your aspirational benefits. How long will it take to get there? How much will it cost? Can you get the budget?

If so, then you can use this as the basis of what you stand for. Because if you’ve done your information gathering right, your aspirational benefits will both match what your customers want and need and also be things your competitors don’t do yet. Like Avis – not only did they improve their service, by doing so they offered better service than their rivals, and customers responded by switching to them.

Step 5: Find the big idea

At this point, you’ll be able to put what your brand stands for into words. Don’t try to be all things to all men, because that just leads to weak branding. Instead, look for the big idea that underpins everything in your positioning statement and try to bring it out. Boil it down to its simplest form. That way it won’t just resonate with your audience. It will resonate with your employees too.

Step 6: Don’t just say it – live it

A big idea is a powerful thing. But it can’t just stay an idea on paper. Get the whole company’s buy in to turn this idea into reality. Customer service staff, sales reps, managers, marketing – everyone needs to get behind it.

If they don’t then all the fancy marketing in the world won’t cover up the fact that you don’t really stand for what you say you do.

The benefits of standing for something

So, in summary:

  • Work out what you’d like to stand for
  • Ask your customers what they think
  • Put it down on paper
  • Work out where you already add value – and where you could add more
  • Find the big idea the underpins what you offer
  • Turn the idea into reality

The fact is, you can’t really control how people perceive your brand or your company. But if you can work out a set of values or a big idea that everyone in your organisation can get behind – and that resonates with your customers – then at least you can be consistent and customer-focused.

And that alone will set you apart from most of your competitors.


Posted by Claire Lund | September 16, 2014

B2B branding is about emotion, says the late John Peel

Categories: Best Practice

Actually, he didn't exactly say that. But he said something that ties in nicely with a report on B2B brands that's just come my way from the CEB Marketing Leadership Council™.

The report – "From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands" (prepared in partnership with Google) – says that emotion plays a much greater part in the B2B sales process than some people might think.

It says that factors providing personal value to the buyer have about twice the impact on the decision making process that rational factors, that provide value to the business, might have.

And before you comment, we're not talking about brown envelopes full of cash here. It's about emotional factors like personal prestige, or fear of losing one's job.

The point is, it reminds us once again that the B2B sales and marketing process is first and foremost about people, not organisations.

The much-mourned John Peel's contribution comes from a conversation he had with someone about the value of digital media versus analogue. Specifically, why did John Peel prefer vinyl, when CDs had no surface noise?

"Life has surface noise," said John Peel.

In other words, life is analogue. We're human and we respond to human-ish things.

For John Peel, the cold layer of zeros and ones between the creation of the music and the listener leaves many people dissatisfied.

This is why vinyl has undergone something of a revival in recent years. Digital music is dead music.

Equally, your customer communications have to be human first, rational second. You have to engage the instinctive right brain before the language-heavy, filter-strewn left brain kicks in.

And, says the CEB Marketing Leadership Council, you have to keep engaging the emotional side right through to the point where your customer signs the contract.

They asked 3000 B2B buyers across 36 brands and 7 categories to find this out. If only they could have asked John Peel.


Posted by Stuart Constable | September 2, 2014