Tag Archives: Chris 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 | 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 | 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 | "Do. Or not do"

“Do. Or not do. There is no try.”

“Do. Or not do. There is no try.”

In the week that “the Last Jedi”, the new Star Wars film is released, I have unashamedly borrowed a quote from Yoda in one of the early films. The thought though was triggered by another excellent blog from Seth Godin , how does the ball know? where he talks about follow through.

What both are really driving at is the importance of intent and belief. When we really go for it, the result is generally far more impressive than when we hold back a bit, unsure if we will succeed or fail. A sales coach I know sometimes asks the question “if you knew you couldn’t possibly fail, how would you do this differently?”

In Seth’s blog he uses the analogy of striking a ball in sport. Whether we are using a club, bat, racquet or foot, the advice we are given is invariably to have a good follow through. Seth points out that the ball we are striking doesn’t hang around to admire our follow through, so why does it make a difference? Of course the answer is that if we focus on a good follow through, the contact with the ball will be much sweeter and more powerful than if we are already decelerating as we strike it.

Does the same apply in business and our life in general? I think so. Doing something with intent, and real enthusiasm generally produces a more rewarding result. Playing safe is often a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure or at best an outcome that we know could have been better.

So as you plan your marketing programmes for 2018 to help deliver those wonderfully ambitious sales targets, think about your follow through. Don’t do a single small ad in a new publication and expect miracles. If a prospect is worth adding to a database, make sure you contact them more than once of twice, try them with email and post. And most crucially of all, when someone responds to your marketing activity make sure you follow up – quickly!

If the follow through looks altogether too daunting, we can take care of your marketing for you, call us or email us or a confidential discussion

Chris

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Driverless Marketing

Driverless marketing?

Driverless marketing?

“Driverless cars” seems to have been a news story almost every day for the last few months and no sign of it slowing up.  Personally, I’m not keen on the idea – I can’t think of a single piece of IT that I have owned or used that hasn’t gone wrong at some point, so the prospect of trusting software, satellites etc. to drive me at seventy miles an hour doesn’t have great appeal.  Perhaps I’m just being a bit of a grumpy old man – time will tell.

Actually, the other problem I have with “driverless cars” is the terminology.  I don’t think it’s really true.  When I think about my driving or that of other people when I’m a passenger, it seems to me that one of the key functions of a driver is to respond to real-time situations, making quick decisions and implementing them effectively.  From the traffic light that changes to amber as we approach, to the child who looks like they might step out into the road, as drivers we are processing huge amounts of information and using our skills and experience to make decisions on what to do.

In a driverless car, the same information has to be gathered, but instead of a human being sat behind the wheel, there will presumably be a high-powered piece of computing that makes and implements those decisions.  It will have to be programmed to reach its decisions, and that will have been done by a human in an office or factory somewhere.  So, to my mind, this car isn’t driverless, it’s just that the driver isn’t in the car with you.  I don’t think that makes me feel any better!

I’m concerned at the moment that marketing is heading the same way.  The explosion of software, systems, apps, outsourced services and other tools might make it feel like we don’t need the marketing professional any more.  It can certainly be valuable, saving time, automating the routine tasks and processing mountains of data.  But in the same way as with the car, a skilled and experienced marketer is still needed to direct those resources and make great decisions.

I have long felt that one of the most important attributes for someone to be successful in marketing is empathy.  The ability to stand in the shoes of the customer or prospect and perceive the world the way they do helps us improve every one of the marketing ‘Ps’.  Algorithms can’t do that for us – only real people can empathise with another human being.

My advice is to think about where in your marketing you can safely go ‘driverless’, delivering greater results from fewer resources, and where you really do need your own skilled and experienced marketing driver.

If you don’t have marketing experience in your team, why not talk to us about our outsourced  Marketing Directors or Marketing Managers?

Chris

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | If a picture paints a thousand words

If a picture paints a thousand words …

If a picture paints a thousand words …

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | If a picture paints 1,000 words

… then these photos will save you reading to the end!

On the left is a photo I took with my iPhone.  On the right is the same subject photographed by Bjorn Ewers, a professional photographer based in Berlin.  I think my photo is OK, but his definitely has more ‘wow’.

This week I have been in Germany with Bjorn at three photo shoots for one of my clients.  Monday and Wednesday were spent in their factories and Thursday in the studio.  It’s an expensive exercise for the client, a great deal of consideration was given to the decision and a lot of time has been spent planning the three days with the factories and the photographer to get the best possible result.

The previous week my daughter who is a musician had some photos taken at a local studio for her website and the photographer produced some great images that will really enhance the web pages.

I have already seen some of the unedited shots from this week and they are fantastic.  A good photographer can look at something we see every day and know that with the right lighting, angles and zoom it can look really special.

Great pictures have the power to grab our attention, engage us, make us curious and in a world where there is so much fighting for the attention of the people we want to reach this is a vitally important tool.

It can be tempting to buy a low-cost library image or take out your smartphone and snap away, and there are occasions when this is completely justified.  But when you need an image to stand out from the crowd, communicate more powerfully than words alone can manage, and stand the test of time, it’s well worth talking to a professional.

Chris

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | How to avoid splashing the cash on marketing

Are you buying marketing without a list?

Are you buying marketing without a list?

Have you ever stood at the checkout in grocery supermarket and wondered how you managed to spend so much?  The big retailers are expert in getting shoppers to buy more than they intended, investing huge sums in research, focus groups, loyalty cards etc. so it’s not a huge surprise that it works.

However, sometimes we are the architects of our own downfall.  Research shows that if we don’t plan our shopping and take a list based on what we really need, 60% of us will spend more.  Another factor can be how hungry we are feeling when we shop.  Hungry shoppers are more easily tempted to buy extra items, especially sugary foods.  The consequence is over-spending, food that nobody actually eats or just goes out of date.  An article earlier this year reported that the average UK household wastes £470 of food every year

All very interesting I hear you say, but what has that got to do with my business?

In my experience, business owners selecting marketing activities are a bit like supermarket shoppers.  There are a great many items for sale, and various options at differing price points.  The best approach is to have a ‘list’ of what activities we are interested in, or at the very least a clear idea of what we want them to achieve, a bit like knowing what meals you want to cook before you go to the supermarket.

The worst situation is when the business needs some quick results – the forward order book is low, or competitors have just got more active.  This is the equivalent of shopping when hungry; lots of things look good and we can end up making a poor decision or just buying too much.

Whatever you do, don’t ask marketing agencies to make a recommendation, no matter how much integrity they have, the incentive to sell you something you might not need is going to be very high – you wouldn’t walk into a supermarket, give the manager your credit card and ask what he thinks you should buy!

A clear set of marketing objectives, regular tracking of marketing KPIs and the use, dare I say it, of an impartial marketing expert will make it easy to identify what activities are required, and a sensible price to pay.  Then you can go ‘shopping’ without fear of overspending and waste.

Chris.

Need an impartial marketing expert? Why not get in touch on 0121 222 5743 or contact us?

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Imagine this situation:
Your biggest customer, on whom you depend heavily for sales and profit announce that they are going to review all their suppliers for the products and services you sell to them. However, you aren’t too worried as you are the biggest supplier, you have strong relationships and the last time they completed a supplier satisfaction rating, you were 20% ahead of your nearest rival. The competitors have all got issues, some have new management in place and the products and services some of them offer haven’t really kept up with changes in the market. The review is a seven-week process, so there’s hardly time for the competition to mount a serious challenge and in fact if anything you should probably gain more business rather than lose any.
Seven weeks later, it’s all gone wrong and you have a smaller share of the business, your standing and relationships are undermined and the future for you and your business is looking less secure. How did it happen?
I usually steer clear of politics in my blogs, but I’m sure you’ve seen a not too subtle reference to this morning’s election result. Many observers and voters will be surprised by the outcome of the General Election, but while we wait for order to emerge from the chaos, here are some thoughts from me on the lessons we can apply to our businesses.
• Retain goodwill – take care with new ideas that might make your core supporters feel threatened
• Don’t be complacent – it’s dangerous to take the customer for granted and/or underestimate the competition. If the customer invites all competitor managing directors to a meeting, don’t send your sales director.
• If you make a promise, be sure you can deliver on it – If you promise ‘strong and stable’ you can’t do anything that could look ‘weak and wobbly’.
• If there are new people involved in the decision-making process, try to understand them, what their role is and how to appeal to them
• Use your team – bring all the varied talents of your team to bear, different members of your team will appeal to different members of the customer’s team
• There is a role for optimism and personality, even in a serious business situation
Chris

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Have you got a marketing camel?

Have you got a Marketing Camel ?

Have you got a Marketing Camel ?

There is an old saying that “a camel is a horse designed by a committee”.  Lots of features which individually make good sense, offering additional benefits, but when you put it all together, it just doesn’t look great!

When I meet a new small or medium sized business, and start to examine their marketing I often find myself thinking about this saying.  Typically, what I find is a collection of marketing activities all or most of which made perfect sense as individual decisions when they were made, but don’t work together to deliver the number of high quality, warm leads that the sales team need to hit their revenue and profit targets.  A good marketing programme consists of activities which work together and deliver big results and a positive bottom-line return on the time and money invested in them.

The reason the camel-style marketing doesn’t work is that customers spot the inconsistencies, consciously or sub-consciously and instinctively react.  When the individual pieces don’t really fit together well it causes doubts in our mind.  We might not be able to explain our reaction, but deep down it just doesn’t feel right and we’re inclined to look for a better option, whether that’s visiting a different stand at the trade show or hitting the ‘back’ button on the browser.  In a crowded and competitive market, our ‘camel’ is losing us good prospects all the time.

What’s the solution?  Almost always it’s about creating a robust marketing strategy, specific to your business.  This will be built on a clear understanding of who your target customers are, who your competitors are and what your products and services offer.  The strategy will define the direction marketing needs to take to deliver the results (marketing objectives) that will help the business achieve its growth targets.  You can read more about this in my recent blogs “What’s your ‘more’?” and “Getting to your ‘more’”

If you think you might have a marketing camel and would like to get an independent, no-obligation point of view, please give us a call on 0121 222 5743 or complete the enquiry form on our website.

Chris

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pantone colour references

It’s all about the brief

It’s all about the brief

In over 30 years of working with marketing creatives from the big London advertising agencies to local printers and one man band web companies, one of the most powerful rules I have learned is that in nearly every case, the quality of the work produced and the result it delivers is directly related to the quality of the brief.  Put simply, if we can’t explain to someone what we need it’s unlikely that they will be able to create it.
And yet, most of the small and medium-sized businesses I come in to contact with don’t have a proper process for briefing the agencies that they use.  They spend significant amounts of money with these agencies, rely on them to deliver the marketing materials to drive the sales and profit growth of their businesses, but don’t really give them the direction they need to produce great work.  You could think of it like a Satellite Navigation system – hugely powerful, but you have to tell it where you want to go, and give some guidance on the route (fastest, shortest, avoiding tolls …).
The vast majority of marketing agencies I have worked with (and I’m talking about hundreds) are all capable of producing great graphic design, stunning websites, engaging blogs and social media posts, eye-catching exhibition materials etc.  but as clients we need the right message to reach the right people at the right time to generate the desired commercial result for our business.
When I talk about briefing, I’m not suggesting huge mounds of paper.  The template we use with most clients is a single A4 page, and once people have used it a couple of times, it can take as little as 10 minutes to complete.  When you think of the cost in time, money and lost opportunity of a piece of ineffective marketing, 10 minutes invested at the start isn’t a lot is it?
When you’ve got your brief, it’s important to thin about how you use it.  My advice is to follow these three steps:
Get the brief agreed by  everyone in your business who will have a say in the activity
Give the brief verbally to your agency – do not give them the written brief!
Ask them to take notes and send you a summary of what they think they are being asked for – this makes sure they are paying attention and also allows you to confirm they have properly understood what you are asking them to do
When it comes to them presenting ideas, they will be much closer to what you need and you can use the agreed brief as a checklist against which to review their ideas and for giving them constructive feedback.
If you think better briefing could help you get better results from your agencies, give us a call or listen to our webinar “how to get the most out of creative agencies”
Chris

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