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Happy Marketing Planning

Before we know it Christmas will be over, the turkey will have been eaten, I will have recovered from the emotional turmoil of trying to remove the packaging from my childrens toys, and then suddenly bang….. we’re all back at work and it’s the new year.

I am sure there has been some data published that states the first working Monday in the new year is often the most miserable day of the year, Christmas is over, and the mornings are cold and dark. So how can we help ourselves to get back up and running in the new year? Having a clear, simple and measurable marketing plan could be a key ingredient to ensure you bring those new products and services to market, target the right customers, and continue to build loyal relationships with your current customers in 2014.

When I work with my clients on their marketing plans I often get asked, what are the core elements of a marketing plan? A great question, with no clear answer as all marketing plans should differ, it’s a bit like marketing, your marketing has to be tailored to your customers needs, and likewise a marketing plan needs to be tailored to your business needs.

When thinking about your marketing plan there are some key areas to consider, the key five that immediately spring to my mind are as follows;

1-    Your brand and identity – Does it need a refresh, what does your brand mean to your customers and to you

2-     Your customers– Who are they, what are they saying about you, what can you learn from them, who should you be targeting to grow your business

3-    Your proposition and services– How can they be developed, how do they differ to the competition

4-    Communication–  How do your customers want to be communicated to, what is the right social media strategy for your business, where will you target new customers, how should I network

5-    Measurement, How are you going to measure your marketing, how can you learn from what has worked, and just as importantly what hasn’t worked

The most important part of any marketing plan is to keep it simple, how many marketing plans end up in the bottom drawer never to re-appear, so keep it simple, and keep it measurable.

If you would like to have a chat about building a marketing plan for your business in 2014 then please get in touch for an informal chat.

Last but not least, enjoy the build up to Christmas.


Oh no, not another loyalty card….

A few days ago I walked into Costa, and upon ordering my coffee was offered their loyalty card, my immediate thought was, oh on not another loyalty card to join the seven I already have in my wallet, Shell, Booths Supermarket, Decathlon, Nectar, BA Exec Club, and Harrods, ok, only joking about the last one. But this did then get me thinking about the whole loyalty card scenario.

I am a big believer in customer loyalty programmes, what I am not so sure about is if we are getting a bit saturated with how they are delivered, is it time for businesses to find more innovative ways to drive and build customer loyalty rather than just having a card that provides a few discounts. To me it feels a bit like the following happens in building a loyalty programme;

  1. Business thinks, we need to build a loyalty programme, lets have a brainstorm to decided what works best
  2. Business agrees that it is best to get a loyalty card sorted out because that’s what everyone else does
  3. And whilst we are it how about a personalised logon area on our company website that we call My(followed by company name)
  4. Finally let’s send a magazine every 4 months that’s feel personalised but actually is just there to sell our products and services

Surely we now need something new to freshen up how we attract and build customer loyalty, for example could businesses partner more effectively to support their loyalty schemes, there are some good examples of this already with both Tesco, and Nectar, but this is very much on an affinity discount basis. A more radical approach could be for two brands to combine their cards and loyalty programmes into one, look at Shell and Costa for example, an unusual combination maybe, but they are already working together with Costa takeaway machines available in Shell petrol stations.

Ultimately the answer has to come from your customers, and what works best for them, what makes them feel like a loyal customer.  Often the customers answer can be forget the loyalty scheme and just reduce your prices and improve your services, then I’ll be more loyal.

In the meantime I am on the hunt for a larger wallet to find space for my Costa card.

Combinate Marketing specialise in helping businesses develop marketing plans and  loyalty programmes, for an informal chat please contact me at or call me on 07936 884457

The 4 Cardinal Sins of Customer Service, as demonstrated by BT

A few weeks ago I decided to review my broadband, home phone supplied by Virgin, and Sky TV package. With the onslaught of BT advertising to link in with their launch of BT Sport and after doing some detailed research I decided to transfer with BT as my sole supplier of my TV, phone and broadband, services.  What has followed since has been the most appalling case of customer service I have ever experienced. As a marketer the most important part for service industries is to ensure you are a customer centric organisation, and this is delivered through your brand, culture, values and most importantly your customer service.

The only good out of this it that it has given me the material to write about the 4 cardinal sins of appalling customer service as perfectly demonstrated by BT, these are;

1-    Failed promises. I now have atleast 10 examples where BT have failed to deliver what they promised, from saying it would be straightforward to install, to telling me the money I am owed could be refunded to my bank account, which they weren’t capable of doing.

2-    Pass the parcel. Where do I start? On 4 occasions I have been passed to 4 different departments, I have been to India and back more times than I care to mention. I am a parcel in the BT machine but as of yet there is no sign of me getting the packet of Haribo’s at the end of the game (I think it’s a game to BT that is).

3-    Accountability. On two occasions I have had a BT person refuse to give me their name, and yet they ask me again and again and again to confirm all my details, before I know it they will be asking me to confirm my waist size. On one call the BT person agreed to call me back the next day, and left me his email address, but…. yes you guessed it no call back, and no returns to my emails.

4-    Don’t continually apologise to me. If I had £1 for every time some-one at BT had apologised to me it would almost add up to the £141 refund BT owe me. I do not want apologies I want action and ownership to get this sorted, and I do not want to be transferred yet again.

So what are my conclusions? Excellent customer service is seen as a given these days, and yet we still get many examples of things going wrong. I think we can accept to a degree that although things will go wrong, the most important element is to acknowledge this and get on and deal with it with clear ownership and accountability. I have read with interest a marketer (Gavin Patterson) has just taken over as CEO of BT, I can only hope he instills some basics around customer service.

As I write this, I have been promised my refund by Monday, if it does turn up it will be the only thing BT have got right, so unsurprisingly, I’m not holding my breath.

A few numbers from this whole debacle

1 – Number of times BT failed to turned up to install their services

1- Number of times BT turned up out of the blue to install their services, and yes we were out

2-    The number of calls I have had from BT this week wanting to arrange installation despite me cancelling two weeks ago

7- The days I was left without phone or brand band coverage, (have you tried living without broadband these days!!) fortunately Virgin came to the rescue and managed to re-install within hours

9 – The hours of my life wasted on the phone to BT so far

25 – The number of people I have spoken to at BT with no-one taking ownership

16000 – A guestimate on the miles I have travelled on phone call transfers

100,000,000 – The number of pounds BT have put aside to promote its new sports channel as reported in Media Week 10th May

141 – The pounds BT still owe me as a refund (as of 4th Sept).


Combinate Marketing help businesses build simple, effective and measurable marketing plans. This includes working with customers of your business to ensure you continually strive to deliver exceptional customer service. For an informal chat about how we could help please contact me (James) on 07936 884457, or email me at


5 simple tips for your social media plan

Two of the most frequent comments I hear from business owners regarding social media is, one – I am not happy with my website, and two – I want to be more active on social media how can I approach this. Every business is different and every person leading the business is different so it is important to build a social media plan that is both manageable, you are comfortable with, and delivers benefit. Here are my five simple tips to consider;

1-  Your website, understand what you want you website to do for your business, is it there to reinforce your brand, target appointments, or complete transactions and sales? Be clear on its purpose.

2-  Focus your social media efforts, you don’t need to be on every site, understand which social media is most suited for your business and focus on this to get higher levels of engagement from potential new clients.

3-  Write a personal blog, adding value is the key here, this is not a sales pitch, share your world of knowledge, it builds your credibility.

4-  Get your employees involved, whether it be on your twitter feed, or sharing their knowledge on your blog, this will also take the onus away from you as the business owner.

5-  Don’t forget email, but it must be targeted and personalised, two of the most important ingredients to a successful email campaign, getting the content right is critical.

And finally remember the goal is to be good at business because of social media.

If you have any more tips or comments please add in the comments box above, or drop me an email


Combinate Marketing



Can the Great British Class Survey help your marketing planning?

Earlier in the month saw the BBC launch the findings from the Great British Class Survey. The survey is one of the largest to ever be undertaken in the UK with 161k respondents. The results defined 7 new social classes in the UK and provide a good insight into how culturally we have changed in recent years. Through answering a few questions on the BBC website, I have attached the link below,  you can see what social class it classifies you in, whether or not you agree is probably a different matter!!

The survey also observed that the classic twentieth century class findings and working class sterotypes are out of date, so does this mean we will now see an end to the classic RG scale with the skilled manual workers or C1’s as they have so often being referred to. Surely it is now time to move on from a scale that was devised in 1913.

So can the survey help marketers, well yes I am sure it can. For a starter it has actually being kept simple, in the end there are 7 classifications, and there is nothing worse than an overcomplicated classification model with far too many segments, never a good move and often a reason why when companies build a segmentation model it can be doomed to failure.  The classifications provides a clear and updated account of class in the UK and this can offer vital input into your marketing planning, this may include new proposition development, or helping to understand your target market. I would recommend anyone to visit the BBC website and have look in more detail to understand how it could help your business.

Where the survey may not be able to help is how you actually find your target group, always a problem with any behavioural driven surveys, whilst it has clusters it is not detailed enough for individual targeting so you may have to rely on more detailed demographic models for this. It will be interesting to see if and how MOSAIC and ACORN incorporate this into their models.

Overall this survey provides an excellent insight into how the UK is changing as a nation, as marketers we need to take this onboard and apply into how we deliver our marketing planning.

Take the test yourself, link here



What do we mean by partnership marketing?

As a business are you asking yourself the following questions;

How can I reduce my marketing costs?

How can I identify new innovative propositions?

How can we target new customer groups?

If the answer is yes to just one or all of these then a review of your marketing partnership strategy could help in identifying new proposition opportunities, new revenue channels, reducing your marketing spend, and most importantly providing business growth.

Identifying and working with partner businesses can enable you to combine ideas, share what you know, but also what you don’t know about your customers, and share investment to take new products to market.

Combinate Marketing have developed an approach to enable businesses to develop their approach to partnership marketing with a core focus on building new revenue channels.

For more information please drop me an email or call me on 07936 884457.