Third Thursday - Is it worth it? close

David Hart
David Hart
In Office Banter, Musings
17th November 2011
Third Thursday - Is it worth it?

“I love your videos” said a client recently, delivered with a slightly wry Glaswegian lilt. Was she being genuine or just taking the piss? A low-level paranoia has typified mine and Mark’s feelings about the monthly ‘2-minute to camera’ videos that we put out each month as part of Third Thursday.

This week saw the public lambasting of SapientNitro’s own take on just how cool it was to work there, with their “Idea Engineers” video. It lasted a short time on Facebook before the piss-taking became too much and they pulled it down. Publicis’ “I’ve got a feeling”, PHD’s “We are the future” and’s “Going to work for Subway” have all come in for a similar amount of ridicule over the years, so there is always that fear that we could be next. 

As you would expect from a busy agency, as the third week of the month approaches there is a bit of a last minute scramble to get articles written, a video recorded and an email produced. Sometimes Third Thursday has even become Third Friday.

The videos themselves are hastily planned, normally along the lines of ‘can we mention x yet?’ – ‘great, you say that bit then’. We don’t rehearse and we rarely start again if one of us messes up: resulting in an output that makes us wonder whether we just end up making idiots of ourselves.

Which all begs the question: is it worth it? 

We thought we would practice what we preach and measure what it costs and whether it can be justified by ROI, and whether there are other intangible benefits to committing to a monthly newsletter. 

So, what does it actually cost us each month to make? Well here is a rough attempt.

We write, normally, four articles: two serious-ish opinion-piece ones, one comedy one and one educational one. All but the ‘grind my gears’ ones take a few hours research, probably another hour to write and they all need to be proof-read by someone else and images found to go along with them. I’d say about 12 hours in writing time. Taking a point somewhere between raw costs of hiring and housing people and opportunity costs (the money we could have made had we been charging people out to clients rather than doing stuff for free), I’d estimate somewhere in the region of £800 to write the newsletter.

The video takes a few minutes to record, but about an hour to encode and edit. The design is probably another couple of hours. Building the email, testing it, messing about with various elements and then broadcasting is another 2-3 hours.

So all in all, we’re probably talking about somewhere in the region of £1,200 per newsletter. And we’ve been doing the full-on video-enriched Third Thursday thing since May 2010. So this month is number 19. Which makes it just slightly shy of £23,000 we’ve invested so far.

The newsletter goes out to just under 1,000 people each month, and we have an average open rate of approx 20%.  So, about 3,800 ‘views’ of our newsletter email, plus the people who actually read the blog posts – about 6,000 (assuming most of them are newsletter recipients too).  

So, all in all it costs us about £4 each time someone reads anything to do with Third Thursday. Would we be better off just buying everyone a sandwich?

ROI measurements
Ultimately, the ROI has to be financial. Unless it’s a vanity thing, at some point it has to deliver value. However, how this is measured isn’t always as immediately straightforward. Here are some of things we consider:

New work
Do we send out a newsletter and then see a load of orders the following week? No (is the simple answer).

But we do definitely win work off the back of Third Thursday, but bear in mind that most of the recipients are existing or former clients. If nothing else, it acts as a prompt to remind people we are here. They may have called us anyway, it’s hard to say, but often it acts as a catalyst.

Punching above our weight?
We’ve always loved the idea of out-teaching our competition. We know we have sector experts here because we only hire people who are passionate about the medium. And we know that bigger agencies are often forced to hire job-a-day software developers who just don’t care. So why not share the love? We actively encourage everyone in the agency to write. We think that their wisdom is of interest to our clients and ultimately shows us being thought-leaders (for want of a less hackneyed phrase).

New ideas
Much of what we talk about involves emerging technologies or practices. We think, if nothing else, we can give our clients a competitive advantage by keeping them abreast of what they need to know. And, hey, if they pick up the phone and ask us if we can help them, too, then that’s all the better.

Our company
We tend to be a bit too fluid to have anything that resembles a mission statement (not that anyone reads them seriously anyway), so writing about what we think seems to be a better way of reflecting who we are. It’s kind of low-key PR.

We all know people buy people. One value we’ve always espoused is honesty and transparency. It might put a few people off: but that’s a good thing. We only want to hire people who want to share those values and we only want to work with clients who do, too. So, in some ways, we get what we ask for by talking about it.

Hymn sheet harmonisation
Because it’s such a shared, collegiate kind of thing – and because we know we have to do it every month, it means that it’s not left to one person to think about. We don’t have a marketing department responsible for broadcasting the company line on “social media” or “Google” that everyone within the company promptly ignores. It genuinely means that we all have more of a stake in thinking about what we think about things.

Word of mouth
We’ve definitely seen our referrals increase over the last year or so, and many people when they write to us make reference to one or two of the pieces they’ve read on our blog. If we didn’t have this self-imposed monthly deadline, we’d certainly write less and there would be less for prospective clients to base an opinion on.

How was  it for you?
The consensus internally is Third Thursday is worth it. It can always be improved and should always be evolving. But we’ve found a voice that suits us and we think that it can only be a good thing.