Friday, 24 April 2009

Budget marketing

With the week dominated by the Budget in the UK, this week's post is a case study on the marketing activities undertaken by our clients, Creaseys, a 10 partner firm of Accountants based in Tunbridge Wells, to leverage this important financial event.

The temperature always rises in Creaseys as Budget Day approaches! The desire to absorb the detail of the announcements and serve clients consumes the firm. Accountants don't often find themselves in the spotlight and when they do it is important to maximise the opportunity. We agreed the objectives for this year's Budget to be:

  1. To consolidate and deepen relationships with existing clients

  2. To maintain and grow the respect of peers

  3. To start the communication process with identified new prospects

  4. To create a platform for positive PR.

A range of activities was designed to deliver the objectives: not all of them original, but each shaped with the objectives in mind.

Budget commentary

With so much commentary available, there is a valid debate over whether it is necessary to produce a technical analysis for clients. We discussed this at length in Creaseys. Creaseys has many professional services contacts that refer complex cases to the firm and with maintaining the respect of peers being an agreed objective, we concluded that the overnight report was justified.

A 6,500 word analysis was sent by email to 1,900 clients, contacts and prospects by 9.00 the following morning and achieved a 30% read rate by close of business. The analysis has been uploaded to the website and produced in print PDF form for use in reception where a rolling PowerPoint loop is also on display.

In the spirit of inter-firm co-operation and to help spread the PR message more widely, the analysis was shared with a fellow IGAF member firm for distribution to its own clients.

We will be conducting a survey next week to get more detailed feedback on the analysis from all recipients.

Tax cards

Tax cards containing details of all the prevailing tax rates are a popular collateral item in many Accountancy firms. This year, Creaseys purchased tax cards from specialist suppliers, Mercia Group. Full artwork (rather than just a logo) was provided to Mercia Group to allow the cards to be made totally bespoke to the firm and the result is very good: a far more cost effective and time saving solution than Creaseys producing cards of its own.

The Tax cards will go to all clients, contacts and prospects over the next few months, piggy-backing other communications to spread the cost.

Budget Breakfast

The Budget Breakfast is the flagship event in the hospitality calendar and has been run by Creaseys for the past few years. The aim this year was to take the event and hence the brand to a new level.

The invitation and registration process started early and was run on-line for the first time. This allowed us to brand the event from the beginning and made the monitoring of responses much easier. The availability of real-time response information also allowed us to target the follow-up approach more accurately.

More than 240 guests attended the event. Local MP and opposition front-bencher, Greg Clark, gave a political perspective and the 3 tax partners covered the most important changes to personal taxation, business taxation, international tax and VAT. The MP's contribution added a worthwhile and entertaining dimension for the audience and will help with PR coverage.

Members of the local press were in attendance and press releases will be sent to all remaining local media next week.

Extensive use was made of branding at the venue. Large display graphics, branded stationery and innovative use of branding on existing installations were used to reinforce the visual brand at every opportunity: we even carefully selected the entrance and background music to create the right ambiance. A clean and contemporary slide template was used for all presentations and the content was closely managed to brand guidelines.

117 people completed a detailed exit questionnaire and we will be analysing the results next week. A prima-facie check shows the feedback to be very positive.

Limited success was achieved in getting new prospects to the event. We overlayed the email invitations with telemarketing to make personal contact with identified names and succeeded in getting 2 new prospects to attend. Nevertheless, the invitation process has established the first contact with many more and is something the firm can build on. There is a law which says that 7 contacts have to be made with a prospect to get to proposal stage and we now have 1 or 2 of these contacts under our belts.

Social Media

Introducing social media into the firm is part of the marketing plan for 2009 and the Budget provided a platform for a first foray. We used Twitter to feed information into the firm on the announcements (e.g. from the Big 4 accountancy firms, the news channels and ICAEW), but decided not to enter into the process of tweeting the announcements ourselves, primarily because Creaseys only had a handful of followers at the time. Followers are starting to accumulate and we will develop an information led 'tweeting' strategy going forward.

The Budget Breakfast was videoed, largely as an experiment, and gives us material to trial on the website and YouTube. We will also use the videos to support press releases. Despite it being experimental, we employed a professional filming service to maintain brand standards.

Results to date

From the Chancellor sitting down at 1.30pm on 22nd April to the last person leaving the Budget Breakfast at 11.30am on 24th April, we helped the firm achieve face-to-face contact with 240 clients and introducers; email engagement with another 570; first contact with 56 brand new prospects and a platform for off-line and on-line PR in the days and weeks ahead. A full debriefing will take place in the firm next week, when we will look at the results of the formal measures. The results and key-findings will be posted in a further update.

Services provided by The Marketing Eye
Campaign planning
Event management
New prospect identification
Telemarketing (outsourced)
Proof reading
E-mail design and distribution (distribution outsourced)
Design and artwork for all collateral
Press releases
Video production (outsourced)
Social media management

Creaseys' Budget Analysis 2009
Follow Creaseys on Twitter
Mercia Group
The rule of 7

Saturday, 18 April 2009

An innocent (and logical) decision

Last week we learned that Innocent Drinks has agreed to sell a 20% stake in the business to Coca-Cola for £30m.

The news has parallels with the sale of Ben & Jerry's to Unilever in 2000 and the more recent sale of Green & Black's to Cadbury. Loyal fans say the spirit of the brand will die and many say they will desert.

So, is the investment a mistake by the owners and a misjudgment by Coca-Cola? Of course not.

Innocent is an excellent case study in why a business should build a brand: it is precisely because Innocent has built such an extensive and loyal following that the owners have attracted a business the size of Coca-Cola to take a minority stake for such a huge sum.

Why else does anybody try to build a business if it is not at some point to reap the rewards? (And the rewards here are said to be a platform for further growth, not yachts for the founders). This might be anathema to the hippies to whom profit is a dirty word, but this is the real world in which somebody has to do the work and create the wealth.

Those that accuse Messrs Reed, Balon and Wright of selling out overlook the fact that Innocent had probably gone as far as it could with its existing resources. The investment has brought vast increases in marketing capability and buying power: it has also secured jobs. Innocent was facing having to make 20% of its workforce redundant in response to falling sales and can now avoid this. No doubt more jobs will be created in time. What can be more socially responsible than saving and creating jobs at a time of economic slow-down?

The question for many is whether the spirit of the brand can be maintained and, if it can't, will it have a net detrimental effect on the performance of the product.

While business values can't be manufactured, a brand personality can. A brand is an inanimate object that can be made into whatever the owner wants it to be. There is no reason why the personality of the brand can't be maintained with its quirky packaging, jolly blogs and grass liveried vehicles. This will require some careful and dedicated brand management, but it is feasible. McDonalds has achieved it with Pret-a-Manger and we should credit Coke with the intelligence to achieve it with Innocent.

The brand is likely to lose some of its cottage-industry feel, as the earlier examples have, but it will still appeal to a mass audience and the stronger control of the 5 marketing forces will make it a better and more profitable business overall.


Friday, 10 April 2009

B2B vs B2C - more than just a letter

A friend asked me in the week to explain the difference between marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers. Unprepared, I fumbled my way to an answer, but soon realised it was a deeper question than it first seemed.

There is, of course, a plethora of theoretical responses. B2C is traditionally said to be:

  • Product driven

  • Aimed at maximizing the value of the transaction

  • Mass-market

  • A single step buying process and a shorter sales cycle

  • A creator of brand loyalty through repetition and imagery

  • Reliant on merchandising and point of purchase activities

  • The leverage of emotional buying decisions based on status, desire, or price

Whereas B2B:

  • Is relationship driven

  • Aims to maximize the value of the relationship

  • Has a small, focused target market

  • Involves a multi-step buying process and longer sales cycle

  • Creates brand loyalty through personal relationships

  • Uses educational and awareness building activities

  • Leverages rational buying decisions based on business value

A useful analysis, but not uniformly true by any means.

The eminent Professor Malcolm McDonald says that 'the central ideas of marketing are universal' and it therefore makes no difference whether you are marketing vacuum cleaners or power furnaces. This seems overly simplistic too.

The principle that all marketing has the basic aim of satisfying the customer is, of course, incontrovertible, but the important follow-on questions are: 'who is the customer?' and 'what is my product?'

We can say that consumers are, on the whole, more impulsive in their decision making than business buyers, because the financial risk is often so much smaller. This means B2C marketers can focus less on the rational basis for a purchase, and more on the emotional appeal. B2C marketing is often geared towards catching the wave or, better still, creating the wave in the first place.

To say, however, that B2C marketing isn't relationship driven is a mistake. Any retailer, from a supermarket monolith to the local corner shop, needs to form a relationship with its customers to build loyalty and drive repeat business. Retailers are merely intermediaries in the value chain between the manufacturer and the buyer. Manufacturers themselves would also be mis-advised not to consider the relationship - Sony wants loyalty over Panasonic as does BMW over Mercedes. A charity will want a relationship with a donor to encourage repeat donations.

And what of professional services firms? They want life-time relationships with both business and private clients, which means that the marketing must be entirely geared towards the principles that are outlined in the traditional analysis of B2B.

In B2B marketing, the pure number of people involved in a purchase tends to have the effect of suppressing the emotion and bringing everything back to the business case. A good B2B campaign has to be brimming with promises of increased profitability, reduced costs or enhanced productivity. This is not to say that there is no room for the emotional influence of the brand. The old adage that 'nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM' still holds true in many quarters and familiarity breeds comfort in the board room. There is a clear need to build the brand with air cover from advertising, sponsorship and pr.

The conclusion is that the biggest drivers of the marketing approach are not whether it is B2B or B2C, but in the size of the financial risk, the nature of the relationship and the complexity of the decision making process for the customer. If we understand this then we are likely to make the right decisions. Perhaps we should do away with the distinction and simply call it Business to Customer - which is probably the point Professor McDonald was making.


Source of Theoretical differences between B2B and B2C: Vista Consulting

Professor Malcolm McDonald

Friday, 3 April 2009

I'll scream and scream and scream

This week I went to a Chartered Institute of Marketing event to hear the results of a study on the role of marketing in large organisations. Carried out with Accenture, the very title of the study: 'In search of a strategic role for marketing' hints at desperation.

Marketing can be divided into two main parts: tactical (management of the marketing plan; brand management; lead generation) and strategic (customer insight; development of the value proposition; strategic planning). In most organisations the role of the marketing department is tactical, which leads to predictable wailing that marketers are misunderstood and undervalued.

But hang on a minute, let's look at this more closely. A business needs a marketing department to design and deliver the tactical activity. This is what provides the measurable revenues and there is nothing wrong or devaluing about it. A well designed marketing plan is firmly rooted in a detailed appreciation of the strategy of the business and the most successful marketing directors have the ability to turn business objectives into effective and actionable tactical plans.

The trouble with Marketing, though, is that it can't be satisfied with this role and wants to run the whole company. By the time we have been through the 8P's of product, price, place, promotion, process, people, physical evidence and positioning there is very little left for anybody else.

Many marketers thump the desk and demand a position for marketing on the board, refusing to believe that any business can properly function without it. These people are failing to draw a distinction between marketing as a concept and the individual abilities of the people in the marketing department. The remit is simply too broad and too important to be the exclusive domain of one person or one area of the business: it is the role of the board as a whole to set the strategic direction and the role of marketing to provide the insights and framework.

If individually marketers have the talent, they will rightfully earn a place on the board of the businesses within which they work. No business, however, can afford to offer board appointments on the basis of job title alone and the challenge for many marketers is to develop a sufficiently rounded level of experience to merit their promotion.