Thursday, 7 February 2013

Why I'm cycling 310 miles in four days for charity

On May 28th 2013, I will attempt to cycle from London to Brussels via Amsterdam with three colleagues. I am without question the most unfit I have been in my adult life. The least-fit and fattest of the four of us.

It will take 4 days and will mean more than 310 miles of roads.

I am doing this for a number of reasons, but chief amongst them is to raise money for two immensely important charities.

I’ve written the following to try and explain some of my motivation. I’d love you to help us raise the £7,500 we are aiming for, but more than that, I’d love you to take the 4 or 5 minutes it will take to read it.


It was a normal day when she fell. It was like any other normal day, a day like today perhaps, when my sister, Sarah, suffered her life-changing brain injury.

She was six months old and fell from my mother’s arms, suffering a major traumatic brain injury.

In that second her world and our family life changed forever. Her injury was of such a severity that it has left her, now as an adult, with the brain age of a child. She lives in permanent care (with quite brilliant full-time carers) and with Paul, her housemate, best friend and honouree brother, of some fifteen year. Paul also requires similar care.

She lives in a normal house, on a normal road, but her life is nothing but ordinary.

I have often wondered how to describe to others what it is like to live a life like Sarah’s. She is one of the happiest, rewarding yet contrary people I know. She has a wicked sense of humour and a presence and authority that few can match.

She leads a strangely privileged existence. Due to her brain injury, a lot of the woes of adult life have never confounded her. She does not know or care what a mortgage is, she doesn’t much worry about whether she is “fulfilling her potential” or whether she is stuck in a dead-end relationship or in a dead-end job. The politics of an office are something she has never and will never experience. She has no use for a water cooler and its gossip. She does not care who or what a Fiscal Cliff is and whether Greece is going to default, whatever that means. These trivial examples and their relevance to her, give some clue to how Sarah’s life has taken a very different path to her two other siblings. Arguably a life that is all the more happy for the innocence and ignorance, being gracefully saved the everyday challenges that life throws at you and I.

But the biggest difference between Sarah and I is choice. I have every choice open to me in the world, as do you. She has no little or no choice. She has care and is cared for, but must rely on others for her life’s direction.

As a family, there have always been so many questions and challenges; trying to come to terms with what the injury meant, how it could happen, why it happened and why it happened to Sarah, is something that can’t be done  easily or alone. There is not, to my knowledge, a book that holds all of the answers and explains all that you need to know and do to support somebody as unique as Sarah. Importantly back then there was precious little support, knowledge or education on what such an injury means.

Over the decades of her life, we have found our pace and rhythm as a family. We have learnt to understand how to best relate to her – what to say, what to buy her at Christmas, what not to buy her for her Birthday. We’ve learnt a little about how she sees the world - how the seemingly trivial; pulling a cracker at Christmas, being in a busy pub, can frighten, intimidate and bewilder Sarah beyond comprehension.

I do this bike ride for Sarah – to raise money for a charity that helps families like ours, but I also do it because I have the choice to do it; I will never take for granted how great a privilege choice is and what it means to have it taken away.

Headway, the Brain Injury Association, weren’t around when Sarah had her accident. In fact they were formed some ten years later, 1979. They work tirelessly to help support families and sufferers of all forms of brain injury. They help to educate, support and care for all that such injuries affect.

It is to our local Headway group that 50% of all of sponsorship money will go to. Incidentally the group that my colleague, Simon, gives up his precious free time to help and who made me aware of the brilliant work they do.

The other 50% will go to Penny Brohn Cancer Care.

Cancer has probably touched the lives of all of us at some stage and will continue to do so. Whilst cures are being sought, the Penny Brohn team work with cancer sufferers and their families, to support them all. They give advice and to help improve quality of life.

They have worked with people I care greatly about and people I miss greatly.

Thanks for reading, wish me luck when next you see me. If you would like to donate a little money, then please go here:

If you think others you know might want to help, please feel free to pass this on.


Friday, 28 September 2012

Buying a super tanker to sail a pond

In my time talking to and working with various organisations over the years (be that the 10+ years client-side and the past six years agency-side) I have now become convinced that one of the biggest barriers to organisations doing more clever, sophisticated and successful marketing is the very systems that they select to do more clever, sophisticated and successful marketing. Coupled with the other big problem that I see today; namely there are far too many techies and IT people in the digital marketing pond and nowhere near enough true marketers.

So there you have an epidemic; more and more marketing departments are buying some seriously impressive and expensive technology to enable them to drive their digital marketing communications, but are seemingly unable to utilise, understand or harness what these systems can actually do for them.

It also seems that the larger the organisation, the larger the challenge. As these marketing platforms rely on technology, you require some serious IT involvement. This is enough of a challenge in itself, but then factor in the need for these systems to integrate with other company systems and data sources and the result is a white elephant that serves to demotivate the very people it was bought to aid.

A futile technology flood

This trend is supported by the 2012 Econsultancy census for email marketing – where yet again the vast majority state that they are using far less than 50% of their system’s functionality. We are buying too much technology and doing too little marketing.

With the vast majority of digital marketing today still missing the basics of relevance and personalisation, perhaps it is time to go back to basics and ease off the buying of these technology super tankers and instead look to set sail using a smaller, simpler and more nimble vessel that allows you to get the basics right and build from there?

Friday, 14 September 2012

What orange juice teaches us about content marketing

As I start to tackle my presentation* for the upcoming DMA conference in Las Vegas (yes, I know it’s a tough life!) my mind has been focused on articulating the challenges of marketing a b2b brand internationally.

Recognising the sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic differences required to ensure your marketing message is relevant and appropriate for each territory within Europe for example, seems obvious, but this often gets missed for global brands who try and target prospects in this region.
To make my point, let’s talk Orange Juice.

A respected breakfast table guest throughout the world, you only need to see the differences in language for a humble carton of Tropicana orange juice to make the point.


As you can see from these images, they are both for Tropicana orange juice. One is for a carton from the US market, one from the UK market – ‘pulp’ and ‘bits’ are the same thing, but use a very different word to describe them.

I was alerted to this distinct difference when a client from the US was over here in a breakfast meeting with us and queried “what the hell are bits?”

Reassured they are nothing more than ‘pulp’ in his world, he was content to drink on and the meeting continued.

But not without registering to us all, that if the language on something as ubiquitous as a carton of orange juice can be so different for two countries that speak the same language, you can see the challenge in EMEA with 23 official languages to wrestle with.

This is why localised content is so vital – whether words in your email, on the side of your carton, the conversation for your telemarketer or the lines on a web page, you must ensure that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is never the default.

Work hard to customise your content and you will reap the rewards. Assume everybody is the same and you may be left with nothing more than bits (or is that pulp?).
* Europe: A Data-Driven Multichannel Strategy

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

My ten best free iPhone apps.

Having used an IPhone (3 and now 4) for the past two years or so, I have taken to the time to share my thoughts on the ten most useful apps I have on my iPhone today.

I use my iPhone for a mixture of work and leisure and have sought out the ten apps that I not only used most often, but value most highly and have paid the least (free) for!

So, in no particular order…

Hootsuite1. Hootsuite. As a fairly prolific tweeter and Facebook user, I have been suing social update apps for a while. Until recently my weapon of choice was Tweetdeck (ad in fact still is for my laptop) but after Tweetdeck getting itself in a real pickle when I was trying to manage multiple twitter accounts on my iPhone version, it was deleted and a new alternative was sought.

Having trialled a few others (namely Twitter and Seesmic) first I have settled on Hootsuite as the my social talking and listen app of choice.

It copes well with multiple twitter and Facebook accounts, and also integrates into Foursquare.

The ability to choose to post one status to multiple accounts (my Facebook and twitter feed for example) simultaneously was a feature that I grew reliant on in Tweetdeck and have found in Hootsuite to work very well (other apps don’t have this feature)

Most importantly Hootsuite has not repeated the horrid bug of auto posting updates destined for my personal twitter account to my work account by mistake! Cost: Free

Onavo2. Onavo. A data-compressing little gem this one. If you have a data contract on your iPhone with a limit (even “unlimited” deals d have a limit these days) and/or travel overseas and use your phone for email/web browsing, then this app could save you a small fortune.

It simply compresses the amount of data you download whilst using 3G – the makers reckon you can save up to 75% f your data costs each month. I’ve been using this for a month or so and have managed about 50% so far – in real terms for travelling abroad using my phone that is about a £48 saving already! Cost: Free

Facebook3. Facebook. Does what it says on the tin really. If you are like 600m or so other people and use Facebook then using their mobile app is the best way to make and receive updates from your friends.

Occasionally I find the app to be a bit “buggy” with notification updates – it isn’t always easy to see the latest updates, but this is probably more down to the web servers of Facebook than the app itself. Cost: Free

Spotify4. Spotify. I’ve had a Spotify account for a couple of years now and it has meant the end of me buying CDs. The app version of this music-streaming service means I can live stream any record I care to choose from their enormous database, or I have “saved” albums suing the desktop version, then these will be available for playback via the IPhone app, even without internet connectivity. This is a real plus – essentially turning the Spotify app into an IPod-style service.

This app is not strictly speaking free – paying Spotify customers only can use the app, but assuming you have justified the £9.99 per month price tag of the ad-free service, then the app is a must.

As this app (via Bluetooth and cable) will play via my home surround sound and in-car in my Audi, it really has meant the end of CD in my world. Cost: Free (but to paying Spotify customers only)

TheTrainline5. Thetrainline. The National Rail have a similar app for £4.99 but I have always fund this one to be more than adequate for my train travel. As well as being able to check train times, buy tickets and plan routes, the really useful neat feature is “nearest train home” – using your location it tells you the time of next nearest train to your home station (set in you preferences) – this has helped me catch countless trains I would have been late for when travelling home from London and alone make the app worthy of this list. Cost: Free

Shazam6. Shazam. I remember wowing my friends with the Shazam music service a few years ago via my mobile. Being able to dial “2580” and let the Shazam listen to and identify the song on the radio was genius. But having that as an iPhone app makes for an obvious and very welcome progression.

Nothing is more frustrating than hearing a song you like but can’t name, especially as most radio DJs have not the time or inclination to tell the audience the names of their play lists artists – you’re just supposed to know. Cost: free

Sky +7. Sky+. Even though there are many other ways of doing so, I still find this app the easiest way to view a TV guide. But that is but a bonus use, compared to main benefit of this app.

I have Sky + at home and the fact that I can use this app to remotely record my home sky box is quite brilliant. Although I don’t watch many show, when I’m reminded or recommended to watch a great TV show, then being able to tap a few buttons and record at home means I never need miss the likes of Lose Women ever again. This ap also reduces the risk of ink poisoning from the numerous notes I used to leave on the back of my hand! Cost: Free

Dropbox8. Dropbox. The lack of open storage on an iPhone is overcome brilliant with Dropbox. Essentially cloud-based storage system for files (be them music, data, photo, video etc) you can access your “box” from any web-enabled device.

In reality this means that I can work on a PowerPoint on my laptop and view it via Dropbox on my iPhone. This principle, although very straightforward, makes accessing files on-the-go very quick and also means that you are storing your precious files in a much safer environment on an easily dropped, broken or lost laptop/hard drive etc. Cost: free (for the basic service)

imapmyride9. iMapmyRide. I spent a small fortune a few years about for a watch that tracked my location and run/race/bike times when I was out and about. As well as having to wait a good 5-10 most days for it to “triangulate” with the GPS satellites, it had a poor battery life and was the size of a small calculator!

iMapmyRide is one of many IPhone apps that does essentially the same thing, but with the minimum amount of fuss and zero cost.

Once the app is started it picks up my location very quickly (seconds) and with one hit of the “start” button it is tracking my route/distance/time.

Once you have completed your route, it then will save tat data as a run/walk/cycle etc and you can either keep it for your own training purposes, to better next time! Or share publicly to other users of the app who may wish to follow your route. The app works very well with social sites, allowing you to post your times/route to Facebook/Twitter. Cost: Free

BA10. BA. It is fair to say that I am reluctant fan of this app. I travel quite a lot and use BA often – nothing to do with their service (I can find many places on the ground where I am treated like an inconvenience by a middle-aged woman called Sheree) but all to do with their air miles.

Travelling a lot means carrying unnecessary pieces of paper, planning ahead to access printers and being near my laptop to check in exactly 23 hrs and 58 seconds before takeoff, to get the best seat.

Thankfully the BA app des all of the above for me very neatly. The big plus for me being able to go from check-in to seat without anything more than this app.

It still feels kinda neat, but of course relies on having enough battery on your iPhone to wave your boarding pass at each stage! Cost: Free

Monday, 31 January 2011

Does your marketing give them time to think?

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Malaysia. Whilst driving along the main Expressway from Kuala Lumpur to the North of the country, I travelled past many huge billboard ads for various Malaysian and Worldwide brands.

Nothing particularly new in this, or interesting, expect for with one of the adverts I went past.

It was for a clothing brand, that much I recall, and was advertising female fashion. Travelling at the legal 110 km/h, of course, I didn’t have time to take in much more than and don’t even recall the brand name.

I did, however, spot that the ad had a QR code in the bottom right corner of this ad. If you’re familiar with QR codes, then you’ll know that you need to open code-reading software on your Smartphone and line your camera up to the code, for it to trigger a signal to open your web browser to a certain website location.

Fairly useful technology in magazines, lampposts and other static locations, but not particular clever when you are travelling past said advert at 110 km/h – I reckon the average Malaysian that sees the advert and QR code firstly probably wouldn’t know what the small barcode thing is anyway, but for any that do recognise it, and have the right software on their Smartphone, well they certainly don’t have time to patiently line the camera up to the code as they hurtle by!

This struck me as an interesting parable for a lot of marketing that I see back in the UK (or in any other country to be fair) and particularly in Business to Business marketing.

Often marketers don’t give enough time, information or care to their prospects and their marketing can pass those prospects by before they have had time to think or react.

The kind of traps I mean...

If at first they don’t read…don't give up

Email and social are good ways to get your message across to your audience. But just because you sent it, doesn't mean they read it.

With open rates on email dropping month on month, you need to ensure that you keep going back to your audience if at first you don't succeed.

Use remarketing techniques to encourage opens on a later date. Simply adding “reminder” to a resent email can be all you need. Schedule re-posts of your tweets/messages, particularly to take into account different time zones around the world and the fact that your prospects won’t all read every tweet they see the minute it arrives – they have day jobs to do!

How easy is it to buy?

If you are selling to a business, then ensure that you understand and answer all of the pre-sale questions they will have, and help them answer them.

The more expensive or complex the purchase, the more decision makers will be involved, and the more information they will need (and encouragement and confidence) to make the purchase.

Consider what questions IT director would have, compared to the CEO, or the Finance Director, and ensure they are all answered - ideally online.

Who else will be involved in the decision?

Continuing that same theme - who else in the organisation is going to be involved in saying yes (or no) to your product or service? How can you reach them and ensure they understand what you are selling and why they should say eys to buying it. Typically, the five main areas to consider are:

  • Management (the board)
  • Finance
  • IT
  • Sales & Marketing
  • HR/Personnel

Learn from a salesperson

Marketers can learn a lot from the tenacity of a good salesperson. They know that they will often have to work hard and keep in regular contact to encourage a prospect to become a customer.

A client of mine told me that they managed to sign a new customer (for a high-end golf club) because after the various calls and emails from them, the customer thought that "they must really want me to be a member"!

Perseverance pays off. Map regular contact to your expected sales cycle length, and regularly send your prospects the information they need to keep answering those questions they have.

Bread crumbing not bombarding

Once you have mapped your messaging to your sales cycle, then start to drip feed out the key messages on or two at a time. Nobody has the time or inclination to read chapter and verse on your offering, particularly not at the early stages.

Remember to use a model such as AIDA to help feed the right type of messages out, based on the sales cycle.

Don't just bombard them with one big message, sit back and prey they come - that QR code on the Malaysian highway is never going to get any response, and increasing lazy marketers, on or offline, are being found out too.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

5 social media strategies every b2b business can do today (and should be)

Having been asked so many times recently about where to start, I thought I would share a few thoughts on how B2B businesses can kick off their social media strategy.

The key to this is “listening before you speak”. I would advise that a business spends the first few months building up a knowledge of what is being said. To help them understand the size of the opportunity within Social Media (as nearly all marketers have to balance this against all the other tasks they have to complete) and to help prepare the right kind of proposal for your business on how you will harness social media in the long term.

1. Protect your brand – register your Twitter account
Simple. Even if you are not sure yet if you will ever use Twitter for your business, make sure your protect your brand and register an account for your business now. Not only does it protect from competitors/similar named companies using it, it is also hard work to move a brand squatter from your twitter name once they are on there – we have been trying at Cyance for nearly 12 months with no success!

2. Listen to what is being said about you.
This is always the place to start, and every business can do this today. There are a plethora of excellent (free) tools to start you off.

Use tools like, and Twilert to start to understand what is being said about you, your brand, your competitors and the wider market. For certain b2b businesses it may be that little or no conversation is out there, which is a very useful thing to know before you try and spend time and money on all singing and dancing social media programme – for some it may simply be not worth the effort, when compared to other channels.

3. Find and scale your market
As well as listening to what people say about you, it’s well worth monitoring phrases, terms and words that are about your market – for example if you are email marketing company, phrases like “email marketing” and “deliverability” are phrases that you may want to know the author for.

If you target particular markets or job titles, then using the Linkedin people search is a great way of finding your existing customers as well as trying to size the market that is out there. For example, if Finance Directors are your target audience, then search for that title on LinkdIn and you’ll be faced by a list of all matching LinkedIn profiles. Now it’s too early to start to try and target them, but it gives you a good idea of who and how many are out there and if some of those are your customers, you can start to listen or connect to them straight away.

4. Monitor trends (and fads)
With the news this week that Google is about to pull it’s much trumpeted product Google Wave, it’s a timely reminder that not every new kid on the social media block will be the next Facebook or Twitter. In fact, for a lot of B2B businesses neither of these sites will be relevant to them at all. But social media is much wider than just those superstar sites. Again, niche markets can benefit from easily identifying bloggers or forums where your customers do spend their time.

It is not yet the time to jump in on those forums and talk, but it is very easy to monitor what gets said, to start to build up a view of who is in your market and what the current trends, issues and thoughts are. Once again is a good place to start to find these bloggers, as is excellent for forums.

5. Do It Yourself
The easiest way to really understand Social Media and how it can be utilised for your business, is to start by using it for yourself. Ensure you have a full LinkedIn profile, register a twitter account in your name and start to follow people of interest ; be these work people, or based on your hobbies/interests. Once you have got a better feel for the nuances of how it works and how you can make it work for you, it is a lot easier to do for your business, allowing you sell the idea internally more eloquently also.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

"Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" - email acquisition does still work!

Email acquisition doesn’t work, right?

Well that was certainly the experience of Sodexo Prestige before we worked with them on a recent project for The Open Golf Championship at St. Andrews.

As official corporate hospitality partners for events such as Royal Ascot and The Open Golf Championship, Sodexo Prestige had previously used email marketing to acquire new customers, with little or no success.

However, after an initial strategy meeting, Cyance and Sodexo Prestige devised a programme to acquire new customers for their corporate hospitality packages for The Open 2010.

The target audience were businesses in Scotland and North England, areas that historically have been difficult to target and reach.

After some detailed data analysis by Cyance, to help find the right business types by size/industry and region, the campaign commenced with an email programme to 62,000 selected contacts. Each email used personalisation in the subject line and main body of the email. There were 5 segments of data, that all had a different tone of voice with copy/images used to relate to them differently.

For example, the data cell for businesses in North England had to be within 45 minutes drive-time of either Manchester or Leeds Bradford airports, as these both fly to Edinburgh airport, the largest airport that is close by to St. Andrews.

The click activity (opens, clicks etc) from the emails to the website were monitored by the Sodexo Prestige sales team. Meaning they were able to target, via telephone, recipients who showed the most interest in the products (based on where they clicked on the accompanying website).

As well as this, there was a unique telephone number for this campaign, ensuring they could track all inbound calls from the email recipients.

After the 5th email send, just before The Masters golf tournament in April 2010, a Direct Mail brochure was sent to 1,000 recipients who had not yet been contacted via telephone, yet had shown interest through their click activity. This helped to encourage further engagement via in and outbound telephone conversations.

Although there is a lot more detail to this campaign, it was all pulled together in short timescales (first strategy meeting in early January 2010, first emails late January 2010. The last Direct Mail was sent in mid April 2010.

Most important this campaign achieved results. Although we can’t share all of the finer points of the budget, we can tell you the important bottom line:

The campaign achieved a staggering 24X ROI

It was this that we think caught the judges eyes at the B2B Marketing awards judging table this month, as the campaign has now been shortlisted for “Best Use of Email” for the 2010 awards.

So, still think email acquisition doesn’t work? Well for the vast majority of campaigns it probably doesn’t, but when you step back and take strategically-led approach and combine it with other complimentary channels, it can deliver outstanding results.