And so, as 2017 draws to a close, the time comes, once again, to wish you a Merry Christmas, to reflect on the year just gone and to look ahead to what may lie instore in the New Year.
With the festive season upon us, there’s also the more practical consideration of our Christmas opening times – which can be found here…
2017 has been another busy year, here at CSG, with more customers served, more volumes moved and more satisfaction with our services than ever before. It was a year that saw the launch of ‘The Hart of Waste’, the second edition of the book, which contains the official history and current portrait of CSG. It was also a year in which we strongly identified the four pillars that make our brand so strong: Customers, Heritage, Innovation and People.
More awards came our way in 2017, including the ‘Best Use of Technology’ in the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Awards.
We’ve seen many great strides in the CSG family of businesses, not least the opening of our new, ground-breaking sewage treatment plant in Worcester. We’ve also seen the addition of more Oil Monster trucks, covering a greater portion of the UK. At Willacy, we’ve seen a greater emphasis on overseas work and a move to apply their market-leading oil-based lagoon survey technology to water-based applications.
We’ve made donations to numerous charitable organisations and made meaningful contributions to the communities in which we operate. We’ve continued to develop the careers of the hundreds of people we’re proud to call colleagues and we’ve supported our local economies wherever we can.
In 2018, we plan to do it all again – with some significant advances along the way. In the New Year, we’ll launch the new CSG website, featuring a host of extra information and functionality – together with a brand new corporate video, to help spread the word of our accomplishments even wider.
Until then, it only remains for us to show our appreciation for your support and custom this year, to thank you for reading our blog and wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, prosperous New Year!
We like a good fancy-dress-related fundraising effort at CSG and this Christmas is no different. In fact, we’re so keen to don the festive knitwear, we’re helping two Christmas charities, this year!
Today, our staff in various departments and depots have been wearing Christmas jumpers to raise money for Wave 105.2FM’s ‘Mission Christmas: Cash For Kids’ appeal, as well as Save the Children’s annual Christmas Jumper Day.
All in, we’ve raised over £160, which will be split between the two great causes. Thanks, as ever, go to our wonderfully caring team who keep turning up in all manner of costumes throughout the year – and donate to show their support for a number of very worthy initiatives.
Here’s a brief run-down of the year’s other charity and community efforts:
In January, CSG donated £1,000 to contribute to a fund for a statue to commemorate the efforts of Tom Dresser VC, a hundred years after one of Middlesbrough’s most distinguished sons was awarded the Army’s highest honour.
In February, we marked Valentine’s Day with a cake bake and a ‘wear something red’ day, in aid of the British Heart Foundation.
In March, there was flower power and shell-suits aplenty – and more besides – at our Cadishead site as the team there dressed from the decade they were born in, to support Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day.
In June, we were proud to pledge £500 to sponsor our own Cheryl West as she cycled from London to Paris, in memory of her friend, Angela Sharples.
Every day, the staff and visitors signing in to our Cadishead site have the option to buy sweets and soft drinks from Phil Jones in the weighbridge office, something that contributes hundreds of pounds a year to the British Heart Foundation, amongst other charities.
We currently sponsor three junior sports teams: Woolston Rovers Raiders U-8s, Cadishead U-8s and Grangetown Boys’ Club Academy U-10s in the North East.
Through our Landfill Tax initiative, we were also pleased to contribute £20,000 to the River Bourne Community Farm in Salisbury, Wiltshire – a sum which has helped them to build a new café, allowing for a warmer, more comfortable environment in which they can raise more funds for their own cause.
Corporate Social Responsibility has always been an important issue at CSG and, after so much effort supporting so many deserving causes in 2017, you can be sure that we’ll keep up the good work in 2018.
Over the years, I’ve spent many a frustrating hour explaining why online selling is coming/is here/is here to stay/is just in its first phase and so on. I’ve debated it internally as a marketing strategy when people were still getting used to email and as a fact of life and within BETA Council meetings when certain people were hoping to ‘ban’ it (how, exactly?!). I even found myself having to defend it at the end of a speech to the National Equine Forum! When it comes to e-commerce, I’m quite firmly planted in the ‘Pro’ camp.
And yet, not everything in the virtual garden is rosy. Chiefly, look at the way digital marketing is measured and made accountable.
Once upon a time, you’d spent £X on a direct marketing campaign, divide the number of orders it yielded into the number of customers contacted and get a Response Rate. You’d also divide the revenue it brought into the aforementioned number of orders yielded and you got an Average Order Value. All you needed was a trustworthy ‘quote the code’ response mechanism. You knew how many copies you were sending out so, aside from all the sales, you also got a lovely source of comparison data. Then, using something called segmentation, you could have even more nerdy fun, all the time seeing how much money you were making.
Compared to retail, which struggled to tie a transaction to a name in a database (although that’s more achievable now), all this customer-centric data was a revelation. Information that became knowledge, which, as we all know, is power.
And then along came the Internet – simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest curse to hit direct marketing. Yes, it offered 24-hour, borderless trading, much greater agility in presenting one’s offering, a promise of cost-free mass mailing, something called social media and so much more lovely data! How many people viewed page 26 of your paper catalogue? No idea but I know how many online views we got for each of the products it features.
Online selling offered nothing short of a revolution of data and visibility – if marketing went from the Medieval era of retail to the Renaissance of direct marketing, the web quickly whizzed us through the Industrial Revolution and straight into the Space Age. Cosmic, man! ‘Newer’ equals ‘better’, doesn’t it?
Well, yes and sometimes no. This myriad of metrics may look like your friend but it can often give you useless information – or worse still, misleading data that fails to alert you to a problem. Sure, if customers want to buy online, you have to operate in that space but e-commerce tends to make a huge mess of your internal reporting – for two main reasons:
1) There’s no clear link of ‘cause and effect’ between your stimuli and your incoming orders like there used to be, which means you can’t make solid conclusions about your effectiveness and efficiency quite so easily. Consider the paradox that spending more on offline material increases web orders because, guess what, people will always do what suits them and not follow the ‘rules’ of whatever tidy flow-chart we might be tempted to think they inhabit. Now, if a sale depends upon both a stimulus (to compel a customer to order) and then a referral (where they may need to find your site as a means to place that order), do you credit the offline activity or a Google Adword for that sale? What if there are more than two stages to the process? Even if you know when all of this is happening, how do you decide to attribute each of those sales?
2) Most of the data on which you depend isn’t generated internally any more, raising questions about its reliability. Data collation is now usually subcontracted to the very digital channels you use: Google, Facebook, Twitter, whatever SEO ‘partner’ you’re using, Remarketers, Affiliates, email handlers and so on. At best, they’re all innocently taking sole credit for potentially the same order (see above); at worst, it becomes a case of paying a bunch of turkeys who keep telling you it isn’t Christmas. You can’t replicate their data (which usually forms the basis of their charges) but you do know that if you add up all the ‘sales’ that each of them claims to have led you to, you should be turning over far more than you actually are. Something is amiss but you’re next to powerless to find out any more than that.
You have paralysis by analysis: more information than you can handle and less knowledge than ever before – and a nagging feeling that somewhere along the line, some of this lack of clarity is hurting you.
If you think this is just me checking into middle age by having a rant about the object of my prior fascination, you may have a point but bear this in mind: clients like The Guardian have started to sue agencies that they believe are misreporting their own performance stats. The incoming Chief Brand Officer of Proctor & Gamble recently gave a blistering speech in which he told the digital ad world in no uncertain terms to clean up its act, provide the transparency that clients always used to expect or kiss goodbye to the promotional budget that supports P&G’s $65bn worldwide sales revenue. There’s a sense that a fightback has begun against the charlatans and snake oil salesmen and that, in time, better regulation of one form or another, will follow.
To answer the incendiary question I initially posed, the Internet hasn’t gone too far – it has indeed, as Karen Carpenter once sang, only just begun. The Web has, in a human generation grown from a preposterous daydream to dominating most forms of marketing. Inevitably, its forms of regulation and control have struggled to keep pace. Perhaps they always will.
Whatever happens next, an important lesson is there to be learned: it’s still selling, the same as it ever was. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean the same basic rules, disciplines, checks and balances that we came to expect in the analogue world shouldn’t continue to apply.
Look out for my next column, about the difficulties of applying simple rules to resolving customer disputes, in the September issue of the ETN, out September 1st.
As the year begins to come to a close, it’s time to offer all our customers and friends the compliments of the season.
As you can appreciate, we’ll be operating slightly differently over the festive period but rest assured, we’re still on hand to help for part of the Christmas and New Year holiday. If you need to contact us, our Christmas opening hours can be found here.
Everyone at CSG is looking forward to working with you again in 2017 and continuing to offer you the great service you’ve experienced in 2016.
Until then, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy, cleaner and safer New Year!
Fresh from their recent Children in Need contributions, CSG’s Sales team went one further, today by supporting Save The Children’s ‘Christmas Jumper Day’. Together, they raised £160.00 – just by wearing their favourite festive knitwear to work. What a great effort!
It’s one of a number of ways that CSG are happy to lend support to a wide range of charitable causes. Like many other workplaces, we’re keen to embrace fundraising activities for Comic Relief, Sport Relief, Children in Need, MacMillan Cancer Support and many others on their special fundraising days throughout the year. This is all in addition to our own ethos of Corporate Social Responsibility, which has seen us involved with a number of causes that perhaps don’t hit the headlines as much.
In 2017 we will be looking forward to getting involved in more charitable efforts and doing as much as we can to help the less fortunate.
Sometimes, the success of something is all about being in the right place at the right time. We could never have predicted the success of such a silly product as the Horse Head Antler which first appeared in a Robinsons catalogue in 1992. This ‘silly’ product has since stood the test of time and it is likely that not many people have any idea how it all came about. Pauline Bentham, our gift buyer at the time spotted the antlers on a plastic horse’s head at a trade fair in Philadelphia, USA. She bought one pair for the princely sum of $10 and brought it back to the UK.
She made some improvements to its design and commissioned an order of around a thousand pieces from a local manufacturing company. Over the four weeks prior to Christmas in 1992, we sold over 800 units at around £10 each! With the benefit of this experience and a bit of lateral thinking, we added similar products for the following festive season: ‘jingle bell’ nosebands and rein sleeves, matching hat covers, exercise sheets and leg wraps all made from bright red and finished with white fur fabric trims. From nowhere, a new and (very) popular collection of inexpensive fun items had been created.
The following Christmas, about 5,000 of these ‘silly’ products (which were exclusive to Robinsons) were sold. We then attempted to wholesale them to distributors in the UK and because they were still perceived as too silly, nobody wanted to take them on despite our huge success. No-one copied the idea for the next two years anywhere in Europe. In 1994 at a trade fair in Germany one of our international buying group partners was arm-twisted into taking a risk. It took promises of a ‘sale or return’ deal to convince these steely-faced Germans that they had nothing to lose.
After the first year of success they placed an order for the next year for over 10,000 units! Today, the Christmas Antlers live on despite the fact that production in the UK had to be terminated and moved to China and the fact that some competition in the market has also sprung up. It’s difficult to calculate how much this range made since it was inspired, twenty years ago. It did more than bring a smile to someone’s face, it made a statement that Robinsons were innovative and were prepared to offer alternative products which were not always aimed at the serious competitor. It made us look different from our competitors, a difference we’ve been keen to maintain ever since!
Well, the decorations are down and the spare bed is about to be folded away for the last time in this Christmas and New Year break. The house has been full of fun and laughter more times than I can remember over the last two weeks or so and it’s been wonderful to see. If you’ve been one of the guests we’ve welcomed, thank you for your gifts and your company – and thanks also to all those who’ve hosted us or who we’ve seen over the same period. I won’t add a list of names – you know who you all are
Have a great 2015 and let’s look forward to doing it all again next Christmas & New Year!