Choosing charity: Collaborating for a common cause

Company away days and regular festive parties are the clichéd corner-stone of many modern organisations’ team building activities. Whilst these events do serve a purpose, by bringing everyone together in one place, do they really integrate team members? Moreover, are events that are often mandatory or taboo not to attend, the best way of prompting people to bond with one another? Or are they just an easy day out the office?

This October witnessed Volume sleeping rough for the third year running; raising money for Byte Night. Byte Night is the IT industry’s annual charity sleep-out, where each year thousands of teams from across the technology and business community spend a night exposed to the elements. It’s all in a bid to raise sponsorship and awareness of Action for Children’s work assisting to prevent youth homelessness.

Why do we take part year after year? The answer is twofold. Firstly, it supports a fantastic charity that helps over 250,000 people throughout the UK every year, with a cause very close to our heart. Secondly it is a great bonding opportunity for our rapidly growing organisation. With a total of 39 new employees in the last 6 months, the opportunity for the new blood, old guard and everyone in-between to get to know one another is fantastic.

One of the underlying reasons that charity events work is because they’re voluntary. A charity event, as opposed to a generic away day or a Christmas party, actually requires willingness from those involved to actively choose to participate outside working hours. Byte Night is the personification of that and really takes it a step further, requiring volunteers to continually fundraise for three months, followed by sleeping rough in October; it’s a real commitment.

The need for commitment from all volunteers creates a universal sense that all members are working towards a common goal. This commonality unifies team members and reduces the hierarchical boundaries between employees; no matter your position within the company, you’re all pulling towards the same end. All members being dressed in their ‘outdoorsy clothes’, coupled with sleeping rough in a park, really removes any notion that someone’s your boss. This removal of boundaries allows relationships to evolve from just colleagues or ‘work friends’; into something more authentic.

Such open communication is vital to our organisation and crucial in encouraging the creativity and innovation that we pride ourselves on. Furthermore, a likeminded willingness to engage with one another is a big part of Volume’s social and friendly culture; making for far more authentic relationships.

This year was another fantastic Byte Night for us and actually our most successful; managing to raise £9,760. Congratulations to all of our Byte Night team, who worked so hard to raise such a substantial amount of money.

The cheeky truth about identifying social media influencers

There is no doubt that social media provides us with exciting opportunities for marketing. Today’s social networks are a huge resource of information and give us access to a network of possible prospects, potential advocates and influencers.

But beware.

The truth

Social media is fantastic for communicating with and ‘following’ people (or accounts). It has given Joe Public a way of connecting to friends, colleagues, relatives and celebrities without potentially ever communicating face-to-face. It’s enabling anyone to have an online persona – encouraging the shy to become extrovert, no longer restricted to being submissive in face-to-face conversations. You know how it is: most are far braver over email than we are when face-to-face.

Suddenly we can be socially connected to almost anybody.

The false truth

It’s this ease and flexibility of anybody potentially being linked to anybody else that is diluting the real relationships. Businesses are looking at social media, and thinking it’s a great opportunity to engage especially with potential ambassadors. A business may look at me, as a busy LinkedIn user with 900 connections, and decide I have many connections therefore I have the ability to influence and repeat their message to all 900.

But is this plethora of connections really the advantage it seems to be?

I decided to undertake a small experiment to highlight just one of the assumptions often made around the use of social media marketing.

The cheeky truth

The subject of my experiment: are all social connections equal?

I sent a connection request via LinkedIn to Monica Irimia (one half of the pop singing duo “the Cheeky Girls”) and within a few hours I was proud to announce that Monica had kindly connected with me.

What’s more, Monica has very kindly started endorsing me for all sorts of skills.

Yes, a very simple experiment, but it speaks volumes.

I don’t know her, I’ve never spoken to her but, yes, Monica has accepted my connection invite and readily endorsed me. For the user this is what is great about social networks.

But the truth is that digital connections alone don’t give the true picture. Monica adds to my connection count but clearly won’t be influenced by me as a stranger, which poses a question:

How many of our connections do we really know and influence?

On LinkedIn I have three types of connections:

  • Peers: I have connected to industry peers as part of work, sharing content and gaining industry knowledge
  • Friends: I have connected to my friends simply because they are my friends
  • Celebrities: I follow other celebrities to see what they are talking about and follow their news.

What I don’t do is communicate with them all the same way. So, not all connections are equal. They’re not even used in the same way.

Making connections count

I’m know I’m not alone as there are many thousands of social networkers who are connecting to people they don’t know, have never met and have zero engagement with. This puts a wholly different take on the social connections matrix, and makes identifying true influencers a far more difficult task.

In an age where we have so much information at our finger tips, we need to think more strategically in order to ensure we utilise social media correctly. It’s not just about pushing content out to as many people as possible.

Don’t assume. Analyse & Engage

A cursory look at network and audience stats is no longer enough to identify influencers and potential advocates.

At Volume, we understand that its quality and not quantity that is important. Our methodology is to generate social profiles from social data analysis. We can then score influence through tangible information.

Our analysis looks at insights such as:
What area is the connection an influencer?
How strong are their connections?
Professional seniorities and roles.
What engagements are they partaking in?
Physical locations
(don’t forget that people still do meet up in a real world)

Once you understand the recipient, their networks and their relationship to you or your brand, you can engage in a far more productive and relevant way.

Social profiles are here to stay.

Disengagement marketing? De-connecting to reconnect with our customers

You may have read our previous blog on FOMO – Don’t be the last person to find out about FOMO (that’s ‘fear of missing out’, by the way)’. FOMO is a well-recognised social media-related anxiety people experience when missing out on the latest news, an important event or a status update. This syndrome, according to research, affects 70% of adults and has become so common that FOMO has recently been added to the Oxford Dictionary. A recent study published in the July issue of the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, states that people who experience high levels of FOMO feel less connected, less autonomous and surprisingly less competent with others compared to those who do not care about missing out. And one in five Brits feel depressed after seeing pictures of activities they’ve missed.

Converesly, people are now consciously opting out of their social media platforms and the endless scrolling of their news feeds, as they embrace the “Love of Missing Out”, or as we like to call it, LOMO. Essentially LOMO is the concept of purposefully finding escapism, by removing oneself from the constant social checking culture.

By putting fears aside and excersing the extreme desire to be in the know, people are able to consume information on their terms. With 61% of Facebook fans electing to take a vacation from the site, it seems many are starting to say no to FOMO. But how are brands coping with their consumers switching off?

Some brands are becoming more aware about the threats posed by the addictive nature of social media and technology, even urging people to de-connect for a few hours to allow time to connect with the real world. Persuading their audiences to occasionally switch off could create an air of trust, plus better brand experience for when they ‘re-connect’ again, turning FOMO into a positive and helping ease stress and anxiety.

Take it offline. Brands need to understand that their consumers live offline as well and that the most important thing apart from ROI is building real relationships with them. Embrace their LOMO and encourage downtime, like Atos, an international IT company, who planned to phase out all emails among employees and instead rely on other forms of communication, whilst highlighting the importance of “switching off” after work. Even restaurants like Coca Suki encouraged diners to eat without their phones, allowing more bonding time with their company.

Although people may be switching off, we can’t deny that it is a fundamental human need to stay connected and belong, which is supported by Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. William Glasser also mentioned people need a sense of control, being needed by others, wider social connections and status are crucial for health and well-being. With this in mind, once people connect back to their devices, is their thinking and decision-making any different? Are they happier and more hospitable to receiving marketing messaging? If so, how should brands be ‘re-marketing’ once their audience is back online?

By considering these factors in any marketing strategy, brands will be able to tailor content to work around any consumer’s switch on or switch off LOMO lifestyle, ultimately making marketing less interruptive, less forced.

Just as a person occasionally unplugs once in a while to evaluate and build a more meaningful connection, brands can always do more to improve their relevance and timeliness. If brands were to treat each interaction as a real person who wants a real conversation, then the engagement and ROI will take care of itself and the quality not quantity of content should breed the perfect FOMO/LOMO combination.

Free fashion comes to campus with new app Fashionably Skint

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Volume is proud to have invested in the app Fashionably Skint, a free social app that lets students borrow and lend clothes on campus.

This app, which is available to download now on both iPhone and Android devices, gives students a fresh and fun way to get something to wear for free, for a night out.

Users can add items to their wardrobe on the app by either taking a new photo (like a selfie) or uploading one from Facebook. They then tag the item (to specify its type, brand, colour and size) so fellow students can easily find something to wear using the app’s refined search functionality. The app also has a messaging feature that enables users to communicate and arrange clothes swaps near them. After the item has been lent, borrowed and returned, users can rate their experience in a similar way to eBay.

Fashionably Skint has bFSeen founded by 26-year-old Graphic Design and Advertising graduate Amanda Baker, who previously worked as a Junior Designer at Volume (one of the UK’s leading innovation agencies). Whilst working at Volume, Amanda approached CEO Chris Sykes with her idea and asked for help to bring it to life. After a 60-page business plan and five intense presentations, Volume agreed to invest and the company has funded the development and build of her app.

It was Amanda’s own university experience that gave her the idea for this app:
“As a student, money was always tight but the opportunity to go out partying was pretty much every night. As well as studying, partying is a big part of the university lifestyle, but being a typical girl, wearing the same dress more than once always seemed a bit cringe, especially when I had lots of photos posted on Facebook wearing it. Luckily, I lived with three fashionable girls so we always borrowed each other’s stuff. This saved me a lot of money and enabled me to go out more regularly.”

With the rapid growth in consumer purchasing via mobile apps, Fashionably Skint aims to offer a unique way to promote exclusive fashion discounts and drive traffic to retail partners’ mobile sites. Amanda explains: “It’s still very early days, but this is one of the revenue streams I am looking into. I’m just excited to see how Fashionably Skint is used within the student market. This will determine a lot of things in regards to the business model and future developments of the app.”

Amanda concludes: “Being skint doesn’t mean we can’t look awesome on a night out. If one hundred girls at (for example) the University of Reading upload five dresses each, that’s five hundred FREE dresses available to borrow on campus. There’s tons of free fashion right under our noses. Fashionably Skint will help us to discover it!”

 

For press enquiries, please contact press@fashionablyskint.com

To download the Fashionably Skint app, visit www.fashionablyskint.com

Follow Fashionably Skint on Twitter: @FashSkint

Like Fashionably Skint on Facebook: facebook.com/FashSkint

Read the Fashionably Skint blog: www.blog.fashionablyskint.com

For more information on Volume, visit www.volumeglobal.com

 

Holy hive! We won again

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Last night saw Volume’s girls and guys get glammed up for the annual Wirehive 100 awards. We’re onto something of a winning streak after being crowned number one in The Drum’s Digital Consensus Awards for client feedback last week, and Volume’s MD Amanda Phillips also won the Women in Business award for companies under £10m.

The Wirehive 100 awards celebrates the best digital agencies of the South, and recognises the raw talent and most impressive marketing achievements of agencies outside of London. 

After an exciting win of Most Efficient agency and Number One in the league table last year, we had our fingers and toes crossed for another win, and with four-fold increase in entries since the previous year, the pressure was on!

The evening kickewired off with a champagne reception and a delicious three course meal (the trio of shot-glass puddings went down a treat with us) and comedian Russell Kane hosted the evening to great success, even if some of his jokes did take it to a whole new level… oh be“hive”!

The league table countdown started at 100, and by the time it got down to 10, we were fidgeting in our seats. An exciting but tense few minutes passed and Volume was crowned Number One for the second year running!

We’re very proud to have won this award – it’s a great reflection of the hard work and dedication put in by all members of the team, who are buzzing after their win. After all, ‘it’s great to work with a winning agency’.

Give us a call, 0118 977 5800.

Now only one question remains, what’s in store for Wirehive 100 2014?

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Excellent client feedback secures Volume number one spot in the Drum’s Digital Census Client Category for agencies with 100+ headcount

We are very pleased to announce that Drum’s Digital Censuses awarded Volume number 1 for client feedback in the 100+ category.  Whilst the whole agency has been producing fantastic work again this year, this times it’s our client services team that’s gaining deserved accolades.

At Volume we pride ourselves on our ability to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. One of the ways we maintain our world-class client service level is through our NPS (Net Promoter Score) Surveys. We send a NPS survey out bi-annually to all of our clients and by analysing the responses we can identify areas we are particularly strong on and also areas for improvement.

In addition to these surveys, we also hold Quarterly Process Reviews that allow us to assess the efficiency of each of our client projects. By holding a post project debrief, we can isolate which campaign elements worked particularly well and should be replicated moving forward and adversely areas of a project that may need to evolve moving forward.

One of most effective ways of constantly developing our client services team is through our ‘learn at lunch’ sessions. These hour long workshops act as a knowledge sharing pool between all our client services staff and internal areas of competence. On a rotational basis, members of each different accounts team will hold presentations on industry best practice, notable campaigns and future trends. Such meetings allow the Client Services team to ever expand on their skill-set, marketing knowledge and presentation skills.

Many of our clients have been with us since our early days and we have each watched the other grow, evolve and adapt to new technologies. These long-term relationships have allowed us to form strategic partnerships with our clients, allow us to provide a much more consultative and pro-active service to our clients. All clients are given equal care and attention, with dedicated teams becoming fully integrated in their past, current and future marketing strategies.

Whilst these processes have certainly helped us in achieving the best client feedback award, it is the client services team that works constantly to maintain these high standards. We would like to congratulate each and every one of our client facing team for their continued hard work and dedication to their respective accounts.

If you would like to join our rapidly growing and award-winning client services team, visit us at: vacancies.volumeglobal.com.

Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership partners with Volume to revamp digital presence

Volume, one of the UK’s leading digital agencies, has been appointed by Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to collaborate on a new website, following a competitive pitch.

Thames Valley Berkshire has a thriving economy, but in the face of increasing European and Global competition, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP was established to bring together the local business community with a view to ensuring the area stays ahead, delivering economic prosperity for years to come.

In order to effectively illustrate the work of Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, Volume has been tasked with creating a website that will deliver both information and inspiration to the local area, bringing to life the ways in which the organisation is seeking to fuel growth.

For the Wokingham-based agency, the project represents an opportunity to make a significant contribution to its local area and community, working to invigorate and inspire a new generation of Berkshire businesses.

The new website will form a central hub for visitors looking to learn more about the work of Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, which focuses on four key objectives:

  • Increase the return to the Exchequer
  • Lead and co-ordinate economic development activities across Berkshire
  • Continue to invest public and private money in growth and maximise return on investment
  • Increase the skills base

The site will also provide details on obtaining access to finance, information on upcoming events, infrastructure and how local businesses can get involved.

Margot Tomkinson-Smith, Communications Manager for Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, comments: “We’re committed to building a world-class workforce and ensuring that the next generation of Berkshire residents is equipped for the future workplace.

“We are therefore delighted to be working with a local agency that shares our passion for making Thames Valley Berkshire the best place to live, flourish and do great business. Volume demonstrated great creativity and a real understanding of the organisation. Our website is at the heart of everything we do so it’s imperative that it reflects the LEP’s thinking and is engaging to our audience and stakeholders

Amanda Phillips, MD and Head of Strategy at Volume, comments: “We are delighted to be creating a new website for Thames Valley Berkshire LEP – they are focussed on delivering growth in our local economy and through Volume’s experience, we can deliver a first-class digital window into their activity to provide inspiration, ideas and help them command further investment from the Government, which will in turn feed back into the community.’

The website is planned to go live at the end of October 2013.

The rise of B2B sponsorship

Following an article we appeared in for B2B Marketing, we’ve taken a closer look at the ever-growing B2B sponsorship space. With B2B Sponsorships rising by nearly 50% since 1997, it begs the question as to why so many B2B brands are keen to enter the once B2C dominated space.

We are seeing a blurring of the lines between B2B and B2C. B2B marketing practices are being adopted in the B2C space where brands want more information on traditional faceless customers. In the B2B world, sales are based on relationships, where you typically have a wealth of information and knowledge of the individual you are selling to – even prior to the sales process. B2B companies have a real opportunity to bring this valuable IP into the B2C space – and sponsorship is a great way to raise the visibility of your B2B agency within a consumer dominated space to spark a conversation.

For Volume, our main objectives from the sponsorship are clear; brand visibility and engagement. Sponsoring a sports team or event exposes you to a whole new network of contacts that traditionally would be difficult to reach. As well as peer-to-peer networking you can gain some serious business from a new set of influential peers.

Aside from, just increasing your brands visibility, the brand synergy that can be leveraged from sponsorships is vital. Perception is greater than awareness. A brand strategy will ensure that the business objectives are met and that the brand is positioned correctly to the right audience(s).

Perception is greater than awareness

Unsurprisingly one of the main lures of sponsorship to B2B brands is the ROI that can be leveraged from this exposure. We have gained direct business from engaging with senior people at our sponsored events. We also receive a much higher number of direct approaches for employment. We estimate direct approaches due to greater visibility saves us in excess of £120,000 a year.

So how do you find the perfect partner? First off, it’s vital to sponsor an entity that shares your brand values, as the association is key. It is also vital to understand what type of after-sponsor support you’ll receive. Simply putting a logo in a prominent position and leaving it there will not net you much value. In the sponsorship relationships we have we are seen as active partners not just a logo. Just remember to keep your expectations realistic, you’re not going to get an immediate monetary return on your investment. Sponsorship is as much an investment in time as it is money.

What’s the future for Volume’s sponsorship? Initially, we have just renewed our sponsorship with Reading Football Club for another year. This will be our fifth year as a major team sponsor. We also sponsor a local ladies netball team and men’s basketball team. These local sponsorships help with recruitment from two different demographic pools. In addition, one of our designers in the Volume creative team is a Team GB Triathlete and is competing in the World Championships later this year. We are sponsoring her and as such can place the Volume logo on the front of her Team GB kit.

Sponsorship is becoming ever-more potent for B2B companies and it’s certainly not the B2C dominated space it once was. These partnerships now span far past the casual printed logo on sports jerseys and have evolved into a collaborative synergy between two brands; sharing tools and opportunities towards common goals. If you find the right partner and get it right, these relationships can yield incredible awareness, engagement and ROI. That said, without research, budget and time, these relationships can back-fire and even damage your reputation.

For more on B2B sponsorship, read the full article in B2B Marketing.

Volume's sponsorship of Reading FC

The CMO is dead: reality or a redefinition

In Dominique Turpin’s latest article he has declared the decline of the CMOs influence ‘alarming’ with a lack of truly customer-driven focus resulting in the potential ‘death of the CMO’, but is this the case? He has identified some clear trends understood by the business professionals: the measurement and ROI conundrum; the rise of the CFO as companies struggle in volatile economic conditions and a lack of understanding of what marketing is.

So, this drives us to ask the question: what is marketing these days? Is the CMO losing influence? I would argue actually no, in fact it’s quite the opposite. A lack of definition doesn’t define a lack of purpose, but instead recognises that the CMO is the driving force behind a diverse range of business requirements which aren’t covered off by other departments. In a recent report from Forrester 97% of B2B marketers said they find it increasingly necessary to take on new activity to be successful. Between this and a constantly moving market in terms of technology and customer needs it makes the job of the CMO a constant game of catch up making definitions unclear.

With the rise in technology comes the role of automation within the marketers remit. This has led to an influx of project managers rather than marketing strategists, yet the need for strategy hasn’t shifted away –the role of the strategist is integral for competitiveness and well as effective deployment. In the Forrester survey 78% said that marketing’s influence on corporate strategy is greater today, and 56% say that they spend more time in front of the company’s board of directors where final strategy decisions are made. Yet sometimes the perception still remains: marketing is fluffy; it doesn’t have ROI. The obsession with analytics is so fierce, marketers have become their own worst enemy sometimes forgetting the wider, long term benefits of marketing activity can sometimes be forgotten. I tell you what, you never see them arguing over the ROI of an advert in Mad Men, that’s for sure.

The other role of the CMO is to look outwards: understand customers’ needs, wants and desires. This role is invaluable, but in reality the feedback isn’t always communicated into the organisation meaning there’s a new thought-piece to be considered: making the business a social one. IBM claim the ultimate social business gains 26% more revenue per employee and socialisation affects everything from product innovation and lead time to customer service. To achieve this mecca is surely the partly the responsibility of the CMO.

So what is the new defined role of the CMO? As we see more focus on omni-channel, maybe it is the 360 view of the customer, bringing together aspects from many roles: technology, customer service, marketing, content, insight all into one role which has become blurred across departments yet distinctive in purpose. Gartner recently predicted that the CMO will soon have a bigger IT budget than the CIO, showcasing the breadth of their future remit and nature of this multi-functional role. Having this holistic, bird’s eye view enables the company to ultimately have cut through, driving innovation for competitive advantage. The CMO is anything but dead, the CMO is on the rise and the one to watch.

Does a poor induction undermine the recruitment process?

It’s common knowledge that numerous organisations across the globe are struggling with employee retention and poor staff morale. As recent research from a YouGov survey revealed, we have now reached a ‘crisis level’ of workplace disenchantment meaning it’s now ever more imperative to be proactive in welcoming and integrating all new starters.

It really begs the question, to why we are all so demotivated? Are we all suddenly more disgruntled as a result of increased economic stresses, a lack of jobs, or is rock ‘n’ roll to blame? To be honest it could be any of those reasons, probably in that order, but what we do know is that people are more flighty than they used to be. The 2013 CIPD annual survey showed employee retention rates dropping a whopping 11% compared to last year and a staggering 23% compared with 2010.

Recruitment could be to blame in some companies. How often do you hear managers citing “We just can’t find the right person” or “they just didn’t ‘get’ our culture”, but is recruitment really to blame for the revolving door at the front of your office?

Too often companies fall into the same trap of assuming that new employees will walk into their new role, fully meeting expectations and probably over-delivering, often because too much weight is placed on their previous experience. This mindset is a fatal flaw amongst many managers and these expectations only prove to further alienate more senior employees, as they are simply ‘expected’ to know these things. In reality no matter how experienced he or she may be, they are incompetent in relation to your processes, your systems, your products, your culture and so on.

So if it’s not down to ‘poor recruitment’, who is to blame and how we do solve this problem? A poor induction process is often to blame and the solution is having a better one. The CIPD’s latest survey (2013 Annual Survey) actually listed an improved induction process at the top of their solutions to combat poor retention rates.

We believe in this too here at Volume. Over the last 12 months we’ve increased in headcount by 32%, and as we continue to grow, we understand it’s vital we maintain a well-structured induction programme. By focusing on new starters from the moment they walk through the door is the key to increasing employee engagement, motivation and integration into the business as a whole – consequently raising productivity and performance. Every new starter is given an induction pack containing useful company information and face-to-face time with various department heads – including our Chief Executive. Feedback has been fantastic and this is reflected in their work.

“This is the best and most efficient induction I’ve ever had.” – Illisa Aji, Senior Account Manager

Our company culture is like no other. We outline exactly what is expected of our new employees, engaging them into our vision and values right from the start. At Volume, we take the induction process seriously as it creates a lasting impression on the way our company works – and highlights to new employees that we are serious in achieving our aspirations of becoming a world-class organisation.

If you’re interested in joining the Volume team look at our vacancies or contact careers@volumeglobal.com