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Well, it finally happened. Fergie time is at an end (several minutes after the final whistle of course 😉 )

The long-serving football management guru has called time on his prestigious career. As Sir Alex Ferguson bids farewell to football management he will leave much change in his wake, as well as a few heartbroken fans. But life goes on and change happens.

Change is all around us; the way we live life, the products that help change our life, the businesses in which we operate. There’s no getting away from it, no hiding place, and as with most things in life; it’s better tackled head on. After all the only constant in life is change.

In the world of marketing it is no different. Staying ahead of the game, and keeping up with change is a constant challenge for any marketer or business owner. It’s something we wrestle with everyday, or at least perhaps we should do.

How does your company cope with change? How well is your company planning for the future?

Take the Change Challenge ….

Read the four sections below and mark yourself out of 10 for each section. There’s tips on scoring at the end of each section.

1.  “Ooooh, I didn’t realise you did that.”

This phrase is often uttered (sometimes sheepishly) between client and their supply partner. It’s sometimes hard to understand. You’re moving with the times, evolving products or service; there’s more bells, more whistles, you’ve let your customers know and still there’s a segment of your audience who revert to their original perception of you and what you can offer.

The “I didn’t realise” sentence can be one of the most frustrating to hear. A perception that is not in aligned with who you actually are needs to be changed. This is common. It can take a while for perception to be changed. Consider how useful high impact communication can be here. Communication that helps the recipient see things differently, to take another look, something they are not expecting. And from then build momentum, simple ways are often the most effective. Use multiple channels to communicate your message regularly. Keep chipping away to help change the perception.

So how many of your customers know what you actually do?

(When scoring yourself consider if there could be a perception gap? Do you have market research to back up perceptions? How well are you cross selling? Give yourselves a score out of 10, 1 being “they don’t know at all” and 10 being “I told them absolutely everything we do about 5 mins ago”.)
2.  Land ahoy!

How can what you offer help your customers? Or turn that on its head and ask “what issues do your customers have and how can you help solve them?” Understanding what’s going on in the world of the customer will help you identify their land; and help them get towards it quickly and effectively. How can what you offer make their life easier, help them be more successful, bring them joy. Sometimes it’s practical, sometimes it’s emotional. Talking regularly to customers will help you understand just what issues they are facing (even if they don’t know what issues there are it’s always good to talk). What’s coming up on the horizon for them? Help them scan the horizon and understand how what’s there is going to affect your customers. How can you partner with your customers to help them.

So how much do you know about your customers issues and challenges?

(When scoring yourself consider what is it that will make their lives (personal or business) much better? Can you provide multiple examples of detailed discussions you have had with your customers to help them with their future planning? How much time are you spending working on the future? On spying land? Give yourselves a score out of 10, 1 being “Nothing” and 10 being “Absolutely Everything” .)

3.  Knowledge is power.

Make the most of new technology; of the change that is around us. CRM (customer relationship management) systems and marketing software are becoming ever more sophisticated. The right software can help you know just the right time to contact a customer whilst understanding their behaviours and buying/browsing patterns, their likes and dislikes so you can target them with the right message at the right time for the right results. The most successful businesses focus on B2M (business to me) highly personalised communication on their clients’ terms. What would you like to know about your customers; and how can you use the power of marketing software to aid loyalty, to improve conversions, to increase market penetration?

So how would you rate yourselves in the knowledge you have of your customers; and how often do you use this information?

(When scoring yourself consider Are you using B2M tactics? Give yourselves a score out of 10, 1 being “I know nothing useful” and 10 being “A stalker doesn’t know half as much as I do”)
4.  It’s a rapidly changing landscape.

How are you keeping up? Market research will help you understand what’s happening in customer’s minds. Keep an eye on what’s happening in your customers industry. Recognise how your customers and prospects viewing, learning and forming opinions on your company. Just because your customers have bought from you in a certain way; doesn’t mean that they always will. This affects businesses of all sizes; from high value face to face deals to simple ecommerce exchanges. By understanding what is happening, and why, you can formulate accurate plans. Perform the market research regularly and you’ll be in the top echelons of the changing business world.

So when was the last time you did research with your customers?

(When scoring yourself consider what evidence do you have to support that what you are doing is the right thing for what your customers need? What do your customers say about the future? Give yourselves a score out of 10, 1 being “I once did a customer service survey”, and 10 being “Is everyday too much, because I don’t think so”)

One often overlooked outcome of the Fergie news this week is that fact that even a company as huge as Manchester United PLC had a succession plan in place for such a key person. They were ready and embraced the change. So much so, it’s obvious that they have spent many years researching and creating structures ready to embrace change.

You may agree or disagree with the appointment of David Moyes, but you cannot argue that Manchester United and Sir Alex have done all they can to prepare for the change. Maybe you too can embrace the exciting possibilities that change can bring to your business or marketing campaigns.

So, how did you do?

35+ – You are truly ahead of the game. Well done! You’ve got your eye on the future, as well as a well-established foot. The smallest minority of companies reside in this category. You are a change champion.

25-34 – You are doing very well. Identify the areas for fine tuning and tighten these up. You are in an elite group.

15-24 – Most companies find themselves in this category. Tighten up some of the lower scoring areas. Put some immediate focus on what can improve in these areas so that you can plan for the future.

Below 15 – It’s not the best place to be in. But not to worry. You’ve taken the first step. You know where you are, you have a benchmark from which to build. Look at what can be done in all four areas, concentrating on your weakest areas; and change your marketing processes to help you move forwards.

Karen Lambert is the founder and Managing Director and strategic marketing expert at Happy Creative, a full service marketing agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk

In March 2013 I had a vision. A vision of doing something different. A vision of becoming a part of something. In April 2013 I achieved that vision. After 8 weeks of practice, I, with 14 other terrified yet excited ladies, took to the pitch. Stood there, on that rainy afternoon, we had become the Garstang Ladies RUFC team.

Having never been near a rugby ball, my increased knowledge over those short few weeks brought some vital rules of play to my attention. Rules that apply both on the rugby field and in the field of marketing.

Communication
On the rugby field communication is imperative. You need to know where your team mates are at all times, and who is going in for the vital tackle. Good communication make things tick. Good communication avoids bumps and bruises. Good communication ensures every player knows where the team are heading next. This is something we live by as marketeers.
Communication in marketing is not just about understanding what a client is saying to you, but about ensuring you are on the same page, heading towards the same goal.

Strategy
Before any game a strategy is put in place. What is our game plan? What tricks can we use to get the ball? How are we going to ensure we win? Determining what you are going to do before you start doing is imperative to having a clear direction and focus. It is important to remember that a strategy will change when the game changes – you wouldn’t stick with a strategy that wasn’t working would you?
Marketing is much the same. A clear way forward, a plan of action. What are we going to do? This is the fundamental basis for a successful campaign.

Skills
Although much room for improvement is needed on the rugby pitch, skills play a big part in improving your game. Having the right skills in marketing works the same way. The more knowledge behind implementing a brand, and having the ability to do so properly, creates a stronger, more unique campaign.

Working as a team
In rugby, working together is vital. Pushing against the opposition as a one man band won’t get you anywhere. Having no one screaming on your left or right, sends you out into a sea of angry rugby players alone – no thank you!
In marketing it is much the same, getting the right results requires team work. Marketeers will ask the right questions to gauge the right information, and clients will give detailed briefs and a direction. With both players playing an important role, the goal can be reached quickly, easily and effectively.

Support
Support, support, support. A rugby buzz word. It was something drummed into us from day one. Always provide your team mate with an option. Always be behind your team mate. Be there to receive the ball. Be there to receive the hit. Without support you won’t get very far.
In marketing, support is important too. Support in terms of believing in an idea. Without passion and belief it is hard to bring an idea to life.

In terms of having the right materials to assist an idea, support plays an important part. What materials will you need? What methods will you use? Will your idea launch online and offline? What knowledge do you have? What is your strategy? An integrated strategy provides multiple levels of support for a campaign, with the whole concept working together towards that one goal.

And then there’s the glory…

Scoring that try, converting that kick, it’s all glory. A rush of adrenaline runs through your body, the cheers of the crowd ring in your ears.
A less muddy comparison is a successful marketing campaign. It is an achievement. You have reached your goal, be proud.
When a campaign is successfully communicated, strategically planned and accurately implemented there is no room for failure.
With a bit of team work, great things can be achieved.

Oh and the nervousness of taking to a rugby field with opponents twice your size will never go away, but it won’t stop me. So if I can do it, so can you…even if it may take a Happy Haka to get you to the pitch.

Emma Dobson is a branding expert and Touch Point guru at Happy Creative, a full service marketing agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk

This week is world book week. I know because my son came home clutching his Lego Ninjago book and my daughter her make your own fairy princesses and unicorns book.

But, leaving child gender stereotypes behind… what defines a great book cover? And how much to we judge a book by it’s cover?

A great cover, can easily be just defined by it’s author. From George Orwell’s 1984 to Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange are easily recognisable and deservedly have their places on the pantheon of greatest book covers ever.

However I do like the re-imagined covers  that are produced.

Penguins updated cover for 1984, delights with it’s bravery and raises a wry smile to anyone who has knowledge of the book. It would also intrigue new readers. I’m very guilty of judging books by their cover, as  a designer, I would look at the book first and then turn to the back to find out if would be on a subject that I would read and I have  been persuaded to purchase a book, purely because I found the cover interesting.

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My favourite book cover is a Brazilian edition of Jules Vernes’ “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” by the artist Carlo Giovani.

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I love the context of this book.  How the layers have dual meaning by delving deeper into the book or the earth, you will discover more.  Have I read this?  Well my Brazilian is a little poor… but I have watched the film if that counts.  The original one with James Mason!!

If you have any favourite book covers you would like to share, let us know and we’ll feature them.

James Chantler is Creative Director at Happy Creative, a full service marketing and creative agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk

A wonderful Happy New Year to all our clients, friends, followers, suppliers and fans.

2012 was a fantastic year, but we have a feeling 2013 will be even better. January is a great time to generate new ideas, but an even better time to implement them and we’ll be working closely with all of our friends to grow businesses and bring exciting ideas to life.

There is so much going on at Happy Creative in 2013, with new services aplenty and we look forward to sharing each and every Happy minute with you.

Whether you are an existing friend or one to come we wish you all a very Happy 2013.

Now this is how to make a cupcake! For 24 and Keifer Sutherland fans in particular. If Jack Bauer made cupcakes….

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