Heal’s; the good, the bad and the very beautiful

So, one of the things I like to do (other than starting paragraphs with ‘so,..’) is to look at lovely things in lovely shops. Since the sad demise of Habitat I’d been on the lookout for a replacement and thought I’d give Heal’s a try. Heal’s is a chain of six shops selling furniture, home things and gifts which I used to browse as a teenager (I was a pretentious teenager with expensive tastes!)

These are some of my favourite Heal’s things (well it’s nearly Christmas and I thought my friends, family and/or loyal readers might be feeling generous…)

Storage jarKnitted storage basketEames lounger

After lusting after pretty much everything in their shop I thought I’d check out their website. Their website is beautiful and fairly easy to navigate but then I started social media stalking them and decided they were missing out in a few areas.

Being a social media nerd (and after a good excuse not be writing the 15,000 word report for my MBA) I put together this list of tips for Heal’s;


Heals Facebook page screenshot1. Turn on your Facebook wall

If people can’t easily talk to you by posting on your Facebook wall then you’re just using Facebook to talk at people rather than with people. Not very social use of social media is it?

I’d recommend allowing people to post on your wall to show you’re happy to hear from your customers and fans.

2. Integrate sales

Why not sell things through your Facebook page? People might not spend £1250 on a bed but they might buy some Christmas gifts. Social Media Today have some other tips for integrating Facebook with online retail such as exclusive offers for your Facebook fans or encouraging customers to share their purchases online.

3. Ask questions, start conversations

At the moment, your wall is pretty much all press releasey promotional stuff and whilst it is good to draw attention to new and exciting things you’re being the Facebook equivalent of someone standing in the corner at a party droning on about themself.

Ask questions and encourage people to respond and interact with your content. Tag your favourite in this collage of products. Which area of your house would you most like to redecorate? Which is your favourite from our new collection? What will you treat yourself to this Christmas? Share your photos of Heal’s products in your home…

Ask people to share your content, like it or comment. This all helps show your fans that you’re interested in what they say and you might gain some useful customer insights and feedback

4. Use Facebook to capture customer data

The problem with Facebook is that its run by Facebook. If they change the rules there isn’t much you can do about it. Use Facebook to capture information about your fans so it is your data and you’re in control.

Heal’s have an email newsletter so why not set up a tab for people to subscribe or regularly post links to your subscription page?

5. Link your offline activities to your online things (and vice versa)

Encourage people to ‘check in’ at your shops, you could reward people with a special discount or offer. Put your Facebook details in your shops, on till receipts and promotional items.

6. Differentiate yourself with some personality

With only six shops and a long history of furniture-making and design you could make your brand stand out by adding some personal touches. Tell us about your staff, show us photos of special occasions, share stories of your staff and customers. This helps fans connect with your brand and builds affinity.


I totally love that you have an email newsletter (I’m a mega fan of newsletters since our Freshers Week success story) but subscribing is a little weird; you add your email address on one page then have to fill it in again on another. I imagine some people might not bother with the second stage so you might be losing subscribers. This is the first impression you’re giving people about your newsletter so you don’t want to confuse them or make them work too hard – they might remember this when considering buying from your website.

The free shipping code once you sign up is a nice little touch but have you experimented with telling people about it before they subscribe to encourage them to sign up? Presumably some free shipping on a few more orders is worth the extra subscribers with whom you can then build up a relationship and generate more orders in future.


Heals blogAgain, mega bonus points for having this, blogging = good but (again) I think you’re missing out.

Your blog is a bit too salesy and looks a tad like it was just written to squeeze in some good keywords and use some lovely photography rather than to genuinely engage with your customers (and potential customers)

Try dialing down the sales pitch and make your customers and their interests the focal point rather than your latest pretty shiny thing.

You could try inviting guest posts from design bloggers; maybe they could style a room, pick their favourite products or respond to a challenge such as furnishing a bedroom for a particular budget.

Showcase other products and things, not just yours. You don’t need to point out your competitors but why not include complementary products your market might love like handmade stationery (surrounded by Heal’s office bits maybe) or gorgeous recipes (served on Heal’s plates). You can still show off your stuff but it makes your blog sound less like a sales pitch and more like an interesting and inspiring design resource (confession; I am totally addicted to design blogs at the moment, I’ll try to put together a post with some of my favourites).

You could photograph and show off your customers’ homes to demonstrate how beautiful your products look in use and give people ideas for how they could style them and fit them into their homes (by the way you’re more than welcome to give me loads of free stuff to do this with!)

You could offer tutorials that incorporate your products or styling tips; ‘5 ways to style this bed’, ‘how to prepare for unexpected guests’

You could use your blog to focus on the areas local to your shops; highlight local events, retailers and people to connect with local customers and get links from other local companies. I’d be happy to recommend some excellent cake and/or ice cream shops in the Brighton area for instance (I might just start on some pre-emptive research on that one…)

For bonus marks…

Experiment with other tools like Pinterest (seriously, it’s an amazing site though terribly easy to lose hours on just staring at all the lovely things). You can use it to curate collections that others can then ‘repin’ (share with their friends) and encourage your customers to add photos of their Heal’s things in use. Pinterest is a very design-focused, visual community so ideal for your market.

Would video be a useful tool? YouTube is apparently the second most used search tool after Google and ‘how do I…’ is their most common search term. Could you provide video demonstrations of products, 360o product views (both of which can be used on your product information pages to help drive sales) or follow some of the blogging principles above. For Christmas how about the best way to lay and decorate a table?

November 28th, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|

Freshers newsletter campaign

In one of those great ‘two birds, one stone’ scenarios a project I was working on fitted the brief for part of my course. It has also led to much smugness so I’ve decided to up the smug factor by sharing the project with you, the people of the internet.

Essentially, the Students’ Union wanted to launch a newsletter for new students (‘freshers’) to capture incoming students’ email addresses, get them interested in the Students’ Union and its Freshers Week events and start building a relationship between students and their Union.

This is the presentation I gave for my course outlining the project (which features some early drafts of the newsletter itself). It uses Prezi, a super cool online presentation tool which instantly makes your presentation infinitely more interesting than if you use PowerPoint (you might have to wait a mo for it to load), just use the back and forward buttons at the bottom right to move around or click and drag to move around. You can also view it full screen if you’d rather.

Permission MarketingI created a series of autoresponder emails which subscribers will receive over the summer in the run-up to the start of Freshers Week. Each email features one of the Union’s elected officers with tips and information relating to their area of responsibility and Freshers Week.

It builds on some of the principles of Seth Godin’s ‘Permission Marketing‘ which I recommend (though some of the examples now seem a little dated – it was written 10 years ago when Amazon looked like a promising little online bookseller…). The idea is that we get people’s permission to contact them via email by offering them something useful in return (in this case, exclusive news and content about Freshers Week). According to Godin (and common sense) they are then more likely to pay attention when we communicate with them than if we just put ads everywhere or thrust flyers into their hands.

Putting theory into practice

The newsletter is now live and is picking up between 10 and 20 new subscribers per day. We expect the subscriber rate to increase much faster once most students’ places are confirmed on 18th August. I’m using Aweber to manage subscriptions and send out emails and I thoroughly recommend it, it is really easy to use and their customer service is great. It also gives you lots of graphs and numbers to play with which makes me very happy!

So far the messages are getting very good open rates, much higher than our typical term-time emails. I attribute this principally to the niche content of the newsletter (whereas the term-time emails cover a wide range of topics) and new students’ enthusiasm for news about Freshers Week (and the well-crafted newsletter campaign obviously…). We’re hoping to transfer this high level of interaction to our term-time newsletter and other campaigns in future.

Unique opens Unique clicks
per open
1 – Hi [first name], welcome to our Freshers newsletter 68% 0.60
2 – [Sussex Freshers] Our top tips for settling in from Indi, Welfare Officer 58% 0.99
3 – [Sussex Freshers] top 5 Freshers things to get excited about from James, Activities Officer 68% 0.70
4 – [Sussex Freshers] How to find out what’s going on from Ariel, Communications Officer 47% 0.36
5 – [Sussex Freshers] A guide to the Sussex campus by Becca, Operations Officer 65% 0.67
6 – [Sussex Freshers] Tips for getting the most from your studies from Poppy, Education Officer 59% 0.26
7 – [Sussex Freshers] A look at the year ahead at Sussex from David, Students’ Union President 66% 0.44

I’ll keep this updated as the newsletter progresses, if nothing else it’ll encourage some friendly rivalry between the officers over who is the most ‘popular’! The table above was last updated on 22nd August, the first emails were sent on 27th June with follow up emails every four days.

I tagged the links in the emails so I can use Google Analytics to see how people browse our site by following links from the newsletter. A quick glance the other day suggested that these are driving people deeper into our site than normal which suggests the targeted nature of the emails is working.

After Freshers Week I’ll post some examples of the emails we’re using, I can’t do them earlier as they’re ‘exclusive content’ for subscribers only! If you’re super keen you can head over to and sign up yourself!


August 2nd, 2011|Digital|5 Comments|
  • Reading UnMarketing
    Permalink Reading UnMarketingGallery

    ‘Unmarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging’ ~ I love this book

‘Unmarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging’ ~ I love this book

Marketing is not a task.
Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is not a job.
Marketing happens every time you engage (or not) with your past, present, and potential customers

So, recently I’ve been reading UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging. by Scott Stratten and I thought I’d share some of the bits that made me go ‘oooooo yes I should definitely change how I do that’. Problem with that is that most of the book made me do that so here are the top best bits (as well as two pictures featuring my knees…)

UnMarketing notesThe book talks about the importance of building relationships with your customers and gives lots of examples of how this has been done well and badly by various organisations (the bad examples are my favourite!)

Scott emphasis the need to be authentic and real and not be tempted by automation where it kills personal contact.

He has a fancy diagram (who doesn’t love a diagram?) that shows that the best customers are those who have a relationship with you based on trust.

He describes the ‘trust gap‘ – “the amount of trust you have to earn before your potential customer will consider buying from you” and the ‘experience gap‘ – “the space between the best services, often what a new customer receives and the worst experience”. You need to work out how to bridge the former and minimise the latter.

The book is full of easy to read case studies and examples. The chapters are short and snappy which makes it perfect park reading material…

Reading UnMarketing

Scott definitely practises what he preaches, I tweeted this picture and mentioned @unmarketing

Working my way through the @ book in the sunshine earlier 🙂
Jo Walters

… and swiftly got this reply 🙂

@ Nice! Hope you're enjoying it!
Scott Stratten

You should buy the book and go have a wander through the UnMarketing website –


Some Adwords words

I’m a trustee of the University of Brighton Students’ Union. One of the ways they generate income to spend on services for students is through advertising sales including print, online, sponsorship and on-site events.

One of the tasks on my course was to create some examples of Google Adwords ads so I decided to consider how Brighton Students’ Union could use an Adwords campaign to attract potential clients.

These are two examples which would aim to convert clicks into enquiries. They could run alongside each other and the more successful option be refined further to increase click-through rates and conversions. The ads could be targeted to people searching within East Sussex using relevant keywords about marketing, promoting, students and sales..

Advertise to students
Promote your business to students
in Brighton with targeted marketing

Promote to students
Want to promote to students?
Advertise directly to students


March 31st, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|

Email marketing analysis : Oxfam Unwrapped

As an email ninja I get very few email newsletters that I’m not interested in or don’t read so it was interesting to see how many people on my course have written about emails that they don’t open. I decided to write about one of the emails I pretty much always open so I could be all gushing and nice rather than shouting at some poor email marketer who dared send me an email I opted in for.

Oxfam emailI chose an email that had worked on me, the latest one from Oxfam, one of my favourite charities. I always read their emails as they contain a mix of campaigning actions, product information and updates on their progress. I receive emails from Oxfam as I’ve ordered gifts from them in the past and have clicked through from prior emails about their campaigns.

This email (pictured left, click to view the full size version) promotes their Oxfam Unwrapped range of gifts as ideal Mother’s Day presents.

The header comprises three links which relate to the three themes of the message; Mother’s Day, the special offer of free chocolates with every order and the weddings range which forms the second half of the email body. This helps people who read their emails in a preview pane (where only the start of the message is visible) as well as opening the message with key messages to encourage people to keep reading.

Email body textThe main body of the email combines several short paragraphs of text, a photo and a testimonial quote which appears to be from a prior recipient of Oxfam support. The text is full of links (six in total) to various sections of the Oxfam Unwrapped site; a special offer landing page (used three times) and three individual product links that are based around families and women. The section ends with a ‘start shopping’ call to action to emphasise the point.

The text moves from referencing your mum (not in a ‘your mum’ joke sort of way I hasten to add!) to mothers who have benefitted from Oxfam Unwrapped before tying the concepts together with ‘Thank your mum and mums all over the world with an Oxfam Unwrapped gift this Mother’s Day’ using empathy to reinforce the call to action.

The quote and photo aim to give a human touch to the story. The use of an individual quote rather than statistics about the scope of problems such as dirty water reminded me of this recent Guardian article about how people find it easier to relate to individual stories rather than broad statistics.

The email is then divided with eight colourful boxes linking to other gift categories, this is quite a good discreet way of reminding readers of the breadth of gifts available as well as potentially prompting sales unrelated to the Mother’s Day theme.


The second section of the email introduces a new range from Oxfam with three images linking to the relevant sections of Oxfam’s site. There is no call to action in this section, maybe because weddings are more of a niche market.

The email ends with a three updates from Oxfam on different topics; fundraising opportunities, gift ideas and campaigning. This is a great way of illustrating the range of Oxfam’s activities and definitely something charities and commercial organisations could use. The footer contains links to Oxfam’s website and social media channels as well as unsubscription information, contact details and legal information about the sender.

I like the layout of the message as it is simple but interesting as it features a variety of topics and colours without being overwhelming.

The special offer’s landing page reiterates the free chocolates offer then lists some of their bestsellers. This acts as an endorsement from other customers and encourages confidence in the product and organisation. The page lists as three-step process to complete the purchase which presumably helps convert potential buyers.

The email doesn’t contain any personalisation though it would be interesting to know whether this email was targeted in any way based on the demographic or interaction history Oxfam know about me. It is unclear whether the campaigning, fundraising and sales messages I receive from Oxfam are connected at all. It would be interesting to know whether targeted or personalised emails, ‘you signed our petition about X so you might want to donate Y’, would lead to more sales or donations. As Oxfam work in so many countries, across so many projects and in different ways I wonder if and how they segment their subscribers and supporters at all.

P.S. Mum, if you’re reading this, act surprised on Mother’s Day!

March 24th, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|

Viral cats (not cats with viruses)

“I had never heard of Cravendale milk until Bertrum Thumbcat came along… I bought my first carton today and it’s quite tasty! Yes, I am a slave to advertising … and to thumbed cats.”


What would happen if cats had thumbs? This is one of the questions we’ve all asked ourselves (or is that just me?). Cravendale milk have decided to answer this for us with a great example of viral marketing.

Bertrum ThumbcatThe ad appears to be aimed at a tech-savvy audience with its twitter, facebook and web channels highlighted at the end of the ad. This seems to have paid off as Bertrum Thumbcat (the feline star of the ad) attracting more than 15,000 fans on Facebook and almost 2,500 followers on Twitter (an interesting imbalance, maybe Bertrum is more fun in the media-rich and community-centric world of Facebook). The YouTube video itself has had over 1.5m views.

Milk isn’t a sexy product to market, we pour it on cornflakes and put it in tea. Also, one pint of milk is pretty much the same as any other so differentiating your brand is a bigger challenge than with many other products. Cravendale have previously differentiated their product by highlighting the fact it is filtered and therefore purer though their previous ads didn’t stand out so much (one of their previous ads has a fraction of the views on YouTube).

Whilst the ad itself is very funny and people may share it amongst their friends, that in itself is not necessarily the mark of a successful viral marketing campaign. The transition to measurable tools such as the Facebook page allows the brand to subtly build a relationship with the consumer and continue the ad’s success beyond its initial TV airing. The enthusiasm of the page’s users suggest that Cravendale have made their brand of milk stand out to consumers.

March 10th, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|

Driving business online

At last year’s TFM&A exhibition, Steve Lomax from Experian CheetaMail (who have a range of white papers on email marketing available for download) gave a presentation about email marketing which you can watch online.

In it, he gives an overview of how email marketing is changing using information from a range of their clients, the most interesting of which is that the overall volume of emails sent has increased by 42% and overall revenue has increased by 35% from 2008 to 2009.

Email marketers have implemented a range of campaigns with more relevance, targeting and variety to increase sales (which then increase volume rather than the other way around).

He uses Boden as a case study to illustrate his point. They’ve moved from a catalogue retailer (with a single, standard catalogue) to making 75% of their sales online. This has allowed them to target their marketing activities and provide relevant and personalised information. They combined their online and offline data to create clear pictures of their customers and segmented their customers. Their emails now include dynamic content such as offers and products. Boden’s new email strategy has seen increases in open rates, click-throughs and sales and a decrease in unsubscriptions.

They have also developed their website to incorporate user-generated reviews (and now have over 43,000 reviews!) Shoppers are now able to base their buying decisions on other customers rather than just the marketing messages provided by Boden. To generate reviews, Boden sent thank you emails to purchasers asking them to rate their purchases. Boden used Bazaarvoice to organise and generate reviews who have some other case studies and white papers on their website. Other companies have used user reviews in their email marketing campaigns to generate further sales.

Steve goes on to talk about other email marketing tips such as making the most of transactional emails to build relationships with the customer and provide opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. These emails have very high open rates so it makes sense to use them as a marketing opportunity. In his example from HMV, this has been extended throughout the customer lifecycle, e.g. order updates, service information.

He talks about remarketing, following up on abandoned transactions/processes, to increase sales and conversion rates. Experian’s research suggests that around 40% of customers would complete their transaction after a service-based email reminder as it is a very effective, targeted technique.

Social media provides opportunities to increase email subscriber lists and by allowing users to share content directly to social media networks, make sure your message is spread more widely. As mentioned in a session at this year’s TFM&A, SMS can be used to increase list size.

March 9th, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|

Thoughts from TFM&A – tying social and email together

Today I went to the Technology For Marketing & Advertising (TFM&A) show in London where my time was spent alternating between making apologetic faces at exhibitors (no I don’t have thousands of pounds to spend on your shiny software) and scribbling pages of notes in the seminars.

Ironically (for a day about digital stuff) I scribbled pages and pages of notes in my notebook (well, its a little book and I have big writing) and will be adding them here for you to read and ponder. If you want to buy me one of these I can make sure I get my thoughts to you faster in future 🙂

As I picked up so many interesting bits and things that might be useful for other people on my course I’m breaking this down into a series of posts.

The first session I went to was ‘Tying Social and Email Together – Designing a multi-channel campaign‘ by a speaker from ExactTarget which focused on how email and social media can complement each other.

We’ve moved from a one way organisation to consumer relationship in which the organisation tells the consumer what to think to a consumer to other consumers relationship where they tell the brand what they think. Data about customers is now a key business asset.

Email: Familiarity, manageability, trust & privacy, relevancy, exclusivity
Facebook: Connection, self-expression, entertainment, discovery, control
Twitter: Influence, brevity, accessibility, interaction, versatility -> Twitter has the most potential to drive affinity (or damage your brand) as users talk about your brand

Email marketing is becoming more targeted and more relevant, e.g. Amazon emails based on purchase/browsing history, which means a higher conversion rate and higher ROI. Advanced segmentation can be based on demographics, engagement, purchase behaviour and/or brand advocacy

‘Forward to a friend’ in emails can be developed using social share, e.g. encouraging people to share things on Facebook/Twitter. This also helps identify brand advocates.

SMS can be used to convert customers to online (with all the data analysis benefits that brings), e.g. high street shops (an environment where most people have their mobile phone with them) using an in-store discount as an incentive to text your email address to their shortcode.

March 3rd, 2011|Digital|6 Comments|