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.

 

I am a business owner and need to do some marketing

The majority of people who read the articles in our marketing help area are “professionals” who might not necessarily be experts in marketing or selling so it is up to us to try and provide direction in how they can improve their knowledge and/or skill set to help them reach their marketing goals. Marketing for Small Businesses

In some (larger) organisations, there might be a sales person or a BDM as well as a marketing manager, but in the SME world, it is quite common that all these vital elements are grouped together and performed by the owner. If this is the case, there is always a danger that the whole process of marketing slips down the list settling behind IT or the accounts function!

In the case where you are doing the sales and marketing, a lot of the skills and techniques required have been outlined in this blog. However, whether it’s you or you are motivating others to take ownership of marketing, try and see the activity in the context of a marketing plan. Remember marketing is not about getting a brochure done or designing and building a new website. In fact, the process of marketing should include most if not all of the below:

Understanding your market – what am I offering to who and why?
Building your brand and proposition – what is my USP and what does it look like?
Planning your marketing strategy – what activity and/or platforms am I using to get my message across?
Internal marketing – does everyone in the company know what marketing activity we are undertaking and why?
Manage existing clients – making sure you have quality deliverables that have been outlined and fully costed.
Winning new business – test initiatives, but aim to create a discipline of running multiple activities each month.

A big feature of marketing is laying the foundations. You have to set out your stall correctly so that you’re appealing to the right people. Know your customer, but also, do you know if your market has any sub sectors within it which you can target which might add another string to your bow? Try not to get drawn into delivering knee-jerk, bulk newsletters to just tick a box. The words “so what” are used frequently in the briefing process by Bath Marketing Consultancy!

Going forwards, what Bath Marketing Consultancy has always advocated is that having a dedicated marketing function can make the difference between a business success and a business failure so allocate time and or budget to getting it right at the start.

Cast the best people

The objective of your marketing activity should be to get that all important initial face to face meeting. This could be a presentation, a beauty parade, a pitch or even a chat over a coffee. Either way, always think long and hard about your personnel and who is the best person or people to go. You are quite possibly fulfilling the role of a casting director with the aim of your chosen people bonding with their audience as quickly as possible. People buy people and it’s your job to cast the appropriate staff member(s) that will get on with the potential client.

In most organisations there are the natural performers; the people who can give that upfront magic performance that could tip the balance in your favour and make the right impression. These people are the people who play a vital role in the branding of your organisation. Some of your team may not be as strong as others when it comes to bonding and these people are equally as valuable behind the scenes in different ways.

The individual(s) you select must be enthusiastic, representative and above all, confident. If you select a team, it is also vital that the team gels with each other. Never pick a couple who have had a personal relationship in the past and who have recently broken up as I did once when working for my agency in London!

I would never advocate outnumbering the prospect except if he/she is alone where you could go as two people as a safety measure in case the chemistry isn’t great with just you. Two people also allows two evaluations afterwards, but it has the right two people. At BMC I sometimes go with my creative director to who gives a different angle on things.

All in all it’s about making sure that all the blood, sweat and tears you put in to get the first meeting doesn’t go to waste. On most occasions, you won’t be the only organisation the prospect is talking to so you have to do your research and arrive with the right people and preferably something of value. For example, I always do some R&D about the prospect so I know as much as I can about their website, their people, their sector and some of their competitors. Yes, I suppose this R&D could be deemed as free spec work (something BMC doesn’t do), but this isn’t creative or design. This is getting to know the person and organisation you are meeting. The prospect has done their research and then made contact with you so should you.

Why do I need to do any marketing?

This is a question I hear a lot and usually from established companies who have built their client base using traditional methods over a long period of time. By this I mean, some of the older companies I come into contact with sometimes have an MD who is a complete marketing skeptic and he/she usually tells me that they built the company from the ground up via word of mouth over the last 25 years.

Marketing for SME

Well, I am afraid to say that although word of mouth is a great way to attract new clients, it wont last forever and that is why marketing is a vital activity when it comes to client growth and prospecting. Yes, clients who come to you via a referral are likely to be much “warmer” than others you may attract, but these warm prospects may also expect the exact same service levels as the person who gave them your details and may well even expect the same price structure, same personnel etc. This “history” isn’t always a great thing as it can work against you. i.e. if you did a cheap deal for one organisation and they tell another one, you WILL be expected to match or improve on it!

Without marketing, how does a company get off the ground? How does it differentiate itself from its competition? How does it get noticed? The problem is that no one wants to spend money on marketing! It’s odd as the SME will usually spend money on engaging an accountant. They may also spend money on renting a premise. They will almost certainly spend money on computers, smart phones and IT. But…..when it comes to spending money on marketing, they sometimes think they can do this themselves and will design their own logo online, do their own website, do their own stationery etc. Why??!?!!

The majority of small business owners may well be brilliant at what they do, but it doesn’t man that they have all the skills to market their businesses correctly and. in my experience, cheap can be very expensive. Invest is a key word as that is what marketing it – an investment in the future. Marketing is laying the foundations for success. It’s making sure you are saying the right things in the right way to the right people and it is not a one-off exercise. Marketing is a process; a discipline that, if got right, can make the difference between a business success and a business failure.

So, when I am faced with someone who is anti marketing, my response to the question is this. If you are needing a plumber, where would you look to find one? Almost immediately I am given the answers of “Google” or “in the Dentons Local magazine” or “Facebook or Twitter.”

I rest my case!

 

Time is precious so don’t ask for too much of it

After nearly 300 articles I thought it was worth clarifying something. Basically, throughout a number of the articles I write I make references to my own experiences within the marketing profession. This is where I tried and tested the theories and put into practice a lot of the marketing advice and deliverables I now give to clients. This means that the advice and help I write about comes mainly from my own practical experiences; a sort of “How to…..” area on this website designed for you the reader to interpret and implement should you so wish.

Anyway, I digress. What I wanted to share with you in this article was my findings about standing out in your market.

The more research I have done in my career, the more I have realised that professional services are all very similar when it comes to winning business. You may work in the research industry, be an accountant, an architect whatever, the bottom line is that we all have intangible services to offer to other professionals.

The intangibles are primarily information and knowledge and too often these remain hidden assets! For you to attract new business, this must be changed – we must make our target audience aware of our knowledge base as this in turn means that the “suspects” we are after move to becoming “prospects” and then clients.

Competition in all markets is increasing and it’s up to you to grab the attention; to differentiate yourself. You have to make the right noise at the right time to the right people and this is where effective marketing comes to the fore.

Some of the fellow professionals and contacts I talk to tell me that some of the offers made to them are very hard to understand so make your message simple to understand. Don’t get caught by the “lots of white space” design sometimes proposed by graphic designers. Don’t try to be too clever or have a meaning that is too cryptic. Time is a very precious commodity in business so don’t ask for too much time from the people you want to target.

So much is out there when it comes to furthering your skills or learning how to make your presence known to potential clients so try and be personable, professional and use simple skills in preparation, prospection and presentation and to build all this around a well thought through marketing plan.

And this is where Bath Marketing Consultancy can help………..

 

I am not in sales. Yes you are like it or not!

Hands up how many of you see yourselves as in a sales role? I bet the majority of us don’t see “sales” as part of our job specs. We might work in the IT department or be back office support and have a sales team to do sales. However, have a think. Do you come in contact with people on a daily basis either professionally or personally?

I am sure you do. This means that, without realising it, you are inadvertently in sales and are part of your organisations brand. I’ll tell you what I mean.

After a session in the gym this morning, I got talking to someone I haven’t met before in the changing room. He asked me what I did so I told him about my company Bath Marketing Consultancy, what we do and with who. I wasn’t “selling” as such, but I was making conversation about business. If I made a good impression he may remember me if the subject of marketing comes up at his place of work. Similarly, he may well say to someone he knows personally that he met me thus putting me and my company on more radars. I also found out that he was in finance, specifically pensions and have since looked up their company website – they need some serious SEO work done!

This situation is common and don’t underestimate the importance of this type of marketing. If you work for a company as an employee at whatever level, do you know exactly what your company does and with who? Are you kept up to date with internal news such as new client wins, new joiners etc? Does the CEO communicate what the “brand” stands for?

To me, Sales and Branding are not just words thrown about by the communications industry to baffle the consumer. They are the key to consistency and one can facilitate the other. We all have a role to play in our business lives and a thorough knowledge of your business is very powerful. It’s not just about an organisation running an external marketing campaign with nice advert designs in magazines or running ads on Facebook, it’s about communication and this starts internally. Do you and everyone you work with know what’s happening at your company and why?

For example, the person who answers the phone can be the first point of contact for clients and prospects and hence, needs to know exactly how to answer the phone and be kept up to date with events and updates for the company he/she works at. He/she is the initial voice of the company and is vital as this could be the start of the sales process.

When I meet new people in business, I always say that they should be able to sum up their brand in 3 words. They also should be able to do the Richard Branson “elevator pitch” where they can sum up their business or the business they work for in 30 seconds as if going up in an elevator with Richard Branson. But it’s not just the people at the top that need to be able to do this. In my opinion, everyone within an organisation should be able to do it. This means that everyone is consistent so that when they come into contact with people, they are able to present the company effectively and communicate what it stands for, who it works with and why.

This is the start of an effective sales strategy and we’re all a part of it!

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.