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!

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Burn baby burn

I saw this quote many years ago from the marketing director at leading advertising agency, Young & Rubicam and I have never really forgotten it.

“Marketing is rather like building a darn good fire. You need to start off slowly, gently nurturing it and not expect results immediately. With constant care and attention, the fire will grow and grow and the investment of logs rather than kindling will produce even greater results. The fire can now burn freely and produce the rewards. But beware, if it is left unattended for any length of time, you can be left trying to resurrect the ashes.”

For many organisations, marketing is viewed as some sort of magic switch – “business is slow so we need to do some quick marketing” – which can be flicked on and off during tricky times. This is NOT the case! Marketing is a never ending process, not an event or a knee jerk reaction to something that is happening in your market.

We always advise people to take baby steps with their marketing; test new initiatives, implement new ideas and set aside time each day for marketing rather than do “marketing” one morning a month. Little and often is the key and make sure your message stays “on brand” and consistent. After all, it is highly unlikely that your prospects are only looking for what you offer at the exact time you offer it. You need to remain on radars so that your name is at the top of the list for when the prospects are looking.

To help you, most social media platforms can be automated, emarketing can be done very easily, you are very likely to be spoilt for choice with networking opportunities and print is now much cheaper than it used to be.

My advice to every business out there is to continually market their companies even when business is booming as this lays the foundations. Don’t fall into the trap of delaying your marketing until you’ve finished the latest project as, you will very likely raise your head at the end and wonder where the next project is coming from. Then is is too late to kick start the marketing process. The fire needs attention or it goes out!

Marketing (and sales) should be run continuously regardless of your current successes, failures or situation. Put a plan together and use as many platforms to get your message out there!

Training. Do you offer it?

If you have the capacity to offer it, training can be a great form of PR. I say capacity as I know only too well the demands running training can make on a business! However, many of your clients will wish to keep in touch with your specialisms and/or possibly use you to bring new staff up to speed with something like knowing how to update the website you designed.

Whatever the plan and the subject matter for your training, the materials have to be prepared, peoples’ requirements checked off against your agenda, venue booked, marketing collateral sorted…..the list is endless. There is also the possible issue as to who should give the training. Not everyone is a good trainer or presenter and your organisation’s website design guru may have to be forced to hand over his/her lovingly prepared material to a more charismatic speaker!

The rewards of successful training are high. Your attendees will be grateful. Their peers will be grateful. Word of mouth will spread and you may have converts for life!

Some of the questions you will have to make a decision on are –

• Do you offer the training / course to a a single client or to whoever has an interest in the subject matter?
• If you do decide to offer to a single company, your place or theirs?
• If you offer training to multiple companies, will any of the attendees clash or conflict – “we didn’t know you worked with them and us.”
• Should you charge and if so, how much?
• Do you limit numbers?
• Do you invite local editors and media?
• Will there be a follow up plan?
• + lots more…………….

Don’t be fooled by the hours of prep and planning you’ll need to dedicate to this type of activity but it can be a very worthwhile marketing initiative.

Personally, I am not a fan of the online training videos and web casts etc and would far prefer being able to physically attend a course of value where I can interact with the presenter and the people around me. To me anyway then, the lure of an actual “live” course which was relevant and local to me would be high!

The style of the training, how it is presented and how it is marketed are subjects for another day!

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!