“I wish we’d appointed Happy sooner”

Lancashire Health Matters (LHM), a partnership between the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the Innovation Agency, had been enormously successful in connecting innovative healthcare-based SMEs across the county with NHS and other healthcare providers that could benefit from their products and services. Then, the pandemic hit and the flow of innovators (and innovations) dried up. LHM asked Happy to help them build fresh momentum.

“Pre-COVID, we had a target to bring in 90 SMEs during the three-year programme,” explains Steve Adams, Lancashire Commercial Programme Manager. “We hit that target within two years. We’d support the SMEs with information about commissioning, procurement, NHS regulations and IP advice. We’d connect them with academics. We’d help them access funding and, ultimately, we’d help more businesses sell to organisations like the NHS. It was a real success.”

Things changed during the next programme as the pandemic took hold.

“For about 18 months we only recruited 20 new SMEs,” Steve admits. “We were floundering.”

LHM recruited Happy Creative on a 6-month contract to help raise awareness, visibility and interest among Lancashire SMEs and academics at UCLan. In collaboration with LHM, the university and the NHS, our challenge was to generate conversations with the LHM team which would result in ‘recruiting’ SMEs and academics onto the programme.


We started the project with a discovery session, developed a marketing plan, and conducted market research with some of the SMEs already on the programme.

The RISUS™ Methodology helped Happy deliver marketing results in a controlled and predictable way. We applied it through a discovery session, persona exercises, the development of a marketing plan, and market research with some of the SMEs already on the programme, followed by the development of key messages.

Then, we applied our findings to marketing two major events. One was to attract more academics to the programme. The second, ‘Selling to the NHS’ was aimed at driving conversations with Lancashire SMEs. In support of the events we then created:

Finding the right tone for the campaign collateral was important. “The idea of ‘selling to the NHS’ as a message met with some internal resistance,” Steve says. “It’s something that can make people a little uncomfortable. Happy found a really nice, subtle way to overcome that.”

UCLan’s Miriam Sergeant was delighted to be able to hand the marketing over to us.

“They took care of everything,” she says. “We didn't have a specific marketing person on our team (usually it’s just me) and it was so good to be able to say to them ‘I need a poster’ or something and they just got on with it. They streamlined everything, were really, really helpful and very easy to work with.”


The engagement across social media was extremely encouraging.

Our marketing activities ensured the first event was a sound success, building connections with around 20 academics. It delivered in a broader sense too, as Steve explains: “What we found was that, after the event, some of the deans from different schools asked us to come and meet their wider teams, so it very quickly put us in front of a wider pool of academics. That accelerated our ability to find the right person to support some of our SMEs, which was really useful.

“That was the first major tick in the box for hiring Happy.”

The SME event followed a similar pattern of building on initial success with a sustained post-event response.

“We had 68 registered. 55 attended (which was pretty good) and we signed up the ten SMEs we were hoping for. But then we started hearing from companies we'd never thought of, never approached, and never interacted with saying, ‘We've seen all this social media stuff on your programme. Could we have a quick call to see what it's about and whether I'm eligible?’. In four months we picked up 14 companies. For the six months before that, we’d added none. There's no doubt that this was a successful use of public money to help us improve performance.”


“It always starts with the client, doesn’t it?” says Steve. “What are you trying to achieve? What are you trying to do differently? Finding that clarity early on helps everybody. Happy worked with us to establish that.

“I would recommend Happy because they really try to understand you. They picked up on the friction you always get between a typically risk averse academic institution and an external organisation. The content they created was sensitive to that which made conversations with other stakeholders easier.

“I wish we’d appointed happy sooner. Working with them was a real pleasure and it helped us improve performance.”

Miriam is even more enthusiastic in her recommendation:

“Other teams at UCLan have already contacted me and I’ve recommended Happy. I told them to give them whatever they want! Happy are the best—I couldn’t praise them highly enough.” 

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