Author Archives: Gill Hutchinson

Things Mark learned from trekking in Cambodia

Things Mark learned from trekking in Cambodia

Mark Smith completed this challenge in October.  I was lucky enough to grab some time over  breakfast to talk about the trek itself. Here are some of his most memorable moments and observations:

 

 

 

 

 

1.Team spirit really, really works!

The hardest day was day 3 – a 16 mile walk with 1600 foot climb in 40 degree heat and very, very humid. The previous day the local guides had been chopping down the undergrowth to allow the group to get through the thick vegetation.  Sometimes we walked through sand and streams – it’s really tough walking on the sand. The support and encouragement  of the rest of the group was all that kept some people going yet everyone made it safely to the end of the day.

2. Blisters!

No need to say more here – some were so large I was seriously alarmed.

 

 

 

 

 

3. The scenery was stunning.

Most of the villages had Buddhist temples and we were able to camp in the shelter of their  pagodas. Because of the remote location, the water supply was often coloured. It was a treat to be able to take a dip in a river on the evening of day three. We didn’t really notice many insects but the size, colour and variety of the dragonflies and butterflies were amazing. Angkor Wat itself was an amazing experience and it is a major site for archaeological discoveries.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants |Traditional Cambodian house on stilts

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Cambodians are incredibly welcoming.

The hospitality of the people was great. The children were on their school holidays, so would greet us as we approached their villages. They were always smiling.  We gave out hundreds of pencils so they could use them in school! One day of the walk it rained so hard everyone had to walk through running water. A local family offered shelter from a thunderstorm  in their house built on stilts. Everyone squeezed into the living room of their two bedroom house and all the mattresses were bundled into the smaller room so that everyone had enough room to sit down. After a couple of hours the storm abated and the walk could continue but everybody  left feeling very grateful for local hospitality.

5. Food is basic but delicious.

The variety of fruit and veg was huge, with most evening meals stews containing either rice or noodles. The local bananas were tiny and their oranges were coloured green.

6. There are no bin collections

This was a sad observation – it’s caused by visiting tourists. Any dropped  litter – mainly plastic water bottles and energy bar wrappers – is swept up by the local villagers, but simply deposited at the boundary between villages as there is no local infrastructure in place to collect or recycle waste.

7. Personal organisation

The challenge of doing this trek as a diabetic is do-able. Blood tests, insulin injections and tablets CAN all be managed in a jungle if you are sufficiently focused and organised!

Chatting to different members of the group revealed a variety of reasons for taking part and many had either suffered themselves from mental illness or seen close family members suffer. The group came from many different functions in the bank and many different pay grades but all were united in their commitment to raising money for this good cause. The 70 people in the two groups raised over 1/2 million pounds for Mental Health UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It ‘s been a  real pleasure and a privilege  for me to  work alongside and support  the amazing Mark Smith with #MarksMentalHealthMarathon this year. Chris and I are  delighted that he has personally raised over £26,000 to date for this great cause of mental health. The seminars provided some great practical tips for the local  business community. It’s been fun meeting and interviewing all his local business sponsors and supporters. Thanks, Mark, for asking us to share a small part of your  personal project.

Gill Hutchinson

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Simon Davies of Spectra group

Meet our co-sponsor Simon Davies of Spectra group

Meet our co-sponsor Simon Davies of Spectra group

Spectra group has just been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation for its ‘Slingshot’ communications system. Spectra started when Simon moved into civilian life after 24 years in the army, where he worked in IT and communications in the Royal Signals. The business was initially set up as a one-man band, but now employs 35 people in Kingstone, Herefordshire.

The Queen’s Award is highly contested and is a noteworthy recognition of the outstanding commercial success that Spectra has achieved with their revolutionary system, SlingShot®.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Simon Davies of Spectra group

 

 

 

 

 

SlingShot is a lightweight device that delivers game-changing capabilities to existing military and civilian radio networks.  When connected to military or commercial UHF/VHF radios, Slingshot extends their range from under 50 miles to potentially 1000s of miles by utilising the commercial satellite network. Versatile enough to be used in aircraft, vehicles, maritime platforms and by individuals on the ground, Spectra is successfully marketing SlingShot internationally for military and non-military use, such as emergency services and disaster-relief, with a capability that has proved to be of critical importance and has undoubtedly contributed to the saving of lives.

Simon has built the company around quality products and services using radio and satellite technology. For their customers in the defence & security or the emergency services, communication is vital – it must work the first time, every time. “Failure is not an option” says Simon.  As the company has grown, having the right calibre people in the business who share this vision of quality has become one of the major challenges for him. “We’re fairly lucky” he says “our staff have stayed around, and one third of them have been here for over 10 years, but we are always on the lookout for good people.

A second challenge is that which comes from working in the defence sector; where politics and defence budgets are closely aligned. Spectra sell to customers all over the globe, but it can occasionally take several years from meeting a new potential customer to getting everything agreed. “Budgeting within these organisations can be done 1, 2 or even 3 years out, so there is a very long lead time before we start to supply them” explains Simon. The reputation of the company is important, as different organisations talk to each other and share information. The company has worked on recruiting proactive distributors, who know individual countries and the business customs, culture and practices they follow, to enable them to supply each new market.

Spectra understand their competitive advantage in their marketplace. “It’s very useful at times to be an SME” says Simon “it means we can be flexible and agile in our approach, in a way that’s not always possible within larger organisations”. A great example of this is their Slingshot system, which took just a week to get to a working prototype stage and was on sale in under 8 months. The beauty of this product is that, although the satellite technology that makes it work is complex, people operating it find it very simple to use in practice. This advantage means the product gets many word of mouth recommendations.

Simon decided to support Mark Mental Health Marathon when his HR manager attended the inspiring Mental Health – Practical help your business seminar at Hereford Cathedral School. “This is an issue we’ll all have to deal with” says Simon “Obviously, as an ex-military man you are very aware of the impact the work in Afghanistan and Iraq had on the mental health of the personnel who served, but this is an issue that is growing in the whole of our society.

The future for Spectra will be to continue to grow organically, as Simon has turned down several offers of acquisition from larger corporations. The need to attend many international trade shows means his diary is always full but Simon relaxes by following horse racing and is comfortable with the balance of work and relaxation he achieves in this beautiful part of Herefordshire..

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Co sponsor Spectra Group

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Business Community Carol service at All Saints

A warm invitation to the Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

A warm invitation to the Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

As the year draws to a close we’re delighted to welcome you to the 2019 Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints, in the heart of Worcester city centre.

Our friends at All Saints have kindly agreed to host what will be a fabulous event, so come and join us on Tuesday, 10th December to celebrate the festive season, catch up with friends and soak up the traditional candle-lit atmosphere at All Saints Church.

The Carol Service is the final event of 2019 which has seen your kind support help Lloyds Bank raise over £25,000 for Mental Health UK.  Thank you to everyone who has taken part in our awareness seminars, quizzes, art exhibitions and to those who have corporately or personally donated during the year.  Your encouragement has been hugely valued.This is our opportunity to say ‘thank-you’ and to bring together the Worcestershire business community to celebrate all that is good in this marvellous county.

This will be Lloyds Bank’s final 2019 event in support of Mental Health UK, where the huge generosity of the business community has raised over £25,000. Thank you for your
marvellous support! Mindful of the local needs of the county, there will be opportunity to support the Worcester Foodbank at a really important time of the year.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Worcester Foodbank Christmas appeal

 

 

 

 

So we can make sure we have enough prosecco, nibbles and mulled-wine for everyone, please let us know how many from your business would like to come along and we’ll see you
there! Please email mark Smith  Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com with your business name and the contact email(s) of those attending.

Agenda

5pm        Doors open, soak up the Christmas atmosphere and enjoy a glass of Prosecco

6pm        Candlelit service with your favourite carols, readings and the All Saints Christmas Choir

7 – 8pm  Christmas nibbles, mulled wine and a chance to chat with friends and business contacts you may not have seen for far too long!

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Increase average sale

Could simpler pricing grow revenue and profit?

Could simpler pricing grow revenue and profit?

How many business owners haven’t worried about the pricing of their goods and services?  Not many, I think.  We all know it’s a critical factor but are probably frightened of the consequences of getting it wrong. As a result of this fearfulness, we often play ‘safe’, whatever we think that is.

It’s a subject that has been endlessly debated, tested and analysed and there is a wealth of theory available.  In this blog, I’m going to take a look at four different approaches and how they can be combined to simplify prices and at the same time increase average sales value.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | The power of three in stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power of Three

The human brain appears to naturally break up complex concepts into three parts.  This is reinforced in our experience of the world from childhood where we encounter numerous examples of ‘threes’.  Fairy story examples include Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Little Pigs and the Three Billy Goats Gruff. In Sport we often award Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. Religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Three Primary colours, Neapolitan ice cream; Three quotes in purchasing, the list goes on.

Threes work by simplifying choices; most of us like to have some choice, but too much can be confusing.  Other pricing research suggests that when potential customers are unsure or confused, they are more likely to default to the lowest price option, or not purchase at all.  Restaurant menus are often grouped into Starters, Mains and Deserts; Supermarket food ranges offer ‘good’, ‘better’ and ‘best’.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | price discounting

 

 

 

2. Price Anchoring

Price Anchoring is the practice of establishing a price point which customers can refer to when making decisions.  Effectively, it seeks to fix in customers’ minds a “normal” price against which customers can judge the relative value of other options, savings, discounts, promotions etc.

For example, in a retail environment (real or virtual), when discounts or sale prices are offered, the ‘original’ price is always shown.  We subconsciously then accept this is the normal, fair price and focus our attention on the saving rather than the absolute value to us of the item at the discounted cost.

It works for two main reasons.  Firstly, outside of pure commodity markets (and even in some of them), people use comparisons or benchmarks to assess the value of products.  Secondly, our collective learned behaviour is to find the best reward for the least money or effort.  Price anchoring with a high-priced item or original price, makes the medium-priced product, or reduced price seem much better value.

Price anchoring can also work ‘upwards’, although this is less commonly used.  If a relatively small additional spend brings apparently many more benefits, the higher priced item looks relatively good value.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Pricing for profit

 

 

 

 

 

3. Bandwagoning

Sometimes, even when both of these techniques are applied, it is still hard for the customer to choose.  Perhaps they like more than one option, or don’t feel sufficiently expert.  Whatever, the reason, the potential customer is not sure which product or service would be ‘best’ for them at that moment.  Again, this can lead to the potential customer deciding not to buy for fear of making the ‘wrong’ choice.

Labelling an option as “most popular”, “best value” or “Chef’s recommendation” reduces anxiety and perceived risk.  It makes us feel like we’re doing something lots of other people have done before or is advised by someone who knows more about it than us.  It’s the same reason people look at star ratings and reviews on Google, Amazon or Trip Advisor.  We may not know any of the reviewers, but if there are enough of them or their comments address a particular concern we have, or demonstrate similar values to us, we feel reassured.

4. Avoidance of extremes

A further fine tuning and combination of these theories is to allow customers to avoid extremes.  Most people like to avoid standing out from the crowd (especially if they don’t feel like they are an expert) and so will naturally favour more ‘middle of the road’ options.  Coffee shops sell mainly ‘medium’ (or whatever they call them) sized drinks, many people choose the middle-priced quote.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Increase average sale

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing it all together

All of these ideas can be combined in price communication:

  • Promote only three options with different price points. High medium and low, but close enough in price and features for the customer to easily make a comparison – “what more / less do I get for the extra / saving?”
  • Don’t expect to sell a lot of the high-priced or low-priced option, so be confident that the middle option delivers the turnover and profitability required
  • Add a ‘bandwagon’ label for all three that makes them feel good about their choice
  • Make the middle option stand out – bigger, a different colour, font, put a border round it, so the customer’s eye is drawn back to it as well as their rational brain

You can read more Aardvark Marketing tips for setting a pricing strategy here .

To discuss pricing or communication or any other marketing issue affecting your business, please call us on 0121 222 5743, send us an email or explore the rest of our website.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Co sponsors Tudor Building Supplies

Meet co-sponsor Darren Burge of Tudor Building Supplies

Meet co-sponsor Darren Burge of Tudor Building Supplies

  1. You often hear MDs of successful companies say, “My door is always open”. For the team at Tudors Building Supplies, that is literally true because the office door is propped, permanently, open and a warm welcome awaits you when you say hello to Darren. In fact, when I visited the builders’ merchant on Burcott Road in Hereford, no fewer than four people had already said hello to me and offered help whilst I was just getting from my car to his office! For me, it sums up Tudors perfectly – these people run a large, complex business on family friendly principles, and they really do know all their customers inside out.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Tudor Building Supplies donate to Marks mental health marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business has grown from the original timber business in 1993, complete with sawmill, when there were 8 people working there. Today they supply ‘bricks and blocks’, roofing, kitchens and bathrooms with a staff of 48 across three sites in Hereford. It’s managed by the ‘gang of four’ (Darren, David Wilkins, Paul Hann and John Davies) all local to the Hereford area, who went through a management buy of out of business in 2008. It was during the buy out that they first worked with Mark Smith at Lloyds Bank and they have valued his advice and support ever since.

The directors, who are all very modest about their business success, attribute it to being a trusted, local Herefordian supplier. They know literally hundreds of their customers, most of them are small and medium sized family builders, always dealing with them on first name terms. A customers’ personal phone call to a director will result in a short conversation to agree the best specification of product followed by a confirmation to ship it to ‘the usual address’ at an agreed time. Despite trading with several thousand customers, a director will have an in-depth knowledge of every one. “It’s not possible for us to be the cheapest supplier for every product, every time” says Darren “so we always offer a fair deal plus great customer service –  something you cannot always get from buying online – and we’ll always get something for a customer if it isn’t in stock. We’re also reasonable about putting things right if necessary, although this is very rarely required “. The team are happy to do a local site visit to help a customer solve particular building challenges and they have expertise in dealing with repairs to many of the heritage buildings around the county. By building long term, trusted advisor status in the trade, the staff have established Tudors at the heart centre of the local Herefordshire community.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Co-sponsor Tudors Building Supplies showroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

I asked what happens if they don’t all agree about a business decision, since the shares in the business are equal, with no-one holding a majority interest. “Real honesty is important” was the answer from Darren “and we usually have a chat over a pint and resolve the issue”. In fact, the only issue that keeps him awake at night is the future for their staff should there be an unexpected downturn in the housing market. As ‘family’, people are the most important factor in running this business.

Aardvark Marketing Consultanst Ltd | Co sponsors Tudors Building Supplies

 

 

 

 

 

The business has changed over the years, adding more products and retail showrooms for garden landscaping, kitchens and bathrooms, which means they are also open to the public, but their customer knowledge and great service has remained a constant. Behind the scenes there has been investment in new facilities such as showrooms and improving the layout of the yard, and a state-of-the-art stock and finance IT system has recently been installed.  This helps Tudors remain competitive on prices in a very competitive marketplace.

It’s not possible to maintain outstanding customer service without the right staff in place and, over the years, Tudors have recruited and retained the best staff at the core of their business. Their management style and training opportunities result in staff staying with the business and gradually assuming greater responsibility and new roles. People that joined as drivers or apprentices are now managers in the sales office or running some of the retail showrooms. Staff stay because of the friendly workplace atmosphere and the approachability of their managers, making the workplace feel like one big family. That real open-door policy means staff can talk to a director, at any time in the working day, simply by popping their head around the door and asking for a few minutes of their time. “In the past we’ve been able to help and support members of the team when they hit a personal issue, whether this is due to physical or mental health, or a family matter” explains Darren “so we think we’re pretty approachable”.

Community is very important to Tudors; they are very generous donating both their time and money to local charities. Darren is a big supporter of St Michael’s Hospice and Tudor sponsor their quarterly magazine. Tudors regularly send teams to support many charity golf days or quizzes and there will be a competitive team presence at the Marks Mental Health Hereford quiz night. Often, it’s practical help that’s required rather than donations and the Tudor team are happy to do their bit for a local school fete by donating something for the raffle. These guys are really part of the fabric of Hereford, not simply another large national company.

So, whether you are a trade or DIY customer, you can be sure of getting friendly advice from the guys at Tudors when they ask you “How can I help?”

Aardvark Marketing Consultants Lts | Tudors Building Supplies logo

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 4

Jeremy Houghton art exhibition supports Marks Mental Health Marathon

Jeremy Houghton art exhibition supports Marks Mental Health Marathon

Aardvark Marketing are proud to sponsor Marks Mental Health Marathon. This week, Mark Smith is delighted to announce that renowned local artist Jeremy Houghton will be exhibiting his latest works of art at Webbs of Wychbold on Thursday, 17th October and donating a percentage of his sales to the charity, Mental Health UK.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 1“Jeremy and I were friends at school and have known each other for over 30 years” says Ed Webb, “so of course we’re very pleased we can help Mental Health UK by hosting this exciting fundraising event here at Webbs.”   As a large local employer, Webbs takes the mental health of its employees seriously, with a variety of support available for all staff. Webbs have just been recognised with an ’Excellence in Wellbeing Award’ through the Great Places to Work scheme.

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 2Jeremy Houghton is a British painter whose work attempts to capture movement and journeys. With a career marked by contrasting experiences and places (he studied in France and then worked for a number of years in South Africa), as well as a long-standing commitment to the countryside, Houghton’s work spans a broad spectrum – from the arresting drama of dynamic sports to the ever-changing patterns of migrating flamingos.

 

 

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 3Since he began to paint full-time in the mid-2000s, Houghton has divided his practice between creating standalone pieces in the studio using reference photographs and sketches and producing work via documentary residences. Over the last ten years he has been invited to detail the life of a number of high-profile communities, from those at Windsor Castle and Highgrove to last year’s Wimbledon championships, and the competitors at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Last year, inspired by the centenary of the RAF he sketched former airmen from WW2. With each of these projects Houghton is interested in getting beyond public perception, documenting instead the everyday scenes that characterise an event or place.

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 4Although Houghton’s focus ranges quite widely, his technique remains a constant. Emphasis on painted shapes of light and space, (or unpainted paper with his watercolours), contrasting against areas of liquid colour enables his subjects to shimmer in the liminal territory between figuration and abstraction. With extraneous detail removed, the paintings are also hard to place, giving them an ahistorical quality that serves to underline their fluidity.

 

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks mental health Marathon, Jeremy Houghton event 5Houghton continually explores the potential of negative space to represent light, and often references ma, the concept in Japanese aesthetics that translates roughly as ‘gap’ or ‘pause’, and which in traditional practice helps balance the relationship between different areas of an image. This focus on the space between things lends his paintings, even when they are of something as solid as a horse or a racing boat, a surprising delicacy. Houghton holds his subjects on a very thin, almost invisible line between motion and the ability to transcend time.

 

Marks Mental Health Marathon was started by Mark Smith of Lloyds bank, who is raising money for Mental Health UK to allow them to support more people going through challenging times with mental health issues. He is organising a series of local seminars for business owners to learn more about the practical steps they can take in their business to support their teams should they encounter someone in need of help.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list

Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list

Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list

All MD’s know that an effective digital marketing funnel will generate more leads and more sales. Companies that invest in marketing funnels do better than those that don’t. If it was quick and easy to create, every company would have one. Why don’t they?  Here’s 6 reasons why accomplishing something so simple is difficult in practice.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list - skills shortages

 

 

 

 

 

Skill shortages

Many businesses don’t have any marketing expertise in their team. Staying up to date with the latest marketing trends isn’t easy as the landscape is constantly changing. This means companies either have to hire new staff who have got the relevant expertise ( and, if  the directors  don’t understand these skills themselves, how do they know who is a good hire?) or get training  for their existing team from a qualified, external expert.

Aardvark Marketing | Strategy versus tactics

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lack of clear strategy

Directors often confuse a sales funnel or process with a marketing funnel. A sales funnel starts when a salesperson first makes contact with a prospect, so by exchanging emails, talking on the phone or in person. It’s a process that has an identified point of contact with a prospect and works by developing mutual trust in an ever-closer relationship. The relationship usually has a series of easily identified milestones (KPI’s and stats) by which a sales director can monitor their team. A marketing funnel is softer, providing information to a prospect ‘doing their research’ and making a shortlist of suppliers with whom they will engage further. Marketers refer to ‘nurturing’ prospects through their online research as they move through a digital marketing funnel.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list - direction

 

 

 

 

Poor or non-existent planning

In order to create an effective digital marketing funnel, you need first to understand marketing channels, content and customers. Channels are the places a prospect will look to find out information about your company, products or services, and they can include non-digital places as well as online resources. Typical digital channels include your website, social media activity, external industry websites, financial information and so on. The content a prospect will read or view will depend upon their own, personal preferences, so this may include recordings/podcasts and video as well as the more traditional website pages and blogs. Finally, you need an in depth understanding of why your good customers return to use your products and services, so that the messages they receive from the content will resonate with them. This will mean you can provide them with all the necessary information they seek to shortlist your company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No process for creating quality content

Many businesses don’t have creative people in their teams, such as graphic designers, copywriters or website developers. If an eternal marketing agency is hired, there is often a poor brief given which means that the agency don’t produce the right content for your prospects to engage with. Quality content hasn’t only got to look pretty by being well branded, it has to engage your relevant audience.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list - PID

 

 

 

 

Poor implementation & project management

Managing all those messages, channels and creating good content so that you have a coherent, consistent and continuous marketing presence is a skill in itself. If your team get overwhelmed by the many different tasks, often the wrong priorities are followed because people tend to stick to their skillsets and stay within their comfort zones It takes experience and skill to understand where limited resources should be deployed first to deliver the biggest bang for your buck.

 

 

 

 

 

Lack of measurement and data management

Just as a sales process will have key milestones that can be measured, so a good marketing funnel will have some points that can be monitored and measured. For digital marketing, Google Analytics is a good place to start. If you have a digital CRM with web tracking such as HubSpot you can access the data in your system as well. Monthly reporting of marketing KPI’s should be added to your management meeting  agenda, just as you would monitor management accounts for financial data.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list

 

 

 

 

 

Buyers and customers are increasingly fickle and shopping around for the best price is often  actively encouraged. Providing the right information through a good digital marketing funnel is increasingly important for the survival of a business. If you are finding any of the above challenges difficult, consider working with Aardvark Marketing. We can provide the expertise you need on an outsourced, affordable basis. Why not make a start by contacting us  or call 0121 222 5743 for a confidential discussion today?

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Why Digital Marketing never gets off the MD’s To Do list - award winning experts

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Meet co-sponsor of Marks Mental Health Marathon Rev Dr Rich Johnson

How can I serve? Meet co-sponsor Rev Dr Rich Johnson

How can I serve? Meet co-sponsor Rev Dr Rich Johnson

The Rev Dr Rich Johnson talks about modern ministry and mental health

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Meet co-sponsor of Marks Mental Health Marathon Rev Dr Rich Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

The parish of All Saints at the heart of Worcester city is one of the oldest in the city.  It now uses two buildings. St Helen’s, a 15th century church building occupies a site used for worship since Roman times. You may have seen the scaffold wrap artwork on the High Street earlier this year, part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project that enabled much needed stonework repairs to be made. All Saints on Deansway is the historic parish church built into the city walls in Norman times.  Worship services are now held in both buildings. Although the buildings are steeped in history, there is absolutely nothing old fashioned about this very modern pastoral team with it’s drive and enthusiasm for creating social support in the community.

The church is now one of the largest in the Diocese of Worcester, not only with many adults, but welcoming students, teenagers and children into the community. After the second world war many of the houses in the parish were demolished, scattering the previous community of dockers and porcelain workers and their families, so the congregation fell. Today the church, with its own distinctive style of less formal, contemporary worship, has gone from strength to strength.

Rich brings his own leadership style to his role, heading up a team of “brilliant” and committed individuals, whether they are volunteers or staff. He describes his methods as “equip, envision, empower and release”.  He’s currently supporting Mark Smith of Lloyds Bank to give back to the business community as well as raising money for Mental Health UK. Mark has set himself a target for fundraising but also important to him is that business leaders and managers in his area know more about Mental Health issues and have some clear guidance to follow if necessary. It was at one of these seminars for business that I met Rich, who had come to both learn more from the speakers and to support Mark and his project. The seminars address practical steps such as how to spot potential problems in their own teams and how to provide the right supportive working environment to minimise the impact on that individual, their colleagues and their families.

By supporting others, All Saints seeks to serve the Worcester community in so many ways. A key question Rich asks when evaluating how the church is developing is “If we shut down overnight, would the city miss us?”.   Increasingly, the answer is yes.  Rich and his team work with people who have the vision, commitment and passion to succeed and help them with practical support to get projects started and developed. In this way the church set up and now runs the Worcester Foodbank, Worcester Street Pastors, supports homeless people, those fostering and adopting, schools, colleges and individual students with mental health resilience courses. The Foodbank even provides necessities such as school shoes and toys for birthdays and at Christmas to children whose families would otherwise genuinely struggle to get by.

The list of organisations where Rich and his team are known and respected is large and includes the County Council, local schools, Worcester Community Trust, Worcester BID, local business leaders, local MP’s, local police etc. By building networks across these organisations, the church is collaborating with others to help achieve something that is both worthwhile and makes a real difference to local people. Rich sees his role as a trusted partner not only to listen and participate but also to challenge. He talks to me about Desmond Tutu, who said “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Because the Church is uniquely placed to talk with all these organisations, it’s able to bring its in-depth, local knowledge of the causes of the issues that adversely affect individuals and their families in modern life. This understanding allows them to ask the ‘awkward’ or ‘brave’ questions of politicians and civic authorities so that their decision making is better informed.

For so many people in need of social support networks, poor mental health is a common denominator. Rich works hard to listen and understand why so many people, not just our students, teenagers and young people are struggling. It’s clear that social media and the pressure of growing up in the public eye has much to answer for. Rich talks about digital addiction, hyperconsumerism, eating disorders, self-harming issues, anxiety and depression and believes it’s this central issue of defining our identity and who we are for ourselves that is important. We almost need to learn to define ourselves and our worth in society without constant reference to how we appear to others online. He plays a very active role in listening to youngsters, works closely with local schools, colleges and universities and some of his team actively provide support and counselling to help youngsters understand themselves better and be comfortable with their identity.

Striking the right balance between being helpful and being a prophetic challenge can be difficult and it’s possible for the public, outside the church, to dismiss the role of a church because it is often perceived as judgemental or interfering. Rich believes that to help someone you need to be there in the same room and to accept that no-one person or organisation will have all the answers. Their role is to offer some solutions, invite people in and become a part of the answer. For example, by listening to many young people who come to an individual drop in, he can give anonymous feedback to a school leader about issues that could be part of their Personal, Health and Social education (PSE) syllabus. Young people are therefore getting a chance to explore and learn about something that has affected or will affect them or their peers, so they are better prepared for the future. The team also talk to parents, for example by providing workshops helping parents understand how to help their kids navigate the digital world safely or attending a parents evening at a school. It’s exploring and implementing these very practical steps that have transformed this ministry.

“The first step to helping is to be empathetic” says Rich.” Everyone has experienced times when they are stressed, anxious or are feeling low in themselves. It’s when people are put in situations, often beyond their control, that cause a change from occasional worries into something more chronic and serious that they need more specialised help”. Many in society have lost the traditional family support networks, so the Church’s pastoral team need to be listening and thinking, ‘what can we do differently that will improve matters?’ because we are all in this together. By doing this humbly and consistently, over time, we build the credibility and permission to get involved.

This team certainly make a difference to Worcester and their work never stands still. After discussion with Mark Smith, he will be extending a very warm welcome to the business community with a special Carol service on 10th December at 6 o clock in All Saints – we hope to see many readers of this blog join us then.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks Mental health Marathon - Rev Dr Rich Johnson talks about the mental health seminar

 

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Great blogs & vlogs win Aardvark Marketing UK Content Creator Award

Great blogs & vlogs win Aardvark Marketing UK Content Creator Award

Great blogs & vlogs win Aardvark Marketing UK Content Creator Award

Aardvark Marketing Consultants have been recognised by Corporate Vision Magazine for their contribution to the world of blogs and video blogs as great Content Creators 2019.

As we continue through the 21st century the trend of people turning to content creation as a means of making a living continues to grow. From YouTubers to Bloggers, companies and individuals are continuing to monetize their skills to make a successful living with some of the top content creators making over a million dollars year in year out.  CV Magazine are running this inaugural award programme to showcase those who go above and beyond in creating great content, from web designers, vloggers and bloggers to those creating images and videos for the web, the 2019 Content Creator Awards give credit where it is deserved.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Great blogs & vlogs win Aardvark Marketing UK Content Creator AwardFor the last nine years, co-directors at Aardvark Marketing, Gill and Chris Hutchinson have been regular bloggers. “We write about all aspects of marketing, sales and management” says Gill Hutchinson. “As technology has advanced, we’ve added webinars and video to our written blogs.” In 2018, Aardvark launched the Marketing Manager service and their experienced marketeers produce a range of regular blogs for clients.

“Consistency adding new content helps us drive more traffic to our clients websites in two ways.” says Gill “ Firstly, it improves the website rankings with search engines such as Google (SEO)  so more organic search traffic is generated and  secondly attracts more visitors coming via social media platforms when the blog content is shared. New software that automates social media scheduling means we are more efficient at delivering social coverage, which allows Aardvark to offer a very attractive, cost effective service.“ Outsourcing content creation and social media management has proved to be extremely popular and Aardvark are constantly adding to their list of clients using the service.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Contetn Cretator award 2019 - leading specialists in marketing automation solutionsDiscussing the success of their winners, Edward Faulkner, Awards Coordinator commented: “There are so many content creators who are influencing today’s modern business market, and I am proud to recognise them through this awards programme. It is with great pride that I congratulate my winners; here’s to more great content going forward!” read more about Corporate Vision magazine here.

If your business could benefit from having regular new content created, call Aardvark Marketing on 0121 222 5743 or contact us here.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | How full is your stress bucket?

How full is your ‘stress bucket’?

How full is your ‘stress bucket’?

I had the good fortune to attend a “Mental health in the workplace” seminar earlier this week.  Of the many interesting facts and ideas shared with the audience, one particularly resonated with me.  The speakers from Mental Health UK talked about the concept of a stress bucket.  You can find more information on their website  but here is my take on the idea.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | How full is your stress bucket?The ‘stress bucket’ has a number of feeds (rain clouds in the diagram) which are the things that cause us stress.  They could be work related, but also from our personal lives, health or even wider factors that we can’t necessarily control but increase our stress level.  At the bottom of the bucket are outlets (I think of them as taps), which we use to reduce our stress.  Examples could be exercise, socialising or listening to music.  Over time our stress levels go up and down depending on the flow of stress into our bucket and how much stress we release through our taps.

There were three key observations which I took away from the seminar and I want to use in my work and home life:

Firstly, everyone has a different size stress bucket. Some people have buckets the size of a skip, while for others it’s more like a thimble.  That’s just the way it is, we can’t change it.  In practice it means some people have more capacity for additional stress before they need to open their taps, while others have a limited capacity and need to keep opening taps.  The flip side is also true; those with a smaller bucket can de-stress faster.  We need to be sensitive to those around us and recognise how big their bucket is and do what we can to accommodate this and support them in managing their stress bucket.

Thinking about the stress bucket and how it works made me realise that as my stress bucket fills up, I tend to self-sabotage.  I tell myself that I don’t have the time to do the things that are my ‘taps’ – exercise, read, meet up with friends … Not only does this prevent the release of stress, the fact that I know I should be doing these things adds more stress!

Related to this is the harsh reality that it’s almost impossible to help someone else with their stress levels, or in any other way if our own stress bucket is full.  Managing our own stress bucket, opening our taps gives us capacity to help others and also sets a positive example to everyone around us.  Taking time out to get back in balance when we need it isn’t selfish; it’s the first step to helping the colleagues, friends and family we want to support.

If this is a subject that interests you or you want to learn more about mental health in the workplace, there are two more seminars in October and November, click here to find out more.

Chris

 

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