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Taking the plunge

Puddle Ducks Greater Manchester teaches babies and young children to swim. Rapid expansion was the catalyst for owners Gary and Suzanne Horton to outsource all their marketing activity.

With a fast accelerating Manchester business and a second franchise in Worcestershire, Puddle Ducks needed a marketing and communications function that could scale up to match their growth ambitions.

A blend of creativity and skills

10 years ago, we (Gary and Suzanne Horton) were both working as solicitors and struggling to juggle work and family commitments. Suzanne had always been a keen swimmer so the Puddle Ducks franchise teaching babies and children to swim seemed a perfect fit.

By 2011 we had no fewer than 30 customers. Whilst we were doing well, the urge to run our own pool was becoming ever stronger and in 2014 they ramped up these plans. Converting a pub was perhaps not the obvious choice but we could see its potential in expanding the business to include a coffee shop. And so our Aqua Nurture venture was born.

We were growing fast, had only just opened Aqua Nurture, were recruiting staff and covering shifts ourselves in-between. When we lost our Marketing Manager to maternity leave, Lucy was the perfect choice to fill the gap. Brimming with ideas, she really hit the ground running.

A wide pool of skills

All our marketing and communications activity is now looked after by Lucy and the team at LR Comms. The arrangement certainly works better for us than having a paid member of staff: not only is it more accessible, it gives us access to a much wider pool of skills than we would find in just one person. Lucy’s ongoing investment in her team’s CPD also means their knowledge remains up-to-date in the ever changing world of marketing .

Lucy spent so much time with us in determining vision and objectives at the outset that we were quickly able to find and develop our ‘voice’. This approach has paid dividends. Along with the processes and quality assurance she’s put in place, it means others in LR Comms such as Hannah, our account manager, can assume ownership of day-to-day operations but at the standards we know and expect from Lucy. We trust the team implicitly and they have full ownership of our communications strategy, social media narrative, and have even got their own marketing.manchester@puddleducks.com email address.

LR Comms creates a 12 month overview and strategy and then works on a rolling 90-day operational plan which includes key monthly themes, specific activities and local independent or national Puddle Ducks initiatives.  The team at LR Comms then apply their magic to communication activities across our different channels. Their blend of creativity and skills has had a very positive impact on our customer retention rates: our ‘Enhancing Our Customer Experience’ strategy and the ‘special mentions’ of our little swimmers by their teachers are but two.

Becoming part of our team, we know we can count on the LR Comms team to be in control and managing effectively our marketing strategy and activities which give us peace of mind and lets us concentrate on doing what we do best, looking after the more operational aspects of running 3 small businesses.

Suzanne and Gary Horton, Owners, Puddle Ducks Greater Manchester and Worcestershire

Replicating success

With a sound working model in place with LR Comms in Manchester, we knew we could successfully replicate it elsewhere. Lucy’s strategic support was invaluable when we took on a second franchise in Worcestershire. She continues to take a critical lead on our strategic work, as the day-to-day operations sit with her wider team. It gives us the reassurance that our marketing and communications function is not reliant solely on one individual and that it can scale up as and when needed.

Lucy has instilled in her business a very positive energy that our teams in Manchester and Worcestershire find infectious. We’re now running three separate businesses with 40 members of staff so we need the best of support on marketing strategy. We certainly get that from LR Comms.

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