Blog marketing

Anonymous Textline Failure?

Last year I set up Focus, which is a dedicated company culture and company strategy consultant. 

My mission is to: fix the broken world of work. 


Many people have had negative experiences in business and they typically come down to two key elements, the workplace and the people. Unfortunately, businesses just don’t have the time or right management in place to address these issues.

I have worked in:

  • The best environments where you feel empowered and you win every day.
  • The worst toxic cultures and you feel helpless and no one should feel like that at work.

In most businesses, the more senior you become, the more disconnected you tend to become from the day-to-day. 

What people are feeling, what they are doing and what hurdles they are facing. 

In some instances, I was lucky to be close enough to colleagues to hear what the issues were, what problems they were encountering and how the team were feeling. 

No one is ever trained or prepared to be a business leader and fix every problem.

It is important to call out I love coaching and mentoring and part of the deal when you continue to help ex colleagues after leaving is you become known to provide “therapy” to colleagues years after leaving. 

🧠 Brainwave πŸš€ or Brain Fart πŸ’¨ ?

In a brainwave, during the first lockdown, I mapped out issues people faced, from the most junior to the most senior members of companies.Β 

The most common issue that kept coming back in my spider diagram was the leadership and important decision-makers were β€œtoo busy”, too unapproachable or disconnected from the day to day to understand that the strategy was broken or the culture was failing. 

The business person in me knew there was an opportunity to help junior to senior members of companies with an anonymous way of getting in touch with me.
No one junior to mid-levels wants to email from their work email address that their company has issues and could be traced back. 

Often senior leaders do not want to be the first person to speak up or speak out against the consensus, sad but true. 

More than an unanswered agenda item

Even more common, sadly, company culture and strategy are agenda items on the ELT agenda or the MT agenda, they are often nudged down or deprioritised while firefighting other issues.

The Marketer in my head kept suggesting that people will want to contact the right person or people to help, particularly with company culture, so I created the anonymous textline, (a simple process really I brought a new virtual number, added to my mobile), where I do not use the name or number of the person who has reached out but some unique identifier and enough background to highlight the issue and the company would benefit from listening and creating conversation around the issues they were facing. 

I promoted out as a content marketing rather than advertising, I promoted via my newsletters, I tweeted, I shared on LinkedIn, I shared to industry leaders and waited for the flood of texts to come in. 

The flood never came. 

The honest truth, I have received 3 text messages in nine months:

  • One was too early for the company to tackle
  • Another was an agency that needs help but cannot sign off the budget due to corona
  • And the other wanted me to cold call without any information as they were in a unique place at the company.Β 

Why this story?

Some times the best idea even with decent distribution can be too early especially in a pandemic while everyone is just keeping their heads above the (troubled business) water, it can be too subtle, it can be mistimed or misplaced or it can be too easy for people to reach out for help.
Sometimes friction does help.

Or potentially a good idea needs to be made great by investing huge amount of paid advertising behind it to make it hit the critical mass. 

In life you can hit home runs, more regularly you have to stop, review, tweak and go again. 

In marketing and growth being prepared to go a few more rounds helps you standout and win vs other competitors who are short term thinkers, so the lesson is to deliver a great product offering or feature, be prepared to tweak, test and iterate and iterate again.Β 

So yes, the above actions is what I am going to do. 

I live, learn and hopefully going to liberate a number of company’s struggling.

FWIW: The anonymous textline number is +447480064060

Blog marketing The Future Of Marketing

🀯 Everything As Experiences

Everything As Experiences 🀯 is the third theme in the future of marketing blog series. Everything as experiences is a way to think about the next move in Marketing and giving your customers real experiences they want to talk about, share and re-experience.

There has been many things written about the third space, right now we have two clear spaces, home and work.

The third and important space is the experience space. The 10% space where we will crave to have more experiences, enjoy more stimulation and look to escape.

With the number of varying lockdowns and quarantines, we have experienced many fewer experiences, some crave the theatre, some immersive movies, or like me art and zoo’s.

Like with everything as a billboard and everything as contactless, here are five ways for your business to leverage from a Marketing, a Growth and a Product department perspective.

Simple Experiences

We have craved experiences with lockdowns and quarantines, we have had our homes become work and our work defaults to being at home.
Humans are craving experiences, we are looking for immersive experiences, can you add something to the mundane or what has become boring?

Can you add to it by creating trails, walking adventures, walking tours, running playlists etc? 
Simple experiences that you can do solo or in a pair alongside pairing with a leaderboard or leaving notes or tips for others looking to experience this will be great ways to engage this audience.

Safe, Intimate, Personalised

Cinema / Theatre – Smaller more intimate experiences are what we will crave and feel safe with, can you offer an exclusive first look, a slightly more luxurious experience, or consider how you can spread people and colleagues out and build out deeper immersive experiences with brilliant visuals, brilliant surround sound or spaces where you do not want to use your mobile? 

Yes, this does mean scaling down or scaling up experiences with smells, different sounds and more tailored experiences, this also comes with better margins and people talking about the experience vs just the film or performance.

Rethinking Retail

Retail has been one of the hardest hit industries, huge brands have collapsed, many have been sold and brought by younger, online only brands.

Something that has been missed from retail is the touchpoints and the experience of good retailers.

There are many elements that have been missed and are actively being craved and this won’t change:

  • The visuals
  • The inspiration (and the aspirations)
  • The aural experience
  • Hearing the sounds, the music, people around you – many miss being around strangers
  • The touch of something on your skin, the feel of the item of clothing, the varying quality between two items
  • And then the taste, treating yourself to a coffee, a snack from your favourite treat spot and being able to have one day full of experiences.

There are many areas we look for, here are the areas you will want to include when creating your experience, visuals, audio, text (seeing and engaging with text), the touch / feel of something and adding taste into the experience.

I truly believe retail as the biggest opportunity with the right positioning and training can kickstart revenue spending and win over online for many people.

Peloton and connected fitness have really owned many of these areas and re-built to own their category.

Dark Stores & Experience Stores

Dark kitchens aka ghost kitchens have grown exponentially in recent years, not just because of restaurants shutting but down to being able to scale, offer your food to many dinners at completely new and different locations and branch out your offerings in a repeatable way, alongside ensuring you can keep your margins down.

Many dark kitchens operate on the well-known food delivery apps, some are available directly and although the cost and logistics are higher the ownership is higher.

What if in the future, these dark kitchens become hubs of experiences, blended with many of the other options and inspirations offered above but combined with retail, combined with personalised days organised for you.

Partnerships will be essential to win this space, this is how many local highstreets and stores have stayed alive and competed against much larger businesses. Local communities tend to step up and support each other in times of need. If you remove friction points and enable quick, convenient and reliable experiences you have a chance to win the even increasing bagel economies.

The High Street is struggling, many will be ghost towns when they re-open, there will be real estate that goes unopened, unused for many months at a time, what if we rethought this and applied a dark store approach.

In September 2020 I recommended in my 2021 predictions local would be essential as would the opportunity around dark stores.
Some ideas:

  • Being able to offer fewer people (not cramming) into the store,
  • Offering invite-only in-store experiences you make the experience far more compelling. In-person, red rope treatment has been lost in recent years – leverage this.
  • Personalisation: you can offer personalised experiences with personalised pricing
  • You can connect online and offline together, gaining a better idea of ROI and CAC, alongside connecting LTV.

If this location was dark and invite only this would mean customers could book and you can build scarcity around the store, you could offer stock levels and instant picks ups – which many will look to, click and collect is still a huge influence on purchasing.

This truly can improve bad trips and turn into true experiences.

3D / 4D Experiences 

Experiences require more than one layer, experiences are more than two dimensions they are 3d or 4d. Remember going to your favourite galleries, your favourite sporting events, they include the visual, they include a sound (even silence) they include the arena, they include people around you (a small number to a group or crowd) and they typically involve the smell and a feeling.

Taking inspiration from your favourite theme park, the theme part craft experiences:

  • The story is vitally important
  • The way your emotions follow the three-story arch
  • The way you feel and the ways you connect and then interact with the story
  • Most recently they added smell and liquid, typically water to add another layer of connection and experience and leaves you walking away thinking about the experience and wearing it (wet clothes or smelling od something) for the rest of the day.

Is this format something you could leverage, could you create or curate experiences using all of these senses?

Win the future of marketing and growth by creating experiences, where you can consider leveraging contactless tech, leverage billboarding and improving experiences connected to you and your brand.

Read The Other The Future Of Marketing Articles


Filtering Agencies & Agency Criteria Framework

With over two decades in Marketing, Growth and Product leadership roles, you typically develop your own internal framework for filtering agencies or criteria you use when working through onboarding an agency.

This framework and series of questions are going to help you to filter through potential agencies and help to select your right partner for future success.


  • Internal skills gap – Are there skills gaps or missing knowledge where an external agency or consultant can set up and drive the business forward?
  • Headcount – Is there a headcount struggle? Are there restrictions on hiring or a need to keep headcount low? If yes, an agency might be the only way forward.
  • Agency fees – Does the agency charge much higher fees? Will the agency fees stay static?
  • Agency skills – Does the agency have unique skills or understanding of your market? Does the agency have the skills to fill the requirements?
  • Important Question: Will the external agency help to train and develop the skills gap within the team


  • Will the agency align with the team?
    – Important to understand upfront and use company culture and department subculture as a guide.
  • Will the agency team add value to the existing team?
    – This is important as a close working relationship will be important, especially if the agency is taking on acquisition.
  • Will the agency team or account team be able to ramp up within two work sessions?
    – Agency onboarding can be challenging, this should not take more than a couple of sessions to hit the ground running and improve numbers.
  • Can the agency own a line as if they were an internal team member?
    – Your trust of your agency should be on par with a new staff member, you are hiring for them to fill a role and objectives. If they will not own the stream of work, these are likely the wrong partners.
  • How good is the actual agency team vs the pitching team?
    – The pitch team often is very different to team working on your account, the account team is the fairer representation of the agency vs the pitching team. Ensure you virtually meet the account exec or manager throughout the pitch process.
  • How good is the account management?
    – If account management is poor or constantly reactive how will they address this?
  • An important question when you will rely on working closely with the new agency partner. Would I hire the account manager or director if they were available on the market?
    – If the answer is no, are you adding to the existing team? Are you improving the output of the team? Really dive into this the first few weeks of the relationship.
  • If there was a problem would they own it and let me know before I knew?
    – This is essential in teams of any size, you will want the agency partner to act like they are part of the team and owning the line. Ensure you manage expectations up front and list as a requirement.

Budget based

  • How much will it cost?
    – Cost should never be a surprise, especially with follow up pricing, extra charges or work that is outside of the retainer, these have to be called out up front.
  • Are they worth the extra vs another agency?
    – This is hard to judge unless you really ask the right questions and understand the output. Cheaper doesn’t mean more value, more expensive doesn’t mean better results. Understand the cost and value of both.
  • How much is their agency fees?
    – Fees can be complicated if not a flat retainer, if tools are extra, ensure you receive a full breakdown of costs and fees.

ROI based

  • Will there be a positive ROI? When does the agency suggest there will be ROI from their activity?
    – ROI is essential in almost all companies, especially with Marketing teams, ROI and ROAS can be mapped out. If your agency partner cannot predict this and map out according question are they worth working alongside.
  • How long before ROI vs how to maximise x?
    – ROI is important but if you are looking for an agency to maximise a different metric, are they going to be able to help you with these goals or KPI’s? An example would be in Marketing & Growth, would the agency work add benefit to amplify your message, distribute your message in a cost-effective way to an audience you don’t have access to? Will this then lead to better metrics?

Reporting Based

  • What type of reporting do they offer?
    – Does this answer the problems you are looking to solve? Is it telling you numbers vs insights of the campaign?
  • When do they report?
    – What are you looking for? Weekly, monthly, quarterly?
  • How do they report?
    – Automated report? Added commentary? A run through in person? Or a remote video with insights provided?
  • Will dashboards be repackaged as reports?
    – If yes, this is likely not the right agency partner?
  • How is their communication based around numbers and insights?
    – Does their insights add value? Or do they just turn numbers into %’s?
  • Passive reporting vs proactive reporting?
    – Is reporting an important area for the agency to add value? Do they proactively dig into the data and numbers to improve your relationship and numbers?


Does the agency have unique tools?
– Many agencies have a tech team or data team that build out unique tools, will these add value vs off the self tools?

Do they have any unique insights or tool kits that would help you excel?
– There are many tools and unique tools that can help you win, some agencies can offer completely unique insights with Analytics extensions, browser extensions and plug and play tools.

Other Important Questions To Ask:

Ask: How is the account team set up?

Ask: How regularly does the account team change?

Ask: When there is a problem or issues, how will you address these?

Ask: What are your working hours?

Ask: What is your ETA’s and turn around times?

Ask: How will you support us through annual leaves

Ask: Is anything bespoke we can benefit from?

Ask: How big you are and how important you will be for the budget you will be spending monthly.
Some agencies are set up to support you and help you thrive, others are set up to scale their agency, a scaling agency going through growth can underserve you as a client. Understand if price and retainer impact you as a client, many will not expect this question and the answer is important.

Your Next Recommended Read:

Blog marketing

Building Internal Relationships Advice & Tips

Following on from the recent Deepcrawl The New Era of SEO Automation Event, here are a number of pieces of advice to build relationships and ensure you and your business have cross functional success and improve your business performance.

General Advice

SEO is not new – so most developers are aware of the importance.
Recommended Action: Make SEO relevant to the developer and Product Manager (Or Project Manager).

If you experience big shifts or important updates, have open dashboards or reports where developers can see this easily.
Recommended Action: Let people develop their own understanding, their version of what’s happened and help them understand it from a revenue and then from an SEO POV. Search first can mislead others from how important it is to them, their team, the business.

Revenue Discussions

By knowing what % of the company revenue comes through SEO, you can easily be able to show the benefits of your required work.
Recommended Action: If SEO is low % it will be treated as such unless you have a relationship and prove growth. If mid to high % it will be taken extremely importantly with a good relationship.

Relationship is key to gain buy in.

C-Suite titles rarely want to get into long debates, especially when it comes to dark arts and unscientific like disciplines like SEO.
Recommended Action: Use exec summaries and highlight revenue impact and then ask for longer debate when they can make the time. Forcing time upon c-suite instantly creates a more difficult conversation.

Build relationships

SEO is often a team that is not always connected closely enough to the Marketing Department.
Recommended Action: You will need their support and buy-in – help to build relationships, help social teams understand the algorithmic shifts from search as a lot of these applies to social media and social teams see this happening every day.

Build relationships with Product Teams and Data teams. These will be really important partners moving forward and will be important gatekeepers in important business decisions made.
Recommended Action: Help to share knowledge and insights with these departments and collaborate moving forward.

Build relationships with development team or agencies, the more they see you and hear from you – the more affinity and trust they will have for you.

Decision Makers

Know who makes the decisions internally and the frameworks they use.
Recommended Action: Build and apply to their frameworks. Without this, you will be seen as taking their time or wasting the company budget.

Product teams are often the gatekeepers for decisions and speak on behalf of many teams
Recommended Action: Collaborate, develop their knowledge, share their language and fit into their goals. Making others internally famous is often the quickest way for buy in.

Clearest Communications

Speak without jargon
Recommended Action: Be with clarity and sanity, remove SEO jargon, the less many senior people will keep on track or support with a quick discussion.

If you are technical, never get into a coding debate with developers.

Documentation helps almost 95% of the time
Recommended Action: Share documentation – development teams are used to github and other platforms where documentation is standard

The way you communicate will make or break relationships early.

Coach & Develop

Offer lunch and learns or morning coffee sessions to help to offer teachings to those who are interested.

Looking for a help developing your company or internal teams? Get in contact below for advisory & interim coaching for CMO’s and CGO’s.