In praise of villagey companies and villagey marketers

Did I just invent those phrases? I suspect “villagey” is more often used as an insult, but I’m a bit in love with businesses that have a whiff of Good Life about them and dance to a different (Archers) tune.

I recently moved from a lively seaside new city, to a large gentle village that is trying very hard not to become a town. Nearly all of the shops are independent and closed on a Sunday. Things happen a bit more slowly and kindly. The people behind the counter take time to chat even if you don’t buy anything. They often bend the rules to keep customers happy, sometimes to the extent that I worry they’ll go out of business (at least once I’ve found myself offering to pay more than I’ve been asked for). But then I realise that they won’t, of course, because I go back, and I tell people and I spend more with them than I would if I drove to the nearest big town. And so it goes.

I’ve travelled just 28.2 miles but sometimes it feels I’ve gone at least 50 years back in marketing time, and the village effect is starting to rub off on me. Three months ago I began drafting a slightly snarky, clever post about the use of metaphor in the development sector: moan moan, useful observation, provocative question, etc. But the village has got to me and I can’t bring myself to publish it.

Instead I’ve decided to start a series of posts that celebrate good villagey marketing. Businesses large and small that treat customers, staff and suppliers, like members of their local community. As though these might be people they’ll need to ask for help from one day. Businesses that make life nicer for their customers without having to refer to instructions for how to do that. That make (some) money, because what they’re doing is kind, clever and useful.

I’m starting with someone who last week taught me how to make lots of dough. 

There’s lots to love about Anna’s Kitchen

Last Friday I took part in a workshop learning to make Scandinavian bread at Anna’s Kitchen. Where is it? In Anna’s kitchen of course. Four students, lots of flour and yeast and spices and fun. What do I love about the marketing of Anna’s Kitchen? The branding is authentic and memorable. It’s tied to a person which means if you like Anna (and her kitchen!), then you’ll probably like an Anna’s Kitchen workshop. Anna loves bread and she really seems to love helping people learn how to make it. She’s a kind teacher too – while we tried our hands at three types of bread, she made and baked a spare batch of each so anyone who had a baking disaster wouldn’t go home empty-handed (we didn’t – yay us!).

For any marketing students reading, Anna demonstrates excellent integrated marketing – all 7 Ps are present and correct and work together beautifully (resisting puns about ingredients and recipes there…). I’m sure there are things the business could do to try to increase profit margins but I suspect these would be at the cost of the joy and value the participants get from the workshops, and the resulting effusive positive word-of-mouth. How did I hear about Anna’s Kitchen? A friend told me. And now I’m telling my friends.

No more tiers: five things that can take the pain out of decentralised marketing communications

Marketing communications is no longer just the responsibility of those with the words in their job title. Many organisations require staff in different roles to incorporate promotion, dissemination and general news-spreading into their workload. This decentralisation of marketing communications has the potential to be very effective, however it doesn’t happen by itself. Here are five things I have observed can make
a difference:

Motivation – whether from the results people hope marketing communications will bring, or from enjoying the process (using new tools, using their imagination, doing something tangible, interacting with real people, etc.). On the other hand, if staff can’t see a personal benefit to doing it, they are less likely to allocate time to it or have the enthusiasm that successful marketing communications depends on. When did a reluctant marketer every convince you to do anything?

Time – staff need genuine encouragement from their managers that they should prioritise spending time on marketing communications over other activities, rather than it being something to be done in addition to their current workload. If not, it’ll either languish at the bottom of the “to do” list making people feel depressed every time they see it, or it will get done but staff are likely to become stressed and de-motivated.

Freedom – giving people the space and permission to experiment with new communication tools, to come up with their own ideas, and make (inevitable) mistakes. But they also need to be clear what the boundaries are: e.g. house-style guidelines, approval processes, legal restrictions, etc. Staff might surprise you with their innovation and unearth hidden talents.

Focus – when people know what the specific purpose is for their marketing communications, who it should be aimed at and have measurable targets, they can use their time more effectively and see how well they are doing. Realistic, measurable targets can help with Motivation. It helps if your organisation has identified its niche (in comparison to others in the sector) and how to select which target audiences to prioritise.

Support – this can include peer support mechanisms (e.g. meetings where people can share their experiences, ideas and challenges with others), having someone to ask for technical advice or feedback, reference tools, and a champion or cheerleader for marketing communications who will persuade people to keep going. Perhaps a role for the Marketing or Communications Officer?

These are observations from a number of organisations working in the development and public sectors. How do they fit with your experiences?

(This post was originally featured on my earlier blog, Positive Influence. I’ve been told the advice and observations are still as relevant as ever, hence its reappearance here)

Marketing Gumption defined

People with gumption have common-sense and the courage to use it when it’s needed. To the uninitiated, marketing can seem inaccessible, and for those working in social change, inappropriate.The m-word is taboo.

But successful marketers have bags of gumption – marketing is based on what works in practice and from understanding how real people think and behave, although the jargon may make it seem more complicated than that. When I teach students a marketing theory or tool, the ones with gumption tend to say “Ohhh. But that’s just common-sense! I do that all the time. I didn’t know there was a name for it.”

In my work with organisations that are trying to change the world for the better, I see lots of potential for a bit of marketing gumption to help them get there quicker and more efficiently. Whether it’s in how they develop new services, make people aware of them or build relationships with stakeholders.

This blog is a place for me to share with you ideas and examples of how marketing gumption can make a difference and hopefully inspire you to give it a go.