Sometimes in life, wading through treacle, is worth it. It tastes sweet at the end. In the last two years, two of our clients have received business grants to grow their business. And the best bit? Unlike other methods of business funding, they don’t have to pay the money back. Like we say. Sweet. It also means that our own business has benefited, as they’ve outsourced services to us, and in turn, we’ve employed apprentices to complete the work. What goes around, comes around, right?

But to get there it can often be like wading through treacle with oversized wellies. Tiring. Just looking over the grant eligibility is tough enough. Each with their own nuances and requirements. When it comes to grants, the devil really is in the detail. But there are things that can help.

Start Local First

Many grants are issued out by geographical region. Thankfully, the government’s digital policy has got something right for a change and this handy little tool can help you search for a grant by region: Business Grant Search

Tailor Your Grant Application

Engage with the body awarding the grant. They are often very helpful as it is in their benefit to do so and will go over the finer points with you.

Ensure you tailor your application to the grant purpose e.g. creating jobs, innovation.

Explain how you’ll use the money, taking care to observe any nuances such as items you will purchase to grow your business that are excluded from the grant.

Time your application – now many people say apply early, but we’ve had experience of applying for grants later in the process when schemes really need to get rid of the money. Often schemes are underpublicized, and so grant applications can be low. There’s no hard or fast rules but we’d say research previous grant years to see who they’ve given funding to.

Numbers matter – at the very least cashflow forecast and a business plan of ROI will help your application.

Be Concise

If the grant is popular, there will be hundreds of applications for the grant officer to wade through in oversized wellies. Use the same principles you use in your own business marketing, clear, concise information that gets right to the core of the subject and how you will use the money.

It’s Not All About the Money

Many business owners go looking for money to help them invest to grow. Understandable. But there are other types of grants available. From broadband vouchers, to low car emissions to employing an apprentice. All of which will help your bottom line.

But It Is About Your Finances

Funders will be looking for applications that fit their individual rules. The money needs to be spent in the right way and attention should be paid to how it will benefit, in financial terms, the business. No one is asking for your full accounts, but they are asking for a clearly laid out financial spreadsheet of how you will grow as a result.

If you are looking into growing your business through grants or other finance methods. Get in touch. We can help you prepare the grant application.

Employee Appreciation Day

What makes the perfect employee?

As Employee Appreciation Day rolls around again, we wonder, what does it take to find the perfect employee? And is there a formula for attracting hard working dedicated individuals that have your back, when you have theirs. As an SME business with limited budgets, what does it really take to the build the perfect team dynamics?

Don’t try and tick all the boxes, find the people that count instead
There are many people who don’t fit the mould. And they don’t need to either. Mum’s and Dad’s who’ve taken a career break, or individuals who’ve taken a gap to care for a loved one. Don’t dismiss the hours, or conditions they ask for as being too difficult. If you accept the unacceptable in our experience, they’ll just work even harder to prove themselves. They’ll go above and beyond for you, if you go above and beyond for them.

Not everyone needs to be the same
As the leader of your business, what makes you tick, is not what makes everyone else tick. Good team dynamics rely on differences, people to challenge you, not just agree with you. The doers vs the creative thinkers, the detail vs the broad stroke. Life would be boring if we were all the same.

Which brings us to our team. And the fun bit. We thought we’d tell you about them. Because, why the hell not? They’re that good.

Our team works because of the very reasons we list above. We’re not all the same, we don’t claim to be. We aim to cover all bases. A jigsaw of personalities that fit together to produce a Van Gogh masterpiece, Ravensburger style.

Claire – The Palmer Perfection.
As there’s two Claire’s in our team, we call her Palmer. Like Bond. James Bond. She’s a multi-tasker who takes her Martini shaken and dry like her humour. She’ll juggle like a Penn and Teller, balancing multiple marketing balls, without dropping one. Okay, we’ve nearly forgiven her for the one she dropped on her first day. But we’ll say no more about that.

Jess – The Mancunian Doer.
A hard work ethic is Jess’s strength. Mancunian grit and determination see her through, from creating email templates at the crack of dawn, to drafting copy on the strangest of subject matters. DDOS attacks? Pfft. Easy. No subject is too much trouble. She also laughs at our Mum jokes.

Sonia – The Yorkshire Corker.
She could talk the hind legs of a donkey. So, it’s just a good job we don’t have one. There’s nothing she doesn’t know about marketing. Or brand. Or barn conversions. She’s the eternal optimist, pragmatist and never gets flustered. A leader by nature, she’ll always be there to offer the very best advice. Whether you like it or not.

Claire – The Geek With A Creative Streak.
She only streaks at special request. Naturally a hobbit, who only comes out when Gandalf knocks on, she’ll explain even the most complicated technical details simply and succinctly. Maybe sometimes too succinctly. You certainly know where you stand with her. Not content with being technical, she’ll also turn her hand to creative tasks like this. And just like the other Claire in our team, she takes her Martini dry like her humour. We knew we were in trouble when we employed two of them.

Ed – The Big Personality PR.
In a world full of females, Ed is our adopted employee who pulls no punches when it comes to the world of PR. There’s not a journalist he doesn’t have on speed dial. He not only puts the P into PR but is personable and a positively joyous person to be around. And the best person at pottery, as we found out from our Christmas do.

Cam – The Above Average Apprentice.
Lord Sugar would be so proud. Although Cam has now left us for pastures new, he still pops in to set our SEO straight. He puts the C into CARING and adds capitals to it. He learns faster than the speed of light, and brightens up our day with his award-winning smile. We’re sure he used to be a model you know.

Zoe – The Big-Hearted Southerner.
Yes, we know we had to employ one of them. Equal opportunities and all that. Zoe is a Devonshire lass and like all good Devonshire lasses her rosy-cheeked sunny disposition instils a calming influence on our days. She is the sunshine to our Northern leaden skies and ever the optimist. Her thorough reports and marketing practicality, put all our clients at ease.

So, that’s us. A team that fits perfectly together, like the moon with the stars. Our personalities might sometimes be galaxies apart, but our light bounces off each other to shine bright. We align like Orion’s belt and work hard to form the right constellation. We all really really care about doing a good job, and each other. And there’s definitely no egos. Well, maybe Ed. But he wouldn’t work in PR otherwise, so we’ll make an exception. So on this Employee Appreciation Day, we hope you find your perfect star alignment that lasts into perpetuity like the universe.




There’s plenty of us dream of building a brand but is it really possible, when all you have is a tap in your kitchen and a Rodney?

launching a brand?

If you’re old enough to remember this scene from popular British comedy “Only Fools and Horses” then you’ll know that the main character Del Boy starts a premium bottled water business called Peckham Spring, using only a tap in his kitchen.  Funny. We thought so. But it’s not just comedy. Plenty of brands start out from someone’s kitchen table, back bedroom or garage. And some even work. But we’re here to tell you, as hard as it is to hear, that the majority are unlikely to succeed. 


In our business we get to speak to lots of enthusiastic entrepreneurs who want to start a business.  We love them.  They have our heart and we’ll give them our brains. But we always tell them the truth. That the world is littered by unsuccessful brands and closed down shopify stores.  Hell, we’ve even a few ourselves. 


They have an idea for a product, they’ve even got the brand identity, maybe a website but most are naive about one thing. Money. And how much money it takes to cut through in a crowded market. When everyone is yelling in the same marketplace and yet you don’t have the arse or lips of the Khardashians to pump up and post on Insta. That’s not us being facetious, or negative it’s just plain fact. 


The answer to this quandary of how much money you need.  £1000’s every month.  And that’s just telling people you exist.  Build it and they will come does not apply to websites or social media accounts.  Those £1000’s are not for stock, or premises or employees. That’s just the marketing. 


When we tell them this, they will smile sweetly, some will start to sweat, some will even laugh but the ones who will make it are the ones who get this in their heads early on and plan for it.


So what can you do if you want to start a brand from your kitchen?

Plan like NASA.
Don’t leave anything to chance.  The more you know the market, the more chance you have of succeeding.  Want to launch a Confectionary brand? Know that there are already 10 big players in the market who are going to outbid you on Google AdWords.  Including Cadburys.  Use tools and customer insight to identify your niche, your white space, where you can operate and offer something different in the marketplace.  There’s millions of insight websites and thanks to google,  most are free. 


Find the money
Some will re-mortgage their house (we really wouldn’t recommend this), a lot have built a pot from the day job, some will crowdfund or seek investment.  But either way you need a 3 year business plan, with spend and Return On Investment (ROI) forecasts.  That’s a big old excel spreadsheet full of scary formulas that any potential investor will look at and see you are serious. Don’t know how to do it? Ask someone like us. Simples.


Know what a brand is.
A brand is not a logo, a website or product packaging. A brand sits in someone’s brain and heart and makes them go “oh yes I like you. You stand for something I believe in and you know what,  I’m going to buy from you.“  Simon Sinek had it right when he said you need to know your “Why” as well as your “What.”  Then when you know why your brand exists, seed it in everything you do. 


Be patient.
There’s loads of well-known statements and facts that tell us that it takes a while to build a brand – apparently even Mr. Coca-Cola only sold one bottle in his first year.  But it does take time.  It takes time to find and reach your customers, it takes time to build trust in your brand, it takes time to get people to return to you time and time again.  Plan a year of investment and by the end of it, you should know if you have something that’s going to work.


Take a 360 view of marketing.
Your brand needs to be everywhere, all at once.  Like Michelle Yeoh and then some.  A £50 voucher for Google AdWords just isn’t going to cut it.  Test your channels early on.  All your channels.  We’ve seen plenty of brands invest everything in Google pay per click only to then get so hooked on it, they can’t get off it. It’s like crack cocaine. Addictive and expensive. And certainly not good to rely on it for the long term success of your brand.


Cherish your customer
One loyal customer is worth a hundred new ones.  Reward them, love them, cherish them.  And certainly don’t forget about them.  Invest in loyalty and retention marketing early on. 


Phew that was a lot! If you got to the end, well done, and please don’t be perturbed.  Just know this. Only Fools and Horses was one of the most successful brands in British comedy.  To this day its merchandise still fills the aisles of B&M at Christmas.  A brand started in a kitchen can succeed but it needs time and investment.  It’s not quite the equivalent of the BBC’s marketing, costume and prop department, and actors on a whole lot of dosh, but some days it will feel like it.  Stay strong,  invest in what’s working, bin off what doesn’t. Oh and you have to get yourself a Rodney, just for the laughs. 

The SME Partners

Business partnerships. They can make or break you. Take you down or pick you up. When a relationship involves success or failure at its core, how do two people create a bond made in business heaven. This is our story.

How did you meet?
When Sonia and I first met we were working at the same finance provider, I was working as head of digital experience and Sonia as marketing director. We shared a common no nonsense approach and ability to get shit done and I think that’s why we we drawn together.

What do you  think makes a good partnership?

In many ways we are complete opposites. Sonia takes her energy from being around people and I take mine from total isolation. The ultimate extrovert side by side with an intense introvert. I’m tech minded, Sonia has a creative flair. She’s a Sagittarius, I’m a Gemini. Opposites of the zodiac but both seekers of adventure who easily get bored of routine. We bring balance to the each others flaws and enhance the best bits. Every relationship has its ups and downs and our team will say we bicker like a married couple but we always have each others back. On our long trips to see clients across all corners of the UK, we’ve had many conversations about our background, and we definitely share a common work ethic derived from our upbringing. We both come from working class families who worked hard to give us the opportunities, and we want to work hard to repay the favour.

Why did you decide to go into business together?

Sonia asked me to work on a specific digital project, and then another, and then another. It kind of snowballed from there and we decided to combine forces. We both have complimentary career skills that just fit naturally together. Neither one of us could have predicted a pandemic, a partnership and now a recession in that time. I think both of us will say we’ve experienced a lifetime in two years compared to our forty plus years combined careers. It’s been fun, terrifying, hard work but incredibly rewarding all at the same time.

What’s the best bits of the partnership?
There’s simply no time for boredom. And I think we both enjoy that. We’ve been on 8 hour road trips to Aberdeen, trained 200 NHS senior managers, launched brands, got sore feet from walking trade shows, narrowly missed drug dealers in dodgy hotels, met amazing entrepreneurs and business leaders who really believe in what we tell them. And we them. We’ve ate more cake than is humanly possible, and tracked down enough HRT patches to plaster the hole in the titanic and hold us together. Things haven’t always gone right. But we make sure one of us can pick each other up. Neither one of us would do this on our own.

What’s next for the partnership?
We’ve long given up predicting what’s next. The consultancy and agency world is unpredictable at best, and mind-boggling at worst.  We’re old enough and wise enough to know better. As that lovely Irish boy once said, life is a rollercoaster you’ve just gotta ride it. So long as it’s only on the way up, treacle.

What is a Google Core Update?

A Google core update happens when Google makes significant and broad changes to its search engine algorithms and systems. These updates aim to improve the search experience for users, providing more relevant, useful, and trustworthy content. Core updates ensure Google keep up to paces changing, due to the nature of the web. Core updates are never specific to any particular site or pages.

How often do Google Core updates happen?

In most cases, core Google Search updates happen several times per year, usually every few months. Google tends to announce the updates a few days before or the day of, although some updates can take several days to roll out for users once released.

The Last Core Update

More recently Google released the May 2022 core update. It will take about 1-2 weeks to fully roll out. This update will make substantial improvements to Google’s overall ranking processes. This Core updates is designed to increase the overall relevancy of the search results and make them more helpful and useful for everyone.

Why is it important to keep an eye on Core Updates as a business?

Google confirm core updates because they typically produce some widely notable effects. Some sites including yours, may notice some drops or gains during the update period. If you notice your site experiencing many drops, Google know you will be looking for a fix, and Google want to ensure you personally don’t take action and end up fixing the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.

There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven’t violated guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action. As stated there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how Google’s systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better. These are all reasons to why it is important to know when the updates are occuring, so if you experience decreases in activity- then you know why. Google ask if you have any feedback about the May 2022 core update or updates in general, you can post in this forum thread.

Imagine hanging out with your favourite music band and catching a first-class flight to Dubai in your own kitchen. Imagine learning to fly a helicopter, see the most infamous landmarks of the world all from the safety of your home. In simple terms, the Metaverse is a 3-dimensional internet.


What exactly is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a very hard term and idea to define. Basically, a place parallel to the physical world, where you spend your digital life. A place where you and other people have avatar’s, and you can interact. It’s seen as the logical next stage of development of human real life and would ideally be accessed through a single gateway. It is almost a futuristic projection on life now.

The metaverse allows you to build your dream/ultimate life on the internet, a place where you can show off and boast your most priced possessions to other users. You can build homes, wardrobes, cars the list goes on and on. All items can be purchased through virtual money and finances. With it only being in its early stages, I am sure the capabilities of the metaverse will expand rapidly.

How Can the Metaverse Help Businesses?

With the metaverse still being up and coming, fresh and new there is a great opportunity right now for brands to establish a foothold in the Metaverse, the rules are being established, the way we interact and think of it is still being moulded, so it is a perfect time to start this journey.

Many companies are hopping on the metaverse hype, more recently Nike have just launched their first pair of 3D metaverse trainers that are able to be purchased by users.

It is also now another platform and way of creating and getting more sales. It can be an opportunity for some brands to reach a whole new demographic of people, people who may never have even seen a company’s products/services before.

It also allows a company to look good and impressive, proving they are keeping up with trends, technologies, and the development of the world.

The Vatican Ventures into the Metaverse

A story that has taken world by surprise has been the Vatican announcing they are entering the metaverse in a partnership with developer Sensorium. They are developing the first-ever VR and NFT gallery hosting Vatican art.

Upon its launch to the metaverse, manuscripts, masterpieces and more will be available virtually to a wider audience worldwide.

The Vatican already receives averages of 6 million people per year, and with this new development they hope to increase this statistic further and further.

Father Philip Larrey, chairman of Humanity 2.0 commented: “We look forward to working with Sensorium to explore ways to democratise art, making it more widely available to people around the world regardless of their socio-economic and geographical limitations. The partnership with Sensorium brings this goal a step further and equips us with the latest tech solutions.”

If this movement is successful, I am sure other businesses, museums and galleries will follow in the Vatican’s footsteps.

The metaverse really is an exciting prospect. It is going to be fascinating in seeing what is to come for the future…

What are the most successful companies that you can think of? Nike, Apple, McDonalds, IKEA? And I bet that when you think of them you can visualize them instantly. That is thanks to branding. Impactful, effective and with cut-through; it’s what many start-ups aim for in the fledgling stage of their businesses.

It’s surprising then, how often the word ‘brand’ is misused. I hear companies referred to as brands; products referred to as brands; logos referred to as brands. But perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising. For a concept that is so widely accepted to be powerful, branding is not a concept that is easily applied.

The most common misunderstanding of ‘brand’ is that it can be used interchangeably with ‘business’. Though indelibly linked the two are not equal and growing either is going to be tough if you don’t understand this. And for a growth strategy to work, you will need to have brand at its very heart.

Defining what ‘brand’ means

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines brand as “a type of product, service, etc. made or offered by a particular company under a particular name.” This definition is not wrong per se, it explains what ‘Hellmans’ or ‘Kelloggs’ is on a base level. But for the purposes of building a brand it’s just too limiting.

A more helpful definition comes from Investopedia, where the stated definition is:

“a business and marketing concept that helps people identify a particular company, product, or individual. Brands are intangible, which means you can’t actually touch or see them. As such, they help shape people’s perceptions of companies, their products, or individuals.”

The key point here is that brands are intangible – they are concepts that help shape perceptions. So, when we work to build a brand, we should have a specific idea of how we want consumers to view the company that is behind it. It’s more about personality and values than products and services, and the great thing is, as the brains behind the business you get to choose what this is. But, it doesn’t happen by accident.

Defining what your brand is

In the classic ‘4 Ps’ marketing framework, we consider price, promotion, place and product. ‘Brand’ hasn’t made the cut, but guess what? It has a spot within every one of those ‘Ps’ and it’s essential that businesses think about it strategically.

The first question to ask is this: what do you want people to think of in that first nanosecond when they see a representative of your brand – whether that be the logo, shop, price or website? This alone is a tough question, so I would recommend starting out by taking these three steps:

1.     Define your brand’s core values

2.     Decide how you want your brand to make people feel

3.     Craft a mission statement that clearly and succinctly communicates your desired brand message

Defining your core values

Every company should have core values that they can communicate and which are clearly represented across all of their communications and activity. LEGO shares its brand values on it’s about us page:

The six stated values (imagination, creativity, fun, learning, caring and quality) are not specifically about their products, but they do  invite us to draw inferences about them. For example, “For us quality means the challenge of continuous improvement to provide the best play material.” Here, LEGO touches on the high quality of their product without stating the bloody obvious (our products are of high quality) – they add value by explaining that it’s not enough to be of high quality – their exemplary products will keep getting better because this is what drives them.

Your brand should have 4-6 core values that can do the same for its products and services. It’s not easy to come up with these and it’s certainly not a job for one person. Enlist the help of passionate colleagues and make sure your core values are truly representative, and not just of your ExCo!

Define how you want your brand to make people feel

Now you have decided on your core values, think about how you want your brand to make people feel. Should they be excited, enthused, emboldened, nostalgic, inspired, something else..?

Oatly, the Swedish milk alternative brand follows in the footsteps of brands like innocent who started out with their irreverent and ‘good for the world’ messaging a decade or so ago. Oatly’s mission statement  includes the headline “We promise to be a good company.” Their writing style is highly colloquial and always from a ‘we’ perspective. Why? Because they want their customers to feel positive, that they are part of a collective community doing some good for the world and reserving its natural resources. So when you see a carton of Oatly on the shelf you instantly feel like a slightly better person. That’s some high impact branding that ties in neatly with core values around sustainability and health.

Whatever it is that you want your brand to make people feel, it too should feel closely aligned with both your core values and your products. If it has to be explained in an essay, it probably doesn’t work which leads us neatly onto step three…

Craft a brand mission statement that clearly and succinctly communicates your desired brand message

I use the word ‘succinct’ a lot when working on resources for company leaders. That’s because communication is at the very heart of marketing (and indeed, of brand) and nobody ever found a 5-page summary easy to understand. To communicate key messages well, you must be able to do it succinctly.

“To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful” is Linkedin’s 12-word mission statement. Short, simple and to-the-point. Within that message lies the preferred feeling to be evoked by the Linkedin brand: to feel productive and successful. Their core values? They’re all about connecting people.

Fenty, Rihanna’s beauty brand, keeps it even shorter: “Beauty for all.” In just three words the brand has covered inclusion, beauty and feeling good. IKEA has another good example: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” Not an assembly-related word in sight, not even a room or a house. You don’t need to talk about your product in your mission statement, so much as to talk around it. Be warned, this is much harder than it sounds.

What now?

With your brand’s core values, associated feelings and mission statement in place, it’s time to place your brand at the very heart of all that you do. The visual elements, the copy, the locations, investors, social media and product lines all need to span out from your clearly-defined brand.

Oatly’s success is widely attributed to the appointment of CEO Toni Peterson in 2012. Peterson was said to live the brand and he worked closely with the Creative Director, John Schoolcraft to relaunch. This isn’t to say that you need to appoint a new CEO, but it does point to the value of keeping brand at the core of all company activity – not just that of the marketing team.

It’s also important to check that your messaging works – speak to customers, focus groups, indeed anyone who can give you an honest and unbiased opinion. Remember that no one from within can ever truly see the brand with fresh eyes. It’s not enough for the board to like the messaging, it needs to translate across product shelves and the digital landscape. Once you know that your brand is having the intended effect, you know you are looking at success.

[Web version only: If you’re looking for help with brand growth or brand-building, get in touch today. We’ll be happy to help!]

Sources/Further Reading

How often have you scrolled through your social media feeds and wondered why your competitors seem to be doing it so much better than you? Be honest.

These days it’s widely accepted that social media is doing no one’s self esteem any favours, but what about the confidence you have in your business? This free tool can potentially enable us to reach millions of eyeballs with our marketing messages. In theory, all it takes is some clever strategizing and a spot of jumping on a zeitgeist. However, the more common experience of businesses is this:

·       not enough engagement

·       not enough reach

·       a blank when it comes to proving ROI

The thing is, it’s not just about your content strategy; a lot of businesses are failing because they are simply not willing to put their money where their mouth is.


Why isn’t social media free and easy anymore?

When Facebook first sprang onto the scene, marketers were champing at the bit. Back then it was relatively easy to amass a large audience and get decent reach with organic posts. Going viral wasn’t such an uphill struggle. Fast forward nearly 20 years and the much-expanded roster of social media platforms has wised up to the profit opportunity.

Monetisation of social platforms has seen brands experience declining reach and engagement. And while clever tactics can help, at the end of the day, as with so many things in life, you get what you pay for.


Why pay for something you can get for free?

Organic social and paid social have become separate entities for many businesses. It’s not uncommon to have the organic role fulfilled in-house, while paid social advertising and influencer marketing get shipped out to agencies.

For many companies, social strategy has split into three strands:

·       Organic Social = brand

·       Paid Social = direct performance

·       Influencer Marketing = combination of brand and direct performance

What’s also common is for those with the spending power to put their foot down when it comes to spending serious money on paid social and influencer marketing, especially if it is not to drive direct performance. For many business leaders, good social can and should be free; they think it’s about getting social managers who are good enough to make their content go viral and expecting influencers to bring exposure by way of a few free products, rather than a proper payment structure.

We beg to differ.


Why the value and cost of social media is higher than you think it is

Recent research suggests that UK adults are now spending 109 minutes a day on social media, but because social media is so much more readily available to us than other channels like PPC or affiliate marketing, it’s easy to think that we shouldn’t have to pay for it. If teenagers can go viral, then why should companies be paying out big salaries and ad spends for this ‘fun’ medium?

Well, the answer is this: social media as a job isn’t about ‘fun’. It’s about leveraging a whole host of skills to win success. That success isn’t just about driving sales or email leads, it’s about positioning your brand, getting in front of people and building a community of loyal brand advocates. If you only pay for direct performance, you’re seriously limiting your scope.

The same goes for the talent you pay for. A social media specialist requires a specific skillset that is not easy to find. It’s also apparent that not all influencers are made equal. If you are only willing to pay a low CPA (cost-per-acquisition) or to exchange free products in return for social posts, then it’s hardly reasonable to expect a million views.

Check out our list below to see some of the skills that a Social Media Manager requires.

Social Media Manager Skills

·       Content planning

·       Budget planning

·       Community management

·       Agency management

·       Influencer management

·       Copywriting

·       Design / editing skills

·       Audience segmentation

·       Data analysis

·       Adeptness at keeping on top of trends

·       Crisis management

Doesn’t look so easy when you consider the skills list, does it?


Why a hybrid approach is key to success

There’s nothing wrong with separating out your paid, organic and influencer functions, but crossover is inescapable. What’s more, you shouldn’t be trying to escape it. A hybrid approach to social strategy means looking at how paid social, organic social and influencer marketing can cross-pollinate and complement each other.

This doesn’t mean applying entirely different targets to each. The best way to approach this is to decide on overall aims and then to decide on how each strata can help to achieve this by setting KPIs.

In the UK fashion sector 38% of brands are allocating 10-20% of their marketing budgets on influencers. Across all sectors, it is reported that 19.4% of UK marketers planned to increase their social media expenditure in 2021.

So, if your company’s social strategy isn’t paying off, it may be time to look again at budgets.

If you need help with your social strategy, get in touch. We’d love to chat!

An age-old question for companies is whether to bring marketing expertise in-house or to outsource it to an agency. There are pros and cons to each approach and no one size will fit all. But how do you choose what is right for your business?

The number one thing you need to be clear on is the aims and objectives of your marketing function. Once you’ve figured out what you want to achieve and matched these objectives to KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), the choice will be easier.

We often help companies to build their marketing teams and the question of in-house or external staff is indelibly tied to team structure. No role exists in a vacuum and if you do choose to go with an agency, don’t forget to think about who from your internal team, will manage them!

Read on to discover four key points to consider when making the agency vs in-house decision.

1.     What is the key skill that you are hiring for?

Ask yourself what is the key skill that you need from this person? Then ask yourself what level of specialism is required by this skill.

Agency: One of the main benefits of working with agencies is that they hire specialists who focus on one marketing area and who are gaining wider experience from the other clients that they are working on. If you are hiring for a technical role, like PPC, an agency is likely to offer you accreditation credentials and an expert who regularly attends events and training.

In-house: If the skill you’re hiring for is more people-based or organizational, you may find that an in-house hire is more likely to show loyalty and to take the time to understand your business. A Digital Marketing Manager, for example, may be tasked with managing the channel specialists and ensuring that budgets and broad KPIs are met. A deeper understanding of your business will be highly desirable for this role.

2.     How often is this skill needed? 

Not all skills are needed with daily a frequency. A good example of this is development whereby you will often have specific projects requiring development work, but there may be times when nothing is required.

Agency: A key benefit of using external resource here is that you can more easily pay for fewer hours. Rather than covering PAYE requirements like holiday and sickness pay, you may choose to hire, say 20 hours a month, from an agency that you think will cover off what needs to be done.

In-house: Development is very technical and when we talk about this skill, we are talking about more than one person. An in-house development team will certainly require more than one hire and differing skills include those for the front and back-ends of the website. If you have significant development needs then it could be cost-effective and efficient to hire a team. If your need is not so strong, you risk overpaying for this skill and having zero resource available in the case of sickness or absence.

3.     How much do you understand the skill for which you are recruiting?

Do you have a solid understanding of the principles and techniques that underline the skill for which you are recruiting? Your answer to this question will influence whether to go agency or in-house.

If you answered yes: In this case, it may be best to go in-house. If you have a solid understanding of this skill, say brand management, then keeping the function in-house you can feel confident in your ability to both recruit the right person and to assess their performance.

If you answered no: If you don’t have a good understanding of the skill you are recruiting for, going with an accredited agency is more likely to lead to success. Even if the long-term plan is to bring this skill in-house, a good agency will help you to understand the skill and to know what you should be looking for in a permanent hire.

4.     Is your company equipped to stay up-to-date with industry changes?

We all know that the worlds of Digital and Marketing don’t stay still for long, but how many of us are actually attending the reams of webinars and events landing in our inboxes?

Agency: One of the key propositions of an agency is that they are cutting edge – getting the beta tests for new developments in marketing tools and very much ahead of the curve. As such, you can guarantee that an agency’s marketing specialists will be attending key industry events and keeping up with changes impacting your performance. All of this is super important.

In-house: If your SEO team is one-person strong, it may not always be feasible (or possible) for them to attend the events that help companies to stay on top of the latest algorithms, best practice and trends. If you do have the resource to ensure that marketing specialists are keeping abreast of their industry, fantastic! If not, might we suggest trying an agency that will come to you with what is happening in the wider world.

We hope that this helps to address some of the challenges that can be faced by companies trying to choose whether an internal or external hire is right for them. It’s certainly no mean feat, and we’d never say that there was a 100% clear decision to be made. However, following the four considerations outlined above will certainly help.

If you still feel you need help, feel free to talk to us! We love to help companies with marketing structures and even with finding specific staff members and skills functions.

One of the most common questions we hear from the CMOs and COOs we work with is: “How do I build my marketing team?”

For some of our clients it’s a matter of building from the ground up: they’ve been working with agencies and now want to bring the skillset in house. For others, they want to grow. They might have a small team of 3 to 5 people and success has given them the opportunity to hire. The first question in both examples is fairly basic: WHO do we hire?

Let’s break that down.

STEP ONE: Get started with the 5 ‘W’s

We’ve already identified the first question – who do we hire? Let’s now look at all 5 Ws in a little more depth. This is a great way to start figuring out your team’s needs before you get into the more complex parts.

Who? Who are your people or who do you want them to be? What kind of personalities should they have, what skills do they possess?

What? What are your required job titles? What are their functions and what do these mean in relation to each other?

Where? From where will you find your people? Do you have a particular background or sector in mind? Perhaps you’d prefer agency experience, perhaps a background in the retail industry is what you are looking for.

When? When do you need to make these hires by and which roles are your priority?

Why? Why do you need each of these roles? Are their functions clearly outlined? Are there any roles you want to recruit for that might be more efficiently and effectively performed by a part-time (or ad hoc) freelancer?

Below is an example of how you might look at the 5 Ws for your team as a whole

STEP TWO: Map out your structure

Now, we know that answering these questions is not straightforward. If it was, we wouldn’t have so many clients asking for our help! BUT, once you have answered these questions it makes it easier to interrogate your answers and build a structure. We’ve shared an example of a typical marketing structure below that we’ve used with certain clients. This might not be quite the right fit for your company: your team’s structure is indelibly linked to your company’s goals, capacity and current resources, but it’s a great place to start.

There are a lot of positions here and not all companies are able to take on this level of resource. If that’s the case for you, the interim structure below might be more appropriate.

STEP THREE: Assess the needs for each role individually

With your structure and holistic team needs drawn up, what’s next is to take a closer look at the individual roles and once again use the 5 Ws format to outline your requirements, including KPIs. Below is an example of how this might look for a Head of Digital role.

STEP FOUR: Fine tune your team

If you’ve run through the exercises outlined above you should now know what your ideal team structure looks like and the skills that will come with each candidate. What you may not have realized is what you need in terms of personality mix. Skills are of course essential: at the end of the day if you need someone who can pick up a social media campaign and run with it, you’ll probably want to know that they have experience of running business platforms across Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter and that they can use social media tools and perform basic image editing. You might also want them to be passionate about content.

But have you considered what kind of a personality might be right for that role? This one’s very tricky because there’s really no right answer and, what’s more, a personality doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Ideally, you’ll want to have a mix of personality types and traits in your team to encourage diversity of ideas and approaches.

If you’re hiring several people at once, it can be helpful to look at the recruitment process in much the same way as a casting director might look at casting a family for a film. Chemistry is vital and when you have your key cast members you can work from there. Got a high energy, big ideas person in your Head of Digital role? You might want to find team members that can bring other attributes such as strong attention to detail and a calm nature. The perfect team will balance each other out.

If you need help in building your perfect marketing team, why not get in touch? We can put you on the right path and even introduce you to your next great hire.