PODCAST: AI-Powered International Marketing with Kate Cox

PODCAST: AI-Powered International Marketing with Kate Cox

There’s a lot of chat about AI at the moment, most of it hyperbole, end-of-the-world stuff. Not so much on the practical application of AI in marketing outside of content creation.

That’s where Kate Cox, CMO at BrightBid.com, comes in. I first met Kate at Econsultancy Live in London, and her passion for and knowledge of AI was obvious. The perfect person to explore how AI can be used to achieve marketing results. BrightBid is an AdTech company built on AI, so Kate both buys and sells artificial intelligence.

In this episode, Kate and I explore how to use AI to grow internationally. The obvious avenue is with translation, but there’s so much more for marketers to think about; everything from market testing to CX, getting the right skills in your marketing team, and of course, asset creation. There’s a lot to think about, and Kate explores them in practical, easy-to-understand terms. If you’re wondering what to do with all the AI hype, you’ll enjoy our conversation.

I hope you enjoy the show:

Connect with Kate here:



Other Episodes of Through the Line you might enjoy:

Brand Transformation with Dr Emmanuel Probst

Neuroscientifically Optimising Websites with Luisa Dunbar

Agile Marketing with Zoe Merchant

What Chat GPT said about AI-Powered International Marketing:

I could hardly record an episode on AI-Powered International Marketing without asking Chatty-G for an opinion, so here it is:

Using AI to market internationally can be highly beneficial in reaching a global audience and optimizing your marketing efforts. Here are some steps you can follow to leverage AI for international marketing:

  1. Data Collection and Analysis: Gather relevant data about your target international markets, such as demographics, cultural preferences, consumer behaviour, and market trends. AI tools can help analyze this data and identify patterns and insights to inform your marketing strategies.
  2. Language Localization: AI-powered language translation tools can assist in localizing your marketing content to various languages, ensuring accurate translations and cultural sensitivities. It helps you communicate effectively with your target audience and tailor your messaging to different markets.
  3. Customer Segmentation: Utilize AI algorithms to segment your international audience based on various criteria like demographics, behaviour, interests, and purchase history. This segmentation allows you to deliver personalized marketing messages and offers to different customer groups, enhancing engagement and conversion rates.
  4. Content Creation: AI can aid in generating and optimizing content for your international marketing campaigns. Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms can analyze the preferences and behaviour of your target audience and create engaging, culturally relevant content in multiple languages.
  5. Predictive Analytics: AI algorithms can analyze historical data to predict consumer behaviour, market trends, and demand in different international markets. This helps you optimize your marketing strategies, pricing, and inventory management for each market, increasing your chances of success.
  6. Social Media and Ad Campaigns: AI-powered tools can assist in managing and optimizing your social media presence and ad campaigns across various international platforms. AI algorithms can analyze user data, optimize ad targeting, and suggest the most effective content and channels to reach your target audience.
  7. Chatbots and Customer Support: Implement AI-powered chatbots to provide instant customer support in multiple languages, addressing customer queries and concerns. This helps improve customer satisfaction, engagement, and brand reputation in international markets.
  8. Sentiment Analysis: AI-based sentiment analysis tools can monitor social media, customer reviews, and online discussions to gauge customer sentiment towards your brand internationally. This enables you to identify potential issues or opportunities and take proactive measures to address them.
  9. Competitive Analysis: AI can aid in monitoring and analyzing your competitors’ marketing strategies, online presence, and customer engagement. This helps you benchmark your performance and identify areas where you can differentiate yourself and gain a competitive advantage in international markets.
  10. Continuous Learning and Optimization: AI systems can learn from ongoing data and feedback, continuously improving marketing campaigns, targeting, and personalization. Regularly analyze the performance of your international marketing initiatives, refine your strategies, and leverage AI insights to enhance your marketing efforts.

Remember, while AI-Powered International Marketing can significantly enhance your efforts, it’s crucial to complement it with human expertise and cultural understanding. Monitor and adapt to local market dynamics and consumer preferences to ensure your marketing campaigns resonate with international audiences.

Reflections on 8 Years Running an Agency

Reflections on 8 Years Running an Agency

Running an agency can be a white-knuckle ride.

I found the part-written blog post below, reflecting on eight years of running an agency.

It was written back in 2015, which is a few years ago now and a while since I shifted from agency to consultancy life. But, I thought I’d share the completed parts of the post as I’m sure there will be a few agency owners who will empathise with my thoughts at the time:

Klaxon is 8 this Year

Sometimes I can’t believe our little agency is eight years old, but since I started out in January 2006, I guess it has to be true.

Klaxon and I have had a few ups and downs in those years. The ups have definitely been the people we have worked with, be they clients, team members, or partners.

And the downs. Let’s just say there have been a handful of experiences we’d rather not repeat. Like relying too heavily on one big client (aka the gorilla client) who then takes six months to pay an invoice.

I landed my first job in marketing in 1998 for Compaq, and I’ve learned an awful lot since then. Not just about marketing but also agency life, working with clients and putting together integrated marketing campaigns.

But marketing is in an interesting place right now, and the learning never stops. The pace of change, led by advances in technology, is breathtaking, but that’s partly what I love about this industry.

In these first eight years of the Klaxon journey, I would summarise my key experiences and feelings on running an agency, the state of the industry and b2b marketing in particular as:

1. There is Never Enough Budget. Period.

Client-side and agency marketers can frequently be heard complaining about a lack of budget.

Marketers always want Champagne with Beer money.

2. Be Transparent Please, Marketers

It always helps to share with your agency the budget you have available. Just today, we had a meeting with a prospective client who had aspirations of grandeur but a budget more akin to Oliver Twist. We walked out of the meeting. It was a waste of time.

Get it all out in the open, people. Share what you have, and then everyone knows what they’re dealing with. Focus on outcomes rather than time, and costs, and you.

3. Relationships are Key

For an agency, the best clients are the ones that understand they need to invest in an agency relationship. It takes time for an agency to get to know your business as you do and to deliver exactly what you need.

Relationships are vital, and everyone makes mistakes. Not every campaign is going to work. To win big, you have to take risks. It takes a strong client-agency relationship to allow for creativity in marketing/communications that leads to great wins and sometimes losses.

But you have to take a risk to win big.

4. Customer Service is Vital

Agencies always want to be partners with their clients, but they do little in the way of earning that level of trust.

Good old-fashioned customer service counts a lot.

5. Measurement is Critical

Technology is driving marketing at such a pace that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. But it’s also creating an environment where everything can be measured, and that’s good for the marketing and communications professions.

No longer can we justify our existence based on weak metrics like page views, clicks, downloads, AVEs, or reach. We’re getting closer to understanding what really matters.

I love what I do. No question about that. But the grey hairs on my once brown head do tell you it’s far from easy street running an agency.

So there you have it. Has anything changed about running an agency in the years since 2015?

Probably not a lot, although the technology piece has moved on from social media to AI. Everything else feels as valid now as it did when I first penned it.

PODCAST: Brand Transformation with Dr Emmanuel Probst

PODCAST: Brand Transformation with Dr Emmanuel Probst

How do you create a brand that’s dynamic and successful, and in tune with the zeitgeist?

In this episode of Through the Line, I explore brand transformation with Dr Emmanual Probst, who has just published a book called ‘Assemblage, the Art and Science of Brand Transformation’. The book is a treasure chest of ideas for brand custodians looking to create better relationships with their customers. I recommend it to anyone looking for some fresh ideas and inspiration.

In this episode of the podcast, Emmanuel and I look at a range of branding topics, from purpose or post purpose, the creator economy, the impact of climate change and the challenges of going DTC. We barely scratch the surface of his book, but it will give you a flavour of what’s inside.

There’s a passage in the conversation when Emmanuel says, “Senior executives don’t have a monopoly on ideas. You can make a difference at any level by being more in tune with culture”. I really like this, and it typifies how Emmanuel, a marketing scholar and practitioner, shares his ideas.

I hope you enjoy the show:

Connect with Emmanual here:



Other Episodes of Through the Line you might enjoy:

Human-Centered Marketing with Richard Hewitt

Marketing to the Purple Pound with Martyn Sibley

Agile Marketing with Zoe Merchant

PODCAST: Personal Branding Masterclass with Rajen Mistry

PODCAST: Personal Branding Masterclass with Rajen Mistry

I’ll bet good money you’ve heard the term personal branding a lot in the last couple of years.

And for good reason. Every man and his dog has seen the potential of building a personal brand, from leading CEOs to start-up founders, copywriters and agency bosses. It’s most evident on LinkedIn, where you see the same personalities showing up regularly, posting updates on their work, life and everything in between. But not everyone has got it mastered. Not yet, anyway.

I invited Rajen Mistry from specialist consultancy Founder Story to take me through what it takes to build a personal brand and why you should. Rajen shares generously, and there are lots of takeaways, tips and ideas about what to do and how to measure results.

If you want a leg up on the journey to building an authentic personal brand that positions you as an expert and gets you noticed, you know what to do.

I hope you enjoy the show:

Connect with Rajen here:



Other Episodes of Through the Line you might enjoy:

Neurodivergent Teams with Nathan Whitbread

The Science of Client Agency Relationships with Paul Phillips

Thor A Rain on Dealing with Imposter Syndrome


Here are some shortcuts to the highlights of our conversation:

Creating a Personal Brand [00:00:00] The importance of personal branding, challenges of creating a personal brand, and benefits of having a personal brand.

Helping Aspiring Founders [00:03:39] The challenges of telling your story, helping aspiring founders who are modest or shy, and the importance of getting your story out.

Authenticity in Personal Branding [00:05:47] The importance of authenticity in personal branding, being confident and happy with yourself, and the process of excavating traits about yourself.

Finding Sustainable Interest [00:08:59] Rajen discusses the importance of finding a sustainable interest that relates to your business or career when creating a personal brand.

Four Key Areas of Brand Strategy [00:10:59] Rajen breaks down the four key areas of brand strategy for personal branding: why you exist, who you are, how you behave, and how you look, feel, and sound.

Importance of Content and Platforms [00:16:22] Rajen emphasizes the importance of showcasing content through thought leadership and choosing the right platforms to reach your audience, with LinkedIn being a good starting point for personal branding.

The Challenge of Posting on LinkedIn [00:17:42] Rajen and Andy discuss the low percentage of people who post on LinkedIn and the challenge of being seen in a crowded feed.

The Importance of Content Pillars [00:23:27] Rajen recommends having three main content pillars with subtopics to keep content focused but not boring.

Frequency of Posting [00:25:03] Rajen suggests starting with a few posts a week and focusing on trial and error rather than getting stuck on creating one perfect post.

Consistency and Quality [00:25:51] Rajen discusses the importance of consistency and quality in creating a personal brand, and how to balance the two over time.

Measuring Engagement [00:26:46] Rajen emphasizes the importance of measuring engagement, particularly through direct messages and inquiries, and suggests commenting on other people’s posts as a way to be seen.

Examples of Successful Personal Brands [00:30:30] Rajen shares examples of individuals who have successfully built their personal brands, including Ash Rathford and Ben Miir, and highlights the importance of authenticity, showcasing talents, and providing valuable content.

Creating Authentic Personal Brand [00:33:57] The importance of finding a balance between personal and professional content, and the value of showing vulnerability and personality in posts.

Lessons from Personal Story [00:35:45] The power of sharing personal stories that provide value and lessons, and how they can be an evergreen salesperson for your personal brand.

Contacting Rajen [00:37:26] How to contact Rajen for personal branding help, including his LinkedIn and website.

Prefer to Read? We Got You. Here’s the Full Transcript

And here’s the full transcript for those of you who like to read:

Andy (00:00:00) – If you haven’t heard the term personal branding, at some point over the last couple of years, you must have been living under a rock.

Welcome to Through the Line, the Agency Squared podcast with me, Andy Bargery. In today’s show, I am talking with Rajen Mystery from Founders Story all about the who, what, where, why, and how of creating a personal brand. Why should we go to the extent of regularly publishing, putting ourselves out there on LinkedIn and other platforms, just to build a following to show off who we are. And if we do, how do we measure the success? How do we determine whether the results are worth all of the effort?

Have a listen to this show. If you’ve been thinking about exploring personal branding for yourself or for a colleague or a boss or a client, I promise you Rajen shares a lot of value, loads of action, tips, tricks, and insights. Enjoy the show.

Rajen; Good morning. How are you doing today?

Rajen (00:01:00) – Uh, not too bad, Andy. Very well, it’s Tuesday and it’s, the sun is shining and I’m all good.

Andy (00:01:07) – The sun is shining. And you’re in Cambridge in the UK, aren’t you?

Rajen (00:01:11) – I am, absolutely. It’s the place to be at the moment. Love it. .

Andy (00:01:16) – Yeah, I must admit, I do like Cambridge. I don’t live a million miles away from there, and it’s such a nice place to visit, uh, as well as I guess to work. Um, so yeah, definitely.

Andy (00:01:26) – Thank you for coming on the show. I’m really pleased to hear because I’m, I’m, I’m hoping that you can explain to me personal branding because I think that it’s one of those subjects that has become very popular, increasingly important and probably quite prominent over the last, I don’t know what, 2, 3, 4 years where people have really started to understand the value of personal brand. But I think people haven’t really understood how to create a personal brand. And I think at Founder’s story, which is the consultancy that you run, that’s what your expertise is, right? In helping people to tell their story. Am I, am I right?

Rajen (00:02:07) – Yeah, absolutely. That’s exactly what I do. Um, it’s something I’ve been kind of working on recently, specifically, obviously my background’s in branding for over 20 years, but recently been really excited to kind of work with founders, CEOs, executives. And what it is, is ultimately parcel branding is about, you know, creating a set of associations about yourself. It’s about your reputation and it’s nothing kind of new in that sense. You know, we’ve all been used to this in terms of the kind of PR world and um, you know, people kind of creating their brands as it were. But I think it’s kind of democratized in that way where people have understood what it is now and, you know, there’s the ability to kind of take charge of that yourself. And that’s really what I help people do because nowadays we all know that people buy from people. And the more

Andy (00:03:02) – Is that, is that the main why here arjen is just because as you say, people buy from people, so the better your target audience gets to know you through the communications you put out, yeah. The more likely they are to pick up the phone and say hello.

Rajen (00:03:15) – Yeah, that’s it. Exactly that. And I think, um, the more you can differentiate yourself, more that you can get out there. And I think the, the term getting out there is also quite a tricky one for some people to get their head around, you know? Cause oh I, you know, we’ve been British. Oh, we don’t wanna be out there. I don’t wanna be talking about myself too much.

Andy (00:03:33) – I can’t be seen as the expert. I’m a little bit uncomfortable with hearing my own voice or seeing my own picture.

Rajen (00:03:39) – Exactly. And I think that’s part of the challenge, I think, speaking to the founders I do speak to is that they have, you know, and one of the things I’m, um, passionate about is helping those aspiring founders who are probably a bit hidden, a little bit modest, a bit shy, perhaps not, you know, uh, confident about telling their story. Uh, and they’re the people I really wanna work with. I think being in Cambridge, I’ve been quite spoiled to have so many great founders around me, so not very entrepreneurial space. And where I particularly work here in the Bradfield Center on the science park, there’s a ton of founders and entrepreneurs all around me doing amazing things.

Andy (00:04:20) – It’s quite, quite rich picking.

Rajen (00:04:22) – It’s, yeah, it’s, it’s, I mean, uh, you know, I’ve been here about two years now and you know, every time you go to the, to grab a coffee bump into somebody and you go, oh, I’ve not seen you before, have a little chat, you know, and if they’re confident, they’ll probably mention a few things about what they’re doing. And, you know, that’s how I kind of bump into these founders. Um, but the amazing thing is that there’s so many founders doing amazing things, and I think that’s the, the passion I have is to get those stories out and enable them to kind of get their idea out and to sell their idea. Cuz ultimately, you know, it’s the story and the personality of yourself is that’s what’s gonna get you in the room with a potential investor. Um, your story’s gonna help you sell that work, that idea. And really the more ideas we can actually move from an idea to an executionable thing or a business, you know, the world goes around a bit more quicker, you have more people being employed, there’s more interesting things happening. And so, you know, it’s a bit of a stretched goal, but that’s how I’d like to play my part in the ecosystem.

Andy (00:05:30) – Yeah, I can see that. I think that your, your empowering startups or early stage companies to grow and, and that obviously adds to the value of an economy and, and so on and so forth. So I totally get that. So what makes a good personal brand then?

Rajen (00:05:47) – I think a good personal brand is something that is very authentic. I think, I know it’s a bit of a cringey word sometimes I think people think authentic, but re the reality is the more you can be yourself and really it’s a kind of inside job really like the fact that you need to kind of be confident and happy with yourself and you begin there, listen to yourself, listen to um, you know, your values, your passions, your strengths. And this is something I do with, with my founders where we have a, an interview session to kind of extract and excavate that kind of, those kind of traits about themselves. Because that’s probably the hardest thing to do, right? If you had a piece, piece of paper and I said to you, can you just write all these things down for me? Probably scratch your head for quite a while, but having a conversation with somebody, it’s easier to kind of extract that information. And that’s where I’d say people really need to start.

Andy (00:06:43) – Yeah. And I’d say, I suppose you can guide them through what might be interesting to an audience, whereas if you are, if you’re just looking at yourself, you might not be too sure is, you know, what do people care about? Why, why would someone to hear about me and my background and my story? And I think you can grind them through that process. It perhaps gives them confidence that, you know, you know, what is likely to be of interest to their target audience.

Rajen (00:07:08) – Yeah. And I think that process is a absolutely that, because a, it’s kind of a way for them to open up a little bit. Uh, you’ve got someone else in the room helping you kind of notice those things about you. And maybe commenting on the fact that, oh, that’s a, that’s really interesting what you’re saying there about your values or I didn’t realize that about your strengths or Yeah, or your passions. And I think when you hear something back, you kind of, you know, take that on board, you kind of feel a bit more confident. Um, so it’s really a kind of a learning process and, and a kind of confidence process. And yeah, I love it. It’s really interesting. And I think building that side of you up first is the kind of premise and really from there, what you’re trying to do with your personal brand is position yourself in a certain way that enables you to kind of either stand out, uh, have a point of view, have a perspective that allows you to be noticed, um, but also at the same time it’s authentic. It’s something that you can naturally talk about that you can sustain over a period of period of time and continue to kind of, you know, build your authority in that area. And cuz once you have that, you can move on to your story.

Andy (00:08:20) – Yeah. That, I think that that term sustain there is quite important. Uh, and you know, if you, if I look at the people I’ve seen who clearly have their house in order with a personal brand, they are very consistent over the long term sharing what they’re up to. And, you know, sometimes I might think oversharing a little bit, but that’s my perspective. And being a probably a slightly reserved Brit, that’s probably my comfort zone. And, and others are more, are happier to be regularly posting personal stories and sharing what they’re up to. But I, I think that that sustaining that over a a, a decent period of time is really important, isn’t it?

Rajen (00:08:59) – Yeah, definitely. And that, I think that’s part of the process of finding, you know, when you talk about your passions, it it’s not, we don’t wanna just be talking about your passions. Cause if it’s just like, you know, you love football or whatever it is, that’s great, but it, it has to be the

Andy (00:09:15) – City. Roger, that’s what we could talk about. ,

Rajen (00:09:20) – Ultimately has to be related to what you are gonna be doing in terms of, you know, I guess your business, your career. So finding that kind of sustainable interest, that kind of thing that you can kind of build onto. But how so other, other strands to it as well. Like for me, you know, branding is the overall thing. You know, I’m a creative person. Branding is the kind of main theme and then there’s kind of subthemes within that like, you know, personal development or, um, storytelling, uh, creativity. And then there’s probably subthemes below that as well. And once you kind of have that kind of matrix, the good thing is that you’ve got that to reference, but also, you know, then you can add your personal stories into that as well. So Oh yeah, that’s definitely one thing to kind of bear in mind. And, and if you can sustain that, and you’re right, you know, branding, like anything for companies, for example, and my background’s obviously been, uh, branding four companies over a long period of time, bringing that sort of stuff across is really important. And consistency is, is is super important. Like, like anything, you know, you practice it, you get better at it. And even myself, you know, I’m still learning, yeah, I’m building my brand, but over time it’s really helped me, you know, in, in the kind of periods, uh, in between work or, or when I needed to grow my agency. I think I, I just built my agency off the back of my network, you know, the, the kind of reputation I’d built over, over that long period of time. Um, so yeah, it’s quite important.

Andy (00:10:48) – So are there quite a lot of other lessons that we can take from, I suppose, product brand management and apply those to people, brand management or personal branding?

Rajen (00:10:59) – Yeah, definitely. Um, so one of the people I follow, and I’ll mention that again later, is, is Sarah Rob. Um, she’s a brand strategist. And my background, again being brand strategy, brand expression and activation, there’s lots of terms around purpose and, and, and things like that. And how to kind of put a brand strategy together and what, what really it it is. And she’s great at breaking this down, uh, into very into four key areas. Um, you know, learn about why you exist. So in the case of the person brand, you know, why you do what you do. The other piece is who are you, so what are your values? How can you kind of describe those three, four values? Can you do that for a company? You can do that for yourself. And then really how then do you behave? How do you kind of act upon your values is the kind of other piece to that.

Rajen (00:11:50) – And writing those things around, you know, your principles, shall we say that? Back up your, your values. Um, and then the third bit is, you know, what is it that you actually do? Can you describe it very succinctly and clearly? Uh, and that again applies to both, you know, the company and yourself. And then the final piece is how, how do you look, feel, and sound. That’s the kind of the final piece really. So again, that’s more the descriptors around how you show up. Um, and again, that kind of applies in the past brand again, the things I do around, you know, your stories part of that, your kind of, how do you show up in your, in your photography, um, maybe on a podcast, you know, things like that, your style tho those sorts of elements can cannot come into that. Um, so that’s a great example of taking something which can sound very complex and verbose and and and complicated and bringing that down to a very simple four step, uh, kind of clear process and a brand strategy that can apply to yourself and to your company. Yeah,

Andy (00:12:54) – That, I mean, that really reminds me of the, uh, Interbrand’s brand onion, those kind of different layers that go into making up a brand. And you’ve just walked me through that in a really straightforward, simple and easy to understand process really quickly. So that was great and I like that where you can apply, I suppose management thinking to personal branding and you know, the way you present yourself. Yeah. So you talked in there about imagery as well and some of the tools you might use and, and I think photography is quite a core part of, of personal brand and I’ve seen that actually on your website’s, some lovely imagery as well, Roger, pay a little nice compliment. There you go with the camera, aren’t you, , thank you. So how important is it to have kind of multiple different, um, formats of media, shall we say, content going out through your personal brand?

Rajen (00:13:40) – Yeah, I think, um, again, this is coming back to your personal brand strategy. So when we go through this, you want to kind of look at yourself and your personality and see what you, na again, what you naturally feel comfortable with. So number one, yes, photography is quite ubiquitous, we all use it, but you know, there’s a, there’s different ways of utilizing that. So I’d say photography, you know, I’m a proponent obviously of trying to take, when I say professional photos, you know, I don’t mean kind of corporate sort of boring photos, obviously they’re quite useful for certain scenarios, but I think my, my approach is really visual storytelling, try and get the kind of person in their setting comfortable in their environment. That’s really, really important. And if you can get a whole range of shots now there’s this portrait photography that you can have, which could just be obviously yourself in the different settings and things like that.

Rajen (00:14:33) – But also beyond that, some brand photography could be a kind of wider piece where you are kind of showcasing either your product, your service, your team, your co-founders, your where you are, your location, maybe interactions with your clients, how you go about doing things. So there’s a huge kind of story you can tell there. And again, it doesn’t need to take a lot of time, you know, you could do that in a probably half a day session to a day session and get a lot of content there, which you can then kind of showcase, uh, your posts and things. Now the other side of it is, for example, depending on your personality, if you are an introvert or you’re an extrovert, that’s quite a big thing that plays into a lot of the founders I speak to. And there’s probably different ways you can go about doing that.

Rajen (00:15:18) – So for example, what we’re doing right now here on this kind of podcast is a great way for in introverts to probably kind of get out some content because you know, you don’t have to do it live. You can speak to one person, you don’t even have to have your camera on. And so that’s a great example of, uh, a piece of content that you can get out which suits your personality, right? Others could be on stage and do a talk. Um, I was invited to a panel talk a couple of weeks ago and I was like, okay, I’ll give this a go. Cuz that was kind of doing public speaking, but in a kind of structured format, uh, and and alongside other people. So that kind of suited me quite well. And today I’m on a podcast with you. So I think there’s different, I think you should think about your own strengths, think about what you’re comfortable with, and then start there and then kind of build out from there basically. But yeah, content is, is key really. Like if you can showcase your content through this thought leadership that you need to kind of start to get out there to kind of build a, build a little bit of authority, um, that’s really important.

Andy (00:16:22) – And, and I guess when we are talking about getting our content out there, I think most people that, at least I see anyway, you see a lot of this executed through LinkedIn and you see an awful lot of content going on through LinkedIn and that kind of, to me feels like the first step on the ladder is to start telling more stories through LinkedIn and it ing to explore, you know, what are interesting stories, how do you compose an interesting story that might be relevant, but, but that feels like it’s just the tip of the iceberg, I suppose. There’s much more than that, isn’t there that, that we can build up to much bigger opportunities and, but that’s a good starting point.

Rajen (00:17:00) – Yeah, absolutely. Um, yeah, so working with the founders, I do, I think after we’ve done the brand strategy work, the story work, the photography, essentially you’ve built all these assets and really then the next stage is, okay, so what platforms are you gonna be on? Where do you wanna start? Mm-hmm. And again, this is to do with your own maybe your niche, um, maybe considering where you, your audience is, which is obviously a key thing, um, to think about. Like for myself, um, you know, founder CEOs are predominantly on LinkedIn. Not all are there because they’re very busy, you know, working on their product, et cetera. So, so LinkedIn is definitely a good place, you know, with whatever 900 million people. Is

Andy (00:17:39) – That where it is now? A 900 million? It’s a pretty big audience, isn’t it?

Rajen (00:17:42) – Yeah, I think so. Around there, yeah. But only three to 5% of people actually are creators or post anything. So there’s an opportunity there. So only three to 5% of people actually post anything on LinkedIn.

Andy (00:17:57) – Janette, it doesn’t feel that way. , you know, sometimes when you look at your LinkedIn feed, it’s just, it feels to me like, and this is the algorithm, obviously the same people are just posting, posting, posting. And, and I know this is the algorithm, but it can be a bit frustrating enough. I want to hear from people I haven’t heard from for a while, but I just don’t, this doesn’t happen. I don’t see it. So I guess that talks about the value of frequency showing up often.

Rajen (00:18:23) – Absolutely. It’s basically ex your feed is full of the people who are actually taking the time to post. Um, you might want to hear about something from a friend or a colleague, but they’re just not, they’re not posting, so they’re not gonna turn up in your feed. So that is the challenge I think. Um, and there’s a fear isn’t there, around posting what to post, when to post, you know, what’s gonna work, all of those kind of things. And it is tricky. Like, you know, I even myself, I I’m constantly kind of researching what, what works, what doesn’t and things like that. And you could easily get into a bit of a rabbit hole of, oh gosh, you gotta post this at nine o’clock in the morning, I’ve gotta do this, I’ve gotta do that. Um, but what you gotta do is go back to the strategy, you know, what are you about all those things that we talked about earlier.

Rajen (00:19:10) – You’ll have that framework on a page, you’ll have your pillars of messaging that you want to kind of talk about and what you wanna be known for. And then once you go back to that framework, it’s, it’s okay. So you can go, okay, well I love to talk about photography or I love to talk about branding or whatever it is that you are passionate about. You would have that, that framework to enable you to do that. That’s step one. Step two is then, okay, so you know, what, how do I tell these stories? And there are frameworks out there, obviously there’s the, there’s the people who are peddling all the, the crazy frameworks out there and the hooks and the, and the CTAs and the body content and how to do this. And it can be a bit overwhelming because you’re like, gosh, they’re getting hundreds and thousands of likes and all they’re doing is posting some, you know, basic content, but that’s what they’re known for cuz it’s about copywriting or something like that.

Rajen (00:19:59) – So it’s hard, easy to kind of get into this, um, comparison view where you are talking about, you know, something like biotech and over here somebody’s talking about copywriting. It’s very different, two different worlds of what, in terms of content that you can put out that the general public can engage with. And it’s interesting, what people do is those who get loads of likes and engagement are tend to be talking about content which is broadly applicable to the, the main market. So copywriting, for example, is applicable to all of us. So it’s not just their niche that will be looking at this like marketers or something like that. It’ll be any of us. Oh yeah, I’d love to write properly or better. And then, you know, you like it and you engage with it. Now if somebody, a founder talking about biotech, it’s gonna be super niche and they’re not gonna get the engagement, but there’s gonna be people in their audience that is gonna be looking at that content, potential investors. So actually people who may want to convert on that content. I e sell , so there’s engagement and then there’s selling. Um, yeah. And that’s what to think about. So,

Andy (00:21:08) – So don’t measure ourselves necessarily in terms of engagement and no, you know, follow a growth or whatever that is, as as nice as that they are, you know, that kind of goes back to the vanity metric stuff, doesn’t it? You know, measurement should be in terms of conversations that move the business forward as a result of what I’ve been doing.

Rajen (00:21:25) – Absolutely, yes. And I think you can tell,

Andy (00:21:27) – And you’re right there, there are some fantastic creators on, on LinkedIn. I I I like to read Dave Harlan’s work, he’s a copywriter. They’ve come across Dave, he’s so funny. And his, his uncle Tony, that guy cracks me up. And I really like Rob Mayhew. We’ve seen Rob’s TikTok stuff about life in an agency or life in marketing, which I think is really entertaining, but they’ve just perfectly positioned themselves. But as you say, that’s not gonna be right for everybody.

Rajen (00:21:56) – No, but that’s great because they’re doing two things again, you know, uh, Dave’s got his kind of humor and his style, his northern style is brilliant, you know, um, and I love that. And I got his, you know, I had to get his copy, uh, his, uh, his, sorry, his newsletter, uh, and all that sort of stuff as well. So they’ve kind of made a name for themselves, but what they’re showcasing is also their talents through actually showcasing that. So, you know, whilst he gets noticed because of his personality, his work is just as good, right? So it’s not like he’s kind of covering that up with his humor. It’s actually very good. So he’s gonna be kind of pulled up on that and no doubt his dms or his, you know, his direct messages, that’s where the, the business is happening, where people are kind of reaching out those who really want to reach out for, for, you know, hiring his talent.

Rajen (00:22:42) – So then that’s what happens with other people who may not be getting the actual, uh, life engagements, but it’s the kind of, you know, you are resonating with a san audience and they’re the ones who are gonna be reaching out. Even with my work, like, you know, since I kind of swapped over to found a story, you know, I started getting a lot of dms, you know, hey, this is really interesting. And these are people who aren’t actually active on LinkedIn. So there’s the lurkers who are in the background constantly viewing all this content but not actually engaging or interacting, but they notice you, they notice you. Yeah.

Andy (00:23:16) – That’s interesting. And one of those dms is probably mine, wasn’t it Roger, to say . Well that looks interesting. Let’s have a chat.

Rajen (00:23:23) – Absolutely. It was  evidence right there. What would say then is

Andy (00:23:27) – That , what would you say is the right number of content pillars, I think is the term we’ve used a couple of times? You know, is it one or two, two or three, or can, can we be a bit broader with what we’re talking about? Or does that dilute our positioning too much?

Rajen (00:23:44) – Yeah, I think, um, I would say like you probably wanted like three, you know, main topics that you might wanna talk to. Um, you know, for mine is like branding, personal development and photography, for example. Sorry, not photography. I think I’ve kept it storytelling. So branding, storytelling and personal development. They’re my three big topics. And then within that I’ve got like, you know, sort of three or four smaller topics within each pillar. Uh, and that allows me to kind of break it down a little bit more. So it keeps me kind of focused, but I don’t get bored because I’ve got these kind of, this kind of range. And it’s a bit different for me cuz I guess, uh, branding is quite broad. So I, I’ve tried to kind of focus it down where I can, but, you know, photography’s, it’s a whole topic in its own right next to branding, next to personal development, but they’re all interlinked in terms of the way I, you know, go to, uh, go about my business. So, um, that’s why I’d say three kind of key topics and then sort of nine subtopics would be a good start.

Andy (00:24:45) – So three by three. And, and, and in terms of, I guess frequency of putting something out there, how do you break that down and what would you recommend to your clients? Is it a daily thing or is it one big thing a week or what, what’s the kind of schedule for you, I suppose?

Rajen (00:25:03) – Yeah, I, i, I kind of debate this all the time. I think for me, you know, if you can, quality over quantity is ideal, but I suspect there’s a, there’s a thing when you start off, it’s about practice. So if you’re gonna get stuck on quality because you’re just gonna procrastinate over this one amazing post you’re gonna be doing, you’re gonna end up doing one post a month. So that’s not gonna help you even, it doesn’t matter how good it is because the way LinkedIn works, for example. So what I would say is your early days, it’s about trial and error. Get a few templates, get a few things that you like that you’ve seen from other creators, just use that as a starting point. Go back to your pillars, maybe one, maybe twice a week, three times a week, something like that would be a good start.

Rajen (00:25:51) – Or maybe just twice a week, just just get into the flow, uh, build it up, see how you feel, uh, see what kind of reactions you’re getting. Um, but whatever you do is back to the consistency. So if you’re gonna do twice a week, just do twice a week. If you’re gonna do once a week, just do once a week. If you can do one text post or one carousel post, just do that for a little while and maybe test that for about three months or so and then see how you’re feeling about things, uh, how you wanna change the cadence up. So that’s that kind of, I guess the di uh, the, the, the kind of balance between quality and quantity over time, you’ll probably move towards quality posts, uh, which get more engagement, get, get the kind of right eyes on it in terms of your audience, uh, and, but yeah, reduce the frequency potentially.

Andy (00:26:34) – And, and are you kind of going back to that measurement subject? Oh, you’re measuring engagement, but also more importantly you’re measuring, you know, dms and, and people actually getting in touch and making a proper inquiry with you?

Rajen (00:26:46) – Yeah, I think that’s where it’s at really. Like, I think, like I said, like it’s the same thing. So at the start you are gonna just be building up the, the kind of engagement you want people just to be seeing things interacting with you, you know, uh, your, and then obviously you, the other side of all of this is the co commenting strategy. So in some cases, even if you’re commenting quite frequently, maybe five to 10 times a day, I mean some people do 50 a day, but commenting on other people’s posts if you are not posting yourself is a great way to kind of be seen too, because you can, cuz often people are great at responding to something, right? So let’s say you’ve seen a, a creator’s post and there’s a bunch of, uh, comments and somebody’s asking a question and that creator’s too busy to answer that question.

Rajen (00:27:35) – You’ve got the ability to go and kind of go in there and, and write a really thought provoking or useful comment for that person, which other people will see as well. It’s effective, you are posting, but you’re just posting in the comments where you feel a little bit more comfortable because you are responding to something rather than having to kind of come up with it. So that’s a good place to, to start as well, like commenting, like if you’re posting once a week but you’re commenting, you know, say 25, 30 times a week, you know, cuz you’re just doing little comments here and there. That’s another great way to be seen in, in your network. Yeah,

Andy (00:28:08) – That makes sense. And you are kind of riding on the back of somebody else’s, uh, creativity as well to some extent, aren’t you? Yeah. Uh, 50 comments a day sounds like an incredible amount of work, . It does. I know you’ve got time for

Rajen (00:28:20) – That. I guess the way to look at it is as part of your marketing mix, if you are spending, what are you spending time on where you’re getting the roi? So yeah, if you know commenting 20, 30 times a day takes you, you know, half an hour, 45 minutes, then do you get that back because you’re gonna be getting warm leads coming into your dms. Mm-hmm. So I think whilst in the con well out of context, God, that’s just like, we’re just on social media all day long. But actually if you just see it as a market, if you’re spending one hour and that costs you, you know, th you know, if it’s whatever you are, right? 3, 4, 500 pound an hour, then that time is then spent going, okay, well I’ve just got five leads in this week. What’s the kind of cost per acquisition of those leads based on the, the time you spent?

Andy (00:29:12) – Yeah,

Rajen (00:29:13) – That’s the way to look at it.

Andy (00:29:15) – I think that is exactly the right way to look at it. Cuz then you can start to justify the time you spend versus other marketing mix, other marketing tactics. I hadn’t thought of it that way Raja. So that’s good. .

Rajen (00:29:25) – Yeah, exactly. That’s what it, the

Andy (00:29:27) – Time I spend on LinkedIn. Now ,

Rajen (00:29:30) – And this is what I say to my founders as well, like when they say why should I do my personal brand? It’s the same thing. It’s literally, I say it’s just another marketing channel. Like as a founder, early stage founder, founder, you haven’t got any money to spend on ads or, or a marketing manager or, uh, events or whatever it is. You go to the event, you are the event, you know, you, you, you post, you are the content soc you know, the content creator. So all of those things, you can do that. Uh, whilst obviously you are busy, um, it’s kind of free organic traffic really at the end of the day. So that’s the way to look at it. You are just part of the marketing mix.

Andy (00:30:07) – I think that’s the only way to look at it. Now you’ve explained it, it it’s, it, it just makes so much more sense thinking of it that way. It’s an investment in marketing. Yeah, sure. I’m not gonna run some ads through LinkedIn at the moment, but, you know, spending time on my brand and putting out content and engaging is, is just as important. So, so who’s doing this really well? Who do you look at and go, wow, that person’s really nailed this process?

Rajen (00:30:30) – Yeah, there’s quite a few people doing that. Um, one person I kind of follow is Ash Rathford. He’s great. He’s a storyteller. He is a brand strategy storyteller, similar to me in the sense that he’s, he’s got a brand background, but he’s kind of, kind of made a name for himself in terms of the storytelling side. He’s got like, you know, I think probably 50,000 plus followers and he, he kind of u utilizes, you know, storytelling and I think he told a story about his vitiligo a few, uh, year or so ago. And um, that kind of blew up on LinkedIn. He was very kind of, uh, straight up and honest about it and what was happening with himself and how he’s seen and, and how he felt. So this kind of from the inside as it were a story. Um, and apparently he kind of posted it, went to sleep, and in the morning there were thousands of comments and likes and things like that.

Rajen (00:31:21) – But anyway, he’s just a great example of someone who’s kind of utilized storytelling in, in a really powerful way. And obviously his training in brand helps him do that. And I think he’s got a training in, um, script writing and things like that. So he’s utilizing that superpower of his to kind of make things really interesting on, on LinkedIn. And he kind of showcases that through obviously his writing, but also, you know, he kind of does selfies and and and things like that as well. And so, you know, he’s just a great character to follow overall because of all of those reasons a’s being authentic. B he’s kind of showcasing his talents and C’s obviously, you know, showcasing his expertise and bringing in the clients that he needs to kind of continue that cycle. So, you know, he’s a good example. There’s someone called Ben MiiR I kind of follow.

Rajen (00:32:07) – He’s um, okay, he’s a, he’s actually, he works for ey. He, he’s got a full-time job, but on the side he started building his personal brand. And what I mean by that is he was posting content and, and expertise around productivity and systems and you know, there’s a whole thing around, you know, that, you know, being more efficient as humans and in the world of work where things just kind of overwhelm us, he, he kind of posts content about systems and he’s got this thing called System Sunday and he has a newsletter which comes out on Sundays and it’s just really simple tips. But he’s grown from like north to 180,000 followers in like six to eight months because of the validity of his content. Yeah. And yeah, and off the back of, so this is of someone who has a person has a full-time job. So that’s, that’s incredible.

Andy (00:32:58) – The opportunities that are gonna open up for him are gonna be enormous, aren’t they? Yeah. And that was in six to eight months he did that? I

Rajen (00:33:04) – Think so, yeah. We’ll have to

Andy (00:33:04) – Have a look at them.

Rajen (00:33:05) – Yeah. Yeah. And me, so he, he’s really cool. I mean, there’s tons of people and most of the people on there, there’s a whole select crew of, you know, 50 odd people on LinkedIn who are, uh, on tap Leo’s like, you know, top 100 creators and they’re all doing interesting things in their own ways. So, but sometimes it’s hard to kind of always see too many of those people because you are, they kind of have the kind of copywriting approach and, uh, very familiar or similar kind of topics they talk about, but there’s always lessons in terms of, uh, they give really great nuggets in terms of these things I’ve been mentioning around the commenting or the little tips and hacks around utilizing, uh, LinkedIn, which is really useful. But it’s just that balance between inspirational and then you, you compare yourself and you start to kind of go, oh gosh, you know, how am I gonna get there? So it just ha have a balance view when you see all these kind of creators

Andy (00:33:57) –  Yeah. It’s easy to look at them and go, I could never do that. They’re doing too much or they’re sharing too much and, you know, you’ve gotta get I suppose that balance right. You know, what are you comfortable with? Yeah. What do you want to share? Uh, it’s interesting. I mean I, I’ve shared a couple of posts. I’m not great at this, but I recognize the value of it and, and I’ve shared a few posts and, and I think sometimes you have, you tell the, you show a side of you that you don’t normally show and that generates quite a lot of response and, and an engagement. And that, that’s quite, I found that quite a revealing, I suppose, is that you always have to talk about business and work stuff. You can show some personal stuff and some personality in there as well.

Rajen (00:34:36) – Yeah, vulnerability is the big one at the moment. You know, the, you know, Brenna Brown, if you, you know her, like she talks about this quite a lot and she teaches C-suite people around, you know, big businesses around vulnerability and you know, kind of embracing that in your, in the way you go about your business and how you are. So that’s quite a big one. And I think some people again find that hard, right? Like to kind of talk about that and, but I think whenever you talk about things, I think what they’re saying and what we should kind of think about is when you tell your story, it’s not just for the sake of it. I think when you tell your story, bring it back to some sort of lessons or some outputs or, oh well this is my story, but this is what I learned. Maybe you can learn this from this. And I think that’s when the post is, is at at its best because you are showcasing your authentic self, but you are also providing value. Because I think if it’s just the kind of tooting your horn, then people tend to not being as much as engaged or, or just be your mates going, well done. Great. And then that’s it. Um, so I think you teach some sort of lessons, some sort of tips to some sort of, um, moral of the story. I think that’s quite powerful.

Andy (00:35:45) – Yeah. That I can relate to that. A few years ago, maybe three or four years ago, I wrote a post, I think I called it 50 and a Half Mistakes I’ve made running agencies. And it was a, a bullet point list of all the things looking back over my agency career that I thought, wow, I made a mistake there. And the engagement I got on that post was great. And I just said to you at the start of this call before we hit record, that I was in Edinburgh at the weekend with some friends. One of my friends had spent a bit of time running a furniture business, said, oh, I read your post 15 and a half Mistakes You Made running agencies. And that applied to most of the things I’ve done in my business as well, so it can relate. And I thought, wow, you save that up to tell me that for three or four years and you know, you still remember what I’d poured out on that kind of emotional out pouring I suppose. And uh, it’s interesting how that stuck with him Yeah. Over all that time.

Rajen (00:36:38) – Because I think that’s the other thing you think of content, you know, it’s your kind of evergreen salesperson.

Andy (00:36:45) – Yeah.

Rajen (00:36:46) – You know, like once the content’s out there, it’s saw is out there, isn’t it? And I think, you know, people come across that, they’ll come to your profile, they’ll, they may see a post from a while back or remember it. So in that way, you know, producing content is having a kind of always on salesperson out there for you doing the work while you sleep sort of thing. So Absolutely. It’s an interesting way to look at it as well.

Andy (00:37:08) – Yeah. And and I, I see that in the, in the stats for this show actually is people listening to podcasts I recorded ages ago and they’re still listening to it. And I actually really like that  because you know, quite a lot of effort goes into producing a podcast. So it’s nice that there’s still some value for someone, you know, a couple of years down the track. Yeah, yeah. Um,

Rajen (00:37:26) – So

Andy (00:37:26) – That’s great. Definitely Roger, thanks so much for coming on and exploring personal branding. That’s been really interesting and really useful. If, um, people wanted to find out some more about you or get in touch and say help with my brand, um, how should they best reach out? And I hate that term, reach out. How should they best contact you, ?

Rajen (00:37:45) – Absolutely. Um, so yeah, you can get me on obviously on LinkedIn around and mystery, my website found a story.co uk. Um, they’re the two best places to catch me. Love to have a coffee. Um, as, as mentioned, I’m in Cambridge, I’m at the Bradfield Center, so that’s a great place to come and see me as well if you want to, to catch up. So yeah, it’s been a pleasure, really appreciate it. Thank you.

Andy (00:38:09) – Yeah, good. And I’ll definitely come and join you for a car cuz you’re not that too far away. So at some point we’ll we’ll get out of, uh, from behind the screen and say hello in real life as well.

Rajen (00:38:18) – Absolutely. No worries.

Andy (00:38:19) – Super. Thanks Raj. Speak to you again soon. Thanks.

Retaining Talent at Your Agency

Retaining Talent at Your Agency

Retaining talent is a critical job for an agency’s leadership team.

The problem is, we’re not always that good at it. Agency life can sometimes feel like an ever-revolving door with employees hopping around the competition, growing their pay packets and job titles with every move.

This movement is great for the employee. They pick up skills, pay raises, and learn from diverse clients.

It could be better for agencies. All the time and energy invested in attracting, hiring, mentoring and training only to see your employees walk out the door.

So, what are the key ingredients of a happy agency staffer? What keeps them in your business for as long as possible?

Here are five factors to consider (apart from a decent pay packet) when it comes to retaining talent:

1. Provide opportunities for professional development.

Marketing is an ever-moving feast, especially when you look at digital. You only have to look away from your screen for a minute, and you miss the launch of a new social media channel or a new way to use AI to revolutionise your comms.

Your team will want to feel like they are growing and developing their skills to stay current. You must invest in their training, certification, and continuing education to keep them keen.

Action: Get yourself a training budget and start developing your team.

2. Provide opportunities for creativity.

Marketing is a creative field, and your talent wants to work on exciting and challenging client campaigns. Ensure you provide opportunities for your employees to flex their creative muscles and contribute to innovative marketing.

Not all clients are equal, so be careful of the type of work you chase. If your shop is full of foodies and fashionistas, don’t bring in work for insurance companies or B2B Saas applications.

Action: review your new business strategy to attract the type of clients your team is inspired to work on.

3. Foster a positive work culture.

Agency culture is often cited as the key to success; no, this does not mean a foosball table and a drinks trolley. A positive work environment is critical, so foster a culture that values work-life balance, promotes collaboration, and recognises and rewards outstanding performance.

Encourage open communication between your team and leadership. Regular feedback, both positive and negative, can help employees feel valued and supported.

Action: review your policies around work-life balance, taking time off and how well you communicate within the agency.

4. Build a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Diversity and inclusivity have been a hot topic for several years. It’s easy to see there is value in bringing together a diverse group of marketers to create an exciting environment to work in, but also highly creative and considered marketing campaigns for your clients.

Ensure you encourage diversity in your hiring processes and foster an inclusive environment where all employees feel welcome and valued. This will certainly help with retaining talent.

Action: review and update your diversity and inclusion policy, or write one in the first place if needed.

5. Empower employees with ownership and responsibility.

Employees with ownership and responsibility in their work tend to be more engaged and motivated. Provide your employees with opportunities to take ownership of projects and give them the autonomy to make decisions and take risks. Make sure you are not micro-managing.

Beyond that, think about the long-term ownership of your agency. Many agency owners have exit and succession planning in mind, but the trade sale you seek may be more complicated than you think. There is another way, and that’s selling your agency to your team. In the UK, you can take advantage of the Employee-Owned Trust approach, something we have worked on with a creative business recently with great success.

Action: review your management style and that of your team leaders – are you all managing in a way that motivates and rewards your team members?

So, there you have it; five factors to consider for boosting staff retention at your agency. Get in touch and let us know what you are doing to help keep your staff at your shop.

PODCAST: Neuroscientifically Optimising Websites with Louisa Dunbar

PODCAST: Neuroscientifically Optimising Websites with Louisa Dunbar

How important is your website?

I’m going to hazard a guess that the answer is very. Since the advent of the internet, websites have moved on at quite a pace. Where once we had simple brochure sites, we now have complex sites with lots of content and many opportunities for a browser to convert into a sales funnel. It could be starting a trial for a SaaS product, donating money to a charity or buying a new watch on a DTC-branded e-com site. They generally all have one thing in common: conversion.

Most marketers will be pretty familiar with the need to optimise a website and will undoubtedly have played around with Google Analytics, other analytics packages, Hotjar and others. But how many marketers have explored neuroscience and neuromarketing techniques to really understand their audience and customise their web properties accordingly? Not many, I would guess. And that’s where Louisa Dunbar from Orange Grove Designs comes in.

Want to find out about some fresh ideas for optimising websites? Listen in below.

I hope you enjoy the show:

Connect with Louisa here:



Other Episodes of Through the Line you might enjoy:

Human-Centred Marketing with Richard Hewitt

Neurodivergent Teams with Nathan Whitbread

The Science of Client Agency Relationships with Paul Phillips

PODCAST: Building Resilient Marketing Teams with Jo Twiselton

PODCAST: Building Resilient Marketing Teams with Jo Twiselton

In the 20+ years I have worked in marketing, there’s been one constant: change.

The marketing industry is pretty fast-paced, whichever discipline or side of the client-agency world you occupy. This is partly what makes it a great space to build a career. But it can also be a challenge. Not everyone is comfortable with change or able to manage it well.

How, then, do you build a resilient marketing team? One that is able to thrive with the constant change, whether they are individuals starting out or have some career mileage under their belt. That’s where Jo Twiselton of Twist Consultants comes in. Jo helps teams to deal with change and create that bouncebackability that is the hallmark of resilience. In this wide-ranging conversation, Jo and I cover everything from communication, leadership and the impact of the pandemic to emotional agility and whether or not office-based workers should go back to five days a week in the office.

I hope you enjoy the show:

Connect with Jo here:



Other Episodes of Through the Line you might enjoy:

Thor A Rain on Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Neurodivergent Teams with Nathan Whitbread

Christine MacKay on Agency Culture

Public Sector Contracts for Small Agencies

Public Sector Contracts for Small Agencies

Have you Considered Public Sector Contracts?

Do you know how much the UK government spends on communications? In the last ten years, it has spent approximately £3.4 bn, with £247m of that in the last reported year.

That’s a lot of monies.

I tried to find a similar figure for local government, but it isn’t easy to pick out from the published spending data. Overall, local government spends around £100bn each year in total. Even if they spend just 1% on communications, that’s £1bn.

So how do you get your mitts on some of those public sector pounds?

Mostly, it’s through a formal tender process, which, let’s face it, can be intimidating if you are an SME, more so if you haven’t been through the process before.

There are plenty of reasons why small agencies refrain from pursuing tender opportunities. Here’s a handful:

Lack of awareness: you may not know about the opportunities in the public sector tendering process or how to find relevant tenders.

Complexity: The public sector tendering process can be complex and time-consuming. You may need more resources or expertise to navigate the process as a small agency. We’re talking lengthy paperwork, detailed technical specifications, and strict deadlines.

Lack of experience: you may not have the experience or track record to compete successfully in the public sector tendering process. The tender documents will specify specific skills, qualifications, and experience you may not have at your agency.

Cost and risk: Tendering for public sector contracts can be expensive in time and materials. With the perception that public sector procurement often has a supplier in mind before going through the tender process and that the list of bidders can be high, is the cost worth it? The risk of investing time and money and not winning is high.

Overall, the public sector tendering process is challenging for small agencies to navigate. However, it’s possible.

Over the last few years, I have been successful at helping various agencies to win through a public tender process for local government and third-sector contracts.

How do you find public sector contracts for small agencies?

There are a few places to start digging:

Government portals: The UK Government has several portals with public sector tender opportunities listed, including the Contracts Finder website, which provides access to thousands of opportunities for contracts with the UK Government and its agencies.

Local authorities: you can also find public sector tenders from local authorities, such as city councils, district councils, and county councils. These tenders are published on a local authority’s website or procurement portals.

Public sector agencies: you can also find public sector tender opportunities from public sector agencies, such as the National Health Service (NHS), Transport for London (TfL), and the Environment Agency. These agencies often list their tenders on their websites or procurement portals.

Tender notification services: you can sign up for tender notification services, which will provide regular updates on relevant tender opportunities, including: 

Tenders Direct: Tenders Direct is a free online portal where you search for public sector tender opportunities in the UK. There is a paid subscription service for more comprehensive search capabilities.

Supply2Gov: Supply2Gov is a free online portal that provides access to public sector tender opportunities in the UK and Ireland.

CompeteFor: CompeteFor is a free online portal connecting SMEs with public sector tender opportunities in London and the UK.

Contracts AdvanceContracts Advance is an online portal providing SMEs access to public sector tender opportunities in the UK.

TED (Tenders Electronic Daily): TED is a free online portal you can search for public sector tender opportunities in the UK and throughout the EU.

Aren’t public sector contracts just for large corporates?

Actually, no. There is legislation that requires public sector bodies in the UK to make tenders available to small companies too.

The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 is the legislation that governs public sector procurement in the UK. It requires public sector bodies to ensure their procurement processes are fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory and provide equal opportunities for all suppliers, including SMEs.

In particular, Regulation 57 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 sets out the rules for ensuring SMEs have access to public sector tender opportunities. The regulation requires public sector bodies to:

  • Ensure that their tender processes encourage SME participation and that SMEs are not excluded from the procurement process.
  • Divide contracts into lots or sub-contracts, where appropriate, to facilitate SME participation.
  • Consider excluding suppliers not complying with social, environmental, or labour laws.
  • Provide feedback to unsuccessful bidders, including SMEs, to help them improve their future bids.

In addition, the UK government set a target to ensure that 33% of all public sector procurement spending goes to SMEs by 2022. I can’t find any report suggesting whether or not it hit this target, though.

How to Win Public Sector Contracts

Here are some closing thoughts on what you can do to give yourself the best chance of winning work in the public sector.

Research and identify opportunities: use the portals to refine the tender opportunities to match your specific skills. Make sure you sign-up for the tender alerts services, particularly where they are free. There are several that charge a subscription or fee for alerts, so watch out for these.

Understand the requirements: it’s essential to read and understand the tender requirements carefully, including the technical specifications, delivery timelines, and evaluation criteria. Make sure you meet the requirements and have the capacity to deliver the project or service before investing time in the tender process.

Build relationships: Building relationships with public sector organisations can benefit small agencies. How? Attend networking events, participate in supplier engagement sessions, and meet with procurement officers where possible.

Demonstrate value for money: Public sector organisations are required to obtain value for money in their procurement activities. You should focus on demonstrating you can deliver high-quality services or products at a competitive price.

Provide evidence of experience and capability: Public sector organisations will want to see proof of your experience and capability. Make sure you can provide case studies, references, and other evidence to demonstrate you have the necessary skills and expertise to deliver the project or service.

Prepare a high-quality bid: you should prepare a high-quality, well-written, concise proposal that addresses all of the tender’s requirements. Provide evidence demonstrating your understanding of the project, your ability to deliver, and the benefits you will bring to the public sector organisation. 

Don’t be restricted to the formatting of the tender docs; use your own formatted documents to present yourself in the best light – many agencies won’t do this.

Understand the criteria: above all, read and understand the evaluation criteria. Often this will be weighted highly on cost, which might not be the right project for your agency. Write your bid in plain English, too, as the procurement officer will likely not have bought agency services before, so you need to drop the BS bingo.

Seek feedback: you should seek feedback on your bid, whether you win the contract or not. This can help you improve future bids and better understand the requirements of public sector organisations.

How can Agency Squared Help?

Get in touch if you want to win more public sector projects for your small agency. We may be able to help increase your win rates and access some of the enormous amounts of money spent by government and local authorities on comms projects every year.

PODCAST: Value Based Pricing with Alastair Dryburgh

PODCAST: Value Based Pricing with Alastair Dryburgh

How do you put a price on ideas or creativity?

It’s a perennial challenge faced by marketing, advertising and PR agency owners. You know you can make a massive difference to your client’s brand challenges, yet you’re often stuck simply selling time. But not any more. Not if you listen to Alastair Dryburgh, that is, anyway.

Alastair advocates agencies charging based on the value they create rather than the time it takes to deliver it. He has built his 3-Step Intelligent Pricing Architecture to help agencies avoid time-based relationships. Instead, with Alastair’s system, agencies will charge based on the value they create, which in many cases is worth a lot more than the billable hours it took to deliver.

Interested? Listen to the show if you want to get into selling value for money or value based pricing, as it’s commonly referred to. Alastair explains his process, from being clear on the value you add to establishing appropriate points of reference and ultimately making your offer unique.

I promise you will get some value from this show if you run any agency of any flavour:

Connect with Alastair here:



Other Episodes of Through the Line you might enjoy:

Self Running Agencies with Rob Da Costa

EOS and Your Agency with Tim Watson

Great Client Service with Jenny Plant


Here’s the full transcript for those of you who like to read:

Andy (00:00:00) – Welcome to Through the Line, the Agency Squared podcast with me, Andy Bargery. In this episode, I’m talking with Alastair Dryburgh, who is an agency consultant, and we are looking at the subject of value-based pricing. The idea that as agencies we can sell our expertise on the value we create, rather than the time it takes to deliver it. And if you’re in the agency world, you’ve no doubt had this conversation or thought about this many times and wonder just how on earth you’re going to get to a situation where you stop charging billable hours and start charging based on value. If you’re running an agency, I promise you this is going to be a really interesting conversation for you and well worth 30 or so minutes of your time. Alastair really is an entertaining and educational kind of guy. He knows his onions and he’s great to listen to. So with that in mind, I hope that you enjoy the show.

Alastair. Hello. How are you doing today?

Alastair (00:00:59) – I am very well, thanks Andy. And I’m looking forward to talking about value-based pricing.

Andy (00:01:05) – Yeah, thank you for joining me. Value-based pricing is one of those topics that I think has, it kind of comes around every now and again. Everyone gets very excited about it and then doesn’t necessarily know what to do about it. A bit like kind of performance related pricing or pay and all that stuff.

So I was pleased when I came across us, somebody that is an expert in this space and can maybe unpack, decipher some of the mystery, shall we say, of how to use value-based pricing. And we had a really nice conversation about this a few weeks ago, didn’t we? And, I knew immediately that I was talking to somebody that knew their onions. So thanks for agreeing to come on the show.

I, I also knew as well that I hadn’t really explored your background enough to introduce you properly. Much to my embarrassment. And I can see that you’ve done plenty of work in terms of financial management and accounting over the years, and I believe you’ve worked in the agency space quite a bit. Yeah. But, but that’s about as far as my understanding goes.

Alastair (00:02:11) – Should I, should I fill you in a bit on that?

Andy (00:02:13) – Yes, please. Yeah.

Alastair (00:02:14) – Okay. Uh, well I guess probably the, the, the place to start is probably, god it feels like such, such a long time ago, 1983 when I graduated with a degree from Maths at Cambridge. Now, if I’d had any sort of proper careers advice at the time, I would’ve become either a journalist or a psychiatrist or a spy.

But I chose to become an accountant. And this was the, this was the start of a, of a, of a long and winding path. I’ve been, when I was still a finance person, I’ve been finance director of six companies in total periods ranging from five years down to, um, 10 days. But the, the next probably important thing is that as part of this long and winding path, I ended up as a commercial director of a marketing consultancy. And we helped large pharmaceutical companies launch their major new products.

Alastair (00:03:15) – Okay and things were, things were chugging along quite well until this is, this is one of the things you wake up in the middle of the night thinking, oh my goodness. I realised, you know, these products, our clients had spent hundreds of millions getting them to launch with all the clinical trials and the regulatory approvals and all of that. And there was always competition. Somebody else always had a very similar molecule that they were about to launch. And so the difference between launching really well and becoming number one in your category and launching badly and becoming number four was astronomical. It was in the billions. I mean, Glaxo for instance, went from being a sort of third division New Zealand company that no one had ever heard of to a global powerhouse thanks to one product launched spectacularly well, right, okay. Yeah. Treatment called Zantac.

Alastair (00:04:14) – So it suddenly occurred to me, you know, we significantly moved the odds of a successful launch through what we’re doing. So we’re in a position equivalent to a big investment bank advising on some gigantic transaction, some merger or acquisition or multi-billion dollar fundraising. So I thought to myself, why are we not as rich and powerful as Goldman Sachs? Yes. We’re compensated very differently, aren’t we? Yeah. You know, we spend our time seething with frustration because it’s some stupid argument with a junior product manager over the cost of an illustration. And that was what got me really interested in the topic of pricing.

So then I went on and I, I did other finance director jobs with, well today they’d call it FinTech. Back in the day it was boring old banking technology, um, briefly finance director of a private army. And then I became an independent consultant and I moved from doing general business advice. And I realised that just about everyone, I advised the biggest single lever for improvement was better pricing. And then I went even more niche when I realized that, you know what, the people I really enjoy working with are the creative people, the creative agencies and the consultancies, the people who work with ideas. So then basically by a process of elimination, I arrived at what I’m now doing, which is pricing strategies for consultancies and creative agencies.

Andy (00:05:58) – Yes. And somehow I stumbled onto your mailing list and you send out these really short, entertaining snippets of ideas around pricing. And I, and it’s, I don’t subscribe to many newsletters because quite often they’re terrible, but yours actually isn’t there. I quite look forward to receiving cuz it’s short and valuable.

Alastair (00:06:21) – Good, good. Okay. Can I take that as an, an opportunity for a very, very quick shameless plug. Um, if anyone feels inspired to subscribe, they’re very welcome.  URL is intelligent pricing architecture.com.

Andy (00:06:35) – Well, you know, I was gonna ask you for that at the end of the show, but you’ve got it in early doors, so that’s fair enough. But let’s go back to then this idea that pricing strategy is an area that most creatives, and actually I would say most marketers don’t really understand, haven’t quite got their head around. Although of course you would say that, you could say that pricing is part of the marketing mix. I think as an industry we’re not very good at pricing. Yeah. And agencies certainly struggle with this as well. Yes. In terms of typically what agencies do is sell time for money.

Alastair (00:07:12) – Uh, yeah. Yeah.

Andy (00:07:13) – And that’s, uh, I would say how 90% of the industry probably works. And there’s commissions here, there and everywhere, but most of us sell time for money. And your approach is different. It’s, it’s not time for money. It’s value for money, isn’t it?

Alastair (00:07:29) – Basically. Yeah.

Andy (00:07:31) – So how does that work? How do you as an, as an agency owner, how do you move from a position of saying, it’ll take me 10 hours, it’s gonna cost you a thousand quids to you are gonna earn a million pounds from this because of the value we produce. I’m gonna charge you a hundred grand. How do you shift that?

Alastair (00:07:49) – Right. Okay. So that gives me a good lead in to the most important point I wanted to make is that what you’ve given me is step one of the value-based pricing process. It’s actually understanding this thing is gonna take, you know, this thing is gonna make you a million pounds. Now it might actually be my working out how to make you a million pounds is something it’s, who knows how long it takes me. Cuz actually it was just a brilliant idea that came to me while I was in the shower, which quite often happens. But the reason value-based pricing, as you say, has come and gone, uh, is because that’s just step one and there’s a step two to it.

Andy (00:08:33) – Okay.

Alastair (00:08:34) – And a step three to it. And what happens if you listen to what you, what’s what’s generally out there and you just implement step one is, as I I’ve found this, other people have found it. You come up with your value ba you your understanding of value, you think, yes, okay, this thing will make you a million pounds. So it deserves a, a decent fee from us. And you put this, this in the proposal and you present the proposal, totally convinced that it’s a fantastic thing for the client and they would be insane not to buy it. And then, you know what happens? It’s like, ooh, suddenly like someone’s flicked a switch and the temperature in the room has gone down 10 cent centigrade, . And after that it’s like they’ve gone into a witness protection program. Yeah. , but you still have unlimited access to their voicemail.

Andy (00:09:21) – Yes. Yeah. We’ve all been there, I think.

Alastair (00:09:23) – Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that, that’s why if you only do the first bit of value-based pricing, it actually makes your frustration worse. Cuz the more convinced you are of the huge value of what you do, the bigger the disappointment. When your proposal doesn’t land with the client extre in extreme circumstances, you end up thinking, oh bloody hell. Am I actually, am I actually as good as I think I am?

Andy (00:09:49) – Yes.

Alastair (00:09:50) – Am I any good at all? Because you’ve only done step one of the process.

Andy (00:09:56) – So there’s two things there. I I really want to have a look at. How do you establish what that likely value is at the outset of a project? But before we get to that, this word you’ve used a few times is process. Yes. And I think having a defined process for how you arrive at value-based pricing is extraordinarily valuable. So can we have a look at the stages in the process? Obviously step one is value, but where do we go from this?

Alastair (00:10:22) – Yes. Okay. Right. So step one is value. Now you need to be clear about your own value. And quite often to be honest, people aren’t because, you know, cuz they’re too close. And there’s one of my associates brilliantly put it, you can’t read the label from inside the bottle . So it’s often very useful to get an inside, an outsider to say, actually you know what, that’s worth a lot more than you think it is. But let’s assume we’ve done that. So I think the best way to understand the rest of the task is what I call, it’s the oxygen versus coffee problem. Now I’ll ask you and your listeners what’s more important to you? Oxygen or coffee? Not a trick question, of course. You know, if you’re a carbon-based humanoid life form, oxygen is more important than coffee. You know, if you are not, you know, if, if, if you have any listeners who are not carbon-based humanoid life forms gonna, they please get in touch cause I’m fascinated to meet them  anyway.

Alastair (00:11:21) – But then the next question is, okay, given that you’ve just said oxygen is more important to you than coffee, how much in a typical week do you spend on oxygen compared to how much you spend on coffee? Well obviously you spend more money on coffee. Now why is this, why are you spending more money on something that’s less important to you? And the answer is because you can get oxygen for free. Coffee needs to be paid for. And a lot of creative agencies and consultancies, they present their unique, massively powerful, massively valuable offerings like oxygen. Yeah, we know it’s really good, but I can get something apparently similar in lots of different places. So it’d actually be irresponsible for me as a client to pay you lots of money for it.

Andy (00:12:12) – Okay. So in the context of how agencies win business. So it feels like you are describing the pitch process in that here’s all my ideas for free. Oh by the way, my top 2, 3, 4, 5 competitors are also gonna give you all my ideas for free as part of that pitch process. So hang on a minute, why do I need to pay for the value and I can just Yeah, yeah,

Alastair (00:12:34) – Yeah, yeah. And that’s because ideas, you know, some ideas are hugely more valuable than others. No question of that. Um, in John Caps, one of the legendary men in the forties and fifties, he gives an example of two ads look very similar, carefully written copy photographs, same publications, same, same positions. One produced 19 and a half times the results of another. But if you just go through a standard pitch process and you present all these ideas, you haven’t established in the mind of your prospective client, your superiority, you maybe have established the fact that it could be very valuable, it could produce this amount of extra revenue. So there’s another couple of steps you need to go through. And the the set, step two is to set up the right comparisons. So, um, my, my favorite example here is the 17 words, which raised a fee by 150%. So this was a friend of mine, executive coach, got an inquiry from a big law firm, um, said, would he be interested in coaching some of our senior partners? Well yes, of course he would. Then he got the question, what’s your hourly? Right?

Andy (00:13:56) – Yes.

Alastair (00:13:57) – And we talked about, I said, Andy, look, you know, usually you know what I say about hourly rights, do not touch them with a barge pole. But unfortunately with lawyers, their whole lives are organized around the billable. You know, if had better, better chance of converting the pope to Islam  than you would’ve getting lawyer not to think about things in hourly terms. They’re

Andy (00:14:17) – Hardwired, aren’t they? In billable hours. Yeah,

Alastair (00:14:19) – No, I, I said don’t try to fight it cuz you’ll lose work with it. So you told tell ’em this, my hourly rate for coaching is the same as the hourly rate of the lawyer I’m coaching. It’s so reasonable. You know, not even a trained litigator would argue with that

Andy (00:14:39) – . I dunno how you could argue against that. It’s a brilliant,

Alastair (00:14:44) – The other terrible thing about lawyers is they’re trained to argue yes, that’s what they do for a living. I think a of them do it for fun as well, but it worked. So he is now, he’s coaching senior lawyers for 500 an hour. A friend of his who’s just as good a coach if not better struggles to get beyond 200. Cuz he works with industrial companies where the executives don’t have hourly rates. So you choose your comparisons. And this is, this is, this is, this is the fundamental law of pricing. Nobody ever ever evaluates a price in isolation. You can’t. Right. It’s always by reference to something else. And either three possibilities, either you choose your point of reference, you set it up in a way that works for you. Like my hourly rate is the same as the lawyer I’m coaching. Or you leave it to the client to try and make a comparison.

Alastair (00:15:34) – In which case you get stuck with a an a, the the going rate, you know the market rate. Yes. And there is no going rate, market rate for unique, brilliant solutions to horrible problems, which is what we do. Or even worse, they end up comparing it with the do it yourself option, which of course a hazard apparent price tag of zero. So you’ve got to set up that, that that comparison effectively. And this is, this is where my, my interest in behavioral economics came in. I, I, I wrote a book which involved quite a deep study of behavioral economics, ended up teaching it to investment bankers for several years. And this is all about, you know, the, the psychology of how we make these decisions, how we evaluate rather vague and wooly things. So if you can set up the right comparison there, you’ve, you’ve taken a big step forward.

Alastair (00:16:28) – And then step three, um, this is all in a guide which you can get when you subscribe to the newsletter you’ve just recommended there. Second apply . But step three is you’ve gotta make it look unique and different. And there are various ways of doing this. My favorite one though is you’ve probably, you may probably got my email about the Cure for McKinsey Envy. Yes, I did. Yeah. I hear people saying, you know, McKinsey do the same thing we do no better. They charge five times as much. Yes. Silicon Valley PR agencies charge two or three times as much as we do and we can do things they can’t. Um, so if you wanna start charging McKinsey type prices, you can either be like McKinsey in s slug for 60 years and build your reputation and get your alumni in strategic positions everywhere. And to be honest, I’m 61 already, so that’s not a viable strategy for me.

Alastair (00:17:27) – , you know, absent major advances in medicine,  or you can steal one of their, another item from their playbook, which is really clever and really powerful, which is turn it into a proprietary process. Yes. So you can look McKinsey’s five Ps for installing, um, purpose in your organization. It’s got a beautiful picture. And you look at this, you think, wow, this is McKinsey’s, I can only get it from them. Clearly they’ve done lots of these cuz they’ve got it down. That means yes, they’ve probably, they they’ll almost certainly, it’ll almost certainly work and it looks like something I’m going to spend a lot of money on. Yeah. Justifiably so I did this with a, a client of mine digital agency. They had this thing they were doing for three or four or 5,000 pounds. And I looked at it and said, right on, this is massive. You’re helping your large retailer client uncover huge new completely untapped markets. You should be charging more. And we’ve looked at what they did and with minimal minimal bending of the truth, we managed to get it into the seven Cs format.

Andy (00:18:37) – I love that. I mean, I, I teach a lot of marketing. So McKinsey’s seven S’s, for example Yeah, yeah. Is a model I reference an awful lot. So yeah, the seven, sorry, the seven Cs did you say?

Alastair (00:18:49) – Yes, yes. We managed to get, you know, seven steps each, each starting with a c customer channel commercials and, and a few others that I, I, I can’t to my mind now. So, and that took the fee from three or four or 5,000 pounds up to 46,000.

Andy (00:19:05) – A phenomenal improvement. Yeah.

Alastair (00:19:07) – Because some brilliant ideas unfortunately look like someone else’s brilliant ideas.

Andy (00:19:13) – Yes.

Alastair (00:19:14) – My unique process, in their case of seven Cs in my my case, three step intelligent pricing architecture that’s different. That’s got a level of uniqueness about it.

Andy (00:19:25) – Yes. It, it suggests that, yeah, that you’ve done it a lot. You are a true expert in this space. So much so that you’ve created your intelligent pricing architecture three step process or yes. Your seven Cs for retail channel excellence or what, whatever that

Alastair (00:19:42) – Particular thing. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s also, it’s also genuine because what, what happens and what, what happened with the digital agency I mentioned as we said, okay, what can we do here? What have we got? And we came up with the seven Cs and we went through, you know, 0.1. Yep. We’re doing 80% of that already. Point two, we’re doing 60% 0.30, we’re only doing 25%. We need to increase that. So once you’ve got your framework or your process or your steps, whatever you want to call it working, you have actually come up with something more powerful than what you were doing previously. So it’s not entirely presentation. You’ve also got a, you know, genuine story behind it as to why this is more powerful, why this is more likely to work, why this is actually worth a lot more money.

Andy (00:20:26) – That I think that makes perfect sense because you can evidence the, the fact that you have done this, you’ve got track, you’ve, you’ve understood that as a defined process. I, I kind of get that. And I, and I, and I think that’s really important. And we talk a lot about processing in agencies so that you can get away from the day-to-day running of an agency for the owner or the founder for example. But this is a different kind of process. This is a process for how you position yourself in the market basically, isn’t it?

Alastair (00:20:58) – Yeah, yeah. And how, you know, you, you know, you position yourself as unique.

Andy (00:21:04) – Yes. So

Alastair (00:21:05) – It’s not you as one of a crowd, it’s at, at worst it’s you versus the best of the

Andy (00:21:10) – Rest. That’s right. This is the only place I can go to to get the seven Cs and the seven Cs is exactly what I need for my, my challenge. I’ve gotta go to this agency, otherwise where else do I get it from.

Alastair (00:21:22) – Absolutely.

Andy (00:21:23) – Yeah. Makes sense. Okay. So is that, is that the three step process then? So first of all, understanding and defining

Alastair (00:21:32) – The your own value,

Andy (00:21:33) – Your own value, then it’s to context really, isn’t it, the comparisons? Yes. Yes. And then last, it’s, you know, doing something that is unique to you that you can own. It’s your own proprietary model, method, system, whatever that looks like. Yeah, yeah. And, and, and that actually doesn’t sound that difficult, but it is , isn’t it?

Alastair (00:21:57) – Well, it is. I mean I I, I’d like actually to go back to the, if I could, I’d like to go back to the, the first step Yeah. Which is understanding, um, your true value and that that can be enormously difficult, you know? Yeah. There is my digital agency client doing something for three or 4,000 pounds that ended up as 46,000 pounds. I mean, another example I’ve got, I’ve got on my bookshelf, I’ve got this book, and the, the author’s preface ends with the rather gloomy sentence. I had hoped to write a good book. It has not turned out that way, but the time is passed when I could do anything about it. So that was what the author thought of his book.

Andy (00:22:40) – Wow.

Alastair (00:22:41) – Then if you read the blurb on the back of the book, it says on its first post posthumous publication, this book was recognized as a masterpiece. That was 1950 posthumous publication in 1953. This book was recognized as a masterpiece. Um, ensuing decades have confirmed that assessment. And, uh, this book is now considered as the single most important philosophical work published in the 20th century.

Andy (00:23:12) – The, the, you know, the opposite ends of the scale in terms of understanding the value

Alastair (00:23:16) – Of, right. Yeah. And the, the, the book is, the book, uh, book for the philosophy geeks is, is Wittgenstein’s philosophical investigations. But anyway, I think the problem was because Wittgenstein was comparing what he’d actually written with this ideal view in his mind of what he wanted to write, which may have been realistic or it may have been not. He wanted to write the absolutely perfect book. He basically, he wanted to end philosophy by answering all the questions

Andy (00:23:50) – An an impossible task, Shirley,

Alastair (00:23:53) – Which is an impossible task. And I think a lot of creative people and consultants set themselves those sorts of impossible tasks. And because we fall short of our own wildly, wildly exaggerated goals, we lose sight of the fact, Hey, you know what, it’s not perfect. And you’ll come back in a few years time and think, oh, I could have done that better. Could have said that better. But it’s actually, as of today, it’s massively better than anything else this client is ever going to find. But we can’t see that, partly because, you know, if we weren’t constantly striving for excellence, we wouldn’t be in this business. And partly because we’re so close to it. Do,

Andy (00:24:37) – Do you think as well, there’s an element there that creative people are our own harshest critics.

Alastair (00:24:43) – I think a lot of creative people are very, um, insecure. And actually it’s not me thinking that, I mean, I’ll I’ll quote, um, David Ogilvy here. Yeah. David Ogilvy said one of the, one of the things about running an agency, which he obviously knew everything about, was that you are managing a lot of very insecure people. And he also says, I have never once started on a project without thinking, oh my God, this time I’m going to fail.

Andy (00:25:17) – Wow. That says a lot about the, the psyche of David Ogilvy, doesn’t it? From, you know, one of the true greats of the industry.

Alastair (00:25:28) – Yeah. But he, he had, he clearly, you know, he clearly he clearly had doubts and I think he recognized that a lot of the other great people he recruited, had, had, had, had, had had similar doubts. And so I think you’ve got, you know, um, I’m, one of my clients said, oh, we need a pricing model that leaves our personal inadequacies outta it. That’s right. And I said, no, you don’t. Right. I don’t, I I, they were very impressive people. I don’t think they had personal inadequacies, but I said, no, you don’t need a pricing model that leaves your personal inadequacies out. You need a pricing model, a system that actually works. So, you know, forget psychotherapy. I mean, do that if you want, but you don’t need it in order to price effectively.

Andy (00:26:18) – It’s interesting, isn’t it? I mean, when, when, when I think about value for clients over the years and that agency client relationship, many times you see or do a piece of work, let’s say it’s a fees a hundred thousand, and then you ask for the impact and you either the client will say, I can’t release that, that’s commercially sensitive. Or you get a, a realistic, well the pipeline off the back of that project was 10 million or something. And you think, wow, you know, that’s a significant contribution. Or you have a kind of target, whether it’s a Romi or a roas, for example. You know, we’re gonna spend $1 with you, but we want $20 in return kind of stuff. And that gives you a real pounds and pence sense of value. Yeah. But some of the things that you’ve referenced, like going back to Glaxo for example, it’s impossible to know the value of the contribution you’re gonna give Yeah. For the launch of that drug before it’s launched. Yeah. How do you reconcile that? How do you work with that?

Alastair (00:27:18) – Well, if you look at, if you look at the system at step one, understanding your value, there’s a checklist of about six or seven different areas in which value can exist. So it might be financial in the, you know, the return on investment metrics you’ve just referenced. It could be competitive about market shares share of mind. But there’s some sort of interesting ones. One particular interesting one, which people very often miss, is assurance. Now, I had a client, um, they were doing something for free. They were scanning social media, looking at questions that were being asked, looking at questions that weren’t being answered very well by anyone currently there and suggesting opportunities for their client. And also basically keeping their client on top of what was going on in a very, very scary in the middle of the pandemic. Right. And their client was a big retail chain with all its shops closed.

Alastair (00:28:14) – And I said to them, look, you know, you’re doing this thing that’s actually hugely, hugely valuable to them. It’s the difference between them feeling like, oh, I know what’s, you know, I know what’s going on. I might not like it, but I know what’s going on. I know what the next thing is gonna be that comes at me so I can develop a plan to deal for it. It’s the difference between that and just complete mental collapse, you know, as some people got to in the pandemic, you know, like, you know, a bit like Rishi sunk, you know, rabbit staring at the headlights. So it’s the difference between the rabbit staring at the headlights and the person who, if you like, is competently surfing

Andy (00:28:55) – Yes.

Alastair (00:28:57) – Tsunami. And they got that. And we found a way of packaging that, which I stole for them from 1970s military strategy. And, and then that became, you know, that became a a a a a a 10,000 pound a month retainer, which subsequently became a 20 20,000 pound a month retainer. And interestingly, it was the only thing that client kept going right through the pandemic when all those shops were closed.

Andy (00:29:24) – Gosh, okay.

Alastair (00:29:25) – Yeah. And that’s, that’s, that’s the value, that’s the value of, um, assurance.

Andy (00:29:32) – How, how did you put that 10,000 pound price tag on that piece of work though? What, because obviously, you know, traditionally an agency would say, well, it’s gonna take us 10 hours a week to do that monitoring and reporting. That’s not the way you did it.

Alastair (00:29:48) – No, I mean, what I would try to do in a situation like that is to say, okay, look, what is, what is the level of business that we’re actually supporting here? Okay. And one of the things we talked about there, we came up with this concept of customers adrift. This was a retailer which had a, it was based around repeat business. And so if people lost the habit of going there re to be regularly, would they come back once you reopened? So we, we could talk about these figures, you know, what would happen if 25% of your existing regular customers who you’ve been investing in and nurturing for years, what would happen if they never came back once you opened the shops? Cuz they’d lost the habits or um, you know, they, they, they’d found an alternative. You know, it’s just, you know, it’s just like me, you know, years and years ago I would go to the dental hygienist every six months and then something happened, I lost the habit and they lost me for about four or five years. And the, you know, the session I had at the end of that was so painful. I’m gonna go back to every six months.

Andy (00:30:55) – And

Alastair (00:30:56) – That’s the point you got repeat business, it can be lost. And so that, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s that’s what

Andy (00:31:01) – I see. So you painted the picture of if you don’t do this, you might lose a proport of your repeat customers. So a lot of assumptions go into it, but enough for the client to say, oh actually you’re right. You know, if people get outta the habit, this could be extraordinarily impact.

Alastair (00:31:17) – Yeah. Yeah. I mean another one, another one, I mean this technique has got a little bit of a bad rap recently is the whole idea of control. Now that was, that was the idea that sold Brexit, take back control. But I was actually there years earlier cuz when I was doing one of my finance director jobs, I did crisis management and I ended up as the CFO working for a chief executive who was the most unpleasant and difficult person I’ve ever had to deal with. Um, but I found a way of getting him to do exactly what I wanted and he came to me and I was reading their marketing literature and this word control kept jumping outta me and he was a total control freak. So I’d say, you know, we need more accounting staff to keep control of whatever. And he hated the finance department, thought he was a waste of space and wasted money. But if it was about control, he’d authorize these extra hires. We need some more accounting software to keep control of maintenance expenditure. Yep. I honestly think if I’d said to him, we need to invade Poland to increase our control over the European market, he would’ve said yes.

Andy (00:32:27) – So in other words, finding the, put the what matters most to the, the audience

Alastair (00:32:31) – Find what matters most. And it’s usually not financial. It’s, I say this as a finance

Andy (00:32:37) – Director, as an industry of marketers whose job it is to understand our audiences, to find out what they care and, uh, need and want and sell them stuff. We should be able to do this, shouldn’t we really?

Alastair (00:32:49) – Yeah. Uh, I think it’s easy to get hung up on the return on the investment calculations, but may know, my current theory on this is people do things because they want to do things and it’s about being able to sleep at night. In the retainer example, it’s about feeling in control. That’s massive for lots and lots of people. It’s maybe about, I wanna do something that’s gonna make me look good so I I get the next promotion or I can leave this crappy company and get, get a job somewhere better. Whatever it’s, or there’s the weirdly Freudian stuff that my, my wife is a psychotherapist used to specialize in. That’s I think what they really make the decision on. But then of course you need to give them the rational basis. Yes. Which comes from all your, your, your various return on investment calculations. And I used to say the only people who actually make decisions based on spreadsheets are venture capitalists and private equity people. Then I realized that’s not true either cuz you know, they are basically driven by panic. They’re driven by fear of missing out. Yes. They don’t wanna be the firm that didn’t didn’t invest in the first Facebook fund.

Andy (00:33:56) – Yeah. Yeah.

Alastair (00:33:57) – And they’ll fiddle and I, I did some due diligence for a venture capital firm. They wanted to do the deal and they fiddled the due diligence. You know, I pointed out to them, you’re projecting 105% market share in year three. I didn’t care. They still did the

Andy (00:34:12) – Deal . That’s really interesting. I’ve been doing some work with a startup recently and they’re trying to raise some investment and I, I did a, a marketeers forecast that was reasonably conservative and they wanted no, no, let’s go for the ambitious. And I highlighted the fact that the Yeah, yeah. The audience numbers were incredible, but they still wanted to go for it.

Alastair (00:34:33) – Yeah, yeah. So anyway, and you know, mo more moral of the story is you need your, you need your financial calculations, you need your return on the investment calculations, but the thing that will actually move people is, is, is is somewhere else,

Andy (00:34:46) – Alastair, I get the sense we are just touching the scratching the surface of a really, actually a fascinating subject, but I, we, um, we must draw it to a close. So if people want to find out some more and get in touch, I know you’ve mentioned your newsletter, but is there another way to reach out and, and, and say

Alastair (00:35:04) – Hello? Okay. Um, you can go to the int intelligence pricing architecture.com page. Um, you will then get, uh, you can, you can get the newsletter and I’ll, I’ll give you a guide to the three steps, how to get paid, what you are worth. And I’ll also give you access to very quick online assessment. So if you do suspect that your pricing could be working better for you, three minutes, completely anonymous. Um, and it will tell you, you either reassure you or tell you where the problem is and and how to fix it. And that that will come if you’d like to, um, put your details into the box there. Um, otherwise you can reach out to me by email I’m or LinkedIn. I’m really easy to find. Excellent. My parents knew nothing about this in 1961, but they gave me the perfect search engine optimized name. I’m the only Alastair driver in Google

Andy (00:36:07) – . That’s excellent. Perhaps your parents are very forward thinking and saw this massive change coming. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing some of your expertise and your insight. I know that that’s gonna be of extraordinary value to many people and uh, I will definitely be reading your book, so I appreciate that. And looking back for your earlier book, you mentioned about behavioral economics as well. Yes. Is that what I can source on Amazon? Is that Oh

Alastair (00:36:34) – Yeah, yeah. That’s, um, the, the title of that is everything you know about, everything you know about Business is Wrong,

Andy (00:36:40) –  very provocative. Perfect. Thanks so much. And.

What Agencies Should Start and Stop Doing in 2023

What Agencies Should Start and Stop Doing in 2023

Earlier in the year, my friend and host of the TechLondon podcast, Bernie Mitchell, invited me to join him on his show to discuss what agencies should start and stop doing in 2023 to grow their business.

I wrote about it here.

Well, the show was published recently, and you can listen in now:

Listen to “Andy Bargery – Marketing Consultant and Agency Advisor at Agency Squared” on Spreaker.

It was a great pleasure to join Bernie to chat all things agency, covering “full service”, leadership, the importance of a business plan and a strong vision, contracts, scope of work and so on.

If you run a small or micro agency, there should be plenty in here that will help you on your way.

Enjoy folks.