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Finding your creative spark

Categories: Best Practice

At The Marketing Practice we have always believed that marketing should be the engine for growth at the heart of a great b2b business – driving revenue in the near term whilst simultaneously building reputation to improve commercial prospects for the future.

During the financial downturn of the past few years there has been massive pressure on marketing teams to focus on short-term results, and on occasions the mantra seems to have shifted from “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it” to “If you can’t guarantee the financial return in the next few months, then don’t even consider it!”

Whilst this may have had something of a cathartic effect on marketing leaders and has certainly injected a significant dose of commercial nous into their thinking, it is easy to see that short-termism has reduced the wider impact of marketing and has left some programmes looking dangerously commoditized.

There are clear signs that inspirational marketing leaders are looking to rebalance driving short-term revenue and building reputation across their programmes. Clearly it would be foolhardy to think that they have the remit to return to the grandiose brand-building agendas of the past, but there is recognition that by injecting more creativity into their programmes, they can build differentiation and truly enhance enterprise value.

Consequently, there seems to be more and more discussion of hunting that intriguing beast, the creative big idea. Unfortunately, this term can be misleading with its potential implication of pomp and largesse, whereas in practice what we often need is a stunningly simple creative solution to a gnarly core problem. The real secret is in finding a way to tackle and sometimes reframe the core problem that you face.

So let’s cut to the chase. If today’s well-balanced marketing programmes are built around brilliant creative solutions to core problems, then the secret often lies in how you frame your problem so that the most creative brains can lead you towards a true Eureka! moment (or at least a campaign that will smash its targets).

There’s no magic formula for creating compelling, memorable ideas. But it is possible to adopt ways of thinking that open up your imagination to new possibilities, illuminate problems from a fresh perspective and allow you to look beyond the conventional for something powerfully different. The teams at TMP know the value of looking at problems from unusual angles. To keep us true to this way of finding new insights, we’ve adopted some simple techniques as shown on the attached summary.

They’ve consistently helped us generate innovative and effective ideas. We’re confident that you’ll find them equally useful whenever you’re looking for inspiration and a creative solution. Either way, let us know how you get on – we’d like to know what you think.

Unlocking the power of creativity

We'll be discussing how creative ideas can deliver tangible results at our next Sales and Marketing Forum, 24th March at the Ham Yard Hotel, London. For more details or to register your place please visit our website.


Posted by RAinger | January 20, 2015

The convergence of B2C and B2B

Categories: Best Practice

B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing in many ways – from the length of the sales cycle to the motivations of the buyer. But the fundamentals are the same. Successful marketers in either category must define their audience, hone their key messages and focus on what makes them unique. In other words, B2B and B2C have a lot more in common than many people realise. And, B2B marketers can learn a great deal from the strategies that B2C marketers employ, particularly in today’s social media era.

  • Use social media to sell to individuals. Social media marketing allows one-to-one conversations with customers and prospects. No matter what you are selling, buyers are individuals who seek out insights and recommendations. Including social media in your marketing mix can bring the necessary human element to drive engagement.
  • Customer loyalty is a primary focus for B2C marketers and should be for B2B marketers. Truly engaged customers are valuable assets that must be nurtured and protected. Even customers who don’t buy a lot, but are passionate supporters of your services and products are extremely valuable to your bottom line.
  • Deliver a simple and easy to understand message to your customers. B2B marketers frequently over-complicate their message. A more technical sale should not equal a more jargon-loaded message.
  • Social media interactions will enhance your reputation. So be committed. Engage with people, don’t just ‘put stuff up’. Explain why you’re there and ‘warm up’ a bit. Think of questions from your audience as an opportunity to build a relationship rather than immediately sell.

B2C businesses invest significant time and money to understand what makes consumers tick. Whereas most B2B companies have a clear picture of the businesses they sell to, but know very little about the individual making the buying decision.

While B2B sales are often driven by facts and figures, it’s important for marketing messages to appeal to emotions as well. The ‘consumer’ insights you gather should reveal what your product or service does for the buyer on an emotional level. How does it help them do a better job? What are the buyer’s challenges, motivations, and fears?

B2B marketers are getting better at explaining what our products do, how they do it, and why you should care. But we’re a long way from the sort of simplicity demanded by B2C.

People aren’t just buying products or services. They buy with their emotions; they are buying a story. When they narrow down their options to two or three sellers, they buy the story that best aligns with their beliefs and values.

What’s your story? What do you and your business stand for? Does your story resonate with the type of buyer you would like to have? Do you know your buyers’ needs and wants – their buyer persona? Have you populated your stories online to attract the right buyers?

In the end, B2B marketers, like their B2C counterparts, are selling to people – not entities.


Posted by Taryn Netterville | January 17, 2015

Do different: does grammar matter in marketing copy?

Categories: Best Practice

Marketing copywriting is salesmanship in print. Yes, it is, because John E. Kennedy said so. (‘E’, not ‘F’ – that was another Kennedy). He also said that ‘Mere opinions on Advertising Copy should be excluded from consideration.’

Strong words. But they popped into my head again as I watched the Telefónica O2 enterprise marketing team claim two prizes at the 2014 B2B Awards for their Local Government Digital Fund campaign. They won Best Live Event and Best Campaign for Corporate Decision Makers.


I was reminded of Mr Kennedy’s timeless insight because we agonised over the theme of the award-winning campaign: ‘Do different’.

We knew the sentiment was right. After years of budget cuts, UK councils were desperate to find fresh ways of getting things done.

The Local Government Digital Fund was aimed at helping councils who wanted to develop new digital services as a way of providing better services, without spending too much of their limited cash. ‘Do different’ was a call to action, in the spirit of Telefónica O2’s award-winning ‘Be more dog’ campaign.

But, can you ‘do different’? ‘Different’ is something you are, not what you do. We could feel the wrath of countless English-language academics descending upon us. Would the audience see our clients as hopeless illiterates?

The reality is that advertising copy is not about grammar. It’s about emotion, impact and clarity. English students do not necessarily make good copywriters (or any writers, come to that). After all, is good, formal written English a pre-requisite for success in selling?

Not judging by the emails I get from some of the best salespeople I know.

So we didn’t agonise for long, actually. We knew that ‘Do different’ was just the first attention grabber, a banner that expressed the problem and the solution in a single phrase. A bit like ‘Be more dog’, in fact, which also makes no sense if you run the dead ruler of grammar over it.

Sure enough, we got 57 entries for the Fund, 20 more than a similar campaign the previous year. We also got open rates of 41.6% for the email marketing programme and attendance rates of more than 70% for the events in London and Glasgow.

Then, at the Digital Fund final, the ‘Do different’ banner was there as the backdrop to the awards presentation and the videos accompanying the event. And there it was again at the B2B Awards, as we celebrated the Telefónica O2 team’s momentous double.

For me, the most vindicating aspect of the whole thing (is ‘vindicating’ a word? Do I care?) was that the B2B Awards focus heavily on results. I can look John E. Kennedy in the eye and say, ‘yes, John E., my advertising copy is effective and leads to sales.’

And, on a more personal note, I can look Lynn Truss, John Humphreys and other agents of the grammar police in the eye and say, ‘saucy, pedantic wretches, in my calling I would be unruly. Language evolves, or it dies.’

Otherwise, ‘Do different’ would have to be, ‘gescéadnes missenlic’, which the internet tells me is the Old English equivalent. It probably isn’t, but it doesn’t matter. I’m sure you catch my drift.


Posted by Stuart Constable | January 6, 2015

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 David van Schaick | September 29, 2014