It’s you not me

Email newsletter tips

Adrienne Robins


By Adrienne



Email newsletters continue to work in terms of marketing ROI. In truth, some work better than others, though.


So what does a good B2B newsletter look like? Clearly, it needs to motivate the recipient to take a specific action and communicate brand personality and principles.


For many B2B marketing teams email newsletters should also be quick, painless and cost effective to put together, distribute and monitor. By contrast, many businesses find themselves bogged down in content calendars, copywriting and distribution schedules.


And therein lies a huge problem. Email newsletters, like social media, can become a time thief if you let them. So, here are my top five tips to keep your email newsletter schedule lean and focused.


  1. Clean and segment your data.People change their emails regularly. Get someone to look at the hard and soft bounces and review the list. You’re wasting your time and money if your newsletter doesn’t even get to the right inbox.
  2. Less is more. People don’t open newsletters expecting to read lots of copy. They want to be directed to an opportunity or something of interest. Give them a snippet and a link and then tell them to use it.
  3. Make it mobile. If you use Mailchimp or similar, your e-news will be optimized for mobile. If you’re coding your own or outsourcing the process, take a moment to check it makes the mobile grade. Many people open newsletters away from their desks while multi-tasking; make it easy for them.
  4. Be relevant. Your e-newsletters should be about your customer not you. Most are interested in content that makes their life or prospects easier/better. What’s the best way to do this? Answer your clients’ questions and problems. It really is about them, not you.
  5. When do you open newsletters and when are you most likely to take action? When you’ve got a bit of downtime? The morning commute or over a lunch break is good for business propositions as people are less likely to be head down in research or in back-to-back meetings at these times and yet will still be in the work zone.

There’s one important area I haven’t covered and that’s subject lines. That’s for another day…

Are you brave enough to say “tails” instead of “heads”?

Flipping a coin when it comes to exhibitions

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul.


If you flip a coin, you might think you have a 50/50 chance right? Well you might be wrong.


If you attend an exhibition, then you will get leads right? Well you might be wrong on that too.


Most of us will typically say “heads” when asked to flip a coin, and actually, our chances might be slightly better by doing so. Research in 2012 found that things like the way people toss a coin and the weight of the coin, often leads to 51% of tosses landing on heads and 49% on tails.


So that slight advantage exists with heads even if we did not know it to begin with and just went along with what we have always done.


However, the research also found that if you use an American 1 cent coin (also known as a penny), the weighting on the heads side featuring Abraham Lincoln is such that tails is more likely to appear 80% of the time.


Flipping a coin when it comes to exhibitionsWhat appears to have been a 50/50 decision for most people, has turned into an 80/20 decision in favour of tails.


It just shows that even when we are making a simple decision, we need to ensure we have the evidence at hand to make sure we can make the right decision for our business.


I’d recommend making the same evaluation when it comes to your communications strategy. So rather than making a 50/50 punt, can you toss the coin so that it is more like tails on an American penny and therefore more in your favour?


For example, are you sure you are employing the right blend of experience and creativity to raise the profile of your business through PR and marketing?


Would you be better off arranging your own bespoke tightly organised event rather than spending a fortune on an exhibition where you don’t know whether the right people and leads will go to your stand?


Think about it, attending an exhibition means the odds are not in your favour. There is risk that your stand is in the wrong place at the end of a dead end, or that the person with the £1 million contract in their pocket is networking with your competitor because you were talking to a retired bloke who wanted to reminisce. It is also in the interests of the exhibition organiser to get more stands, and that means it dilutes the amount of potential visitors per stand.


Don’t get me wrong, some exhibitions are great, but having been to many, I also know the ones where the tumbleweed is blowing down the aisles and exhibitors look annoyed and frustrated with the time and money they have spent. I visited two of them myself in just November last year.


At a guess, I would say the odds of an exhibition working for you would be less than 50% – maybe even less than 25%.


But what if there was the American penny option, where you knew that if you shout “tails” the odds are massively in your favour?


There is that option, organise your own event with our expertise, and we will ensure that every person networks with you is a potential lead.


We will ensure those leads get quality time with you, so you can show off your business.


So when you are deciding whether to do that exhibition again, maybe it might be better to be brave and shout “tails” and do something where the odds are more in your favour.


RIP Black Friday

RIP Black Friday

Adrienne yellow


By Adrienne


Maybe it was the wind and rain that kept UK shoppers at home on Black Friday. But I suspect it had more to do with Black Friday over-run.


With deals available in store and online from the preceding Monday and widely available for a full seven days (some being available even longer), shoppers could be forgiven for their lack of urgency, excitement or belief in the whole bargain fandango.


If you read my pre-Black Friday blog, you’ll know that I wasn’t very enthused with the concept, and it seems that I wasn’t alone. As it happens, I ventured into Oxford city centre on Friday. Parking space – tick. A lovely lunch – tick. Crowded shops – not a bit of it.


RIP Black Friday

Official figures from retail analyst Springboard (and featured here in The Guardian) said that footfall across the UK had fallen 9.6% on the same weekend last year. Numbers at retail parks, however, were up, possibly reflecting an increase in online sales and the increasing preference for click and collect.


In the main, reports to date are recording more online activity with the high street floundering. It is, they say, a change in shopping behaviours.


I’m inclined to think, however, that while online shopping and weather are in part responsible, it was a serious misjudgement to extend Black Friday offers beyond the 24 hour period.


Marketing and events need to make an impact. They shouldn’t run the risk of becoming background noise.


The clue is in the name. Special offers need to be …. Special. Otherwise the event should be re-badged ‘Black November And Early December’.

Black Friday: marketing magic or mayhem?

Christmas Shopping York

Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne


It’s 7.30am and I’m wondering what this year’s Black Friday phenomenon will bring? Doubtless there will be more shoppers, more queues and more spend. But is it enjoyable? Or memorable – for the right reasons? And does it really deliver value add for retailers and their supply chain?


Let’s unpick this and consider it from a variety of audience perspectives.

  1. The shopper

It’s clear that lots of shoppers, whether online or on foot, love the Black Friday concept. Who doesn’t love a bargain? Actually, the answer is likely to be more people than you think.


Because it depends whether that bargain is something you want – or is just something you’ve chanced upon. In my experience, buying something that catches your eye in a sale is likely to be a mistake. It’s going to stay in the cupboard, unused and unloved. But maybe I’m not a good sale shopper.


And I’m not the only one. There’s a bit of a Black Friday backlash going on, both here and in the USA, with some stores promoting a more considered shopping approach. The Booksellers Association is taking a little bit of the fight to Amazon with the launch of Civilised Saturday, where independent bookshops offer simple discounts, to be enjoyed in the calming surroundings of a book-lined, hushed haven.


I know where I’d rather be. And quite frankly, left to my own devices (and without the scrum) I’m likely to spend more. Much more. Because, as my better half has lamented for more years that I care to share, I am indeed a retail marketing person’s dream.

My Pavlovian response to end of isle displays or emailed discounts is nothing short of perfection.

My shopping ability is, frankly, gold medal standard. It’s just the mess and mayhem of sales that I can’t do. I’m surely not alone in that.

  1. The retailer

It’s estimated that shoppers will spend £1.07bn today, 32 percent up on last year. If I was a retailer there’s a good chance I’d be seduced by this potential. But hold on a minute, there’s another side to this story.


Last year’s Black Friday left Asda, one of the first in the UK to adopt BF, with a bad taste. Over excited customers, whipped into a consumer frenzy, combined with inadequate management and processes led to news bulletins showing customers trampling over each other to grab (and I mean grab) a cheap TV. Not a British queue in sight. Shocking, dangerous, disappointing for many and far from perfect publicity.


To add to the insult, shoppers either left empty handed and upset or grabbed their bargain and left – which really wasn’t the point. Asda will be one of the few to shun Black Friday this year.


By contrast, in 2014 White Stuff, that quintessentially British brand, steered clear of Black Friday, instead opting for the more sedate approach of mailing, vouchers and online offers in the run up to Christmas. Did it miss out? Did it heck.


It announced strong Christmas trading results, with sales up 17.9 percent over the key Christmas trading period, an increase of 6.5 percent compared to the same period in 2013. One of the reasons for this, it said, was its full price trading stance and extra gift card promotion during Black Friday.

  1. The supply chain

The impact of Black Friday on the retail supply chain is certainly worth a mention – and here I think it’s got to be positive. Yesterday I was hosting a media visit to a Tesco distribution centre (very impressive), getting a behind the scenes look at their recycling operation.


They were ready for Black Friday and have calibrated it into their calendar now, so for them it’s busy business as usual. The supply chain plans for events like these, and having them in the calendar makes them all the more manageable and profitable. It’s a win here.

  1. The media

Regardless of other audiences, for the media Black Friday provides a fact-filled picture bonanza. It doesn’t matter whether the figures are good or bad or the shoppers are naughty or nice – they’ve been publishing stories about queues on Boxing Day for as long as I can remember and I can’t see them stopping any time soon.


From a marketing perspective, Black Friday creates opportunities for engagement, headlines and big bucks. But the jury’s out as to whether it has simply redirected Boxing Day sale spend and if it delivers on the critical added value elements of customer loyalty, trust, and additional sales. The figures from 2015 will make interesting reading.


I’m hoping that a more targeted, customer-centric marketing approach will win out.

I’m dreaming of a Hollywood Christmas – already!

Christmas business planning

Kirsty HanickeBy Kirsty

So here we are nearing the end of November – a time most notable for the specific phenomenon: feeling “Christmassy”.

At this juncture the notion of Christmas is exciting, hopeful and expectant.

From any age I have always dreamt of what I call my “Hollywood” Christmas. Winter’s frosty delights captivating me, all dressed, elf like, in garlands of red and green, singing carols while snow is falling and being nestled by the fire nibbling on Christmas delights and mulled wine.

All this talk of performing makes me want to dust off my tap shoes, stuff a mince pie in my mouth and shuffle off to 42nd Street or the set of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or such like.

Just now, putting on my duffle coat and stepping into the cold air, which still comes as a surprise, is cosy and charming. I almost envisage crystals forming on snow clad trees – yes I’m still dreaming. Santa is on his way, and as I’ve only been a tiny bit naughty and a whole lot nice, wonderful delights will be sitting under my, not yet bought or decorated, tree very soon.

I am currently dreaming about hams, lobsters, chutneys and lots of cheese. Oh go on then some champagne and cocktails won’t go amiss. Though in a few weeks I think that I’ll be praying for 1st January to start my ongoing New Year’s resolution of losing a stone. Oh, must correct myself and say 4th January as it’s rude to start a diet mid-week….

Hyde Park winter wonderland

Talking of New Year’s resolutions….every year starts with regular 10k runs around some London park, mentally patting myself on the back for doing ‘so much exercise’. Starting another one of my health kicks and boring myself senseless  with talk of how this is the latest best thing. I get super organised and fill my diary with plans and activities that I’ve yet to accomplish.

Needless to say, in my mind I’m still in January 2015, which would account for the fact that most of my resolutions continue to be just that – resolutions. The only thing that I ever follow through on is business planning and delivery.

If you haven’t yet got your business and marketing plan in place for 2016 then now is the time to get planning. If you have a plan in place, how much of it includes doing something a bit different? Are you looking for ways to connect with your existing customer base, deploy new tactics to bring on board new clients? Then why don’t you drop us a line as you can see we do things differently.

But for now I’m off to see what’s occurring in my winter wonderland! Ta ta.



When Christmas marketing goes bad

Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne.


Christmas is coming … but there’s no room in the car park for Coca Cola. Or at least not in Leicester.


Now, I’m not going to lie, I’ve drunk my fair share of Coke in the past. Without question, I drink less now. Much less. And that’s nothing to do with maturing tastes – it’s simply down to the amount of sugar and the effective messaging of Jamie Oliver et al.


But where Jamie gains plaudits, politicians are lampooned. As Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester, found earlier this week when he announced that the infamous Coca Cola truck would not be welcome in his constituency.


In his opinion, should the infamous truck roll into town, lights blazing and Santa winking, the people of Leicester would leave their houses and protest.


Well, Keith, I doubt that’s going to happen, but you do make a valid point.


Having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes himself, and well aware that this and tooth decay are becoming an increasing problem within his constituency, surely he’s allowed to campaign against those that are contributing to these health issues. And linking his arguments to a big brand definitely got headlines, provoked debate and gave him a platform for his messages.


Now, while on the theme of Christmas TV advertising, I woke up to see the latest John Lewis offering plastered over Facebook and YouTube #manonthemoon and to be honest I was a little disappointed. Am I the only one? Will I grow to love it? Is it too much of the same kind of thing? If you haven’t yet seen it you can watch it here:



All of these thoughts rushed through my head while I watched the little lass with her eye to her telescope spying on the lonely old man in his (B&Q) hut on the moon. Yes, I do want to make people happy with the perfect Christmas present (and will doubtless spend a number of hours in said store), but I’ve got to say I’m a bit bored with the John Lewis Christmas soundtrack and sentiment.


I really want these adverts to be a Christmas tradition but, on first view, I wonder if this type of Christmas marketing is already on the wane. Perhaps I’ll love it in a few weeks’ time, but I doubt it. As much because I rarely see ads anymore. Sky Plus has seen to that.

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul


I was in California, recently turned 21, and able (legally at least) to have a drink again.


There was a bar in the place I lived, and I was sitting outside on 5 November, enjoying the warm sunshine and a pint with an American mate Chris.


He was a lovely fella, very chatty, quirky, but he could also be a bit crazy.


We got joined by some of the other Brits who were living there too, and we also started to remember, remember, the 5th of November, and we were all thinking of being back home, cold, probably wet and drinking mulled wine.


While we were glad to be in the sunshine, it was one of those days that made us all think of back home.


fireworks“I’ve got some fireworks,” said Chris. “I bought them in Mexico, let’s go and set them off tonight so you guys can celebrate the failed terrorist attempt.”


Now, we should have seen the word Mexico in there as a warning sign, but we weren’t thinking, wrapped up in thoughts of home.


That night, we met up and headed off into the Berkeley Hills to a bit of open ground, and Chris brought his fireworks with him and started lighting them.


They weren’t great fireworks, but we delighted in imagining ourselves back home in Britain.


Suddenly, we saw flashing lights and heard sirens.


“Run!” shouted Chris.


Confused we started running with the police cars close to arriving. We’d had warning so we all got away safely.


Chris hadn’t told us that fireworks were illegal in California due to the risk of forest fires, which is why he had smuggled them in from Mexico.


For us Brits, we could have been arrested, and getting arrested meant being deported, which could have meant our degree studies being messed up.


Fortunately, no harm was done either to us or the California landscape.


Today is 20 years since all that happened, and every 5 November I always think of that day and have a little chuckle. It was fun, it was a little bit naughty, a bit dangerous, and something I will always remember.


In fact, it is the only Bonfire Night I do remember.


Now, I’m not suggesting doing something illegal, but doing something memorable and different is good.


We pride ourselves in coming up with professional, but creative ideas in everything we do. Our business is about doing things that are memorable – and legal!


How aboot something different?

Burns Night

Kirsty HanickeBy Kirsty


Every year, on the 25th January, or there abouts, Scots around the world celebrate Robert Burns (aka Rabbie Burns) life and works and pay tribute to the Scottish culture.


I say this as if I have hosted, or at least attended, many a Burns Night and this could not be further from the truth. I am born and bred Scottish, but in the 20 years I lived north of the border, not once did I go to a Burns Night. I have eaten haggis all of my life, love nothing better than partaking in a spot of Highland dancing – I do a mean sword dance – but I had just never gotten to a Burns Night.

Burns Night


I spent quite some time at university abroad and shattered many a poor foreigners´ assumption that us Scots are all mad, drunkly roam around the Highlands, wearing string vests, eating fried mars bars and everyone is called Mary Doll or Hamish – Rab C Nesbitt has a lot to answer for!


What I am alluding to is that “mair nonsense has been uttered in the name of Robert Burns and oor culture than ony’s, barrin liberty and Christ”. What I mean is that Rabbie Burns was a genius, with an ability to paint beautiful pictures with words, a wonderful command of language and a collector and improver of old Scots songs.


It took a while for me to celebrate the life and work of Burns and my own culture, but when I did, it made it feel all the more special.


The company that I used to work for was looking for a client retention and satisfaction strategy at the tail-end of the year.


If there’s one night in the year to gather all of your nearest and dearest for a hearty feast, with delectable haggis and drams along with rousing verses and ceilidh dancing until the wee hours, it must be Burns Night. And so on a cold January night our clients were enticed and cajoled through the doors for a fun-filled evening where they were to be entertained by their very own service provider.


We had singing, poetry readings, almost a war of words with the toast to the lassies and the retort to the ladies, and our very own mad Scot brandishing their knife whilst addressing the haggis – oh no it was not me! There was even a bagpiper, who moments earlier had had to remove the MD´s sporran from his neck and place it around his waist. The event was a rip-roaring success and for all many were suffering the next morning the Burns Night is still being spoken about fondly.


If you are looking to satisfy and retain your clients and open the door to new ones why not think of doing something that little bit different and personal. A repeat has been asked for many a time but as I have moved on to pastures new, it may be better you drop us a line and see how we can become


New acquaintances


Always brought to mind


New acquaintances never to be forgot


For the sake of auld lang syne!

The people on Grand Designs who ignore their architect

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul


I’ve been doing some volunteering work, local to where I live. I won’t say what it is, as that wouldn’t be fair.


However, there was a huge debate a little while ago within this organisation about how we communicate to the wider public about what we are trying to do.


There was recognition that I have the communications experience, and so I put together a strategy.


This strategy outlined a face-to-face approach explaining to the public what we do, a digital approach that used a website and social media to enhance that communication, and finally (and with least priority) an approach of using leaflets and the press.


But some of the more conservative members of the group put all their thoughts and focus onto producing a leaflet as that is what they have always done.


A leaflet is fine in the right circumstances, but in these circumstances, it came at great cost to the organisation (printing etc), and its benefit wasn’t necessarily clear.


The problem is that the majority of the group I am working with are set in their ways. They are used to sending out leaflets, and even if it isn’t working, they still feel they should do it.


Although there are members of the group who recognised my communications expertise was valuable, those conservative ones were holding back the overall aims of the organisation by not adapting to the reality of now.


Adrienne and I have written about the 1980s and the 1990s in our blogs, and we shouldn’t return to those days in terms of communications. We have to build on those days, but also adapt to the realities of 2015.

Kevin McCloud Grand Designs

Working with the volunteering group reminded me a bit of those people you see on Grand Designs who have a vision for their dream house, they employ an architect who draws up the plans and they love the house they are going to get.


But as the build progresses, they keep interfering and changing things, even though the architect looks on aghast or even walks away. Mistakes and misfits start to get introduced, and you can tell the building won’t be as good as was originally planned. Windows are slightly misaligned, or awkwardly shaped walls are introduced.


By the end, Kevin McCloud will usually say something along the lines of “it is a good house, but architects design great houses”.


With communications, if you employ that expertise, you have to know your objective, develop the strategy for communicating it, then implement that strategy keeping in mind the objective.


If you want great communications support, you also have to know why you want it and then trust it.


Eventually, I developed a strategy to communicate to these conservative volunteers. At the meeting, I reiterated the strategy, explained why we shouldn’t focus too much on the leaflet, but should look at our overall objective…and I eventually got my way.


Our communications campaign is already delivering results.


Sometimes it’s good to judge

Recycling frog

Adrienne yellow

By Adrienne

Those of you who already know us here at Hanicke Robins Sanderson will know that we have strong links with the waste management and recycling sector. Now, there’s a bit of an urban myth that goes something like this:

once you get involved in recycling, you’re in it for life’.

Which certainly seems to be my story.


My recycling journey started when I was commissioned to write for MRW, many moons ago. I then hopped back PR-side, working in-house for the now (much missed) Aylesford Newsprint. A couple of agencies, and many recycling, circular, energy, renewables, etc, etc clients later – here I am working with Paul and Kirsty, setting up our exciting new events-focused agency.


Hanicke Robins Sanderson is not sector-specific. We’re B2B specific. And we’re specifically creative. But we’re not exclusive to recycling – or any other sector as it happens. We like to share our comms skills far and wide and shake things up a bit.


Recycling plastic

But recycling is always there. I hope it always will be.


And so you can see why I was happy to once again be invited to be a judge for the 2016 National Recycling Awards, which I of course accepted immediately. Last year’s judging interview sessions were really impressive, and I’m looking forward to more of the same next May.


So start writing your entries, becasue I’m sharpening my judging pen in readiness.


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