With the annual showpiece event of the European football calendar upon us, and a very welcome German invasion into our capital, the regular football season is almost officially over.

For many clubs, like mine, the season officially ended before the start of May (it could be argued that it actually ended around February) and the pre-season schedule is already looking like a long stretch.

Most teams will be formulating their plans for next season; planning, budgeting, releasing players, buying players.  Indeed, negotiations are already well underway, with many players fighting for the space in ever decreasing squad lists (well, if you are down in the lower divisions anyway).

In football terms, the planning of resources for next year’s ‘results’ is underway now, even though the ultimate result won’t be known until this time next year.  Hopping back to the two teams in the Champions League final, German football has been working to produce the types of players that will feature prominently on Saturday for 13 years, since an extremely disappointing Euro 2000.  So disappointing in fact even England beat them.

Planning isn’t often the first thought when new and shiny toys or big resources appear (I’m looking at you QPR!), and it is why so many marketing campaigns really fail to fire.

As I’ve travelled around the country delivering social media training and campaigns the most frequent failing for social media activity I’m asked to look at is a lack of planning.

Failing to plan social media activity isn’t an unusual phenomenon.  Indeed, due to the nature of social media and the way we use it in our own lives the reactive nature of the medium often gives the whole area an organic feel.  There’s a feel that it’s down to luck, timing and clever black magic that gets results especially in a B2B social media environment.  It really isn’t.

Just with the more traditional marketing disciplines, planning remains the key to success with B2B social media.  Tweeting and hoping just won’t wash, and we aren’t just talking about creating a nice little conversational calendar either.

Proper social media planning really starts and ends with your business objectives.  What are you trying to achieve as a business, and how can the social media channel be best utilised.  Of course as part of this exercise you will have to assess each of your audiences, your company ‘voice’, your internal requirements, your resources and your campaigns.

It really isn’t as complex as negotiating the flavour of dressing to put on the prawn sandwiches at Wembley this weekend.  In fact there are 5 key questions you can set yourself to help develop a social media strategy:

1. Why do you want to incorporate social media into your business?

2. Do you want to use specific individuals in your organisation for outbound communication with your external community?

3. Do you know what platform you intend to use to broadcast your efforts?

4. Have you defined your desired results and timescales to achieve your goals?

5. Have you assessed our 10 Tips to transform your Social Media strategy before you launch your plan?

Ok, these questions aren’t going to solve all your issues with planning your social media activity, but they are great questions you can use to create a structure.  They get to the heart of the thinking that is required to bring your social media strategies together.

Let’s face it, if the often basket-case business logic of football is already planning for next year, then perhaps now would be a good time for us all to do our own planning.

Simon Brooke is a Director at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk or @Happy_Creative

Imagine you have a big watermelon. Now imagine you’ll try and get the whole watermelon into your blender to make a nice watermelon juice. It seems like a good idea.  Ermm, not so much, unless you have a very small watermelon and a very big blender.

Now imagine you also have a knife, with which you can slice the watermelon, so it’s divided into manageable chunks. With some of it, you’ll make some juice, with the rest, you’ll make a dessert and with the peel you will feed your backyard animals. That’s good usage of your product and enables you to serve different ‘markets’.

Market segmentation is just like that.

You may think you have a big market, but you can’t be everything to everyone. You have to slice it into chunks that you can handle, that you can understand and that you can work with to concentrate fully on squeezing the juice out of each individual piece. Segmenting your market is the key to your success as a business. ‘No one can please everyone all the time’, someone once said, and nothing could ring more true when it comes to targeting marketing.

By going after segments instead of the whole market, there is a much better chance to deliver value to the consumer and, consequently, increase your profit margins. By segmenting the market, you will be separating groups of buyers with distinct needs, characteristics and behaviours, who might require different products and a different marketing mix to match their requirements.

To segment your market you have a very sharp tool in the draw: market research.

You need to ask, you need to observe, you need to read between the lines, you need to interpret it. And once this research is done and you have a few segments that look appealing to your business, how do you know which one to target?

Here is a test you can perform, 5 simple but extremely important questions that you have to ask about that segment, so you can decide if you should invest in it. Here you go:

1. Is the segment substantial?
The market needs to be large enough to be profitable.

2. Is the segment measurable?
We should be able to measure the size and characteristics of the segment through different data sources.

3. Is the segment differentiated?
We should be able to distinguish between this segment and other segments in terms of the way they respond to the marketing mix elements.

4. Is the segment accessible?
We should be able to reach the segment in terms of communication, media and distribution.

5. Is the segment actionable?
We should be able to develop ways to attract and service the segment.

Ok, so now you have 5 ‘yesses’ and you have decided that you have a brand new target market for your product/service.

Well done, great stuff. But, how do you position your offering to this brand new market?

Here’s how to start: go back to your research. Remind yourself about how this market wants to be communicated to. Analyse their answers. Again, read between the lines.

Positioning involves placing your brand and everything that is unique about it in customer minds. A product or service’s position in the market is a complex set of perceptions, impressions and feelings that consumers have towards what you are offering them. It’s how they see it and how they see it fitting into their lives.

To position successfully you must have thorough knowledge of the key benefits sought by the market, so the more time and effort you invest on the market research, the more equipped you will be to come to the USP, which will be the pillar of your communication.

The unique selling proposition is about what makes the product special and different to the competition and it’s what makes people buy and buy again.

Invest in it, communicate it and promote it through your marketing mix. But overall, if you do one thing and one thing only, make sure you have taken the time to segment your market and got to truly know every pip.

Without that, all your efforts might just follow the watermelon juice down the drain or splashed across the kitchen walls. And that is one big cleaning up job.

Marilia Spindler is an Account Manager 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

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

I have two children, a young boy and a younger girl. The boy has swimming lessons on a Sunday and the girl doesn’t. The older boy was teasing the younger girl that he was going swimming and she was staying at home. Nah nah nah na… you get the idea.

The younger girl was getting upset by this and in an attempt to make staying at home with her daddy a bit more exciting than it really was, I had an idea. I saw that she was holding a Hello Kitty toy and then engaged my mouth before my brain had thought through the consequences and said that we were going to ‘Hello Kitty Land’. As I talked through ‘Hello Kitty Land’, I envisaged a make believe game that I would be playing later with the small girl. However the lie just got bigger and bigger and out of control.

The young boy didn’t believe that there was a ‘Hello Kitty Land’ and to be honest I wasn’t sure either, however I thought quickly on my feet and we decided to look on the internet for our make believe ”Hello Kitty Land’. I had though I might find a picture of a shop and then convince the skeptic that ‘Hello Kitty Land’ did exist. I was surprised and secretly pleased to find that there is one as I was fully immersed in my lie and couldn’t see a way out of the situation.

We looked at all the pictures, discussed all the rides and the skeptic was convinced that his sister was going to have more fun than him at his swimming lesson. Phew! I’d made it and would have 40 minutes to come up with reasons why we didn’t go to ‘Hello Kitty Land’ while he was swimming. However I’d done such a good job of presenting ‘Hello Kitty Land’ to my two children, that when the youngest made the statement, ”We’re off to Hello Kitty Land, see you at lunch time’ , I had to reveal that we couldn’t go to ‘Hello Kitty Land’ for the main reason that it is Malaysia and we didn’t have any plane tickets etc etc. My small girls reaction was as you would expect, annoyed, angry and upset. As she is a small child, it was quickly forgotten when I promised her an ice cream.

In the grown up world, ice creams don’t always solve self-made problems and as Creative Director of Happy Creative, I had not followed one of our most important mantras which is ‘delivering on promises to our clients is an integral part of our business’.

Each time we make these commitments, we build trust. At Happy Creative we always do what we say, because our reputation is incredibly important to us. It is our responsibility to give our clients the best possible service so that they are confident in our abilities and have no reason to think otherwise. Keeping our promises has created satisfied customers, that speak highly of us, for our creative and marketing services and regard us as people who are a pleasure to do business with. Clients that speak highly of you also talk to other people and referrals from existing clients has become a cornerstone of Happy Creative’s success and growth over the years.

If you break a promise, all that hard work and energy you’ve spent keeping a good relationship can be quickly become strained. Keep or over deliver on your promise and you will have a client, colleague or friend for life. High expectations of our standards keeps the bar at a high level and creates a cycle of success. We maintain our high standards by following some simple steps.

1) Don’t over promise. 

We are always very clear in what we can deliver.

2) Thinking Time.

Before we commit to a promise, we analyse the situation, consider the possibilities and weigh up any variables.

3) Expect the unexpected.  

“NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!” and projects can sometimes throw up a situation that is so out of the blue, that it impacts on every component of the project. We allow time in a project so that these unexpected events can be faced and their impact on the project is minimised.

4) Be happy at every stage. 

At Happy Creative, we ensure that your project meets your expectations at each point of its journey, from start to completion.

Keeping a promise does ensure business success and promotes that hard to earn but quick to lose commodity of trust. By making this commitment that you can keep –or, even better, exceed –you will build a foundation for future successes and growth.

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

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.

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.

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.

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. 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

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