Ignore Stinging Criticism at Your Peril!

You may have read our education marketing report called – Who on Earth is Percy Tag? I thought you might find it int...

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Ben Lewis
Published: 22nd May 2015

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You may have read our education marketing report called – Who on Earth is Percy Tag? I thought you might find it interesting to understand how the whole concept of Percy Tag came about here at Sprint. Well it all started with a client of ours offering me some constructive criticism…

Criticism can be taken in one of two ways – accepted with open arms as valuable feedback to be worked on in the future, or ignored completely, followed by the obligatory folding of the arms, a big sigh of annoyance, and a heavy feeling of self-pity.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can sometimes take negative feedback like a swift knee in the happy-sacks - it hurts! If you’ve built your company up from nothing to something you’ll probably be able to relate to the fact that some criticism can be tough to hear, after all your business is your baby!

Recently, I learnt a valuable lesson after receiving some criticism from a client. For once I actually dropped my natural defensive standpoint and decided to act upon their advice. The results were a revelation! Not only did reacting to this piece of criticism help validate our position as the front runners within the world of education marketing, but most importantly it’s helped us generate even better results for our clients that sell to schools.

The criticism came from a very good client of ours, who has used our strategy service very successfully for many years. Her results have always achieved a great ROI, and our team has learnt to understand the intricacies of her business to a level where we can create formidable marketing on her behalf.

However, a few months back she decided she wanted us to be more sophisticated with her marketing so that when a teacher received an email from her company they would feel like they were the only person in the send list, (not one of thousands).

It was a good idea, and something that we have always highlighted as being a key area to focus on in select phases of your education marketing strategy. However, I felt that we’d always done this in our client’s previous strategies, so I reminded her that her strategy content was already pretty ‘sophisticated’. Here’s how that conversation panned out…

“Yes, yes Ben, that’s all very well but I want you to take it to another level!” she replied.

“Oh you mean ultra-personalisation?” I said.

“That’s it!” she cried, “I want that in my next campaign!”

So our team set about making our client’s next piece of content feel even more personable than usual. However, when we sent it back for snagging we were met with a disappointed reaction. It wasn't what she had hoped for at all.

At first I felt a bit wounded by her initial disappointment; after all, term after term we had consistently driven a huge amount of sales towards her company and I was confident that our new approach would work even better than before. But then she said something that helped me to see what it would take to delight her…

“I want my content to connect with the person beyond just their job title, and relate to the real situation at a specific school. Can’t you dig deeper for me?”

‘Dig deeper’! This term kept swirling around my head, and then I knew that if Sprint Education was to make a real difference to not just this client’s, but also all our other clients’ education marketing, we needed to be able to make those personable campaigns within a strategy not just tempting to teachers, but so darn relevant that it captured their attention and refused to let it go!

The way to achieve this was obvious to me, but if I’m being honest it was a huge challenge. For many months I convinced myself it wasn’t important enough to work on when we were already so busy managing our clients’ strategies. However, the time had come to get it sorted!

We needed to power-up our Education Database!

As formidable as our database was, I knew it had the odd chink in its armour. The data was robust, accurate, and targeted named teachers directly. However, it needed to be able to give a deeper insight into a school, (budgets, exam results, religious denomination, GCSE A-C pass rate, etc…).

My client had rekindled my passion for our data and so I set into motion a database revamp here at Sprint. In short, for 6 months our Data Management Team had to collate advanced school data; from exam results, to financial budgets, workforce metrics to Ofsted ratings. Then Guy, (my fellow co-founder), built a series of complex queries to automatically match this new data against our existing Education Database.

Suddenly our data was supercharged! The level of personalisation we could now take our clients content to was immense, and so the phrase Percy Tag was coined.

Now, if our clients wanted, they could email all top performing Maths Teachers to congratulate them on hitting a high GCSE Maths average; or target SENCOs with a special offer, due to them having a higher than average pupil premium budget to spend. And importantly our client with the original criticism was able to start connecting with more teachers than ever before. She was ecstatic!

I can’t claim to have championed this key development to our database. In fact I must apologise for the delay in bringing it to market. If it wasn’t for some frank criticism from a key client of ours it probably still wouldn’t be something we could offer. So thank you for refusing to accept ‘ordinary’ and pushing for perfection, she was right all along.

As for the lesson here, I’ve learnt to take on feedback the positive way. Customer opinions can be priceless, even a stinging piece of criticism can quite easily be disguised as the catalyst to creating the next game-changer for your business. Don’t miss that opportunity!

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