Josef Elliott, co-founder and MD of Oyster IMS, talks about how they’ve used Watertight Marketing to tweak their marketing operation and win more business at the Confidence & Clarity Conference 2018.

Transcript: Steve Bustin: “Our first speaker is the Managing Director of Oyster IMS, providing strategic information in governance services, sold business to business often with elongated tendered processes in play. That’s quite a mouthful! He did write that yeah, not me! Established over 14 years ago, the last 18 months have been pivotal, and earlier this year he completed the Watertight Masterplan Programme. To give you a flavour of what he’s achieved please welcome Joe Elliott.”

Josef Elliott: “It’s not my natural constituency here amongst marketeers. I do run a business, but the stuff we’ve learnt in Watertight is more applicable to me than almost anything I’ve ever done in business. My presentation there, I like to present with just photographs, I don’t have bullets, just something nice to look at. But, Bryony said I wasn’t allowed to have those photographs, even though I had the copyright on them, we didn’t have permission. So, rather brilliantly Bryony put together some things that were just representations of those photographs.


I originally had this photograph of the Beatles when they arrived in America, getting off the plane, and behind the camera there’s these adoring American fans screaming. I just want to use these photographs to illustrate a few of the points that I’ve learnt during Watertight. The point about that Beatles photograph is, it was easy for the Beatles wasn’t it? With their mop-hair, and accents and whacky attitude, that’s all they needed. It wasn’t what they needed, they were brilliant, the point was they had a fantastic product honed over many years, many years in Hamburg playing 24-hours. So, get your product right is the first lesson I learnt when I got into doing some of this marketing, have a great product, spend time on that product, get it right, and your marketing is an awful lot easier.

Leak 3: No Emotional Connection

Who was that going to be? Gordon Ramsey, of course. The second point I want to make is about emotional connection, and this was my biggest takeaway from Bryony. I could have put any celebrity chef up there, because it’s all about them isn’t it, it’s all about who they are, their brand is who they are. But it is Gordon Ramsay, because I have a Gordon Ramsey story; I was very lucky to have lunch at Royal Hospital Road, which was his second restaurant. I’d no idea he was cooking, but at the end of lunch he came out, he went round to each table and had a little word with everybody. He was charming and lovely, my wife swooned, I swooned, I think it was just fantastic! But do you know what? Do you know what I have for Gordon Ramsay now, I have an emotional connection. Not lasting of course, I’ll never see him again.

You can’t be on the beach, you’ve got to be there talking to your customers.

But your clients bought from you because of that emotional connection, and you’ve got to keep that emotional connection going, in all your marketing, to make sure they’re still buying from you. That’s a difficult lesson when you’re running a business, it’s all about you, you’ve to be front and centre, you can’t be on the beach, you’ve got to be there talking to your customers.

Leak 12: What (Consistency)

So, that was going to be Grayson Perry, two pictures, one of him as Claire, and one of him as Grayson Perry. This is the point about marketing is in your business, and it’s everyone in your business whatever hat they’re wearing. Grayson gets up in the morning I guess, and he looks and decides whether he’s going to put a dress on, or he’s going to put a suit on, but he’s still Grayson Perry when he’s Claire. It’s not like Dame Edna and he becomes a different character, he’s himself, so whichever part of your business is representing you; sales, marketing, operations, support, any of those; they’ve all got to be giving the same message.

If you’re a one-man-band, and you wear a different hat and you do lots of different things, you’ve still got to be consistent in the message you give across. I love what Grayson Perry said when he won the Turner Prize, and I can’t remember who was interviewing him that said: ‘The first cross-dresser to win the Turner Prize’, and Grayson said, ‘As far as we know’.

Who’s that going to be then? This was tough, Stephen Fry it was going to be. What does Stephen Fry do? Comedian, someone said, writer, actor, academic, activist, all of the above. How do we know he does that? Because we see him do that, don’t we? The people that commission what he gets paid for, know he does all of that as well, so they give him money for writing, they give him money for acting, they give him money for broadcasting.

It was a big part of our business, and one of our best clients didn’t even know we did it.

Last year one of our best clients that we do some software work for, ran a tender for things we do in the other part of our business. It was issued and awarded, and we didn’t know anything about it. It was absolutely terrible, crucifying for me because it was a big thing for us, and one of our best clients didn’t even know we did it. So, as part of Watertight we got one of our ex-clients to go and speak to our customers, our staff, our suppliers, people in our supply chain, to find out exactly what we did, ask them what we did. Half of them didn’t know half of the things that we did, and it was very disappointing. So, in true Watertight style we created a 3×3 matrix, not 2×2; a 3×3. Bryony always used to use the same example with us, which was, the Trivial Pursuit thing, the cheeses. We got one of them, people know you via orange cheese, whatever colour it is that you’re selling to them; you need to make sure they know everything. So, we got icons developed for each of those, and now every piece of work we do, we use that icon, and we also let everybody know all the other things we do, it’s really important.

Structure sets you free

Dolly [Parton]; Dolly says great things, things like, ‘I’m not dumb, and I’m definitely not blonde!’. But the thing that I like that Dolly says is, ‘It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!’ Why do I like that? I like that because it takes an awful lot of effort to make your marketing look simple, an awful lot of effort. So, you’ve got to be in the right place, you’ve got to have the right marketing materials, you’ve got to have an emotional connection, you’ve got to make sure that you retain your customers. We didn’t do that very well until we met Bryony. We didn’t do it well at all, because we did it in an unstructured way, we were the up and down floppy marketing.

Leak 3: Emotional Connection

Now, we’ve got structure, we commissioned some photographs for this emotional connection piece, we commissioned some photographs, two big sessions, our new website will launch next week so don’t look at our website now, it just links to a microsite. We created a ‘Welcome to Support’ pack, and we had all this on-boarding stuff, Bryony came into the office to see us and we showed it to her, and she went, ‘It’s alright’. She said, ‘It’s not you, it doesn’t reflect you as a business’, it didn’t reflect me as the owner of the business.

So, we had all the photographs done, and the great thing about photographs was, exactly what you said yesterday John, we said to everyone, ‘We’re all going to have our photographs taken for our website, 14 of us. Who doesn’t want their photograph taken?’ Loads of people put their hands up. But we talked to them about why we were doing it, it’s all part of the same message of Watertight, that it’s across our whole whole business, and eventually everyone agreed. The best thing about the photoshoot, not just the photos that have come out of it, the two days we had the photographer in, getting all the shots we wanted as well as the individual head shots, it was a tremendous internal bonding exercise. Everyone’s now bought into this, they’re going to see themselves, they’re dying to see the new website, it really helps to bring the organisation together.

 When you run a business, you are constantly looking for the next new thing to get excited about, because we get bored… I’ve changed that mindset.

Leak 10: When (Repetition)

This is my Bananarama; this was going to be Status Quo. This is another lesson that I’ve learnt, when you run businesses, you are constantly looking for the next new thing to get excited about, because we get bored, we get bored and we want something new, something great. I got to thinking about this, and obviously I’ve changed that mindset,. You’ve got to carry on doing what you’re good at. I got to thinking about Status Quo and whether they lay awake at night, wondering how they were going to appeal to classical music fans! Wondering how lovers of flamenco guitar music who are not buying their records at the moment, might buy the next Status Quo album.

They didn’t do that did they? They just made the same record again, exactly the same record now and again! They just gave their existing customers what they wanted, because they’d bought-in the first place, and they wanted to buy more again. That’s the big lesson really, have an excellent core product but don’t forget about it, keep doing the new interesting stuff, keep innovating, but don’t forget your core.

And that’s it really, just wanted to give you a quick canter through that. What’s next for me? ‘I’m not a name, I’m a number’, Leak #6, The Prisoner. I need a leak buddy, and I think leak buddy is a phrase which we should just keep amongst us! Anyone who is also looking for number six, you can see me later.

Thank you very much.”


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