DIY. No. Speak to professionals.

Entry level marketing has become an incredibly accessible activity for businesses these days with a high number of platforms being either set at a very low entry price or actually free to use. I am of course referring to web builders like Wix or Square Space and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. tools-4278993_1920

This to me, this not only creates confusion as to what to use to do what, it also fills each market with even more, unwanted “noise” with everyone shouting about themselves online. It also, massively devalues the role of the professional marketer. After all, you wouldn’t do your own dentistry or house conveyancing would you? No. You’d pay a professional.

Markets like retail or professional services are flooded with hundreds of businesses all trying to get noticed and so much of their marketing activity is directed online. But, if everyone is posting onto Facebook or Twitter desperately directing traffic to a homemade website, is this the best first impression you would want your prospects (if you can attract any) to have?

I ask this not only as someone who has spent nearly 30 years in the communication industry but also as a consumer. So many times in my professional life I come across the potential customer who asks questions like “well, I can do it myself with Wix so why should I pay you for a website” and in my personal life I am bombarded by poorly designed marketing campaigns trying to get me to engage with them and, even if I do out of curiosity I find a poorly designed website which is all features and no benefits.
I saw a program on TV recently where budding Interior Designers were given a brief and they were judged on the end results. One designer was critised for doing pretty much what the client wanted and didn’t add any of his ideas or opinions deciding to stay safe and let the client dictate the end result. A judge asked if he would go into the shop in question and tell the owner how to ply his trade and he answered no. Why is it then, that when it comes to such a vital activity as marketing, is there a tendency for businesses to do it themselves or, if they come to a professional, allow clients to heavily influence key elements like design?

Anyway, I digress. The key element to me is to make sure that when delivering your professional services, remember that the client came to you for your advice and help. The client may be paying the bills, but why buy a dog and bark yourself? Make sure that you can clearly demonstrate the added value you bring to the table. Here are some tips as to how using marketing as an example….

Start with business value – Outline your impact; include all the ways (marketing) benefits their organisation.

Know your own metrics – Most marketing activities have a set of KPIs they use to demonstrate impact on financial outcomes, and it’s critical to be thoroughly knowledgeable about them.

Explain the inherent uncertainties of marketing measurements – I’d love to be able to give an exact figure and what exact return this will bring, but marketing is not like that!

Have a budget strategy – Yes ROI is vital, but so are other elements like brand awareness, website traffic, email open rates and these can be hard to quantify when it comes to ROI.

Over the past decade or two, technology has significantly enhanced our ability to track and measure some aspects of marketing performance. Today, most forms of digital marketing are highly “trackable.” We can know who has opened our emails and who has viewed our content. These elements along with what platforms to use what type of design, what style of campaign, message etc are what a professional marketer will know and will understand. That is what you are paying for!

How do I develop a small business marketing plan?

When developing a marketing plan, there are roughly 4 core tasks to consider:

1. Develop a very clear and focused insight into why a potential customer would use your business. More specifically, figure out the core need that your product or service will meet. Is it to help your customers get through the day more easily? Do their job more efficiently? Be respected and admired by friends? Your offering should be designed to solve client problems or meet customer needs better than the competition can.

2. Identify your target customers. Most markets and sectors have numerous potential customers to communicate with, but to succeed faster and better, a small business must study the market and determine the characteristics of its best target customers. The target customer should be described in detail. Create a fictional person who has all of your target-customer attributes, and examine what that person would say, do, feel and think in the course of a day.

3. Identify competitors that would also want your target customers. No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s pound. Small businesses seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth, or determine competition that may be outside their industry but just as capable of luring the customer away. Preparing to know who that is, what their core competitive advantage is and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) will help you figure out strategies to combat such losses.

4. Write down your brand-positioning statement for your target customers. Ultimately, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers will be your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write down a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are single-minded and focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.

Now that you know the elements of the plan, you need to figure out how you are going to reach that target customer………………………………………………….

10 ways to make your advertising budget work harder

No matter how big (or small) your ad budget is, most organisations struggle with making the most of their advertising budget….if they have a budget at all!

While outspending your competition would be a nice things to be able to do, not every business has the resources to match competitors’ budgets. In addition, getting into some sort of spending competition could mean spending your marketing pounds sporadically without the proper planning these pounds need to do their job.

There are so many platforms when it comes to advertising. Do I advertise online or offline? Do I advertise locally in the generalist press or do I go with trade and/or lifestyle press? The questions and dilemma’s continue….

Advertising has its pros and cons and I wouldn’t advocate using advertising as a marketing medium without the proper planning. Neither would I say that advertising alone will fast track imminent retirement. However, advertising allows you to get your message out in bulk to your prospects as well as reinforce your brand message. It can be expensive so……….what can you do to stretch your advertising pounds?

1. NARROW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
2. HONE YOUR MESSAGE
3. CREATE A COMPELLING OFFER
4. MAKE AN IMPACT WITH AD BURSTS (weekly or monthly for a set period of time)
5. SUPER SIZE THE AD (run fewer ads at larger sizes)
6. MAKE THE MOST OF MOMENTS (limited time offers etc)
7. REPEAT YOURSELF (often called re targeting when used online, in print 6-9 exposures is statistically the optimum ad campaign)
8. COMBINE MEDIA TO GET BETTER REACH AND FREQUENCY
9. USE SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
10. NEVER STOP TESTING

None of these strategies for marketing in the moment require large ad budgets, they just require smart planning, strong messaging and creativity.

Think before you post!

Do not approach your social media strategy without serious thought! Yes, the accessibility of most social media networks makes entering the world of social media easy and quick. However, just because the likes of Twitter are free to configure, it doesn’t mean it is the right platform for you to use!

So how do you know which social media platform to use? Well, my answer when posed this question is always “what is it you want to accomplish with social media?” Are you looking to generate more leads? Do you plan to use social media for customer outreach? Or maybe you plan to use it to increase brand awareness?

Whatever you want to achieve, you need to set aside time to truly figure out exactly what it is that your business needs and how social media can help fill that need.
One of the best things you can do before getting started is to sit down and really map it out. It is incredibly easy to get lost in the number of social platforms and you want to be sure you use your time and efforts wisely.

So, by defining your audience and truly understanding who you are creating your content for, it will help determine where you should be promoting your business and on which platform.
Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself about your ideal customer include:

How old are they?
Where do they work? What do they do?
What social media platforms do they use?
What kinds of interests do they have? Personal and business?
What are some of their struggles or pain points?
What kinds of obstacles or objections might they have?
What are their habits, likes, and dislikes?
What motivates them?

The clearer you can be with the answers, the more you will be able to fine-tune a social media marketing strategy that perfectly suits their (and your) needs.

Be careful though committing to a social media platform and then not updating it. I have lost count of the number of organisations we see who have a Twitter or Facebook page which hasn’t been updated for 6 months! Digital or online marketing is immediate so Tweets about an event you attended 3 weeks ago won’t get the exposure or interaction you’re after!

Should I be marketing in December?

So it’s full steam ahead now as we’re partway through the “Silly Season” leading up to a well earned break, possibly with the family. But what does this mean for your marketing? Should you switch off what you’re doing or increase your activity to make sure you’re on the radars of your prospects for the start of the next year?

Tough decision and there are arguments for doing both. If you take your foot off the marketing pedal and coast until January, you may well find it harder to get back on the right radars. Traditionally, eshots and companies having January sales increases the moment the empty champagne bottles are put in the recycling so you might find yourself at the back of the queue.

On the flip side, December could be a month where the people you’ve been trying to get in front of all year are more susceptible to your approaches. I recall doing a great deal on Christmas Eve once with an MD of a large firm simply by crossing paths at a business networking drinks party by chance!

If you turn up your marketing tap, how many people will actually be paying attention and see the result? How many people are simply not doing much business in December? How many people will be looking at your advertisement or doing searches for your services during the Commercialmas period, sorry Christmas period.

Obviously if you operate in the Retail sector, this time is vital to your business so I’d suggest turning the tap up as high as it can go. But in Business or Professional Services, I can’t say that the festive period is a great time to be more visible. If you’re able to continue a presence on social media, maybe add a blog item to your website and possibly make contact with your client base (NOT by general eshot), then I would think this would suffice. If your budget stretched to allow advertising, there are some very good “deals” to be had advertising in the local media as the sales people are looking to increase their sales commission before the end of the year!

To many of us December should be a time to re charge as their are a lot of organisations who shut down before 24th December and don’t open again until 3rd January. If, like me, you own and run a business, time away from your smart phone is very limited in a calendar year so take advantage of this time with your business. Ease back slightly, but stay visible. Go to that drinks party. Make a few calls and Tweet a bit, but when it comes to the smart phone, don’t turn it off completely; maybe just check it from time to time!!

Have a great Christmas everyone and from me and my team at Bath Marketing Consultancy, have a break……………if you can.

 

Advertising. Do I include it in my marketing plan?

There are a lot of pros to including advertising as part of your overall marketing strategy, but, over and above the anticipated image building advertising can achieve, it also gets your company noticed and generates leads. (It can also rattle your competition, but that’s not really a reason for including it……..is it?!)

There are some who would ask whether advertising spreads the marketing message net too thin.

There are others who question whether people who “buy” in the professional services arena would be looking at advertisements at exactly the right time to see your ad and buy from you. However, advertising can be a very good response generator and that is where your focus must be.

Using advertising as an out-an-out brand builder can become a costly exercise. It can also be hard to monitor, but a well thought out media plan for a well-executed advertising campaign can underpin your entire marketing strategy as well as ease the path for other elements of the marketing mix.

To elaborate. What advertising does primarily is create curiosity. This can smooth the way for a prospecting phone call or a direct response e shot. We tempt with the advert and follow up with something else.

For example, we have a client who is in the retail sector. Being in retail inevitably means promotions are run periodically and these promotions require marketing. Our first port of call is advertising. The campaigns we design state the facts – what is happening, where and at what price. We also create a dedicated page on the website for “more information” and then e shot the database, use PR and social media to raise awareness of the promotion.

We feel that advertising shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re considering your marketing. However, to get the best from it as a marketing tool, be sensible. Plan what you want to do. Build a relationship with the media and allocate a budget.

 p.s. Advertising can also demonstrate a proof of commitment to the marketing initiative and raises morale internally as employees see their company in print and will know that the people in charge are investing in the future of the company!

Bath Marketing Consultancy plans, negotiates, designs and delivers effective advertising across Bath, Bristol, Somerset as well as nationally.

The Visit

To me marketing has one key aim of creating a process. A process of turning a suspect into a prospect into a client. There is a multitude of ways to deliver effective marketing, but getting that initial meeting should a core objective of the process.

When you get that meeting and start to plan the first visit to that prospect you’ve tried so hard to meet, you immediately have a decision to make – how many people do I go to the meeting with?

I mean, do you “fly solo” and rely on your interpersonal skills, charm and outright wit or do you take another team member in case the person you’re meeting doesn’t fall under your spell?! There are arguments for either of these options, but keep in mind that personal chemistry is always a crucial element in any relationship so maybe go with others if you’d like more than one bite at the cherry.

If you do take more than one person, any follow up should always be pursued by the person who gelled the best or could better offer the requite expertise. If you decide to go on your own (or you are part of a team of 1), the person you’re meeting HAS to buy you as much as the organisation you represent.

Remember your work shouldn’t start when you are in a room with him or her. It should start with doing your homework in advance of the meeting. Google makes desktop research very simple and it is very likely that the prospect has a website and social media accounts for you to review. You need to know as much as possible.

In fact, right up until the meeting itself, you can still collect valuable information about the person and company you are about to meet: the in-house magazine on reception, the plaque on the wall, the POS material, the reception screen, the receptionist etc etc. When about to meet an organisation in London, I happened to be in reception with someone else seeing the same company. The company he was from I just so happened to know and he said that this company was one of their clients so I dropped the mutual friend into my conversation with the CEO!

But it all starts in earnest with that initial handshake and then that walk or journey to the meeting room. Make the handshake firm and do your best to build rapport as quickly as possible. You may pick up personal details that can be used in a follow up, e.g hobbies and interests. Again, the same applies as you leave – the conversation as you walk back to reception can provide further insights.

I’ve had the odd surprise when making a visit like – “our CEO is going to join this meeting” or “I know we discussed ABC in our emails, but I’d like you to cover XYZ as well please” or “really sorry, but I’ve only got 15 minutes instead of the 45 we agreed.” Whatever the surprise, deal with it. Be confident and enthusiastic and deliver the core elements and key messages you aimed to deliver before the visit.

First impressions can make all the difference on your visit!

Keeping in touch with your clients

This really is far more difficult than you think and I will come clean and say that we are not as good at this as we should be, but remaining in contact with existing clients is vital. I’m not talking about calling up a client and saying, “hello, it’s me. Got any new work for me?” What I am saying is that by keeping existing or previous clients up to date with your services, personnel, other projects etc, you can keep the relationship going and possibly cross sell some of your other services. It also means that competitors will have a much harder job of prizing your clients away from you.

It’s never a bad thing to appear hungry for more work or to show other work you may have done, but you do need to find the right catalyst, something new or something interesting which you can send or use as an excuse for a phone call.

Your keeping in touch doesn’t have to be via a dedicated email newsletter or a mail piece put through the letter box, which can be deemed as impersonal if not done correctly, it can be as simple as engaging with your contacts on Facebook or Twitter. I’m a big believer of people buying people and the after sales process is as important as making a sale.

Don’t expect results overnight, but do expect results. It is quite possible that returning business might take months or even years, but sometimes more business might not be the only goal. By being consistent to what sold you to this person in the first place is what keeps this person coming back to you rather than someone else.

And don’t forget all your other marketing activities should also be out there working for you as a constant reminder of your existence – PR, advertising, social media etc. It’s crowded out there in every market and everybody is making “noise” trying to be heard. It is the job of your marketing to get you heard by the right people at the right time and your existing clients are the ones who got you to where you are now. Look after them. Stay in touch with them and put together a plan to do this as part of your marketing strategy.

 

How to get the best from Direct Mail

I was asked again recently about Direct Mail and its uses when it comes to marketing, but I think it is imperative that we clarify exactly what direct mail actually means. There are lots of so-called definitions, but to me direct mail is the sending of printed marketing material to named prospects via the post. Direct mail encompasses a wide variety of marketing materials, including brochures, catalogs, postcards, newsletters and sales letters.

I’m sure that you receive direct mail on a daily or weekly basis, but, unlike other forms of advertising, in which you’re never sure just who’s getting your message, direct mail lets you communicate one-on-one with your target audience. That allows you to control who receives your message, when it’s delivered, what’s in the envelope and how many people you reach so it can be very effective when used properly.

With this in mind, here is a checklist for direct mail :

Have something new to say
Show the recipient you understand their business and/or predicament; appear helpful
Keep the mailing simple – test the mailer on your mum or granny!
Be relevant – try and get across a single message
Try and be provocative and definitely be interesting
Put your offer on one page if you can
Sign it yourself – personalisation still goes a long way in today’s mass world
Hand write the envelopes if at all possible
Don’t be afraid to test
Double check for typos!

With any type of direct mail, appropriately timed follow-up is key. Mailings with phone follow-ups are most effective. Don’t wait too long to contact your customers after doing your mailing: After several days, call to ask if they’ve received your card, letter or e-mail. If they have, now’s the time to make your sales pitch.
If they haven’t, mail them another ASAP!

Marketing. What do I need?

Fact: The marketing sector is huge.

I don’t just mean huge due to the amount of companies and organisations out there to choose from, but also huge due to the actual initiatives that fall under the heading of marketing. For example, networking, social media, design, websites, SEO, PR, advertising, print, exhibitions, webinars are all forms of marketing so where does the average organisation start when it comes to its marketing and how does it find the right company to help?

The answer of what you need is not easy and certainly isn’t set in stone as each organisation is different and may well be at different stages of its life-cycle, but there are certain key elements that you should have in order to present (market) yourself to your prospects. Namely, an identity, a website, business stationery and some sort of mini brochure. These elements lay the foundations for your marketing and should be what you invest in first. I say invest as that is what it should be, an investment. You’re investing in your business and its future.

In terms of the company, well there are loads out there and even platforms where you can design a logo, website etc yourself online. But……before you start, put yourself in the position of a prospect. In order for them to start to think about doing business with you, what impression would they need to have? Do you want a piece of clip art for your logo, a free website template and some sub standard business cards done online on the cheap??! I think not.

Marketing platforms have become incredibly accessible these days, but that doesn’t mean that doing your own website is going to be the right thing to do. You can apply this to any other professional service. Would you write your own Will or cut your own hair or do your own accounts or build your own house or would you seek professional help? I know what I would do!

Similarly, just because you can set up a Linkedin page or a Twitter or Facebook account it doesn’t mean you should. Always ask yourself, “why” am I doing this? These types of platforms are all different and all have different audiences so don’t just link them so that one Tweet goes out across everything. Put time and effort into how you use them and make sure that the content you post is relevant. Linkedin is for businesses. Twitter is social networking and Facebook is more of a B2C platform.

I would not advise investing large amounts of money on just your logo and brand. There are companies who will design you a logo for not a lot of money and others that will charge a fortune so be careful. When Bath Marketing Consultancy sees new companies, we advise them to try and source a single company who can look after everything for them if required; be a sort of custodian for the company. The logistics of sourcing and working with multiple companies to deliver each marketing element can become impossible.

Similarly, if you appoint 1 company to design and build a website, 1 to design a logo etc then that is all you will get; a single deliverable so there are unlikely to be any economies of scale!

As usual, BMC is here if you need any help!