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Providing top level service to our clients is at the heart of everything we do. So when the world shifted to online events and charities turned to virtual fundraising to keep donations coming in, we knew we had to adapt the way we worked in order to keep offering the best possible service.

Check out our video below as Ben Skinner goes behind the scenes at Bluestep’s warehouse to show you how things have changed.

Virtual Fundraising Takes Off

Despite being unable to go ahead with real-life events, charities were quick to think of alternative approaches. Enter virtual fundraising events! From baking online, to virtual quizzes, to online gaming fundraisers, we saw a huge increase in the demand for virtual fundraising events.

Whilst this was an exciting time, we understood that it would pose some challenges to those responsible for organising the events. With most people working from home, storing vast quantities of merchandise and getting it into the hands of supporters, was a real pain point for most of our clients.

Free storage and pick, pack and dispatch

We began offering free storage in our warehouse, so that the busy bees arranging the events wouldn’t have to worry about where to keep their t-shirts and doggy bandanas! It would all be safely tucked away ready to be shipped to their supporters at a moment’s notice.

Our pick, pack and dispatch service was also extremely valuable, as we offered the ability to distribute products anywhere in the world, at the click of a button. So whenever a new supporter signed up for an event, the Bluestep bunch got to work behind the scenes, to pick out their merchandise, pack it up safely and dispatch it to that very supporter in an instant.

As well as diversifying our range of merchandise to suit virtual fundraising events, we have provided support with the practicalities and logistics of storing and delivering it, allowing charities to carry on doing what they do best; raising money for all their incredible causes.

If you need any support with your virtual fundraising event then drop us a line or give us a call. We’d love to help!

 

With virtual fundraising set to stay the norm for a bit longer, charities are using branded merchandise more than ever as part of their fundraising strategy. As well as enticing supporters to sign up for an event, merchandise can be used to incentivise different levels of fundraising or to send to participants as a 'thank you' for taking part!

When looking at how to use merchandise to support your fundraising event, you'll need to consider things like budget and ease of distribution, but here's our round-up of some of the best ideas out there:

1. £1 Trolley Keyrings

Ever found yourself overloading your basket because you didn’t have £1 for the trolley? We bet most people have! That’s why these keyrings are a game changer. Not only are they incredibly useful, but your brand will be a regular reminder to your supporters after the event too. How’s that for cost effectiveness?!

2. Face Coverings

Everyone needs one at the moment, so face coverings are an easy win. Plus, they can spread awareness of your charity when your supporters are wearing them too.

3. Pin badges

Lightweight, small and durable, pin badges are a great choice for bulk buying. With so many different varieties, you can definitely find something to suit your budget.

4. Cotton Shoppers

Most cotton shoppers have a good quality feel to them and given that they’re a replacement for plastic bags, they’re perfect for eco-conscious charities and supporters.

5. Cotton or Tech T-shirts

T-shirts are great for uniting your tribe. Wearing a branded t-shirt can really make someone feel like they’re part of an event, which is useful when real life events are unable to go ahead. Get your supporters tagging you in their event pictures wearing your branded t-shirts to share the love!

6. Water Bottles

Similar to cotton shoppers, these sorts of bottles have a quality and long-lasting feel to them so they’re great if you’re promoting your charity’s commitment to sustainability. Plus, the more reusable bottles there are out there, the less plastic there is and it’s always good to do your bit for the planet.

7. Swimming Caps

Probably more useful if your event involves swimming (!), these caps are another great way of sending your supporters wearable merchandise.

 8. Wooden Medals

Any sort of medal or trophy is a triumphant way of celebrating your supporters’ achievements and saying ‘well done’, but medals tend to be more cost-effective and easier to distribute, whilst still being able to apply your charity’s branding. We reckon people love a medal and often keep them on display for bragging rights.

9. Buffs

Neck buffs can be used as part of any outdoors event, either to protect against the heat or keep warm in the cold. Whether it’s road cycling, mountain biking or even ski-ing, a neck buff will be a useful addition to any participant’s kit.

10. Doggy Bandanas

There’s too much cuteness to even mention with these doggy bandanas! With so much wearable merchandise for humans, it’s only fair that our four-legged friends get in on the action too. And think of all the adorable pictures.

We hope that this has given you a bit of inspiration with what to use for your next charity fundraising event, whether it’s virtual or in-person. We know there’s always lots to think about when you’re planning any sort of event, so if you’d like a bit of extra support from us, we’d love to help. Just drop us a line: info@bluestepsolutions.com

It’s not an understatement to say that last year the world was forced to adapt in ways we could never have imagined. Due to social distancing guidelines, we have all had to take our IRL activities online. (Another Zoom quiz, anyone?!)

Sadly, for charities, the cancellation of thousands of mass participation events resulted in a loss of billions in fundraising income. However, whilst it has been undeniably tough for many charities, we are nonetheless staggeringly impressed with how fast-reacting and innovative they have been with their virtual fundraising ideas.

Here’s our round-up of some of the best charity challenge ideas we’ve seen in the last 12 months:

Running a virtual marathon

As the official Virgin Money London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as normal this year (other than for elite athletes), organisers encouraged charities to ask their supporters to tackle the 26.2-mile mountain within 24 hours wherever they could and then submit their results.

More than 37,000 runners completed the race, raising over £16 million for charities.

Whilst the idea of sponsored running for charity isn’t new, we are impressed that such a world-renowned event still managed to find a way to go ahead, despite such unprecedented setbacks.

 Get gaming

The mental health charity, Mind, tapped into the gaming phenomenon by establishing “the biggest fundraising gaming mission of all time”. As part of the event, ‘Switch Off, Game On’, the charity asked supporters to host and promote a sponsored stream or gaming event.

The campaign gets a thumbs up from us because not only did Mind take advantage of an emerging fundraising trend, but the concept was closely aligned to the charity’s purpose; connecting people.

P.S. We may also be influenced because Bluestep were involved in the fundraising event’s creative process. Find out more about that here.

Put on a show

With people unable to go out and celebs unable to film in a studio, Comic Relief and BBC Children in Need joined forces for the first time to present The Big Night In, an evening of virtual entertainment.

The telethon included performances from Miranda Hart, Sam Smith, a lockdown Vicar of Dibley sermon, a virtual EastEnders pub quiz and many more, all taking place remotely via video links.  The event raised a whopping £74 million, proving that technology really can be our best friend.

Easy does it #TwoPointSixChallenge

Were you even listening in 2020 if you didn’t hear of the 2.6 challenge?! Such a simple concept and yet it stirred up a storm on the internet.

The only basis for the challenge was 26 or 2.6, meaning participants could do anything from running 2.6 miles, bench pressing 26kg, or taking part in a 26-minute workout, as long as they were raising money for charity.

The simplicity of the fundraising challenge clearly appealed because the campaign attracted plenty of celebrities including Jonny Wilkinson and Dame Kelly Holmes and has so far raised over £11 million for lots of different charities.

It’s virtual quiz time

While many of us now have sudden hair washing commitments when friends suggest a virtual quiz, there was a time when virtual quizzing really got us going.

Laura Jones, founder of Eventures, raised over £133,000 for NHS Charities Together by hosting a series of themed online quizzes.

She started out with a virtual F.R.I.E.N.D.S quiz at the very beginning of lockdown, which sparked over 130,000 people to join in from across the world! She followed this up with a successful Disney-themed virtual quiz.

The moral of the story? If in doubt, get quizzical!

Virtual walkies!

We’ve all considered how the pandemic has affected human lives, but have we considered the effects it’s had on our beloved doggies? Due to social distancing, it’s likely that a lot of four-legged friends have also missed out on regular playtime with their pals.

The World Big Dog Walk Challenge is a series of dog walks held across the UK, uniting owners and their furry friends, with money going towards different dog charities. Seeing as it couldn’t go ahead in person in 2020, the organisers made it virtual and encouraged people and pooches to clock up their pledged miles in their own time, aiming to hit a total of 40,075km; that’s the circumference of the Earth!

 Online auction or raffle

While you don’t need a private virtual recording with Sting or a virtual cooking lesson with Heston Blumenthal up your sleeve, it certainly helps. This is what premier auction house, Sotheby’s, found when they raised money with a very prestigious online auction set up to raise money for the International Rescue Committee’s Covid-19 efforts.

If you don’t happen to have Sting on speed dial, we see no reason why other virtual auctions and raffles can’t make a real difference. Whether it’s a pledge to do the housework, or to bake a cake every month, charities can ask their supporters to contribute in all sorts of ways.

We all need a hero

Captain Tom Moore aimed to walk 100 laps of his garden ahead of his 100th birthday to raise money for NHS Charities Together. Footage of Captain Tom, resplendent in his military medals, tackling his mammoth task clearly pulled at the heart strings of the nation as he raised over £30 million and became our 2020 hero.

We salute Captain Tom as we remember that, with good intentions and a bit of determination, anything is possible.

 

Good luck if you are considering a virtual fundraising event and if you need any support with design or merchandise, please get in touch.

10 tips on how to make your virtual fundraising event stand out and increase smash your donations targets.

You’ll probably never face a more challenging time for your charity that right now. Not surprisingly, there’s a huge amount of fear and anxiety among charities at the moment. You may have seen a big reduction in charitable donations and decreased participant sign ups due to your fundraising events being cancelled. Many of your key staff may have also been furloughed and your charity income may have been hit hard. It’s difficult to not be disheartened and worried about how it will all end. 

This is why SO many charities are reacting and adapting by shifting their focus to virtual fundraising. As charity sector specialists we’ve helped to create events, their identities and merchandise for many successful charity events.  We believe in sharing with our community and so we thought we’d put together our top tips on how to navigate the virtual fundraising landscape! 

 Follow these tips and you’ll learn what aspects underpin a successful virtual fundraising event & have every chance of not only surviving the crisis but coming out even stronger than before. 

1. Define your target audience.  

As with any event or piece of communication, it’s important to know who you are talking to. If you’re used to holding any type of event, mass participation or otherwise, you’ll know the type of person you attract to those events. You may want to target those same people, or use your online presence to reach a whole new audience.  Either way, it’s best to know who you’re talking too, the more refined and pointed, the more accurately focused your event can be. 

2. Set yourself a realistic fundraising target.  

It may sound obvious but generally speaking, the more money you would like to raise, the more people you need to get involved. If your charity has a wide reach, you can set yourself a higher target. But be realistic too, a wide reach could be better served with several smaller events. The key is that you know your targets in order to know the shape and size of an event. 

3. Set yourself a non-monetary objective too. 

Your virtual fundraising event doesn’t have to be purely about raising lots of money this time around.  You can use the event to increase awareness of a particular service that your charity provides or maybe you have demographic that you would like to be more involved in your charity. Your virtual fundraising event is a mini advertising campaign so maximise your investment… just don’t try and do too much. 

4. Identify key dates. 

The beauty of virtual fundraising events is that they can be done any time.  But not setting a definite timeline or date can be detrimental to involving your fundraisers.  Online events work best when they have a defined period.  This not only makes them easier to manage, it also gives more clarity about when your fundraisers should take part. Whether it’s a day or a few weeks, setting that time makes everything a lot easier to plan around. You’ll be able to introduce the event, encourage participation and increase donations far more easily. 

5. Have an idea.  Or don’t. 

Charity teams are full of creative people and you’ve been creating fundraising events for years.  If you’ve got an idea that’s been dormant for years or you don’t know how to get it off the ground, give it a go as a virtual event, they’re much lower risk than those physical events that require space, property, insurance… (you know the drill).  If you’re scratching your head, we can help. 

6. Give your virtual fundraising event a clear identity.

With a crowded market, it is hard to stand out and with no clear identity it’s easy to be overlooked. Having a clear identity will make your event stand out from the crowd. A clear identity for your event will also ensure that people notice the event and not mistake it for any other comm’s you have out at the same time. Be clear with what your event is about and convey that through your identity.  

7. Have assets to send to your fundraisers. 

If you’re asking your fundraisers to do something online, ensure that they look good or have the tools to do what they need. Share assets that they can use on social platforms to make their space stand out from all their other content. 

8. Have a plan for marketing your event.

It may look simple and easy but you need to give some consideration about how best to reach your audience.  Ensure that your demographic will see your content where you intend to share it and consider where to use paid media in order to reach a wider demographic and new supporters. Acknowledge that you will need to be in front of your audience in a productive way throughout your events timeline. 

9. Thank your supporters just as you would at a physical mass participation event. 

You know that your fundraising supporters appreciate the thank you they receive across your events.  For some they have achieved a lifetime goal, for others, it’s a chance to cement relationships and to feel part of a team.  We know that merchandise continues to solidify relationships with supporters, receiving a medal recognising the achievement or a t-shirt that reminds the team of the camaraderie shared, is often an emotionally well received thank you.

10. Do you have existing resource to manage a fundraising event? 

Do not underestimate an online (Virtual) event, it is important to give all aspects consideration and be able to support the online necessary platform. The good news is that they are easy to manage and a doddle to learn.  But if you need any additional support, we can help. 

 

Need Additional Support? Drop us a line to see how we can help you with your online, virtual fundraising events. 

As a leading charity merchandise partner, we understand the enormous pressure fundraising teams are under to reduce their environmental impact. We love to support charities with their sustainability goals, which is why we’ve come up with 10 top tips to help you #GoGreen with your fundraising merchandise.

Runner running through road covered in plastic cups

There’s no doubt about it, charity merchandise is an essential part of your fundraising strategy. Whether it’s kitting out your marathon team with branded technical running vests, or inspiring a local school to host a charity bake sale with an innovative fundraising pack, charity merchandise can be a really great way to spark impactful change.

However, it’s a sad truth that many of the most common fundraising items can have a significant environmental footprint, with popular single use plastic items such as disposable banners, cheer sticks and water bottles heading straight to landfill.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! It is possible to spread your charity’s important messages in a more sustainable way; here are our 10 top tips to help you #GoGreen with your fundraising merchandise.

1. Ditch the single-use plastic!

Unfortunately, a lot of key fundraising items such as running vests are supplied in an individual plastic bag as standard. Speak to your charity merchandise supplier to see if they can produce your merchandise without using a plastic polybag or find out if they have any alternatives. At Bluestep, we have taken steps to minimise unnecessary packaging and have switched to a 100% biodegradable polybag for all our technical clothing.

2. Get supporters involved

Getting your supporters on board by sharing your environmental goals can be a great way to reduce waste, letting them know how to dispose of merchandise responsibly and providing clearly labelled recycling bins at your events will make this easy (be sure to check with your local authority which materials they can accept for recycling ahead of any events though!).

3. Find a supplier who specialises in eco-friendly merchandise

From cycling jerseys made of recycled plastic bottles to biodegradable banners and cheer sticks… there’s a green answer to everything! We had a great time finding these alternatives last year when we launched ECO by Bluestep – a product line designed specifically with charities in mind, using eco-friendly & recycled materials and certified suppliers, you can find out more here.

4. Supplier Checks

We believe that every charity has the right to know how and where their charity merchandise is made, so ethical sourcing has always been an integral part of the Bluestep culture. If your charity merchandise supplier is sourcing your products from factories in the Far East, don’t be afraid to ask them for copies of their factory audits, testing policies and company environmental policies, to ensure their supplier chain is properly vetted.

5. Design considerations

Managed to get a corporate sponsor on board for your flagship event? Great news! Consider whether you need to get all of your items cobranded though, instead investing in generically branded materials to be used across multiple events can be a great eco-conscious decision.

6. Be proud!

If you opt for eco-friendly merchandise, don’t be afraid to shout about it. We partnered with Marie Curie for their 2020 kit where the sustainability status of the items was featured, both on their clothing swing tags and biodegradable cheer sticks, and it looks great! Make the most of your green credentials and lead the way for other charities.

7. Go Paperless. Go Digital!

From digital fundraising packs and event promo videos to social media downloads, there are many ways to inspire your supporters and boost engagement digitally. If you must use printed materials though make sure that your contact list is up to date, consider reducing the size of your communications and switch to recycled or FSC Certified paper.

8. Recycle old stock

Although charity rebrands can be great for increasing awareness and re-defining your charity’s brand and messaging, left over branded stock is common and can be super wasteful. Consider phasing out old stock over a period of time to reduce unnecessary waste or partnering with charities such as TRAID (who help turn clothing waste into funds and resources) to reduce the environmental impact of your new look.

9. Shipping – know your options

If you are ordering more than one type of item, or ordering your event materials in bulk, check to see if your supplier can combine shipping as a more environmentally friendly option. The lead time might be slightly longer, but you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and will make an overall cost saving.

10. Join The Charity ECO hub

We recently came across a fantastic social media forum consisting of over 700 charity members that are all dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of charities across the globe. Group Founder and Fundraising Consultant, Karen Edgington, explains that the group is a “movement which shares ideas and information, engages in constructive discussion and finds alternative solutions, all to reduce the potential negative impact of trying to make a positive impact.” You can join the charity eco hub here.

Interested in hearing more about how Bluestep can help your charity to #GoGreen?

With over a decade of experience in the charity and merchandise sector, spreading the word about sustainability is top of our agenda. That’s why we created ECO by Bluestep and why we are continuing to help charities with their sustainability goals. We supply products that charities feel confident buying and proud sharing; get in touch now to find out more!

The sun was shining, the players were buzzing and the cider was flowing. What else could it be but the London Charity Softball League finals day?!

Bluestep were thrilled to sponsor this year’s games, which kicked off in May and resulted in a nail-biting final.

Each year, 80 charities take part in the softball games, which are played in Hyde Park, London, to compete for the prestigious Harris Hill Cup. Mind were the overall charity winners of the 2019 Cup, with The Foodfighters (Fair Share UK and ACF UK) winning the Bluestep Shield and Business in the Community winning the Harris Hill Plate. Well done guys!

It’s been a summer of trash talk, Twitter .gifs and Love Island giveaways and, most of all, laughs. Bluestep’s Charity Account Manager, Kendra Daly says “Each year we sponsor this awesome event and each year it’s all about having some fun with our fab charity clients.

It’s so nice be able to facilitate the event as we can be part of all the banter and camaraderie which is so important for everyone working in the charity sector.”

Bluestep sponsored the food and various competitions throughout the season as well as filming finals day so that the video can be used as a memento for all participants and hopefully it’ll build the buzz for teams next year! #PlayBall!

You know your stuff, so you already get why video can work powerfully throughout the ‘Flywheel’ (the upgrade on the HubSpot funnel approach) to attract, engage and delight supporters.

You’ve seen how video, for the most part, generates more engagement on social media. You also know the importance of continually optimising and testing your content. So that’s great, but video takes time to develop and doesn’t come cheap. Or does it?

Animation is a quick way to create more video content and in particular, micro-animations (5 to 15 second animated clips), allow you to create and test bite-size content to see what resonates the most with your audience. From there you can build on the most well-received concept.

Here’s how some of our charity clients have used micro-animations to great effect:

Hospice UK

Hospice UK needed a fun way to engage their followers on social media for various events through the year. They recognised the relationship-building value a simple ‘Thank you’, ‘Good luck’ or ‘Congratulations’ can have with their supporters and those were exactly the messages we used to create three different, but cohesive micro-animations. Here’s an example of how they congratulated their supporters after the Virgin Money London Marathon earlier this year.

It’s also an effective means of promoting bespoke events, as two of our charity clients have recently demonstrated in a rather colourful way!

King’s College

Evelina London Children’s Hospital (part of King’s College) challenged schools to hold a ‘Get Colourful’ dress-down day to join in their 150th birthday celebrations to help make a difference to thousands of children. Some unique characters were created for the animation to tell the story, with some simple messaging and a call-to-action at the end. Besides using the animation across their social media, they also made use of the design within their event landing page.

 

Royal Air Forces Association

Royal Air Forces Association needed a punchy micro-animation to help promote their RAFA Colour Chaos charity run. It was important to include key messages around the event to help educate the viewer about what makes the race unique, point them to the social conversation with the hashtag and also direct them to sign-up. The hero of this creation was the animation of the event logo with some cheeky music and well-timed motion graphics rounding things off.

So what are you waiting for? Start animating your social and web content and start to see those views and engagement increase!

Bluestep Charity Account Manager and technology enthusiast, Sarann Buckby, takes a look at some of the latest innovations we're obsessed with.

From Alexa to contactless payment and even paying with contactless jewellery! Sarann gives her thoughts on how charities, in particular, can make the most of these technologies to engage with audiences and boost donations. Here are her pearls of wisdom...

“A recent report by Blackbaud Europe reveals that the public’s appetite for giving to UK charities through online and mobile increased by 5.5% over 2018, despite a decrease in donations overall. Technology continues to fundamentally change consumer behaviour across the board, whether it’s foregoing the high street to shop online (and now even within an Instagram Story) for the best possible deal, ditching coins and paying for parking on your phone or asking Alexa for an update on the weather and news.

As always this presents organisations, including charities, with opportunities to reach their audience in increasingly relevant and convenient ways. Here’s what’s making news when it comes to making online giving a cinch:

Donation stickers on Instagram Stories

With half a billion people engaging in Instagram Stories every day and user donations on Facebook exceeding $1 billion according to Facebook’s Q4 report announcement, it’s a no-brainer that Instagram recently released a donation sticker. It can be added to a Story allowing supporters to donate directly to the cause without leaving the platform. 100% of the money raised through the donation sticker goes to the charity.

The bad news? It’s only available in the US at the moment. The good news? The guys at Facebook Social Good say they’re working hard to bring it to more communities in the coming months. Until then, you can get creative with the new and improved camera design including Create Mode which allows users to share information without having to first take a photo or video. Also, take a cue from Forbes contributor Christ Strub and make sure your charity is prepped and ready for when the donation button lands. Some good tips include:

  1. Continue to invest time in creating Instagram Stories highlights (Stories that you can “pin” to your charity’s profile);
  2. Use the swipe-up functionality in Stories to direct your audience to longer-form IGTV content;
  3. Build relationships with influencers;
  4. Schedule Instagram Stories takeovers with some of them;
  5. Get creative with your hashtags and start building Instagram Stories content around these, using the hashtag stickers.

You can also continue to make the most of collecting donations though your Facebook Page donate buttons and ads with Donate call to actions.

It’s a good time to take a step back and think about how you can adapt your social media content strategy to personalise it more based on different user profiles journeys. Then have fun with the existing functionalities (like stickers within Instagram Stories) to engage people further within their journey.

Alexa gets charitable

Amazon’s Alexa is used to being asked things like, ‘Alexa, get me a beer’ to ‘Alexa, how do I boil an egg’. However, now you can say ‘Alexa, open British Heart Foundation and donate money’ or ‘Alexa, ask the British Heart Foundation to collect my furniture.’

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) were the first in the UK to adopt the Amazon Alexa skill which allows for donations using your Amazon Pay account, so you don’t have to enter any payment details for anything up to £250. The BHF reassures users that they can create a passcode to stop anyone else donating via your Alexa.

Other charities like NSPCC are using Alexa to enable voice donations and to help engage families in important awareness campaigns like Talk PANTS.

Voice search is here and growing and it will be an ever-important extension to your existing marketing strategy and campaigns.

Contactless donations

UK contactless spending increased by nearly a third in 2018 to a total of £69 billion, accounting for more than 40% of all card transactions. Payments UK research shows cash transactions are expected to decrease to only 15% of all transactions by 2025.

This is probably not new to most charities but does require an adapted strategy to explore the best technologies available and understand the associated costs and rewards.

The Natural History Museum and seen a rise of 64% in their donation income using eye-catching contactless fundraising boxes from Goodbox and Christian Aid Week will be trialling cashless donations with 500 of the company’s contactless payment units in churches across England and Wales.

Tap to donate…with your jewellery

Another associated trend are contactless wearables like bracelets, wristbands, watches and rings. People seem to love the convenience of ditching their cards and wallets for these more fashion-forward payment options. According to a ComputerWeek report, research done by Mastercard reveals that more than a quarter of UK shoppers are ready to make contactless payments using wearable devices.

The same article cites that the worldwide smart wearables market is expected to be worth $52.5bn by the end of 2024, compared with $16.2bn in 2016. With figures like that, contactless wearables could be a worthwhile and profitable addition to a charity’s online shop.

Easy does it

Technology is ultimately about making people’s lives easier and for charity communication and marketing professionals, innovations like the above make it easier to connect with their audiences in a way that fits seamlessly into their lives. When it comes to understanding your market and creating strategies and campaigns that resonate with them, getting to grips with how they want to donate is key to ensuring your charity remains top of mind.”

 

If you’re looking to develop merchandise, strategies and campaigns that inspire awareness, action and change with creative solutions that have a measurable impact, get in touch with Charity Account Manager, Sarann Bucky, by sending her an email or calling on 0844 576 0576.”

The Muddy Dog Challenge is the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home flagship event and the UK’s first 2.5k or 5k obstacle course that you can tackle with your furry friend. Whether your canine companion is tackling the tail wagging tunnels or flying through the mutt maze, they’ll have an amazing day raising vital funds for the charity.

The charity already has over 7,400 human and doggie teams signed up to take on the challenge. And a staggering £900k target to smash!

Bluestep are extremely proud to be able to supply all the event materials, ranging from flags and t-shirts, to medals, rosettes and (most importantly!) the dog bandanas for those very special fundraisers.

We can’t wait to hear about the success of the 2019 events and look forward to supporting Battersea for future muddy years to come.

Only 4 out of the 10 events across the UK have taken place to-date, so there’s still time to sign up and get involved. Visit www. muddydog.battersea.org.uk to find out more!


Following on from the Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 last weekend, we’re sending out huge congratulations to the event’s charity of the year, the mighty Dementia Revolution. With over 2000 runners and nearly 900 volunteers on the day it’s no wonder they have raised over £3 MILLION for the great cause so far!

Here at Bluestep HQ, we are so proud to have been a part of this fantastic cause, supplying the event collateral (everything from banners and buffs to wigs and cheer sticks) to make each cheer point look fabulous!

  

Congratulations to all the runners, volunteers and everyone at Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society for making the Dementia Revolution happen!

Nowadays there's a ton of ways you can use social media to promote your services. Whilst these options are great for being able to reach a really refined audience, the number of options means that it can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to deciding what to post, where to post it and how best to capture your audience's attention. If you've not got a PhD in social media, it's enough to get your head in a spin!

So we've thoughtfully compiled and condensed our key suggestions and tips to help you find a bit of clarity in the social media storm. We're taking it social media channel at a time. First up: Facebook!

A picture is worth 1000 characters…

Images are key for your social media content. Facebook posts with images actually get double the engagement rates compared to ones without!

Your post doesn’t have to be based around photos or reliant on stock imagery. You can show off a testimonial or advise on clinic times by pasting text into an image. This is a much more visual way of posting on social that grabs your audience’s attention.

If you don’t have existing templates to work off of, there are plenty of free tools out there to create images, such as Canva. (Although as designers we do suggest you try and refrain from Paint!)

When posting your images, remember to make sure:

  1. There’s not too much text on the image
  2. Your image is a decent size (so it isn’t grainy)
  3. You’re sticking to brand guidelines at all times!

Keeping things topical

Struggling with what to post? When creating your Facebook strategy and deciding what to post, it’s great to look at what is going on in the world of social media. You never know when you might catch a relevant world or national day to get involved in!

It doesn’t have to always be directly relevant to what you do, either. Simply being present on your followers’ news feed helps to keep you in the forefront of their mind. Bring out your personality by showing a behind the scenes look into the people in your team. For example, on national doughnut day, treat the office and take a snap of everyone enjoying some sweet goodies. Doughnuts + social content = winner!

Is your info up-to-date?

It’s really important to make sure your information on your Facebook page is up-to-date. Not only is this good for your SEO, it’s actually a popular way that people find out key information about you. Facebook has a lot of functionalities so you can easily put in all the key information that is useful to your audience. From opening times to locations, you’d be surprised how many people use Facebook as the modern-day yellow pages!

Quick Fire Tips

Make sure you’re getting the most out of your Facebook page by following these quick tricks:

1) Events

From education events to support groups, putting these on Facebook is a great way of getting out to the world what you’re up to.

2) Community

Remember to keep an eye on what your visitors are posting and saying about you. It is a great place to answer any questions people may have too. It is always great to show you are responsive!

3) Boosted Posts

Post so good you want to spread it further? Put a few pounds behind one of your social posts, choose your audience and watch your metrics soar!

And if all else fails?

Sometimes social media is just a bit too much to manage with everything else on your plate. You’re busy. We get that. If you’d like us to take a look at how social media could boost your campaigns and maximise your budget then get in touch. We’ll be happy to help.

 

Social media can do wonders for marketing in general, but we've also seen a rise in the number of Sexual Health Services that are now turning to social media to boost their marketing efforts. Keeping your ROI healthy and targeting specific audiences are just some of the ways in which it can do wonders for your organisation.

 

Whether it’s bespoke emoticon campaigns or simply co-ordinating some Facebook posts, there are a number of ways in which Sexual Health services are getting in on the social media frenzy to boost marketing efforts. Here are just a few:

Get Your Audience Spot On
Social media advertising allows you to choose exactly who sees your ad, meaning you only pay for getting in front of the people you want. Sexual Health Services usually have a specific demographic in mind for marketing campaigns and have a set budget, so social media is an ideal solution. From age range and location, to interests and shopping behaviours, there are many ways in which you can home in on your ideal target audience.

It’s Cost Effective
Social media efforts are a cost-effective addition to your marketing strategy. It’s free to create an account, and requires little investment compared to other marketing tactics available to you. Given that Sexual Health Services often have little budget to blow on advertising, this enables you to see a greater return on your investments and to make the best use of your budgets.

Prove You’re Getting Your Money’s Worth
Track, track, track! We know that the money-holders always need to see exactly how money is being spent and what benefit it is having and with social, you’re able to track everything. Whether your budget is £50 or £5,000, you can monitor and manage exactly where each penny is going, and what you’re getting in return. From paid campaigns to posts in your feed, social media platforms allow you to see reach, engagement, click through rate, conversions and video specific such as views. This enables for constant tracking and optimisation, as well as tangible results to create even better content in the future!

Don’t just take our word for it!

If you’re looking for proof that social media is the way forward, here’s an overview of a really successful campaign we ran for Lancashire CaSH NHS Foundation Trust:

The Trust approached us to create and implement a series of advertising campaigns across their Facebook page. Their objective was to drive traffic to the CaSH website, with the aim of increasing the uptake 18-25-year olds booking an STI test across the four regions of Lancashire.

To do this, we created a series of fun, eye-catching adverts with a clear CTA that would resonate with the target audience.

As a result, we achieved a reach of over 1 million, thousands of clicks to the landing page and an average cost per click of £0.51.

From Snapchat advertising campaigns to managing your Facebook posts, or if you just need a social media health check,  the Bluestep team are here to help! Give us a call or pop us an email and we’ll have a think about how social media could best serve you.

When the charity Naomi House & Jacksplace came to us with some ideas for an animated Christmas e-card they wanted to send to their supporters, we couldn’t wait to get started!

Animations are definitely on the up and there’s a whole bunch of advantages to using them: they’re easy to understand, they generate increased levels of engagement and therefore lower bounce rates, plus they’re easy to edit and so can be a budget-friendly marketing platform.

Let’s not forget that video in general is a great conversion booster. In fact, Charity Comms found that 74% of charities say that video content provides a good return on investment, video animation is now more popular than ever.

We had previously worked with Naomi House & Jacksplace, who provide support to life limited and life threatened children and young adults, to produce their fundraising event material so we’d got a good understanding of their brand and their message.

As a children’s charity with quite a colourful brand, we wanted to keep the animation childlike with clean lines, simplistic imagery and bold colours. We decided to use a ‘reveal’ style, having trees parting across the screen to show a landscape where a twinkling light draws the eye across the hills to the two hospices (Naomi House & Jacksplace). The music was chosen for its feel-good Christmas film style.

Although the brief began as a 90 second animation, we worked with Naomi House to tailor it and refine the story, reducing it to 45 seconds. This brought it more in line with budgets and ensured it was fit for purpose; essentially to wish people a Happy Christmas. Any longer than that and we risked losing the viewer’s attention.

Even though Christmas is over, we are still getting a warm fuzzy feeling watching this animation. And it seems it had a positive reaction elsewhere too, receiving over 21,000 views on Facebook alone!

Animation can be a perfect way of getting your message across, no matter who your audience is. If you think animation might benefit your organisation then drop us a line and we’ll get our creative juices flowing!

 

It's been a busy 2018. In fact, we've been through a whopping 40% growth over the past year! Therefore, over the last few months we've been on the hunt for new recruits to help with growing demand and take Bluestep to the next level.

We’re delighted to have welcomed several new faces to the team; Jamie who’s looking after our Sexual Health clients, Sarann who’s come on board to support our charity clients and Charlotte who’s heading up the Bluestep marketing. And watch this space for more budding Bluesteppers in the New Year…

Bluestep Managing Director, Ben Skinner, is incredibly proud of our growth and puts it down to the bunch of talented, passionate people we have working here who go above and beyond to keep our amazing clients happy.

“As a fully integrated agency offering marketing and design services across the board, we re pretty much a one-stop-shop for new business, and are able to add value to our existing clients,” he says. “Everyone at Bluestep is such an enthusiastic spirit and for us, it’s all about having a driven and skilled team to deliver our clients’ visions. Our goal of creating a world class marketing and design agency continues!”

Support Adoption for Pets, working with the retail giant Pets at Home, is an amazing charity who “believes that every homeless pet deserves a second chance at happiness”.

They’re a charity we are incredibly proud to work with and so we were delighted when they asked for our support to come up with ideas for their Christmas 2018 Santa Paws campaign.

We have worked with the charity for several years, supporting them with their summer scratch card campaigns. We’ve produced things like keyrings, magnets, floating pens and other incentives to increase sales of their fundraising scratch cards.

As part of the winter 2018 campaign, we created some branded doggy bandanas which were distributed to each of the 450 Pets at Home stores nationwide.

We also created a festive Christmas jumper for their store colleagues to wear throughout December. With 6,500 sweatshirts distributed, you may well see a colleague sporting one when you next take your pooch to the Groom Room.

We are really pleased with the sweatshirts and bandanas and so are our furry (and human) friends below!

Briefs are so important (and not the underwear sort, although they’re important too).

A clear and detailed brief can be the difference between receiving a first draft that makes you huff in frustration or a first draft that makes you smile; between painstaking rounds of amends or nailing it first time.

The thing with any sort of creative work is that it’s subjective and that means there are a million and one ways of interpreting a piece of work and deciding whether or not it’s ‘good’. All designers will think what they’ve produced is great work, otherwise they wouldn’t send it to a client in the first place.

However, whether it meets your objectives or not is a different matter and that’s where your perfect brief will help. Here are a few things to consider when briefing an agency with a new project:

Detail, detail, detail

Give all detail that you think is relevant. This information will help a designer to build a picture in their minds of what you want them to do.

Of course if it’s a simple A5 flyer you’re after with an agency who knows you inside out, you probably don’t need to write 500 pages on your company’s history but essentially, all necessary detail gives your brief context.

Give background information

Why do you need what you’re asking for? Have you done similar projects in the past that/haven’t worked?

This section can also be used to cover the scope and scale of your project, your intended audience, examples of other work you like, what you don’t like and the branding tools (logos, colours, straplines) you want to include, as well as the key decision-makers the designer will need to work with.

What are the objectives?

What is the most important thing that you want this piece of work to say or do? Designers often get briefs from clients asking for 25 messages to be included in the work but told to ‘keep it punchy’.

Most communications pieces can only ever effectively convey three messages: any more and you risk it becoming confusing, chaotic and frankly, not something that your audience is going to get any value from.

If you’re clear about your objectives and your priorities it will help a designer know exactly which the most important aspects are to convey.

Be specific about what you want and when you want it

This is where your deliverables come into play. Is it for web or print? Portrait or landscape? Are there particular dimensions it needs to fill? Do you need different versions creating for additional channels?

When do you need it for? And this doesn’t just mean when is the final deadline but what are your deadlines in order to get there? If you’re on holiday for a week within the project and so will need to feedback before you go, include this. If you know it takes your head honcho two weeks to review anything then buffer this into your interim deadlines.  A project usually requires multiple stages of sign off so it’s best to ensure that everyone has capacity to fulfil their requirements in order to get there.

Talk it out

Always arrange a time with your designer to discuss your brief, even if it’s just over the phone. It allows any questions to be asked and fully considered and may even shed further light on what your overall expectations are and even if there are limitations that might affect your project. It’s far better to address any issues up front, rather than discover them in the nail-biting hours before sign off!

 

It may look like a bit of effort but getting your brief on point from the off will really help your project in the long-run. Like with all things, you get what you put in.

With that it mind, we’re off to get some salad *sighs pushing cake away*

It seems to be an age-old question that many people and organisations are faced with. Do we go freelance, or do we bring on an agency?

We’ve put together some key differences and information into what both can offer, to help you make a more informed decision. Both are great avenues to go down and neither are a bad choice, it depends more on the nature of your project.

The perk of freelancers is you can be pretty confident they are somewhat of a specialist in their field. If you are seeking some advice on a project, or dedicated help, reaching out to a freelancer is a great idea. In addition, the involvement you take in the creative process is greater. By cutting out project managers and other parties, working with a freelancer means you can closely oversee your work directly with the person bringing it to life.

Using an agency means you will get a team effort and collaborative approach to your project. If it’s creativity and innovation you’re after, the perk of agencies is the diversity of the workforce with different eyes on your project providing a range of opinions and guidance.

Where a freelancer may experience creative blocks and struggle from time to time, an agency has the ability to bounce ideas off each other to come up with a range of creative solutions.

Agencies often provide dedicated account and project managers, allowing for stellar organisation throughout your project. What’s more, with an agency, you have the freedom to go back at a later date and add to your campaign in different areas. The agency will be familiar with the brand, tone of voice and how it fits into what has been done previously.

Ultimately, our advice is to do your research and weigh up the considerations needed to make your project a success.

TOP 3 THINGS TO CONSIDER

1. Size of project

Agencies will often come with dedicated account managers, so you know that the project is in safe hands. We recognise that with a large-scale project, such as a full marketing campaign, it can be very time consuming if you try and manage this through freelancers. On the flipside, if you need a quick-fix or a very specific project, a freelancer is a great choice to provide you with what is needed.

2. Project deadline

If you are on a tight turn around and need the work fast, this can influence the  decision between agency and freelance. Being reliant upon a solo freelancer does come with its risk if you have caught them in a busy period. That’s not to say that agencies don’t have busy periods, however the higher number of people involved means that of ten others can pick it up and it can be managed better in a short amount of time.

3. Your Budget

Freelancers will often be more cost-effective and flexible. If your budget is super tight, a freelancer may be your answer. However, that is not to say that agencies won’t be flexible in their pricing, they just have more elements, like overheads, to consider. Even with agencies, there can be a sizeable difference between a large and small organisation when it comes to how they operate. Larger agencies may result in them outsourcing the work themselves, so you end up paying for the freelancer work and the middleman!

The Who, What, When, Where and How we helped to support Macmillan with the World's Biggest Coffee Morning, including some lovely 'mmm' cake bunting.

The Brief

Macmillan came to us for the second year in a row for help refreshing the components of their fundraising pack for the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, one of the most high-profile fundraising events in the charity calendar.

With an already-iconic brand and recognisable design, it meant thinking outside the box for some fun ideas to get people excited for their cake sales.

And not only that, the order was for over 1.5 million units!

The Solution

After a bit of head scratching we came up with the idea of adding some lovely ‘mmm’ cake bunting to the components of the fundraising pack. A nice way to tart up a tarte!

We also provided badges, table cloths, cake flags and hanging bunting on the mass scale that was required!

Thanks to our transparent supply chain, rigorous due diligence and commitment to ethical sourcing, Macmillan could rest assured that their fundraising packs were in safe and moral hands.

The Results

Macmillan have raised over £13.5million to-date (October ’18) as part of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning and we can’t help but feel proud to have played a part in such an integral event for the charity.

As well as successfully meeting the brief for a pack refresh, we ensured Macmillan got their 1.5 million items ethically produced and shipped on time and to budget.

Right, now who’s for a cuppa….

We recently created a video for our client, the NSPCC, and it got us thinking about how brilliant video can be as a marketing vehicle.

The NSPCC video was designed to demonstrate the wonderful benefits of running the marathon on their behalf. It captures everything from the cheers to the tears, the strength and the triumph, and can be shared and shared to inspire other budding runners to sign up.

Carl, our video production guru, says “Videos are great ways of explaining stuff. Whether it’s a product or service or a complex message, a video is a slick, visual way of communicating it to your audience.

You can give your perfect pitch anywhere, anytime, without even having to be there!”

What’s more, websites with video are actually 50 times more likely to be ranked on Google’s first page. What do you think people will click on first: the text link or the inviting video thumbnail?

In fact, there are loads of stats that prove video is one of the best ways of getting an audience to engage with you:

  • 55% of people watch videos online every day (MWP)
  • Almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store (ThinkWithGoogle)
  • 4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it (Animoto)
  • 54% of senior executives share work-related videos with colleagues weekly (TubularInsights)

So there you have it; video is officially awesome!

If you think video could help you with your next marketing campaign, then get in touch with us today!

We are absolutely over the moon to have won not only one but TWO awards at the SME Northamptonshire Awards last night!

Held in association with the Business Times, the awards are a sought-after accolade of achievement celebrating the hardworking and enterprising SMEs of Northamptonshire.

The first award we won was the Service Excellence award which celebrates outstanding assistance and advice to clients. The judges said “A company very strongly focused on meeting the needs of its diverse range of customers.” We pride ourselves on going above and beyond for our clients. In fact, our whole ethos is about being an extension of a client’s team, so this win was music to our ears!

As if that wasn’t enough, we also took home the award for The Overall Winner! This is essentially the crème de la crème; the big finale award, and we are thrilled to take the title for 2018.

Having recently celebrated our 8th birthday, this was a wonderful way to mark the occasion.

Ben Skinner, Bluestep Managing Director, said “This was a really proud moment for the whole team. It was a brilliant night and unreal to have won against some amazing talent. A true highlight for the year.”

We are now looking forward to going to Wembley Stadium in 2019 for the SME National Business Awards Final, where all the 2018 winners compete on a national scale. Fingers crossed!