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Mark Terry-Lush: Sell the Sizzle, Not the Sausage

As the founder and CEO of Make Honey, Mark leads a multi award-winning communications agency that creates impact for brands. Their clients cut through the media maelstrom and secure sales through PR, content and social-first storytelling.


In the past eight years Mark’s teams have been recognised as EMEA Agency of the Year by ICCO, credited as one of Campaign magazine's World's Leading Independent Agencies and won countless PR, content and creative awards. 


Mark's true passions extend beyond traditional PR. Fuelled by a love for photography and motorcycling, he sought to infuse his professional life with personal interests. Transitioning into freelance photojournalism alongside his PR work allowed him to embark on exhilarating adventures around the globe, from mastering flying within 30 days to navigating the chaotic streets of Buenos Aires during a football riot.


His next adventure is taking him to Tallinn, where Mark will be speaking at the first pan-Baltic B2B festival Parrot 24’


Given the context of you joining us in Tallinn, let’s start with a very specific B2B case study. Estonian company Silen manufactures soundproof pods and is now also offering a rental option. Silen was present at this year’s SME Expo and having just entered the UK market, they are trying to make the most out of their budget by being quite aggressive at industry events. How would you maximise the budget in their case? 


PR is probably most cost effective for them. Being able to create a great emotional story, an emotional connection.


It's more about the benefits than it is about the features – sell the sizzle, not the sausage. We need to think long and hard about what are the benefits and how do you turn those benefits into an actual need for the chief wellness officer. 


Then put some facts around it: how the pods can increase productivity, mental wellbeing, resilience, and so forth. 


Once you have the facts in place, think about the benefits of the product as a universal truth. What does it mean to me? What does it mean to my colleagues who are sitting upstairs? How can it benefit them? You create this fear of missing out – if you don't have one of these, then you're not going to be as good as the next person.


Something among the lines of interviewing doctors on the importance of taking a quiet moment during the office day? 


Not necessarily doctors, there are other qualified specialists within the wellness area who can come up with reports and data the company can use. The more evidence, the stronger the story. 


Nevertheless, the emotional story needs to be in place. There's no such thing as B2C or B2B, it's H2H, human to human. You need to find the right people to target – who in the purchase decision chain is going to be making the decisions. The last survey I saw claimed there are up to nine people in the decision making process.


Fuelled by a love for photography and motorcycling, he sought to infuse his professional life with personal interests.

The B2B audience is getting younger and younger, they're no longer the trainees or the assistants. And these people are digital natives who consume information online. B2B marketers should be thinking about marketing in a way that's really engaging with Gen Z as well. 


You're influencing every aspect of the chain. And that could even be a CFO who ultimately says, why are we spending this money? Why is this in the budget? We don't have it. Some will be more interested in the increased productivity and some will just be more interested in the wellness, the resilience and having happy staff that are going to stay for longer.


It’s relatively easy to come up with a brave PR stunt for a pod. For example, you could place the pod in a shopping mall and have a couple living there for a week. But the stunt would obviously miss the benefits the pod brings to a work environment. 


PR is great for awareness, not necessarily conversion. A PR stunt generating news or social content will raise awareness. 


The people walking past the pod in a shopping mall might be consumers wanting to buy a pair of Crocs, but they might also be someone who is working in the B2B environment. 


The reason I mentioned Gen Z is because they also have a decision making element to their role. Let's say a 23 year old PR manager wants us to invest in a new PR tool. I've not been targeted by this tool, but she has obviously heard about it somewhere. This 23 year old has been influenced by the marketing of this particular tool, whether it was emotional or not.


There are many tools doing great B2B marketing that hits a nerve with the younger buyer: Semrush, MailChimp, HubSpot, Pipedrive, etc. 


In B2B, one might think that the audience is more defined. Why would you need a wider PR strategy if you can approach all your targets directly?


Every product needs its own plan. The pod is something you can have fun with and create an emotional story around it. It's very different if you're selling the latest potato peeler or another kind of SaaS product. It's all about targeting and what's appropriate. 


A fact we dredged up yesterday for a B2B client: Google recently updated its algorithm, so that the search engine prioritises helpful, reliable, and people first content.

But what I would reinforce each and every time is that B2B isn't just about case studies anymore. Case studies are still relevant, but they also need to be human first. 


A fact we dredged up yesterday for a B2B client: Google recently updated its algorithm, so that the search engine prioritises helpful, reliable, and people first content.


You have to solve the consumer's problem by offering a tactical or strategic solution. Now, that could be an ice cream vendor, it could be a pod vendor, it could be someone who's trying to sell widgets and microchips. Ultimately, a lot of things are a commodity buy, but people buy from people.


Speaking of the brave approach, this is something many B2B companies are afraid of because the risks are too high. There's this saying that nobody gets fired for buying IBM. 


They should also be afraid of missing their KPIs. The life cycle of a marketing manager might now only be two years before they move on to another company. You could start by taking it easy, building trust in the team doing little things, testing and learning, but then you'll get to a point where, if you really understand your audience, you can push the brand boundaries.


There needs to be more brand thinking in B2B. There has to be some kind of brand and emotional connection you can build a relationship on. Stop immediately selling to them. Whether it's a SaaS product or it's a pair of Crocs, it doesn't matter, you still have to build trust and go through the whole pipeline.


AI has been a big gamechanger in recent years. What’s your view on using AI in communications? 


I wrote something yesterday on this very subject for our pitch. I’ll quote some bits because they reflect my view on AI. 


The human creativity to craft original concepts and narratives – that's what's going to resonate with another human being and have the lasting impression. 

My position on AI content is that the human touch wins trust. AI can generate content, that's a given, but it lacks any technical knowledge, technical expertise, business and human understanding of a brand or the emotional triggers. If you want a genuine connection with a potential customer, the human touch is critical. 


The second point is that AI accuracy needs a human edit. AI can churn out vast amounts of copy, factual errors and nonsensical phrasing. You need a human editor to ensure accuracy, avoid any brand embarrassment. 


Number three, originality sparks engagement. Pure AI content can feel quite generic and uninspired. The human creativity to craft original concepts and narratives – that's what's going to resonate with another human being and have the lasting impression. 


AI can generate content ideas and variations, but human writers shape the message, and they ensure brand alignment and audience impact. 


AI is also used for writing posts that serve algorithms, especially on LinkedIn. According to gurus, it doesn't matter what you are posting, but you have to do it consistently, like every day at 9 AM. What do you think? Should you create content based on algorithms or the actual readers? 


I'm not a LinkedIn expert, so I can't answer this with any accuracy at all about the consistency, the timing or anything like that. The only thing I would say is to post frequently and to use LinkedIn share tools for creating a cascade effect. 




And finally, how can companies from small countries like Latvia, get the attention of the international press? 


Firstly, do something worth talking about, and then people will. 


The media needs to make money and it will write stories, not for everything but in certain instances, it needs that headline to draw people into a story so people scroll down and read the ads on the side.

Secondly, relationships are the absolute key. Trade media has been almost eviscerated by a lack of advertising revenue and has been trying to rebuild itself. A lot of it is pay to play. And building a really good relationship with the people who run that media is really important. You can give little in terms of what your overall marketing budget is, but it means an awful lot to them. 


All too often, when brands are launching something, there's no evidence to say it's going to be successful. It's just another launch in a sea of launches and a sea of noise. Create a two or three part story. Do the launch, build a relationship, get that awareness, then come back with some results, do something exclusively around them so they don't think you're blanketing everybody, make them feel special about it, and then follow up again. 


Don't expect a story every time. It's not really about news, it's about understanding that the media needs to make money and it will write stories, not for everything but in certain instances, it needs that headline to draw people into a story so people scroll down and read the ads on the side. 


When you're reading news on your phone, everything is punctuated by an ad or a video. The reason the media is doing that is because they know it has human interest. 


In some ways, there's a symbiotic relationship between PR and journalists. We should be here to support journalism and the future of it. Otherwise, it'll just be AI content that feeds off itself. 


What's your view on very niche publications? Worth the effort? 


Niche is always good because you have subject matter experts and if they write a positive review then lots of other media will feed off it because it's a trusted source. 


Your niche writer may well be an influencer or a creator. An influencer might be someone with a big following who helps you reach new audiences. If you want to create content for your own platforms, websites, socials, or whatever, or for PR, you can bring in a creator as the subject matter expert and ask them to create content for your platforms because it will feel much more real.


Journalists, creators, influencers, subject matter experts are all part of the toolkit. 


You can catch Mark at Parrot 24’ in June.


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