How we used LinkedIn to refine our virtual marketing offer

Once we had ironed out the operational creases with our initial clients, it was time to get feedback on how the offering was presented to our target audience.

Both services are B2B and while not what we would consider ‘high ticket’, at between £1800 – £2000 per month, are out of reach of many micro and small businesses. We felt LinkedIn provided an excellent opportunity to gain further feedback on the virtual marketing service offering as our target audience could easily be identified and engaged, and were more open to business communication than other channels due to the nature of the platform.

The Target Audience

  • Managing Directors
  • In Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside of Greater Manchester.
  • Turnover in excess of £500,000
  • In our second degree network (to leverage mutual contacts)

The Strategy

Our objective was to gain valuable feedback on how the offer was presented as well as the pages used to convey that offering.

In order to do that we reached out to 100 people within the target audience through LinkedIn, and asked them for their professional opinion and feedback directly. We would target second degree contacts to leverage mutual connections and encourage a response.

The initial gathering of prospects, connection requests and messaging was automated but personal.

The Process

  1. Target audience criteria set
  2. Automated collection of profiles
  3. Manual sift of prospect list to ensure validity
  4. Automated connection request and personal message to 100 prospects
  5. Manual reply to each person who responded
  6. Feedback received, recorded and acted on
  7. Personal thank you to each respondent

The Results

  • 753 Initial prospects identified
  • 100 shortlisted
  • 100 connection requests and personal messages sent
  • 32 responses and feedback

 

32% response rate

 

The Feedback

  • The feedback on the offering itself was overly positive.
  • Respondents unanimously commented on the ‘virtual’ offering idea positively, and made recommendations on how better to communicate the benefits.
  • There were several (embarrassing!) mistakes on punctuation and highlighting the need for objective proofreading before taking anything to market.
  • The pricing was generally considered competitive, with a number of respondents commenting on similar but differently packaged services of local providers being approximately 30% higher.
  • Whilst respondents clearly liked the comparison offered between an in-house permanent staff member and the virtual offering, they asked for more clarification on the exact specifics and for it to be represented in percentage format.
  • There were several recommendations made to remove the focus on ‘cost saving’, as it was felt by respondents that this would attract ‘penny pinchers’ and people who are not committed to the development of their business and investment in strategic marketing capability.
  • The combination of working on-site and remotely was a clear winner with respondents, as a completely remote option did not appeal to them.
  • There were recommendations made around the structure of the page and size of the font.
  • All feedback was considered, with the vast majority of it acted on and common themes running throughout. Overall, the feedback given was reassuring and there were a number of referrals made to prospective clients at this stage.  

Validity

Respondents were asked initially to provide honest and objective feedback to help the development of the service and anyone who was considered ‘too close’ of a connection or we had personally met was excluded in the manual sift of prospects.

We stressed the need for honesty and there was no incentive for response.

We relied completely on being extremely polite and the good nature of those we contacted to earn feedback.

Lessons Learned

Combining LinkedIn and the ‘personal touch’ whilst still automating some of process provided an excellent compromise between effectiveness and time efficiency.

We consider a 32% response rate without incentive and 3 referrals for a new service an excellent result and have made it part of our strategy to market the services to a wider audience and with a sales focus.

Whilst it may have added an additional 2 weeks onto our launch, we feel that we have increased the relevance of our marketing message and the way in which we communicate the benefits of the two offerings dramatically.

This final stage of refining our offering not only supported our initial market research, but gave us increased confidence in the investment we have made in the virtual marketing services.

 

How we tested the virtual marketing concept

We listened

If it’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s to listen to our customers. If you boil down marketing to its core elements and principles, that’s exactly what it is; listening to people, understanding them and then solving their problems. It’s what we teach our clients in workshops and in consultancy, and what we practice with our own campaigns.

The virtual marketing services project was born out of the need to solve our customers problems, but the traditional consultancy model just wasn’t working for us (or them!) any more, and we had to have a sit down and reconsider what exactly it was that we offered our customers.

Identifying the problem

For years we’ve acted as consultants for SMEs across the North of England across various industries in b2b and b2c markets. Often we’d work from customer offices, working to develop strategies and campaigns to generate them more revenue, retain their existing client base, bring them into the 21st century or solve specific issues.

One of the major issues we faced was bringing their marketing team (or sometimes individual) on-side. The problem with bringing in a consultant to assist in developing marketing capability we often found, was that the person(s) responsible for marketing within the company felt threatened. Imagine if your boss all of a sudden brings in someone to do or assist in the job you’ve been doing. It probably isn’t going to feel great.

We found that we often struggled to get ‘buy in’ with these people, and we had no authority to lead, manage or hold them to account when work wasn’t done to the required standard. In some cases they actively sabotaged campaigns or dismissed valid ideas out of a misconceived notion of self-preservation.

Another problem we faced was fluid nature of consultant or contractor hours. Businesses often found that they were paying more than they were expecting, as campaigns took longer than predicted to complete or ‘mission creep’ happened and more hours were invoiced.

This was far from ideal for our clients, and it wasn’t ideal for us either. There’s nothing worse than an invoice being paid begrudgingly, late or not at all. Even if results are brilliant, there’s nothing like an unexpected high invoice to put a dampener on the mood. We want our clients to be happy and feel they have received value for money.

That’s why we sat down and thought about what we could do better.

Solving the problem

For years we’ve worked alongside businesses that have used ‘virtual assistant’, ‘virtual office’ or ‘virtual receptionist’ services. These are usually completely remote workers, that offer a high level of service at a significantly reduced price when compared with hiring in-house. They manage to do this passing cost-saving on from lower overheads, servicing a number of clients at the same time and leveraging opportunities made available by technology.

The idea intrigued us, and there are (still at present!) very few people offering the service. We didn’t feel that 100% remote working was conducive to good marketing, unless it was task or technical orientated such as conducting on-page SEO. We wanted to be more than that.

We played with the idea and created the Virtual Marketing Director and Virtual Marketing Manager solutions. They provide a combination of on-site and remote working, and target specific needs. Adding strategic capability to businesses that would otherwise not have it. 

It allowed us to come into a business with a level of authority in the eyes of the current marketing team, with clear responsibilities to manage and hold them to account on tasks or projects; thus removing one of our main issues when working as consultants.

Rather than working from a time based pricing system, they utilise set monthly pricing, and focus more on scope of service than the number of hours worked. While this isn’t a highly scalable service for our business, it does mean we can have more impact on a smaller number of quality clients. 

As such, the people we work with go through a selection and scoring process to make sure that we are firstly going to be a good fit, and secondly that we can make a positive impact on their business.

Testing the solution

Before openly marketing the services we needed to test them.

We leveraged referrals through our network and tested the services on 3 new clients at a discounted rate over a 10 month period. Ironing out operational creases, identifying new opportunities and taking on valuable feedback from our clients.

It was at times a frustrating process, taking ideas back to the drawing board and ensuring we didn’t fall back into the traditional consultancy style of service. But we were happy with the results, and most importantly so were our clients. 

The next step was to take this revised version of our services to people in our target audience and outside of our initial referral network.

 

See how we refined it further using LinkedIn >

Jack Barron

DirectorInvoke Media

interim head of marketing

Consider this if you’re hiring an interim head of marketing

Interim Head of Marketing

 

If you’re looking for an interim head of marketing you’ve either had a recent and unexpected departure, or have identified the need to expand your senior management team. Either way, you’re looking for an experienced marketing professional with the ability to drive your business forward and direct your team.

 

Hiring an interim head of marketing is an excellent way to plug a skills gap in your company and keep things moving forward, but it also comes with several considerations.

 

Recruitment Cost

 

The UK recruitment industry is worth in the region of £34bn per annum with temporary placements making up the lion’s share of that figure. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation estimate that agencies operating in the temporary and contract market averaged £380,792 in sales per employee, with margins around the 20% mark.

 

In other words, business is booming for temporary and contract recruiters, and in addition to the cost of employing your interim head of marketing, you’re going to have to pick up the tab on the cost of recruitment.

 

When you’re looking into hiring an interim head of marketing, make sure you take into consideration the additional costs of recruitment and beware of what you agree to, even in casual email correspondence. Agencies often have complicated terms that tie you in at an early stage.

interim head of marketing recruitment

Time

 

Another consideration when hiring your interim head of marketing is of course time. Both the time it takes to recruit your new team member, and the time you are looking to hire them for.

 

If you’re using a recruitment agency they can usually source you a suitable candidate pretty quickly. They’ve got access to large databases of professionals and dedicated teams of headhunters, but if you’re looking yourself then it may take considerably longer.

 

Another time factor to consider is the length of the contract or agreement. If you’re only hiring for a short time, then you may find that both using agencies and sourcing yourself will have inherent issues attached.

 

The Right ‘Fit’

 

CV’s and experience aside, often the most important factor is ensuring that your interim head of marketing is the right ‘fit’ for your team and organisational culture. Because of the temporary nature of interim roles and the high cost of recruitment, replacing your new hire just might not be an option. You’re likely going to be tied in to keeping your interim hire until the end of the agreement, so it’s important that they are the right fit, you can work with them and most importantly, that your team can work with them.

 

Always ensure you get a face-to-face meeting with candidates, even if this delays the hiring process. Some agencies may try to rush through the placement, but ensure you get enough face-time with your potential candidates and get to know them before committing to a decision.

 

Recruiting from Within

 

Another consideration is to recruit your interim head of marketing from within the team. Whilst there are obvious benefits, such as them already knowing your business and industry, it does also come with potential problems.

 

If you remove them from their existing role you’re going to need to fill the space left beneath them. You’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul, but could have some significant cost saving as a result. If you ask them to dual hat, you’re likely going to see it affect the level of work in one or both roles.

 

The main issue with this solution is that at the end of the interim arrangement they will likely be a bit deflated if they have to step back down and someone else comes in to fill the role, even if this was always on the cards and made clear. Other team members will also likely feel some level of resentment towards them. It could be a short-term solution but have long lasting issues in the effectiveness of your team.

 

An Alternative Solution

 

A solution you’ve possibly not thought of is hiring a virtual marketing director or manager as your interim head of marketing.

 

We’ve created two services specifically for filling the marketing capacity at senior management level, placing highly experienced marketing professionals into local SME’s, with a focus on flexibility, cost-effectiveness and low commitment for the business.

 

Our virtual marketing director and manager services can be placed in less than a week, with minimum commitment on length of agreement and without the high costs associated with using recruitment agencies.

 

You can read more about our virtual marketing services and if they’re a good fit for you by clicking HERE.

 

What Marketing Teams Want From Their Leaders (Research Results)

Over the last 18 months we’ve been conducting research to support the development of an e-learning solution for in-house marketing teams. A large part of that research has involved speaking to marketing executives from across the North of England to ask their opinions, feelings and thoughts for the future.

Inevitably, the subject of marketing leadership (or lack of it) featured prominently. We decided to dive a little deeper into the topic and find out what in-house marketing teams want from their immediate leadership, the directors and senior managers that they report to.

The full research is due to be published alongside the launch of the e-learning platform, but I wanted to give you a sneak peak at some of the results in advance, in the hope that they can be used to effectively manage and lead your own team now.

There were a few common themes that ran through the research.

General Satisfaction

In general, people are satisfied or happy with their leadership but acknowledge room for improvement.

Marketers were asked to rate the leadership/management style of the person that they report to on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being extremely satisfied and 1 being completely dissatisfied.

The average score was 3.9, showing a general disposition towards being happy with how they’re managed.

Who They Report To

Those who reported to a marketing director were more satisfied than those who reported to a managing director or sales director.

Participants were asked about their general satisfaction at work and the performance of their leaders. They were also asked who their team reported to. We then used this data to assess if there was a correlation between the person they report to (and their role) and perceived performance and satisfaction.

The most satisfied marketers reported to a head of marketing, marketing director, digital marketing lead or senior marketing manager.

The least satisfied reported directly to the managing director or sales director, with reasons ranging from a lack of understanding of the marketing function, too much of a focus on sales (by sales directors) and being held back from trying new channels/tactics from lack of understanding.

Things They Liked About Their Leaders

The things their leaders did well were generally soft skills and qualitative.

Which areas do you think your leadership does well?

Positive Attitude 75.9%

Commitment 62.1%

Honesty 56.9%

Passion 62.1%

The Things That Need Improvement

Communication and time management were common themes throughout the research. Many of the qualitative exchanges revolved around clear communication, last minute or unrealistic deadlines and being incorrectly briefed.

Which areas could your leadership improve on?

Communication 37.9%
Time management 32.8%

Inspiring Others 29.3%

Creativity & Innovation 22.4%

Delegation 20.7%

My Thoughts

Whilst the research is ongoing I think it’s important to take a step back and look at the data so far to see if there are opportunities to explore other areas of emerging themes. So far it’s given us some lines of enquiry for further investigation.

It’s also massively important to realise that research alone doesn’t give a full picture. The most value has come from the qualitative exchanges between my team and in-house marketers and the open ended questions we’ve included in the research.

My experience of good leadership both in my prior line of work and in business has ultimately boiled down to a leader listening to, considering and engaging their team. That to me is one of the key differences between managing and leading a team to success.

This research has certainly given me some food for thought and there is obviously a clear demand for marketers to be led by someone who understands their job, communicates clearly and with commitment. I’m looking forward to publishing the full results in the near future!

Jack Barron

Managing DirectorInvoke Media

Group Marketing DirectorThe Cotton Court Group

virtual marketing director remote

Deciding whether to hire a virtual marketing director

Has your business got to the stage where it needs to hire a new marketing director?

 

If so then you’ve reached an important time in your businesses lifecycle, but there’s no need to dive straight into hiring a permanent member of senior management just yet. You’ve got options!

 

Of course hiring a dedicated on-site marketing director would be an ideal solution for many businesses, but it isn’t always necessary and there’s the obvious cost associated. The average UK marketing director salary sits at around £84,000, and when you take into consideration national insurance & pension contributions, sick days, holidays and perks you’re looking at well over £100,000.

 

Another option to consider is hiring a virtual or remote marketing director. While many of those on offer are completely remote from your business, Invoke Media have managed to strike a happy medium between the on-site and virtual solutions.

 

Our virtual marketing directors spend most of their time off-site, but on-hand to handle any queries and checking in with the team at various times through the week to ensure progress is being made. In addition they hold weekly skype team meetings and will be present on-site at least once per week.

 

Jack Barron, Invoke Media’s Managing Director and one of our Virtual Marketing Directors says:

 

“Our virtual marketing solution is a new take on two existing ideas. We understand the need for an on-site presence and regular contact with the team, but also acknowledge the cost benefits of the virtual solution. We were quite surprised not to find anyone on the market providing such an offering and jumped at the opportunity”.

 

The virtual marketing director from Invoke offers businesses who have the need for a marketing director to access the skills and experience provided by one, but also makes it accessible to those businesses who are not quite ready to pay for a new full-time director.

 

They offer flexibility and access to wider network of contacts, professionals and future customers. The real winning factor with a virtual marketing director however, low commitment needed by businesses.

 

“Businesses are initially committed to a three month agreement, but after that it turns to a 30 day rolling contract. This ensures that we don’t get any time wasters, our directors have enough time to plan and implement strategy, but most importantly our customers don’t feel as though they are trapped. Their new virtual director has to stay on top of their game month-to-month. There’s no room for complacency,” Barron says.

 

Another major advantage of a virtual marketing director is of course the cost. On average businesses can save over £76,000 by going virtual.

 

“By shifting the overheads to Invoke and keeping on-site hours, benefits, national insurance and pension contributions out of the picture, businesses can save a staggering amount. We’re living in the digital age where business need not be bound by geographical limitations. This allows us to burden the cost, but spread it amongst several clients. You’re receiving the same level of commitment, experience and skill for a quarter of the price. The difference between an in-house employee and virtual director is staggering. That money can either be kept within the business or reinvested into marketing spend,” Barron continues.


The decision on whether to hire a virtual marketing director versus an in-house employee is heavily dependent on your business circumstances, available budget and willingness to adopt new work practices. Hopefully this article has provided some further insight and helped you with your decision.

 

virtual marketing services

Virtual Marketing Manager or Director, which is right for you?

 

If you currently don’t employ a marketing manager or director, there may be some confusion as to whether a virtual marketing manager or virtual marketing director would be best suited for your company. While there is certainly some crossover in the skills and attributes of each, there are few distinct difference which will impact on your decision.

 

What are Virtual Marketers?

 

Before we continue, let’s establish what exactly virtual marketers are.

 

There are no universal definitions for what virtual marketers are. For some they are just freelance marketers who operate completely online, providing specialist skills for an hourly rate. For others they are integral parts of a team, fulfilling the complete marketing function or slotting into an effective team of in-house marketers.

 

We at Invoke have come to define our own meaning of virtual marketing. We do not believe that an SME can be fully serviced from thousands of miles away without there being a breakdown in communication and a lapse in quality.

 

We’ve created virtual marketing positions that primarily operate using technology, but also have an in-house presence; creating a happy medium between an employee and online outsourcing.

 

The two positions that we’ve seen most demand for, are those of marketing director and marketing managers, so we’ve created our virtual marketing manager and virtual marketing director positions based on the feedback & advice of SME operators across the Northwest of England.

virtual marketing manager

The Virtual Marketing Manager

 

A virtual marketing manager is someone who would slot into your existing marketing team underneath a managing director, sales director or equivalent position. Their main role is ensuring the implementation of an existing marketing strategy, and keeping the team accountable and on track.

The effective virtual marketing manager will be experienced and use his or her skills to support and supplement the current marketing team. It might be that the marketing team is only small or is lacking key capabilities, in this instance the marketing manager would help plug that skills gap.

 

The main focus of a virtual marketing manager is ensure campaigns are delivered and delivered on-time. They have regular check-ins with the team and directors throughout the week, and provide a visible presence at monthly meetings.

 

virtual marketing director

The Virtual Marketing Director

 

The virtual marketing director differs slightly from the virtual marketing manager. They operate at a strategic level, devising and creating the plans that will drive the business forward. Their main role is to plan and monitor the implementation of a marketing strategy, ensuring that work is completed on-time and milestones are met.

 

The effective virtual marketing director will have worked in a marketing executive and managerial role at some point, drawing on his or her experience within the industry to understand the wide range of options available, and then make recommendations based upon it. They may get involved in the actual implementation of marketing if the necessary skills were not present in the team, but would generally act from a supervisory capacity, reporting back to the business directors directly.

 

The main focus of a virtual marketing director is to devise a strategy, create a plan on how to achieve it, and then ensure it is delivered to a high standard. They have regular check-ins with the marketing manager and team members, keeping them on-track and accountable, and report back to the directorship or board with any issues or progress. In addition to check-ins, they provide a visible presence on-site in the month to ensure progress is made.

 

 

Which is right for you?

 

Deciding on whether to hire a virtual marketing manager or virtual marketing director completely depends on the requirements or circumstances of your business. If you have an existing marketing director and strategy in place, it goes without saying that a virtual marketing manager will be the most suitable option. If however you don’t have marketing strategy in place, then there is no plan for a virtual marketing manager to work from and therefore a virtual marketing director would be more suitable.

 

We’ve created some quick fire questions to help you assess which assistance is best for you.

 

Marketing Strategy already in place or have Marketing Director?

Yes – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Manager

No – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Director

 

Does existing team need more hands-on supervision?

Yes – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Manager

No – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Director

 

Do you have a clear vision of your business marketing objectives and how to reach them?

Yes – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Manager

No – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Director

 

But what if you need both?

 

There’s nothing to say that you can’t hire both a virtual marketing manager, or virtual marketing director, or that it has to be two separate people. While the functions of the job are different, most effective marketing directors will have had marketing manager experience.

 

Invoke can provide a tailored solution that brings both of these roles together for a reduced and cost effective rate, supercharging your businesses marketing. Get in touch and ask us how…

 

Want to see more about virtual marketing services, what’s included and how much it costs? Click here.