Author Archives: Gill Hutchinson

Aardvark Marketing experts win UK’s Outstanding Marketing Award in Global TMT Awards 2018

Aardvark Marketing experts win UK’s Outstanding Marketing Award in Global TMT Awards 2018

Aardvark Marketing was created to help SMEs achieve better results from their marketing activities. The firm has just won the 2018 TMT Global Excellence Awards as the ‘Most Outstanding Marketing Consultancy in the UK’. This success follows hard on the heels of CV Technology Magazine 2018 awards for social media & content marketing and marketing excellence making 2018 the company’s most successful year to date.

Gill Hutchinson, Director at Aardvark Marketing says “At Aardvark we firmly believe good marketing starts in the boardroom, adding value to a company’s bottom line. It’s the reason we emphasise strategy as well as tactics to our customers.” In this digital age, some businesses have learned to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of their industries, capitalising on the advantages that technology, social media and online advertising offers. Others, especially SMEs, need a helping hand to navigate the potential pitfalls and perks of the often-challenging marketing arena. Gill continues, “Aardvark’s leadership team have both UK and International marketing backgrounds in brand marketing and trade marketing, and we get great results for our customers by applying the proven principles of good marketing used in big business into smaller organisations. We’re sticklers for setting the right strategic direction, planning, measurement and review. This means our customers achieve and sustain great results.”

Aardvark approach their services from a perspective that, whilst perhaps unusual, makes sense for their market. Namely, they see themselves as providers of outsourced marketing services. Gill explains, “It is much more cost-effective than a full-time hire for our customers.” Aardvark provide expert services when their client’s need it most, without the commitment and costs of an in-house team.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Most Outsatdning Marketing Consultancy 2018Laura Brookes, editor at TMT Magazine said “TMT Magazine wanted to take the time to acknowledge those companies and individuals who went above and beyond in their respected industries. As such, the 2018 Global TMT Awards have been designed to celebrate the visionaries, whose innovative ways have helped them climb the ladder of outstanding success. Each winner is chosen based solely upon merit and merit alone. Once we closed the voting form, our in-house research team were set to work, leaving no stone unturned as they analyse the past 12-months of each nominee to ensure our prestigious accolades only go to the most deserving.”

For a free and confidential consultation about how Aardvark Marketing can help your business call us today on 0121 222 5743 or contact us here

You can read the full TMT article about Aardvark Marketing here.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | I can say what I like...

I can say what I like…

I can say what I like…

I seem to hear this more and more often, usually by someone defending their right to communicate a point of view that a large number of people find offensive in some way.
This week I was talking to a business owner who found a 1-star review had been placed on a well-known platform. On closer examination, the person who placed the review (which also included a quite damning comment or two) had never been a customer or even a potential customer. The only contact between the reviewer and the business owner was when the business made a personal enquiry to a company where the ‘reviewer’ worked and then subsequently declined to deal with the company. It seems that the reviewer has acted purely out of a desire for revenge. When challenged, the reviewer’s response was effectively “well that’s what I think, and I’m entitled to free speech”
Also, this week, the Labour Party’s NEC agreed to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism with an extra statement relating to free speech.
And every time there seems to be a case of Internet ‘trolling’ there seems to be a defence of the abusers along the grounds of freedom of speech. In the era of social media, it seems many people forget that what 20 years ago would have been a comment to a friend over coffee or a beer, is now published for anyone to read. Social media platforms continue to insist they are not media owners, but we all know that Facebook, Twitter and Google etc. are powerful media channels.

All this made me curious about what ‘Free Speech’ actually means from a legal perspective. According to Wikipedia (I know this isn’t necessarily accurate) the correct term is actually ‘freedom of expression’ and there are around 25 listed exceptions, which I assume means things you can’t say. These include abusive or insulting words, defamation and trade secrets.
It appears then that in the eyes of the law you can’t just say anything you want and claim the right to free speech.
When creating marketing communication, there are some core principles which build effectiveness:
Firstly, we need to be clear about what we are trying to achieve.
Then we think carefully about the target audience – who is going to receive the communication and what do we know about them, their beliefs and behaviours. How will this communication be received and what effect will it have on them?
We should spend time designing the message text and visual imagery – an effective message needs careful crafting, should be single-minded and expressed as simply as possible.
We also need to carefully select the medium – the medium and message need to work together, and the medium should have a good fit with the audience, not just readership, but the way in which it is consumed.
Finally, we should measure and learn – did the message get through and did it have the desired effect?

I can’t help but think that most instances of ‘free speech’ on social media that causes upset would benefit from taking the marketing approach. Thinking about who the message might reach (given the platform), and carefully considering the message, might just cause less offence.
But if you have an overwhelming urge to say something offensive, the pub might be a better place than Facebook or Twitter.

If your business could benefit from more effective communication, why not give us a call on 0121 222 5743 or contact us here

Happy marketing!

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | SaaS is a raw deal

SaaS is a raw deal

SaaS is a raw deal

Software as a service (SaaS) is here to stay. Suppliers have moved to a new model, the ‘pay as you go’ system. Those of us who remember the old-fashioned way to purchase IT, when you bought a disk with your program for a fixed, upfront price that you downloaded onto your computer, are increasingly seen as out of touch ‘dinosaurs’, whose ‘rose-tinted’ views are frequently dismissed as being hopelessly behind the times.

It’s easy to see why software providers have taken this route. From a service provider point of view the monthly subscription model practically guarantees a regular and more predictable cashflow into the business, with users paying each month rather than when they buy an upgrade. The monthly fees look manageable to a prospective customer, they don’t have to find the whole cost and pay for it upfront. No longer do you have to provide support for customers who don’t want to replace or upgrade their older systems, as upgrades are done for everyone, automatically. Because change is always disruptive, users will be reluctant to move to a competitor once they’ve made the switch to your software. Finally, our legislators sometimes play into their hands by insisting that we switch. Recent GDPR legislation and the UK’s forthcoming ‘Making Tax Digital’ requirements have allowed the industry, with its well-placed and influential lobbyists, insist that every business – no matter how large or small – comply with the same digital rules which are difficult or impossible to do without upgrading your IT software.

But is this a raw deal for the customer? Have we got SaaD (Software as a Disservice)?

It’s possible.

Here’s why

  • Pay as you go means you’re still locked into the product in precisely the same way as before because coming out still means moving data from one system to another. This means management time, effort and hassle to change systems. It’s still risky to switch provider.
  • Monthly fees can easily outstrip what you would have paid over the lifetime use of the product e.g. a £300 one-off price tag is the equivalent of just over a year at £22 per month subscription. Given that most purchased software would last a business more than 2 to 3 years before it needed upgrading, that’s an increased cost of £492 or over 2 ½ times the cost of buying outright.
  • Problems with products are not always dealt with by the supplier and can develop after the initial installation. If a business had a problem installing a new product this would result in a complaint and getting the issue fixed. With pay as you go, glitches are not always detected and resolved at the outset, leaving the customer with a product that doesn’t work and the unappealing prospect of trying to get through to a real person in the software company that has the knowledge to fix it. I personally abhor the practice many suppliers use of hiding their support contact phone number and instead keeping you waiting through their email ‘ticket’ systems. In practice, this means a user with a problem cannot fix it without delay and disruption to their working day, which has a negative effect on productivity. Often their website directs you to videos or ‘How to guides’ that don’t always, in practice, tell you enough detail to fix the problem yourself.
  • Often you are paying for functionality that you’ll never need or use rather than just buying the product that is right for your business. The same phenomenon happened with mobile phones, as the technologists driving the new product development added more and more functionality that wouldn’t, in practice, be used by most of their customers. Once you’ve bought SaaS you are constantly being bombarded with new upgrades, emails telling you about new functionality and getting confused as the dashboard and menus are changed without your prior notice or consent. This is rarely conducive to improving productivity and occasionally the company insists that your monthly fees go up to pay for something you never asked for in the first place! Conversely, larger organisations that may wish to have more customisation of their IT systems are often limited in their ability to do this.
  • Honesty regarding functionality of the software. Occasionally, in my experience, you contact a support line only to find that the software company knew there were issues with connectivity. For example, we use one of the best-known accountancy SaaS packages, but it has intermittent problems connecting to our bank feed. The company in question, when asked to help us deal with this, knew from the outset that there could be issues, but this wasn’t explained on their website before we went ahead and moved our systems over, nor was it picked up during our 2-week free trial period. Talking to the company concerned did not get a sympathetic response or a reduction of the fees we pay to use it, even though we are still unable to get this to work correctly several months later. Our previous system, which just lived on one PC, didn’t integrate with our bank account, but a monthly bank reconciliation was relatively quick and painless to perform.
  • Another reason to be wary of this way of doing business is data security. Your previous business server might have been old, and it may have been a little slower than you’d like, but access to it was restricted. With the new ‘cloud based’ servers a customer no longer controls the physical location or has complete control about whether the data can be accessed by a hacker. Remembering passwords has now become a full-time occupational hazard (here at Aardvark Marketing we even have specialist software that helps us deal with this) and if you forget to bring your mobile phone with you the 2-step security log in becomes not a safety feature but a barrier to legitimate entry. It’s all too easy to click to open a rogue email masquerading as an important upgrade from your banking software, your accountancy software, your email systems, your CRM etc. That means we all need ever more expensive IT back-up systems to take care of us. Our data, and our customers data, has become a little less secure because it’s all interconnected.
  • Finally, control. We’re now in the hands of our software suppliers as never before. If they go out of business because of mis-management or lose out to a more competitive product, we can potentially lose access to our precious data, systems and processes. Just like those customers who bought into Betamax (for better quality sound and vision) rather than VHS video, your software could be obsolete, and you’ll have to invest time, money and effort in replacing it with a different product. Recently, we had access to our cloud-based project management system blocked because of tightened cyber security measures added by our service office internet provider. Like the driver at the steering wheel of  a driverless car, we have no choice about these settings, someone external to our organisations is effectively imposing ‘controls’ on our behalf.

    Here at Aardvark Marketing we’re not luddites, we were early adopters of many of these new and exciting systems. We’ve won numerous awards for innovation and some of our own customers are building their business on the SaaS model. If I could wave a magic wand I’d like more thought from our software providers (large and small). Yes, the world is your oyster as far as breaking modern technology boundaries is concerned, but good marketing starts with really getting under the skin of your customers. There is a difference between customers who are huge fans of your software and those who merely bought it because it is the market leader or even because they were misled into believing it the latest silver bullet.

    If you’d like all your customers to be raving fans, why not talk to us on 0121 222 5743 or contact us here.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Gill Hutchinson is a Worcestershire Talking Head for Headturner Search

Gill Hutchinson is a “Worcestershire Talking Head” for Headturner Search

Gill Hutchinson is a “Worcestershire Talking Head” for Headturner Search

I was asked recently  by Aimee Farley-Higgs at Headturner Search to take part in their Worcestershire Talking Heads. They ask people in the local business community to share some of their background, achievements and motivator /demotivators.

Here’s mine:

  • How did you get into this industry?

Definitely not by design! I have a science degree, so initially thought I would go on to a masters in genetics and cell biology, only to find this probably meant moving to the US when I was engaged to be married. I worked for 2 years as a chartered accountant to learn more about business and enjoyed the practical, management accounts side but later realised that stocks and share options bored me to tears. So I was lucky to get a position at Black & Decker in their European headquarters, initially doing market research and pan-European marketing activity (remember all those multi-lingual instruction leaflets, anyone?) and then moving into other brand marketing positions in jewellery and in health and beauty.

It’s a great feeling to walk into a prestigious store like Harrods, Selfridges or your local supermarket and see your own advertising or promotions at work! I learned a lot about good marketing practices – being responsible for sales and profits and getting other people in agencies or in your own company to do things under your direction when they don’t report to you. Not many women in their twenties can spend such large budgets and be held accountable for them.

  • What do you enjoy most about being in the business?

I love the variety that comes from advising many different business owners and the freedom to choose who you want to work with. Recent work with the Worcestershire Business Accelerator as a core advisor and with the Changing Futures Fund for Worcestershire charities meant meeting many more local organisations and delivering changes in a brief period. It’s challenging but very rewarding. The best days are those when you can celebrate a successful outcome for a customer, perhaps when they gain a new key customer or do well at a trade fair or get a PR article placed in an influential publication.

  • What top 3 words/ phrases describe you best?

Independent, confident, integrity

  • What would you say would be your biggest achievement to date?

Being recognised for our contribution to our industry. Aardvark Marketing have won 4 Technology Innovator awards in the 3 last years for Best SME Marketing company, Best Marketing Automation, Excellence in Marketing Management Services and the Social Media & Content Marketing Specialists. These awards from the international Technology Innovators CV Magazine show that it’s possible for a small business to make an impact.

  • What is your weakness?

I find it very difficult to say ‘no’ and give more free coaching sessions to charities and start-up business owners than is good for my own business! Right now, I’m mentoring in the Birmingham Accelerator Hub, I’m on the Policy committee at the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Reducing the Cost of Doing Business committee at the Hereford & Worcestershire Chamber.

  • What motivates you?

At work, the thanks of my customers and learning new skills. Tom Stanhope at VideoTrack is helping me add vlogging to my regular blogs (you can see my efforts on LinkedIn or on our YouTube channel). Otherwise I’m a home loving girl who enjoys a good laugh at a family meal or a quiet afternoon with a book, a glass of wine and some sunshine in the garden.

  • What de-motivates?

That’s easy – IT!  There are always new advances in technology in the marketing world and I’m bombarded by companies trying to sell me their own new software. It’s easy for a business owner to buy a new system, much harder for them to realise the benefits when they have several systems that don’t necessarily talk to each other, making it hard to work out what the return on investment is. I spend hours trying to get hold of technical support people and understand how I can fix problems on behalf of my customers. Oh, and please don’t mention the words’ ‘GDPR’ or ‘Making Tax Digital’ to me unless you’re feeling brave!

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’m not much good at crystal ball gazing but I hope I’ll still be enjoying working for Aardvark Marketing and managing a larger team.

  • What is the best USP about your current business?

We are outsourced sales and marketing specialists who work as an integral part of each senior management team. Unlike most marketing agencies, who concentrate their expertise on one aspect of marketing, we’re like an independent financial advisor – able to recommend strategies and activities that will deliver the best return for our customers regardless of whether this is digital wizardry, digital advertising or good quality PR, direct mail or trade fairs.

  • What is your favourite local restaurant and shop?

For a coffee and cake in town, Mac and Jacs deli on Friar Street, for Friday night fish & chips, the Crispy Cod in Barbourne and for a family meal, Wildwood in the Crowngate where you can enjoy some people watching as you eat. Favourite shops are always bookshops!

 

You can read all the other Worcestershire’s Talking Heads here https://www.headturnersearch.co.uk/blog/

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Why self-regulation doesn't work

Why self-regulation doesn’t work

Why self-regulation doesn’t work

I recently read a story on the BBC website* about fire doors and how, in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster, testing of a range of fire doors revealed that 5 brands failed their safety tests.  On top of the issues over the cladding used at Grenfell and apparently in other tower blocks, it seems to me another scary example of self-regulation not working properly.

Of course, there have been other headline-grabbing examples of self-regulation failures – PPI, endowment mortgages, Facebook, Oxfam …

Whilst there are exceptions, often what we read after the event is that processes were put in place and were followed, assurances were sought and received, people appeared to have done everything ‘by the book’ and yet a serious ‘failure’ still occurred. Thus all the boxes get ticked but the end result wasn’t achieved.

I have always worked on the premise that in addition to having the right process and supporting systems, we need to think about people.  Understanding the motivations, fears, etc. of the people who execute the process and getting them to adopt the changes required has always seemed to me the most crucial and most difficult element.  Given the right brains, IT experts and money, designing the process and systems isn’t too hard.  Getting inside the heads of the people involved is a challenge on a different level.

When it comes to regulation and compliance, most people are going to see it as a something that gets in the way of them doing what they want to do.  It’s probably not going to feature in how they are rewarded either, so let’s not be surprised when people try to find ways to get around the system or pay ‘lip service’ to it.

To ‘people’ I would also add ‘outcomes’.  What is actually happening?  The process was designed to achieve a specific result, either to make something happen, or, in the case of regulation and compliance, probably to prevent something happening.   This is where the feedback comes in, often referred to in systems language as a ‘feedback loop’.  This can be the end results or indicators that give us a good idea if the process and systems are delivering.

The same principles can and should be applied in business and in marketing.  Great marketing is built around a model, or process, with supporting systems and trained people who stick to the plan, all underpinned by KPIs and end result measurement (sales) that allows us to continually monitor and improve the process.  When this comes together well, we achieve marketing objectives, support the achievement of business goals and deliver a strong return on investment.

If that sounds like the kind of marketing approach you would like in your business, give us a call on 0121 222 5743,or contact us by email and we’ll organise a no-obligation meeting.

Chris

*Grenfell Tower: Fire door manufacturers told to address failings https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45024375

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | In a race to the bottom who loses?

In a race to the bottom who loses?

In a race to the bottom who loses?

I had the unhappy task today of attending the funeral of my uncle. He died a couple of weeks ago aged 89 and packed a lot into those 89 years. One of the comments made about him was about his attitude to work-life balance.

Now, bear in mind that he retired in the mid-1980s and I’m not sure the phrase had been christened at that point, but he did have a firm view on how he allocated his time and energy between work and family. He was scarily intelligent (he was disappointed if it took more than 10 minutes to complete the Daily Telegraph crossword) and was employed in a senior role in a major insurance company, based in the city of London. He never once missed breakfast with his family, was always home for evening meal with them and “never did one minute of overtime, never took a work call out of hours and took two holidays every year where work was never considered.”

Of course, it’s easy to say that was a different time, before email, mobiles phones, the Internet etc. etc.

But all those things were supposed to make life better for us.

And yet this afternoon, I sat with the rest of the congregation during the service and talked to them afterwards and heard great story after story about my uncle in his work, the time he gave to good causes and how much he put in to being a husband, dad and grandfather. I wondered if any of the technological ‘advances’ of the last 30 years would have made him more admired, better remembered or more loved. I don’t think so.

As with most ‘advances’ there are choices about how they are employed, and we are complicit in those choices. If the digital age just means we all work longer, are more stressed, and don’t give our full attention to those who matter most when they need it, just to avoid being left behind, but don’t gain any meaningful advantage then what’s the point? It’s like discounting – driven by fear of missing out, but the only measurable result is reduced profit.

I would love to think that when it’s my turn (hopefully not for a long time) those who attend my funeral would say as many nice things about me as I heard said this afternoon, but I I know the work-life balance stories won’t be as glowing and that doesn’t feel good.

Chris

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Double celebrations for Excellence in Innovation at Aardvark Marketing

Double celebrations for Excellence in Innovation at Aardvark Marketing

Double celebrations for Excellence in Innovation at Aardvark Marketing

Aardvark Marketing Consultants are celebrating winning two UK awards at this year’s Technology Innovators CV Magazine awards, building on their success in 2017 and 2016. Technology Innovators CV Magazine Awards have just announced the 2018 winners, with Aardvark Marketing receiving the Excellence in Marketing Management Services and the Social Media & Content Marketing Specialists. In previous years, they took home the Marketing Automation and Marketing for SME awards. The West Midlands based marketing firm specialises in providing outsourced marketing at a level and budget to suit, from their Marketing Manager package to part-time Marketing Director service.

Gill Hutchinson, director at Aardvark Marketing Consultants, says: “We’re pleased to have been recognised as innovators once again! We’ve worked hard over the past year to develop our Marketing Manager package, an affordable and flexible marketing solution for SME businesses.” Marketing Manager provides sales and marketing expertise with a first-class team as and when you need it. This results in more sales and increased profitability, without the risks and costs of employment. Aardvark have been selected in the current intake of the prestigious Nat West Business Accelerator programme, based at Brindley Place in Birmingham, to scale up the Marketing Manager business in the UK.

Gill developed the Marketing Manager package after receiving enquiries from companies who needed a knowledgeable and reliable firm to handle all their marketing. Aardvark’s project management brings an excellent structure to the marketing programs they develop for their customers, which has been rewarded with the Marketing Management Award. Aardvark spend time staying abreast of the latest developments in the world of social media, including researching platforms that enable their clients to use social in more cost-effective and efficient ways. Gill says, “We have a very experienced team at Aardvark, who bring their own strengths and market knowledge to every customer, giving us the resources to provide first-class support for an affordable and fixed monthly price tag.”

The Technology Innovator Awards are now in their third year and they showcase the talents that are present in this industry. Looking forward and striving to achieve excellence are attributes that the Technology Innovator Awards look for in their winners. Sophie Milner, Awards Coordinator commented: “The explosion of digital technology in the recent years has increased the need for technology products and services dramatically. Enterprises in every industry sector rely upon technology to facilitate their own growth, as such, opportunities for technology firms continue to expand considerably. It is my pleasure to congratulate the winners and wish them the best of luck for the future.”

For a free and confidential consultation about how Aardvark Marketing can help your business call us today on 0121 222 5743 or email us here

 

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Do what you say

Do what you say

Do what you say

My last blog started with a discussion of IT malfunctions and it might have made me sound like a cross between a technophobe and a grumpy old man, but I hope I’m neither.  I like innovation and I think I’m relatively quick to adopt new technology.  What I don’t like is broken promises and unfortunately IT, both hardware and software seem to be an area where they are far too plentiful.

Marketing is all about promises.  Virtually all marketing communication makes promises to the person receiving it, whether it’s a promotional offer, a new product announcement, advertising, exhibition stands or even a business card.  Sometimes the offer is very explicit for example product performance or service claims. In other instances, it’s more subtle, or just implied.  But if you subscribe to the view (which I do) that all marketing should be aiming to change what someone thinks or what they do, then there must be a promise in there somewhere – the ‘quid pro quo’.

Outside of the world of work and specifically marketing, I have always believed that promises are sacrosanct.  If I promise to do something, I will do everything I possibly can to keep that promise.  To me, it’s an issue of trust.  Promises kept will earn more trust in the future, a promise broken may be the last chance we get with that person.  How many promises do you expect a politician to keep?

In business and marketing, I think it’s the same.  When we make a promise, a customer trusts us to deliver and we need to respect that trust and do everything possible to deliver on our promise.  When someone puts their trust in you, they are taking a risk and you have the power to look after them and reward them or let them down and expose them to the consequences.

Have a look at your own business, and your marketing communications – what promises do you make to existing and new customers?  Are you confident you can deliver on them all, or are one or two stretching your capabilities?  Maybe it’s something you would like to be able to do, but it’s not very easy to make it happen every time.  Perhaps you make a promise so you look better (or at least as good) as the competition?  You could even ask some of your customers how they think you deliver on your promises.

If there is a gap between what you promise and what you can guarantee to deliver, something needs to change – capability improvement or watering down the promise.  In the end, customers will find you out and, when they get the chance, move their business elsewhere.

If you’d like a confidential discussion about your business promises, why not give us a call on 0121 222 5743 or email us here.

Chris

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | How to build lasting customer loyalty

How to build lasting customer loyalty

How to build lasting customer loyalty

John Sills, director at The Foundation described very eloquently why usefulness of a product or service to a customer now trumps loyalty. *  He described how his relationship with a local taxi company took a downturn when Uber arrived. Both offered low prices and lots of car availability. Additionally, Uber launched one tap ordering, cashless payment and an actual map showing that the car was, really, “just around the corner!” The convenience of Uber outweighed the long-term relationship working with his local taxi firm.

‘Usefulness’ can come in many guises. For a couch potato, anything that avoids having to leave the comfort of their armchair means ease of ordering is highly prized. For others, the speed of service is important. This is how comparison websites compete, they save the user the time and effort of having to repeatedly enter your details into lots of individual sites for an insurance quote or a hotel booking. Sometimes the usefulness is a little more subtle; with a premium brand such as an Apple phone or Rolex watch, it’s the status of being seen by their peer group to own something expensive and luxurious that matters most to the consumer. This is the reason dedicated Apple fans will queue to be the first to get their hands on any new gadget.

One of the exercises we do with all our customers is help them define and then focus on their competitive advantage(s) rather than features and benefits. The reason? Differences in your product and service that are useful to customers are the key to success. Customers who are truly loyal to you, those who love those differences in the way you deal with them or your superior product, will stick with you for longer and are generally less price sensitive.

Most of us now collect ‘loyalty’ cards as a matter of course. Open up your wallet or purse and the majority of us will have multiple supermarket or coffee company loyalty cards. We are so unashamedly disloyal that we don’t even have the decency to hide the competitor brand cards from the faces of the cashiers at the end of a transaction.  We rifle through them all trying to find the appropriate one to scan without a second thought in our heads. But are the companies themselves to blame for this lack of loyalty? Yes, they offer us ‘rewards’, usually by collecting points every time we visit, but these rewards are frequently insufficiently good reason to make us drive to a supermarket further off our route between workplace and home or walk the length of the high street for a latte. In reality, we see them all as similar, so price (our money or our time) become the only factors that influence us. What canny consumers have realised is being ‘disloyal’ and shopping elsewhere will occasionally trigger a company to offer you a bigger discount for ‘coming back’ to them. This tactic is seen not just with supermarkets but with insurance, telephone and utilities. It’s a tactic that can turn a loyal customer into an angry ex customer if it gets exposed. It’s a damaging tactic that makes every one of us a little more cynical about business and business ethics.

So there is a difference between superficial loyalty and actual, real, tangible, beneficial (and profitable) loyalty. Another crucial step in our competitive advantage process involves in depth customer interviews. A quick tick box exercise using free survey software is insufficient here.

The final step in our competitive advantage process is to consider the future. The first to notice your change of marketing focus will be your competitors, so getting ahead needs to be followed by staying ahead. Does your management team have a marketing strategy to stay ahead that influences your recruitment, your product development, and your business investment decisions?

If you’d like your company to be more successful by staying ahead of your competition for longer, why not talk to us on 0121 222 5743 or contact us here.

 

The myth of customer loyalty, Market leader, March 2018.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Mind the gap

The gender pay gap should be everyone’s concern

The gender pay gap should be everyone’s concern

This blog is personal and it’s not my usual ‘marketing’ topic.  It is, however, about a major challenge facing many businesses – gender pay parity. The issues that we need to rectify are having a huge, detrimental, effect on our economy and productivity for women and for men. I think it’s sad that we still need to address them in 2018, decades after the equal pay and conditions of employment act.

When I grew up, my mum had high hopes that the discrimination she experienced in the workplace would be a thing of the past for me. She worked as a hospital pharmacist, stopped work to look after children in the 1960’s then returned to part time employment in the 70’s. Because she felt that drug treatments had changed in the time she was away from work she initially went back as an unpaid volunteer so that she could update her knowledge. She then went on to work until retirement in the health service. For many years she was unable to get a promotion from her basic grade or allowed to join a pension scheme because she worked part time.

When I started work in the 1980’s I will admit to being somewhat naïve about the world of work and the management culture. I was lucky, I had a good science degree, I interviewed well, and I worked in graduate roles from the start. However, I wasn’t prepared in any way for building a career. I was later to find out that getting married meant, for the man, a promotion and pay rise because of the ‘additional responsibilities’. For the woman it meant the opposite, you were placed first on the redundancy list because your (male) managers thought your husband would look after you financially.

I vividly remember in one role being disciplined because I talked to my colleagues about what we were paid. Because I was more experienced and better qualified than my colleagues this meant I earned more, however that particular conversation cost me a wage freeze.

In another role I was told there wasn’t any point applying for a promotion because the nature of the job – dealing with the construction industry – meant they wouldn’t interview or appoint a woman. A female colleague in my department kept her typing skills secret for fear she would treated like one of the typing pool secretaries rather than  like the manager she was.

After a house move to accommodate my husbands’ new job I was unable to find any work because I was pregnant. Trying to find part time work was difficult as I was informed I was ‘overqualified’ for many of the roles I applied for.

After successfully working on a fundraising project for the fundraising manager at a local charity I turned down the opportunity to work as assistant to the CEO because he wanted to halve my hourly wage. I often wonder if he would have offered the same deal to a man.

After retraining through the Open University I moved into teaching. At this time in my life  I was juggling a young family and work. I wasn’t allowed to join the pension scheme as an NQT (newly qualified teacher) because I only worked a (part time) 90% timetable, a role in which I had to be on site full time.

Today I am a co-director in a family business and I’m very happy to report that we have gender parity in the Boardroom. It’s the only time in my career it’s happened!

What’s sad is that I hear so many stories today about women who still face the same sort of discrimination. This is definitely not what I envisaged for my own daughters. Women tend to work hard and hope that our bosses will notice the great contribution we make to the business. We often don’t have the benefit of role models and mentors and, generally we’re not good at blowing our own trumpet. If we have the misfortune to look as if we know what we’re about in the workplace we’re branded as ‘scary’ or ‘queen bees’ and still don’t get promoted at the same rate as the men. In applying for a new job we make sure we can manage all of the job description before we’ll put our names forward, in contrast to our male colleagues who are more comfortable taking a punt.

For our family, as my girls move into work, they represent the third generation of women who are not getting fairly rewarded for their talents and skills.

I welcome the requirement for businesses to report on gender and pay. I understand that the raw data figures are not as helpful as requiring organisations to report on pay at each grade, but it is a start. We are only asking for parity between the sexes, not preferential treatment. There are many men in the workplace who want to take on a more active role in bringing up their families and there are some who will need to juggle care for their parents whilst in full time work. There is much to do but, at long last, the many reasons why talented women give up, give in or resign from middle management are being openly discussed in our Boardrooms. My wish for my girls are that real changes will materialise as more women demand their rights and shape the politics of the organisations they so ably serve.

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