Marketer of The Year – Helen Bailey of B2B International

Earlier this week, we posted a blog article about marketer of the year. Well, in today’s Thursday Night Insight, Matthew Harrison outlines his nomination of B2B International’s very own Helen Bailey as his marketer of the year.

As I sat perusing this blog’s discussion of potential ‘marketers of the year’ earlier this week, I took it upon myself to think back to some of the great and not-so-great marketing experiences that I have been exposed to (or perhaps had inflicted upon me) over the past 12 months. I must confess I found the exercise relatively cathartic. Although not as cathartic as my nomination for anti-marketer of the year – the pizza restaurant in Beijing that preceded my 4-day stay in a hotel bathroom with nothing but German faucets and the dulcet tones of CNN for company.

That got my thinking about the other foreign trips I have made, and in particular my visit to our UK office back in February. An extremely pleasant opportunity to meet colleagues old and new, and to renew my acquaintance with life at B2B’s bustling Head Office.

I decided to turn up fashionably late, at around 10am, for maximum impact. No-one seemed to notice. Especially the guy (I’ve no idea who he was) who told me to hurry up fixing the U-bend. Undeterred, I chatted to a couple of colleagues and was just about to start working the room when – at about 10.30 – a mysterious ripple of excitement began to emanate from the far side of the office. I assumed either that a minor celebrity had shown up at reception or that one of the supervisors had had a fit. The ripple quickly became a wave, and was approaching me at a rapid pace. I was transfixed, like one of those poor souls that sees a tsunami head towards the beach they are standing on and only realises it’s time to run when their mother-in-law surfs past on a piece of plywood accompanied by the family dog.

The epicentre of this morning’s excitement soon became clear, as the lovely Helen emerged from our kitchen pushing a stainless steel tea-trolley crammed to buckling point with a quintessentially English cargo: millions of shiny white cups huddled around three huge tea-pots, as if to keep themselves warm or prevent themselves from being pushed overboard. Matching saucers stacked obediently at the stern of the vessel. And a plate of chocolate digestives spread regally across the bow, like Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic. Pens were placed on desks, phone calls ended and curious, expectant heads peered from behind doors and above the blue partitions. I cannot imagine a more contentedly English scene, not without sending the staff down to Wimbledon to queue all night in the drizzle for their tea before being interviewed by Sue Barker.

Helen began by serving the supervisors at the far end of the floor, before making her way gradually through a group of temporary workers, tentatively through the researchers, crawling through the managers, idling through the administrative assistants and slowly – very slowly in fact – towards myself and my colleague. What a fine egalitarian tradition, I thought – the serving of tea and biscuits to every member of staff from the temporary workers up to the CEO. A brief hiatus during a busy day, in which friend and foe, boss and bossed-about could exchange jokes, stories and gossip before returning to their questionnaires and reports.

It was, however, beyond my comprehension how splashing a bit of tea and milk into 50-odd cups could take so long. I am ashamed to say that I was becoming impatient and wondering whether the productive Helen I remembered so well had turned into someone who would rather push a tea-trolley round an office than do any work. As I observed events more closely, however, I realised two things. First, that I was someone who would rather watch someone push a tea-trolley round an office than do any work, and second that Helen was charged with achieving the impossible – serving tea and biscuits in a satisfactory and orderly fashion to a room full of English office workers. For every person that smiled and thanked poor, harassed Helen as she carefully placed a cup of tea onto their desk before briskly returning to their work, another three would engage her in animated discussion about the tea/milk ratio of their upcoming beverage, the number of sugars, whether those sugars should be heaped or flat, whether the milk should be poured direct from the jug or injected via a syringe, and whether the digestives should be served on plates or fed in chunks to each staff member as they took turns to recline naked on a chaise longue like Roman emperors.

A dieting temporary worker had pre-ordered – I repeat pre-ordered – tea laced with sweetener rather than sugar, as if she’d come to a theatre performance and this was her interval refreshment. Another insisted on lemon being squeezed into his brew, as if it was a gin and tonic. And some nincompoop, having decided that PG Tips was not good enough for her, had insisted Helen make her a tailored beverage with the assistance of some silly peppermint tea-bags that made the whole office smell like toothpaste. Personally I’d have taken 10 minutes to serve lukewarm PG Tips and milk to everyone and then thrown 10 sugar lumps into the office before shouting ‘scramble’. But this was a marketing company, and no-one aspired more diligently to meet every individual customer’s needs than Helen. No-one understood better that as each year passes, the expectation for customized, tailored solutions to needs and wants increases.

I therefore end this Thursday Night Insight with two messages to Helen:

Firstly, it gives me great pleasure to nominate you, Helen Bailey of B2B International, as my Marketer of the Year.

Secondly, I will be visiting Head Office in two weeks’ time to congratulate you in person. I will be loitering at the back of the office at 10.30 and am likely to be in the mood for a slow-boiled bucket of jasmine-scented ooling with whipped cream and a Cadbury’s Flake. Hot but not too hot, with a couple of oatmeal digestives and a slice of lemon on the side.

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