Man Bites Dog Europe’s most award-winning B2B marketing and public relations consultancy Thu, 16 Mar 2017 14:34:38 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 It’s time to combat sales and marketing ‘sibling rivalry’ for good Wed, 08 Mar 2017 15:32:32 +0000

Much like sibling rivalries, we’re all familiar with the tug-of-war conflicts that flare up between sales and marketing teams. Rather than working as one integrated ‘family unit’, departments often become siloed with different perspectives and opposing strategic objectives.

Sales and marketing teams end up going head-to-head to compete for attention (and most importantly ever-tightening budgets!) and the end result is often chaotic and completely ineffective. The problem is, as with any sibling conflict, the resolution is never simple.  

We asked the B2B experts at Man Bites Dog’s recent Big Bite event to shed some light on this complex issue and suggest how we can rekindle some sales and marketing love.

Julie Parsons, Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case, highlighted the importance of showcasing joint successes: “We find champions and kick off an initiative with a passionate BD on side. We then make a rip-roaring success of it and … show how it can be done when marketing and sales people work together as one team.”

Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom, also stressed the importance of collaboration: “Have joint meetings with marketing and sales to set targets (metrics and ROI) and create partnership. It’s not rocket science but you need to put that discipline in place.”

Sharing achievements and promoting teamwork are tried and tested methods, but with such embedded rivalry often more is needed to align sales and marketing teams when they fail to see eye-to-eye. We recommend:

Find common commercial ground.

As marketers, it’s really exciting when you experience the eureka moment on a big idea. You know it’s right and that it will deliver commercially. But, the issue is getting buy-in from your sales team – often the most problematic part of the process.

The key is to get them involved from the start. Think practically about their needs, the specific audiences they are targeting and the types of discussions they’re having. Explain openly about how your idea can generate content that will lead to effective sales conversations.

Identify the person who will shout the loudest.

It’s not always possible to get every member of your sales team on board with your ideas. It would be an unfeasible task. But, this doesn’t matter, you only need to focus your attention on those with influence: ‘visionaries’ (supporters) and ‘blockers’ (opposers).

Visionaries and blockers can make or break the success of your idea. So, be clear about how your campaign aligns to your organisation’s wider objectives, why your chosen topic matters to your clients and customers, and highlight how results can be measured and what targets your campaign expects to achieve. This information will arm your visionaries with everything they need to be your biggest advocate and will help to combat resistance from blockers.

Set yourself up for success.

As Julie explained, a successful joint sales and marketing project is key to future collaboration. So, make sure that failure is not an option. Develop clear, tangible and realistic goals and timeframes for your project – it sounds simple but it’s vital for success. To stay on track, it’s important to limit interference and keep stakeholder involvement tightly controlled.

If only it were that easy to keep my two sons in check!

Marketing automation: style over substance? Mon, 20 Feb 2017 12:04:51 +0000 When it comes to emerging technology and digital innovations, marketers want to be bang up to date. According to Gartner, CMOs are expected to spend more on marketing technology than CIOs will spend on overall technology in 2017. Given the jaw dropping boom in new tools such as marketing automation (MA), perhaps this is no big surprise.

But, when it comes to impressing a new prospect, will technology alone deliver the right first impression to ensure a long-lasting customer relationship?

We put this question to our panel of experts at Man Bites Dog’s Big Bite event last month, and discovered that while new technologies are a key part of any marketer’s toolkit, creative and compelling client-focused content is still this season’s hottest trend.

Bernard O’Brien, Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte, explained: We have to nurture relationships very carefully and let our prospects ‘eat something that they want to eat’, i.e. content from us.” This view was echoed by Julie Parsons, Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case, who said: “We need an unrelenting focus on understanding our clients’ needs and to deliver products and services that meet those needs.”

So, clearly substance still triumphs over style. But, how can we ensure we’re ‘catwalk ready’ when it comes to showcasing our marketing and content capabilities?  

marketing automation trends

Don’t just dress to impress. MA has well and truly arrived and is promising the world: streamlined processes, bespoke communications and improved sales and marketing relationships. It looks great and many of us have fallen in awe of its charms and capabilities. But looking pretty can only get you so far. While MA can be an effective tool for distributing and analysing marketing activity, it’s not a replacement for compelling content, useful insight and exciting storytelling.

Make an instant impact. To win over a new prospect, content ideas need to pack a punch. Content should create a consistent, cumulative impact via a compelling narrative that unites your internal teams, excites your audience and creates worthwhile interactions that your sales team can capitalise on. As more and more resources are spent on marketing technology, there is a real risk that creative ideas and content become an afterthought.

Leave a lasting impression. Despite the best intentions, content often fails to leave a lasting impression. In all the MA excitement, marketing programmes are often initiated without a clear strategy, or are knocked off-course by various stakeholders. With a lack of focus, exciting ideas can quickly become diluted, disjointed and unmemorable. Any marketing outreach, via MA or otherwise, needs to be based on clear objectives and have your audience’s concerns and interests at the core.

We all want to be up-to-date with the latest fashions, but no one wants to be a fashion victim. To avoid a major faux pas, you need to develop a content strategy based on an understanding of how your audience consumes content, as well as what they might want at each stage of the buyer journey. For tips and advice on activating content, via MA or otherwise, check out our No Contest guide.


Feel the love: Sales and marketing relationship advice from B2B brands Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:55:34 +0000 Like any good matchmaker, we brought together a group of expert panellists from White & Case, Polycom, Deloitte and (of course) Man Bites Dog to discuss the burning issues affecting sales and marketing teams.

We’ve summarised the key takeaways in this blog and will be sharing more detail over the coming weeks.

Our quick-fire introductory Pecha Kucha talk (20 slides, 20 seconds each) on the mega trends that are changing our industry can also be viewed below.

First date with a new prospect? It’s not all about appearances.

Our experts are all using the latest tech to improve their marketing outreach but they don’t believe it’s the be-all and end-all. Much like awkward first date conversation, content is key.

Bernard O’Brien, Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte: “Technology is really important in helping people connect but it’s a challenge for a services firm. We have to nurture relationships very carefully and let our prospects ‘eat something that they want to eat’ – i.e. content from us. We only serve them up what they’re interested in and we just use our tech to enable that.”

Julie Parsons, Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case: “Fundamentally what we do as marketers has not changed. We need an unrelenting focus on understanding our clients’ needs and to deliver products and services that meet those needs.”

Claire Mason, Founder and CEO at Man Bites Dog: “A lot of organisations have built the machine but not the content to fuel it. At the moment, we’re seeing quite a lot of friction when it comes to marketing automation in particular because the tool is new and is being seen as everything. It’s like CGI in the film industry leading to some terrible films!”

Check out these links for more tips on generating ideas and a toolkit on mapping content to the buyer journey.


Building a long-term relationship between sales and marketing.

Our panellists were asked, ‘how can we foster some love between sales and marketing teams?’. The short answer: compromise and co-creation.

Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom: “Have joint meetings with marketing and sales to set targets (metrics and ROI) and create partnership. It’s not rocket science but you need to put that discipline in place.”

Julie: “If we see ourselves as different teams, we’ve failed already. The competition is on the outside, it should never be on the inside. We find champions and kick off an initiative with a passionate BD on side. We then make a rip-roaring success of it and share it around the business. We show how it can be done when marketing and sales people work together as one team. We call it rolling in, not rolling out!”

Bernard: Imagine you’ve got naysayers in the group – invite the noisiest and ask for their input. By asking their opinion, you’ll get their buy-in.”

For more tips on pushing ideas through an organisation, flick through our slidedeck.


Online dating isn’t always a substitute for the real thing.

Our panellists believe that face-to-face meetings and relationship building are still crucial for B2B selling. However, you need good content and lead gen tools to make them effective.

Bernard: “We need to take inspiration from consumer brands and create an experience and touch on prospects’ aspirations. For example, Deloitte runs transition labs for new CFOs – we interview people at all levels in the firm and map out their business life with them across several days. Once you’ve offered that support, you’ve got a friend for life. It’s about creating an emotional bond.”

Claire: “Marketing teams often don’t think all the way through to a sales meeting. If you create incredible content, you need to create a call to action for a service as well as reason for an interaction. For example, an element of gamification or a tool for a meeting. You need to plan the whole journey together with the sales approach in mind.”


Finding ‘the one’ when it comes to prospects.

Our panellists discussed the importance of data, analytics and personalisation in understanding buyers and encouraging them to a sale.

Bernard: “We’ve developed personas – working out the demographic for a style of person based on background, financial, emotional factors. What we’re trying to create is one campaign with two different journeys – a cheap one and an expensive one with content assets to match. As people change their buying behaviour or seniority, they get invited to the more expensive bit of a campaign such as a big event.”

Tim: “We have a Google Analytics guru on the team and have plotted out the buyer journey. Often the journey starts very high up in the organisation and during the evaluation stage ends up quite low. The ‘evaluator’ is often in their 30s, social network savvy and loves video content. We’ve angled our marketing to educate those people who are doing the discovery for their bosses as they heavily influence decision-making.”

Claire: “A commercially-effective idea is about making people think, feel and do but without the ‘feel’ it’s not effective. We often think personalisation is about giving data for your country, job role, sector but we need to connect to the human being. That emotional connection is really important.”

See more on creating campaigns that make people ‘think, feel and do’ in Alex’s blog.


Modern marketer seeks new skills for the role…

Our panellists feel that marketing teams need to adapt for a digital age. That means upskilling existing teams and hiring in.

Bernard: “Before marketing automation, the marketing people could manage the customer journey themselves. Now we need more technically minded and analytics focused people – so we hired them. The extra challenge on the creative side is reducing weighty content into digestible content for a mobile audience.”

Tim: “We’ve brought the expertise in-house and have coding skills within our team. With two experts we can now support all of the regions with any event or campaign they want to run. We also have creative people in the team and they work off each other.”

Julie: “Our partners tend to be considerably older than some of these prospects coming through who are digital natives that want bite-sized information, not our traditional brochures and print materials. We need to work out how to make this shift from the old ways that our partners are comfortable with to selling in the future.”


About our panellists:

Julie Parsons is the Global Marketing Communications Director at White & Case, the international law firm. Julie works closely with the CMO, global marketing and BD teams and partners and has developed her own ways of getting people more engaged with marketing.

Bernard O’Brien has over 30 years of B2B marketing and sales experience, beginning his career as a sales rep for Rank Xerox and IBM in Australia. He is now in a leadership role as Director, Marketing Operations, Consulting at Deloitte.

Tim Stone (@stonecollab) is VP Marketing EMEA for Polycom and former Marketing Director for Collaboration at Cisco Systems. Tim thinks successful companies are those where sales and marketing work closely together and he’s led Polycom to do just that.

Claire Mason (@womanbitesdog) is Founder and CEO at Man Bites Dog and has spent the last decade making it her mission to make B2B extraordinary. She is passionate about the power of big ideas to create commercial impact and the need to converge marketing, PR and sales to move from content to conversation.

Man Bites Dog recognised as top B2B marcomms agency Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:27:54 +0000 B2B Marketing magazine has revealed the top 75 UK B2B marcomms agencies for 2016-2017, with Man Bites Dog moving up to number 43.

The annual list ranks agencies according to UK gross income and shows the sector’s strongest players in 2017.

Man Bites Dog has seen significant gains over the past year in terms of financial performance and client wins, helping it rise from 48th position in 2015-2016.

B2B Marketing Top 50 logo

A bumper year for new business, Man Bites Dog has won contracts with some of the world’s largest technology organisations, as well as retaining a strong client base across a number of sectors including professional and financial services.

Claire Mason, founder and CEO of Man Bites Dog, said: “Man Bites Dog’s ranking in the league table is a great recognition of our growth and a testament to the quality of our work and team.”

Download the full benchmarking report here.

Five podcasts to inspire ideas and thinking Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:53:14 +0000 It has been over a decade since technology journalist Ben Hammersley coined the term “podcast” to describe the form of automatically downloaded audio. In recent years, podcasts have enjoyed a surge in popularity with approximately 3.7 million adults listening to podcasts in the UK alone.

Like many others, I re-discovered my love of listening after hearing Serial, a real crime podcast that became a huge part of mainstream culture at the end of 2014, racking up 75 million episode downloads after the first season debuted. Office conversations in the Man Bites Dog ‘doghouse’ soon went from “what did you watch on TV last night?” to fierce debates on whether Adnan Syed was guilty or not and whether we agreed with the lines of investigation being presented by host, Sarah Koenig.

The pre-recorded format of podcasts and ability to download and listen to them any time anywhere, means that people are never far from entertainment, inspiration or ways to pass the time on the commute to work.

If like me, you’re on the eternal quest for learning and inspiration but always struggle to find the time, here are my five podcast recommendations:

Dog listening to gramophone

1. 99% Invisible

Curious about the origin of the fortune cookie? Want to know why Sigmund Freud opted for a couch over an armchair? 99% Invisible is about the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about. What started as a project by KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco is now hugely popular with over 80 million downloads.

2. Freakonomics

This podcast cleverly packages bright ideas and thinking in a quirky and accessible way. Ever wondered if the restaurant tipping business model is out of date? What the supply chain of the humble pencil is? Or why Uber is an economist’s dream? These are just some of the riddles award-winning journalist, Stephen Dubner and his team, set out to explore through investigation and captivating conversation with nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs.

3. Revisionist History

Over the course of 10 episodes, this podcast from Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply Media, goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.

4. The Hidden Brain

Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. It reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships. Ever considered if the way you park your car says something vital about you? Or how hidden biases keep people from finding interesting jobs? This podcast has the answers.

5. HBR IdeaCast

From Harvard Business Review, this weekly podcast is categorised as a management and marketing podcast, but it covers much more. Featuring the leading thinkers in business and management – some famous and others ‘behind the scenes’ – from the CEOs of Amazon and Starbucks to director Francis Ford Coppola and Stanford professor Bob Sutton – HBR IdeaCast covers one general topic of issue per episode.

Most of these podcasts are accompanied by dedicated websites that offer further material for engaged listeners. It’s a never-ending font of interesting facts and inspiring content. All of these podcasts are free to download and, luckily for me, new ones spring up almost every week.

If you need me, leave a message; I’ll be listening to my phone…

Rarely pure and never simple: Post-truth PR Tue, 22 Nov 2016 11:32:35 +0000 2016, eh? Don’t worry – I’m not going to harp on about how rubbish this year is, was and continues to be – I did that in my last blog. So, skipping the diatribe, let’s talk about the latest victim of this annus horribilis: truth itself. 

Oxford Dictionaries has declared ‘post-truth’ the word of the year. Post-truth refers to situations in which “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. The rise of the term has come about not just (as you might expect) because of Brexit and the US election, but more broadly as the way people consume information has evolved.  

In America (where’s the UK equivalent data, researchers?) 62% of adults now get their news from social media. However, as we’ve seen on countless occasions, the news feed first approach – information that is unvetted by sites and curated by users – leads to the spread and echo-chamber amplification of misinformation.

It must be acknowledged that there are more than one type of ‘fake news’ – including, in my opinion, the much needed parody pieces, such as those propagated by Southend News Network, including a recent favourite: Southend residents evacuate town over supermoon collision fears’. More sinister and concerning however are those articles that are designed to mislead.  

For their part, Google and Facebook are doing all they can to crack down on fake news, including Google’s planned removal of it’s ‘In the news’ feature which, unlike its news search tab, is purely algorithmic and so more easily duped by counterfeit content. However, as Oscar Wilde famously wrote, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”truth-166853_960_720

Mark Zuckerberg has himself pointed out that eradicating fake news from Facebook is  “complex, both technically and philosophically”. In censoring content, Facebook runs the risk of becoming an “arbiter of truth” – something Zuckerberg has steadfastly stated he wants to avoid.

Now, I’m fully aware that PR doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to arbitrating truth. This goes all the way back to the 1920’s with Edward Bernays, ‘the father of public relations’ and his ‘manipulation of the masses’ principles. But for those of us working in modern PR, particularly B2B – it’s clear that things have changed.

Ignoring for a moment the ‘8 out of 10 cats’ survey approach (which, though simplistic, has a place in the world), let’s consider the role economic modelling, implicit testing and in-depth opinion research plays in informing the news today. Pick up any newspaper and I guarantee you’ll find a story informed by PR research within the first couple of pages.

There’s a good reason for this – journalists need proof points but just don’t have the time or resources to conduct primary research for every piece they write. Equally, businesses need proof points to evidence the issues that their services solve. But in order for there to be an equilibrium between the media and businesses, we must ensure that the data we as PRs source is robust.

If PR is to continue to have its place in today’s changing media, it needs to start 2017 with a resolution of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Looking for brand love in B2B… Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:16:44 +0000  

“I love Google!”

“I couldn’t live without my iPhone…”

“Amazon is awesome!”


Certain brands create true evangelists and top the lists of most-loved brands time and time again.

… but can we really expect to create brand love in B2B?

love candy

It’s hard to imagine a buyer feeling real, passionate love for business banking, packaging or industrial machinery, for example.

It’s certainly true that we should strive to create an emotional connection, appealing to our audience’s ambitions, fears, hopes, pressures etc. However, I’m not sure love is necessarily the emotion we should be aiming for.

Instead, we should be ensuring people understand and like us, helping them to differentiate our company from the competition.

Up close and personal

To do this, we need to make audiences feel something by making our branding and ideas relevant to them.

B2B audiences are not as coldly rational as you might think and we shouldn’t underestimate the power of an emotional and personal connection. As in the consumer space, B2B brands need to speak to ‘the buyer’ as a human being.

Consider this:

  • Is your content relevant to your audience’s sector, business demographics and individual company?
  • Ideally, is your content hyper-relevant? Does it relate to the individual? To their hopes and fears? How can it play a role in realising their career and personal ambitions?

What’s love got to do with it?

Those big-love brands that we are all trying to emulate have created must-have products, targeting (or creating) specific ‘tribes’ with a consistent, coherent brand identity. We can certainly take inspiration from this by communicating our brand more clearly to the right audience.

B2B products are often highly complex and we need to ensure we make sense externally. As any consumer brand knows, we need to communicate the benefits that we can offer, all packaged up into an easy-to-understand, easily recognisable, and easy-to-buy, name, story or narrative.

Your brand identity, and your external comms, should harness your organisation’s unique expertise and knowledge to promote what you enable, not what you sell. The aim is to offer a consistent experience to customers, and a coherent educational message across all of your channels. For a B2B example, check out IBM’s much-loved ‘Connected Business’.

A compelling, unifying, big idea can help ties your comms campaigns together. More insights and tips on generating ideas can be found here. Essentially, we need to make sure we are positioning our communications as forward-thinking and tapping into consumer mega-trends and the issues shaping the business future.

If B2B brands can crack this, we can help our audience to understand and buy into what we do. In an ideal world, we’d create an attractive package that they start to like, or maybe even, learn to love.

The Role of B2B Marketing in Delivering Great Customer Experience Tue, 08 Nov 2016 10:31:41 +0000 Last week, marketers came together at the annual B2B marketing conference to explore a topic that is looming large and increasingly making its way onto the boardroom agenda – customer experience.

So what is customer experience? Is it just customer service rebranded and if not, who should own it, who should deliver it and what role does marketing play? Before trying to answer these questions, it’s worth defining what is meant by ‘customer experience’.

A retro photograph of a customer at the counter in a pharmacy

Listening to the views of leading industry players speaking at the conference, it is clear that customer experience means something different to everyone. The Harvard Business Review provides a useful descriptor, suggesting that customer experience is “the many critical moments when customers interact with the organisation and its offerings on their way to purchase and after.”

If ‘critical moments’ of interaction are indeed the new competitive battleground on which business is won or lost, surely the focus for organisations must be on understanding and owning the entire buyer journey from awareness right through to sales and advocacy. But isn’t that easier said than done?

Customer dynamics are changing. Decision-making authority is moving away from individuals in familiar roles – often those with whom B2B sales teams have long-standing relationships – to a less predictable purchasing path of multiple touch points. This has necessitated a change in how B2B firms market and sell themselves.

Where once ‘the customer was always right’, today we talk about the customer being ‘first’, a movement that Forrester Research has dubbed the ‘Age of the Customer’. Never before have customers been more connected, more empowered or more knowledgeable. This places pressure on organisations to focus efforts on delivering a consistent quality experience throughout the buying journey.

So if we agree that the customer should be central to our thinking and that we need to organise our business and marketing strategies around their needs, who should take charge of delivering customer experience? Some speakers at the conference suggested responsibility for owning customer experience should sit with the marketing department, as it has always taken a holistic approach to connecting the customer to the business.

For me, the marketing department should play an instrumental role in organising and delivering customer experience across departments, but ultimately, the customer-first mandate needs to come from the top.

This said, there are three key areas B2B marketers can support when it comes to delivering quality customer experience:

  1. Teamwork makes the delivery work

Great customer experience demands an engaged and motivated team to deliver consistent and quality interactions at each stage of the buyer journey.

From embedding shared company values to exciting teams with powerful campaigns they can champion and rally behind, marketing must act as the thread to pull departments and job functions together to deliver a customer-first service.

  1. Manage great expectations

Ensure the brand promise – that excites and inspires customers to want to work with you – delivers against the reality. If not, consider re-evaluating what is promised, while you work with the business on delivering (and exceeding) on the needs and expectations of customers.

  1. Own 90% of the buyers’ journey (and beyond)

The relationship power between customers and suppliers has shifted. It is easier than ever for them to ‘fall out of love’ with companies if they don’t feel they have their best interests at heart. With the increasing fickleness of customer relationships, communications will play an important a role in winning customers as well as retaining and growing those relationships.

And with the B2B sales cycle increasing in length, with up to 90% of the decision process complete before a B2B buyer even engages a sales representative, marketers must work harder than ever to control the journey by generating magnetic content that is aligned to the problem you solve and pulls customers towards your brand.

If you are embarking on your own customer-first journey and would like to explore how marketing can support in shaping and delivering a consistent experience, then get in touch.

Alternatively, if you would like to understand how to map your content to the buyer journey, download No Contest.

Go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is. Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:39:32 +0000 The word ‘risk’ is a synonym for danger. It implies bad things and inspires fear, so it’s not altogether surprising that it is most commonly put into sentences next to words like ‘mitigate’ and ‘averse’.

But that misses the point. Anyone who works intimately with risk will tell you that it is – or at least can be – a good thing. It’s the forerunner to success, and often the only way to make a splash. John A Shedd put it best when he said “A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for”, and he’s as right today as he was then.

The average person will take a risk if the likelihood of reward outweighs that of failure by around 1.7 times, i.e. you’d probably bet £10 on a coin toss if you stood to win an additional £20 by getting heads, maybe not if you only stood to win £15.

Psychological research also shows us that those of us who are more risk averse (those who wouldn’t take the first bet) tend to choke under pressure when faced with the possibility of huge returns, whilst risk takers only crack when huge losses loom. From a business owner’s perspective, those who struggle to deal with potentially hugely lucrative opportunities don’t fit the profile of the dream employee, so a healthy acceptance of risk is something we must all learn to embrace.

Going back to the 1:1.7 risk/reward ratio, an understanding of what constitutes acceptable risk is all very well if you’re an investment banker or an Atlantic City high roller, but it doesn’t translate so well to the intangible.

leaping lemurs man bites dog risk

For marketers, getting a clear handle on what is a good risk to take can be a little less clear; a situation further complicated by the creative nature of marketing. In this context, things that present no risk, by definition have a limited chance of success. Successful marketing is all about making people sit up and take notice, and doing that means working with ideas that are both new and different, two words that traditionally make risk officers flinch.

Handily however, there’s a risk ratio for marketers too (or at least one that works well). It’s called the 70:20:10 ratio and it says that businesses should spend 70% of their time and money on things that will develop their core business. For marketers this is safe, trusted, reliable, non-risky marketing strategies – the kind of stuff marketers do every day. 20% should be spent on things related to that core business – slightly more edgy campaigns and techniques that might not guarantee results, but also don’t stray too far from the beaten track.

The 10% is where the risk comes in, along with the greatest chance of big rewards. For innovators this is all about trying something new. For marketers it’s where the bold, punchy, double-take campaigns spring up. We’re talking Apple’s 1984 Superbowl ad, TNT’s 2012 “push to add drama” stunt, and for an example that’s a little more B2B, our own Google Supermarket C-Suite event this year.

Taking that last example, it quickly becomes clear why risk is so integral to marketing. This brand new concept of a fully immersive pop-up sales event themed around the ‘escape game’ fad pushed the envelope, but in doing so it attracted the attention of some of Google for Work’s hottest prospects, resulting in a 1500% ROI and Google’s quarterly pipeline target being smashed by 313%. Would that have happened with an e-shot?  

In marketing it isn’t just a numbers game, and it never could be. Taking risks is a necessary part of all the best campaigns, because without it, you can’t have originality.

If you’re struggling to find those original ideas that define your brand and drive unprecedented sales, then get in touch, or download our No Idea guide, for practical advice and a framework to stress-test your ideas and make sure you are taking the right kind of risk.

Directors Breakfast Event Blog – The 5 P’s Of Innovation Fri, 21 Oct 2016 09:04:31 +0000 What does innovation mean to firms when managing client relationships? Disruptive and incremental innovation is making waves across the professions as we discovered at Ambition’s recent BD & Marketing Directors’ breakfast event, attended by many leading client relationship and business development professionals from legal, accountancy and property sectors.

Together with my expert co-panelists Louise Field, Head of Client Relationships at Bird & Bird and Anne Blackie, Head of Bids and Client Care at Grant Thornton, we debated the role of innovation and how to put the client at the centre of our firms.

The wide-ranging discussion covered what we might call the 5 Ps of Innovation:

  • Purpose
  • Personalisation
  • Productisation
  • Pedantry (or not!)
  • Partnership

Purpose – “Be bold, brave and different”

Innovation was described as “creativity with purpose”, an opportunity to make a difference in reputation, relationships and revenue. I described how innovation delivers ROI – or Return On Ideas. By being bold, brave and different firms could develop ideas that travel further. But it’s not just about the big ideas, Anne highlighted opportunities to make a difference with small incremental changes, rather than a complete overhaul, and Louise drew attention to the innovation of legal business models in recent years. The panel agreed that the key to innovation is strategic problem solving, not innovation for its own sake.

Personalisation – “The right systems or the right people?”

The panel discussed the pressure to create personalised client communications and experiences versus the challenging reality of bringing together people, processes and systems. Far from an enabler of innovation the panel agreed that marketing automation was only as good as the quality of data and content they put into it. While effective systems and structure may be key, the right people and behaviour are critical to making personalisation work in practice.

“Good systems can quieten the noise and allow us to collaborate on what matters”

Louise saw the effective use of client service tools at the heart of collaboration with lawyers – “our role is to translate between the client and fee earner”. She argued there is a place for efficiency in all of our work, paving the way for more value. Whilst it’s easy to focus too much on hygiene factors, the effective use of good systems and processes can quieten the noise and allow us to collaborate on what matters when it comes to innovation in client relationships.

Productisation – “Disrupt or Be Disrupted”

Coming from an agency background, I shared examples of the drive towards productising high value services, with digital business models enabling professional services brands to access and service the mass market at low cost. Far from relationship-led selling, these new business models have marketing at their heart and create an opportunity to educate the whole firm about the commercial power of brand and marketing.

Pedantry – “Can Innovation Co-Exist With A Culture Of Excessive Pedantry?”

I acknowledge that while pedantry has its place – after all, who wants to put their business in the hands of a professional without that attention to detail – it presents a huge challenge for innovation in the professions. Firstly, decision by committee weakens the integrity of big ideas, and secondly with today’s rapid publishing cycles, the old approval cycle is far too slow for a digital world. By contrast, technology firms make decisions more autonomously and spin up and test ideas at rapid pace. There is hope for the professions, however. Take creativity advice from John Cleese around creating barriers of time and space. Expansive thinking isn’t a special power, it’s a muscle everyone can use. By designating expansive thinking sessions as separate in time and space from analytical thinking sessions, we are able to greenhouse ideas without judgement, and evaluate them later.

Anne discussed an idea successfully implemented at Grant Thornton of a shared enterprise that celebrates shared ideas, responsibilities and reward. From both focus groups and individual submissions, more than four hundred ideas were generated; some sensible, some not so much! But the opportunity this created was a culture of innovation, where you have the openness to hear new ideas and choose the best ones to take through.

Louise described how she is able to reflect the voice of her firm’s innovative client base to drive the firm closer to innovation and efficiency, mentioning secondments as invaluable to understanding the client’s perspective.


The panel discussed the critical role of Managing Partner championship and partner engagement in delivering a culture of innovation – how could we get partners to feel more fully invested in the future of their firms and making the bold decisions now that will enable them to be competitive for the long term. Managing Partners need to lead from the front and grant marketing and BD the autonomy they need. The panel also agreed on the critical role of associates in championing fresh thinking. As one of the key origins of innovation, retention of marketing and BD stars was recognised as a further challenge – the new generation of business development and marketing professionals do not always want to stay within professional services. As one of our audience members highlighted, innovation must come from within, and if innovation is to stand a chance for future generations then successors must be in place to fly that flag.

In this fast paced world where new trends or crazes seem to appear on the market faster than it takes you to finish your morning coffee, professional services are, by their nature, stubbornly resistant to corporate innovation. But by putting the client’s needs and expectations at the centre, marketing and BD have the business case they need to lead the charge.

The Directors Breakfast Event Blog ‘The 5 P’s Of Innovation‘ originally appeared on