Don’t do innovative marketing just for the sake of it

Do you worry that you’re not being innovative enough with your B2B marketing? You’re not alone if you do; research by Accenture indicates that many marketers worry that they aren’t being innovative enough to deliver.

We’re worried too, but mainly because the value of ‘innovation’ seems unquestioned. Unless we define ‘innovation’ as ‘whatever works best’, we think it’s odd to simply assume that ‘traditional’ can’t drive growth and only ‘innovation’ will do.

Give ‘em what they want
Going back to first principles, as marketers we exist to help sell stuff to customers. That means we need to be doing things that customers are interested in. We need to be in the places they’re in, saying the things that will resonate with them.

Now, that might mean you need to turn your marketing on its head and start “actively driving the disruptive growth agenda”, to quote Accenture. But it equally might mean that you just need to really hone your value proposition and messaging so that you’re saying things that your audience simply can’t ignore.

Assess the value of innovation
Don’t get us wrong — we love innovative B2B marketing ideas as much as anybody. We get that most audiences respond to creativity, to ideas that are clever and different. And the strategies suggested by Accenture make perfect sense, because they focus on meeting customer needs and delivering outcomes that matter to customers.

That said, we’d caution that innovation needs to be backed up by solid customer insight and business reasoning.

Innovative B2B marketing concepts are often expensive — if not financially, then certainly in terms of your time as you climb a learning curve, win over internal audiences and overcome objections from more conservative colleagues. That kind of effort shouldn’t be entered into unless you’ve got good reason to believe it’ll work.

Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget when your boss is staring you down in a planning meeting and you feel like you need to impress.

Back to basics
So the next time you’re sat at your desk, wondering what you’re going to do to shake up your marketing efforts and deliver the results the business demands, ask yourself: do you need to come up with a bleeding-edge, ahead-of-the-curve marketing agenda? Or do you first need to make sure the basics are covered really well?
• If your assets are uploaded as PDFs, are they optimised for search engines?
• Is your content engaging?
• Are your email campaigns up to scratch?
• And so on.

A foundation for innovation
Of course, looking after the basics isn’t nearly as exciting as blue-skying the next paradigm shift in your content marketing.

But given how stretched marketers are, activities that can deliver relatively large improvements compared to the effort required — such as covering the basics — seem to make sense.
And of course, once those basics are covered, when you do find an opportunity and a need to be innovative, your efforts will likely be that much more effective.

Weird Words: 2017’s top five office discombobulators

Here at HN we’re passionate about clarity in our B2B copywriting services, but we’re also big fans of a peculiar word every now and then.

Now, if you enjoyed our top five Christmas weird words, then we have a treat for you — five more weird and wonderful words. This time around they all have business applications, but if you manage to weave any of these into your next meeting, we’ll be seriously impressed!

5. Eventuate

Number 5 on our list is ‘eventuate’. It sounds like one of those words that’s just been made up by some self-made business guru, and therein may lie its downfall — using it may make you look like one of those people who says ‘paradigm’ a lot, and that’s not good.
Definition — ‘Eventuate’ is a verb meaning to result in [something].
Origin — It’s a combination of the Latin words ‘eventus’ (event) and ‘actuare’ (carry out), and it originated in the US. The Oxford Dictionary states, rather wearily we think, “still regarded as an Americanism, though it has been employed by good writers in England.”
How you might use it — “Our Christmas campaign was a rousing success, and it should eventuate in us all getting bonuses this year.”
HN Weirdness Rating — 4/10

4. Asseverate

We particularly like this one because it sounds like a cruel and unusual medieval punishment, but is actually quite positive. Lots of potential for fun, then.
Definition — ‘Asseverate’, another verb, means to solemnly affirm [something]… to avouch or assert.
Origin — It comes from the Latin ‘assevērāre’ (to assert seriously).
How you might use it — There are plenty of ways you can use this in a business context but you can have particular fun with it if you work in HR or management: sit the employee down, fix them in your gaze and say, “We’ve been reviewing your performance this year and we can asseverate… that you’re employee of the year! Congrats!!”
HN Weirdness Rating — 6/10

3. Transpicuous

If there’s one thing we love at HN as much as words, it’s an example of delicious irony and this is a case in point because…
Definition — When applied to language, ‘transpicuous’ means plain, clear in meaning.
Origin — This word is also derived from Latin (we’re seeing a pattern here), from ‘transpicĕre’, which means to look or see through.
How you might use it — How about, “There’s a conspicuous lack of clarity in this social media strategy; I think we need to consult HN! They’re good at making things transpicuous.
HN Weirdness Rating — 7.5/10

2. Foofaraw

We’re comfortably into weirdness territory with this one, and the great thing is, however you think it’s spelled is probably correct. The OED lists no fewer than 25 different variations, so you can really unleash your creativity here.
Definition — ‘Foofaraw’ works as a noun or an adjective, referring to something that is fussy or flashy, or much ado about nothing.
Origin — With multiple origins, ‘foofaraw’ borrows from the French ‘fanfaron’ and the Spanish ‘fanfarrón’ (both meaning braggart (n) or boastful/swaggering (adj)), and had life breathed into it by our US cousins once more.
How you might use it — Lean back in your chair, suck the air through your teeth and assert (asseverate?), “If we managed to cut the foofaraw in this meeting, you never know what might eventuate…we could actually get somewhere!” Note: The mere use of the word ‘foofaraw’ is likely to result in foofaraw.
HN Weirdness Rating — 9/10

1. Footle

Well, the looks I’m getting from the rest of the office suggest I should probably make myself busy elsewhere. So this will be our last weird and wonderful word… for now.
Definition — Does it mean futile perhaps? Or is it more like pootle? Well the answer is yes… to both. ‘Footle’ means to act or talk foolishly; to waste time.
Origin — The origin isn’t clear on this one but it’s very similar to, and possibly derived from, the Scottish/Irish word ‘footer’, which means to busy oneself in an aimless, ineffectual or clumsy manner.
How you might use it — “Why don’t you stop footling around with that blog post and make the tea?” That never happens at HN HQ of course…
HN Weirdness Rating — 10/10

We hope you liked our choice of weird words; why not share some of your favourites?

And if you’d like some help cutting through the foofaraw and making your marketing content more transpicuous, you can always give us a call on 01628 622187.

B2B copywriting: cut corners, not quality

Recent reports show that marketers are working harder than ever. For content marketers, a significant contributing factor is, no doubt, the sheer quantity of content they’re expected to produce.

Now we know you all love your jobs — marketing is the best job in the world after all — but that doesn’t mean you want to spend your whole life in the office.

So is there a way to cut corners with your B2B content, without taking a corresponding hit on quality? We think there is and here’s how.

1. Use time-saving tools Because, after all, the quicker you do things, the more likely you are to reacquaint yourself with the outside world. We use most of these tools here at HN and our loved-ones are grateful.

  • Hootsuite and Sprinklr are great tools for managing your social campaigns, helping you to store and schedule social content and measure its effectiveness.
  • Trello is a very flexible, online, collaborative project-management tool that works well for small teams and short projects (the kind that don’t call for Gantt charts, reporting, or active time-tracking). It also has a free, entry-level option.
  • Have you ever jotted down inspiration on a coffee-shop napkin, but struggled to take it to the next stage? Well, now there’s even technology to convert handwritten notes into digital content.

2. Repurpose content Once you’ve produced a great piece of content, don’t settle for using it just once. A good way to squeeze everything you can out of it – and get it seen by a wider audience – is to convert it into a new format. Another way to cut corners is to recirculate content without changing it. Or both. Here, for example, is another chance to read a post we repurposed earlier … about repurposing content.

3. Bring in extra help We would say this, of course, but agencies can be a great way to offload some of your work without decreasing your output. As well as sharing the load, an agency can become like an extension of your marketing team, helping you solve challenges quicker and save you even more time.

What are your favourite time-saving tips? Why not share them in the comments below?

Exit, pursued by a bear: another content marketing lesson from Shakespeare

April may have come and gone, but this year still marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. In this post, we take a look at one of his greatest enigmas – and the content marketing lesson we can draw from it.

‘Exit, pursued by a bear’, appearing in Act III scene iii of The Winter’s Tale and heralding the death of Antigonus, is perhaps one of the most famous stage directions ever written — not least because there are none other like it in all of Shakespeare’s collected works.

A lesson from the Bard

But famous and unprecedented as this stage direction is, I can tell you (based on the rigorous test of asking all of my friends) that though many people have heard of it, they often know nothing else about the play it comes from (possibly not even its name).

I don’t pretend to know the mind of someone who’s been dead for 400 years, but I’d hazard a guess that Shakespeare probably wouldn’t be thrilled that one of his plays is best remembered for a stage direction. Which suggests, to me, a lesson about content creation: if you’re going to do something different, make it count.

Redesigning your white paper to be visually stunning (for example) is a great idea – unless it becomes remembered as ‘that paper that looked great’ rather than ‘that paper that was really engaging and made some great points’.

Where there’s a Will (Shakespeare), there’s a way

Innovation in content creation is awesome and absolutely to be encouraged, but how can you be sure it isn’t going to do more harm than good? Here are a couple of options to test any new concept.

1. Prototype it. Get a sample made up and think through the effect of the finished piece. Will it (still) have the result you’re looking for?

2. Ask someone not connected with the project. It’s possible that you’re too close to the content to see the impact your ideas might have – so find someone who isn’t involved and get their opinion.

Perhaps we’re being a little unfair to Shakespeare. Given that he purportedly invented around 1,700 of the words we use today, it’s fair to say that most of his innovations supported his content, rather than distracted from it. With a little thought, yours could do the same.

Maximising your impact with numbers: marketing claims

It’s an old joke that 78% of all statistics are made up. In fact, when it comes to marketing claims, statistical analysis can be a powerful tool – as long as you maintain accuracy by understanding and substantiating your figures. Here are five recommendations to help you maximise your impact with numbers and validate your marketing claims.

Ensure just cause

Analysing the right sample group means you can prove pretty much anything you want – children with bigger feet are better spellers; and you are twice as likely to choke on a cherry stone if you read a weekend newspaper. Sometimes, these statements have credible explanations — children with bigger feet could well be older than their classmates – but the relationship between cherry stones and newspapers is a prime example of relationship and causality being abused. It’s more likely that it’s pure chance.

Keep it legal, decent and honest

It’s easy to understand how beguiling statistics can be to an enthusiastic marketing team – ‘8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas’ remains one of the nation’s best-remembered marketing slogans. Unfortunately, it wasn’t true and fell foul of tighter advertising regulations. Its replacement ‘8 out of 10 owners who expressed a preference said that their cats preferred Whiskas’ didn’t have the same impact and was soon dropped.

Be precise

Consistently confused in the media, the difference between percentages and percentage points is significant. To use a prime example: in December 2008, UK interest rates fell from 3% to 2%. In much of the media, this was referred to as a drop of 1%, but this is wrong; it’s actually a drop of 1 percentage point.

Don’t underestimate your audience

UK TV screens are often filled with adverts from supermarkets battling for cash-strapped consumers. When Asda (part of Walmart) chose to quote analysis of its prices by a third party, Tesco responded with its own calculations based on 200,000 actual customers. Unsurprisingly, each method favours the particular advertiser. The public is increasingly sceptical of marketing claims with a quasi-statistical basis, but this can work to your advantage. You can boost your credibility by publishing substantiated data, stating the sample size and the method of data collection.

Communicate your results effectively

Using graphs and charts is a great way to get your results across clearly and powerfully, but it’s just as important not to mislead. Show the units of measurement, cite sources and, while a little creativity can emphasis your point, don’t overdo it.

What do you think? Do statistics help inform your buying choices or do you prefer a storytelling approach? Let us know in the comments box or through Twitter or LinkedIn.

The ARC of customer engagement

“81% of marketers say customer engagement is a top priority.”

This was one of the headlines from B2B’s new report on the ‘age of engagement’, so it’s a fair bet that some of you out there are on a mission to increase your customers’ engagement with your brand. At HN, we’re firm believers that engaging content = engaged customers. So, to help you in your quest, we’ve created a three-step checklist, and a handy mnemonic – the ARC of customer engagement.


Make sure your content is easily found and in a format that’s easy to digest. Optimise your content for search; embed social sharing buttons in your content, and optimise your content for viewing on mobile. And don’t hit your audience with a hefty white paper straight away – use a more digestible format, such as a video or an ebook, to coax them in and get the conversation started.


Connect your message to situations your customers are facing today. Don’t be afraid to newsjack if the right story comes up. And bear in mind your audience’s place in the decision-making journey: if they’re at the consideration stage, provide evidence that the challenge you solve is important and worthy of attention. At the decision stage, prove the benefits of your solution in the real world.


Nobody waits to be worn down by dull content. They just click and move on. Avoid that scenario by injecting some entertainment into your content, using persuasive and well-crafted storytelling to keep their attention – and keep them clicking.

What do you think?

Is customer engagement a key issue for your business? How do you go about keeping your customers engaged? Let us know in the comments, or get in touch on Twitter and LinkedIn.

You can download the full infographic here

Five ways to make your presentation go further

Here’s two quick questions:

1: How long does it take you to create a presentation from scratch?
2: How many times does that presentation get used?

In my experience it can take a good few hours — if not days — to get the message right for a new presentation (and that’s before I’ve started fussing with the slideware). However, that presentation may only get one outing. Even if that outing is in front of a large group of people, it doesn’t feel like quite enough return on the time and effort I’ve invested to make the presentation in the first place.

So how can you get more value from a presentation? At HN we’ve got a few ideas to help you make your presentation go further.

1: Video it

If you can get the audio quality right and the environment is suitable, a sharp video can capture the emotion and punch of a live presentation for posterity. You can make the full version available or take the option a lot of our clients choose and edit the presentation down to hone in on the pithy messages you want to get across. The final video could go on to YouTube or reside on your website as a helpful resource for visitors.

See some examples of presentation videos we’ve created here.

2: Add a voice over

If you want more control over the audio, or to focus on the screen rather than the presenter, then recording a voice over is the perfect solution. You can also choose to break your presentation into bite-size segments, or prune the number of slides you show, to keep things brief. As with a video, the final article could end up on YouTube or on your website.


3: Create an infographic

If you’ve got awesome illustrations in your presentation, don’t relegate them to the sidelines — turn them into an infographic and let them shine. Not only are infographics a great way to communicate your key points succinctly, you can use components of them in social media to entice viewers to click through to the bigger picture. Here’s one we made earlier.


4: Craft an ebook

By combining elements from your slides, speaker notes and the transcript of your presentation, you can create a succinct ebook to get your message across. A thoughtful layout will pull in graphics from your presentation to create a real page-turner like this one.


5: Write some blogs and an opinion pieces

Use the thinking that went into your presentation as the grist for your blogging mill. It’s likely that more than one opinion is expressed in your presentation; pull each one out and write it up as a short piece. If you feel more comfortable, get a colleague to interview you to create a mini Q&A session. Who knows – you might find you’ve got a whole paper’s worth of content!


What do you think? Do you have any other ways of making your presentation go further? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

You can download the full infographic here

Hashtags: more than just an afterthought

Here’s a question for you: when you’re creating social media content to support an asset, when do you create the hashtags? All too often, we see people doing it once the asset’s been finalised, and the whole social media post becomes a sort of bolt-on to the piece itself.

In our experience, the best success comes when the hashtags are created at the very beginning of the creative process – often at the same time as you’re brainstorming the piece. At this point, everyone’s thoughts are (or should be) tuned to what the customer wants to hear – what messages will resonate with them, drive them, and inspire them to hear what you’ve got to say.

Contrast that with the end of the creative process, where thoughts are more likely turned towards getting the asset finished, and (depending on how long the asset has taken to create) people’s creativity may be ebbing.

When it comes to creating a hashtag – which needs to move your audience to engage with and share your content – which of those two environments would you rather be in?

The hashtag you choose to support an asset shouldn’t just be catchy; it has to relate to the same customer needs that are driving that asset’s creation. Think of it almost like a campaign driver; a word or phrase that evokes the emotion, or the attitude, you want the asset to foster in your audience. By planning your social activity at the same time as your asset creation, you’ll not only come up with a better hashtag – you might find yourself discovering a whole social campaign theme that you wouldn’t have thought of if you were just bashing off a few tweets or Facebook posts once the asset was finished.

How do you create hashtags for your assets? We’d love to know. Leave us a comment, or get in touch on Twitter and LinkedIn, to let us know.

Selling through storytelling: a parable by HN Marketing

At HN, we’re passionate about telling stories when we write. We know from experience that stories resonate with an audience, and using them wisely can greatly boost the success of your marketing campaign or sales pitch. What better way to illustrate that than to tell you a story? So – are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

Geoff sat down in the conference hall, still hungry after the pitiful sandwiches that were a staple at these sorts of events. Prospects for the afternoon weren’t good; two hours on some new software that the CEO thought would really help him improve the running of the IT department. Between that and the sandwiches with their unidentifiable filling, he was certain he would be asleep in ten minutes.

The lights dimmed, a projector whirred to life, but instead of the usual presentation, with lists of USPs and dreary bar charts, Geoff found himself watching a short film about one of the company’s customers. They’d faced problems similar to the ones he faced back in the office, from connectivity issues right down to always having to stay late to run maintenance on the company’s machines. He found that he related to the customer in the story, and when the company’s software was brought in to solve the problems, Geoff saw exactly how it could help him out too.

After the video, there was a Q-and-A session, during which the presenter continued referencing the story; and even got a laugh or two for his joke about the tie and the staple gun. Geoff found himself thinking of how much easier the software would make his job – he might leave the office on time some evenings! – and he resolved to call the company the next morning to discuss his situation.

On his way out of the conference, Geoff was given a leaflet which continued to talk about the software through the characters from the film, and though Geoff was privately dubious that anybody smiled that much, or with teeth that white, he found on the drive back to the office that he was already thinking about what he’d have to do to get the software installed on his company’s network. He was, he had to admit, totally sold on the product.

Of course, case studies are not the only form of storytelling with value in marketing. Keep your eyes peeled for more blogs on storytelling in the coming weeks, as we explore how you can use this technique to boost the effectiveness of your marketing materials.

Additionally, we are re-telling this story as an cartoon, to see the difference between a story told in words and one told in pictures.

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