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.

 

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………..

 

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!

It’s not downtime, it’s time to try some more marketing.

Okay, I admit it. Sometimes your marketing wont hit the levels you’re after. I know I always write about successes and success rates; about how to overcome answerphones or how to get the best from key marketing initiatives, but don’t panic. Marketing is not all about sales. It’s about making sure that when your prospects are in the market for what you offer, you get a crack at selling yourself and/or your company.

Nothing you would have done to date will have been wasted when it comes to marketing. Marketing is a process, an activity that keeps going and shouldn’t have an end. If there is downtime in your business, don’t turn the marketing tap off. Invest that time into additional marketing activity. Write articles for your Blog, use social media to make new connections, speak to your existing clients or work on your website. Maybe even run some sort of offer to incentivise a sale – “For the next 30 days, I am offering a free 1 hour review of your xxxxx” or “for the next 30 days you can buy xxxxx at 50% off.” These elements all require time and not necessarily budget.

If you could “invest” in some paid for marketing, what about aligning your organisation with another complimentary one and hold some sort of seminar. I ran one at a hotel in Bristol many years ago with another company entitled, “Why cant I find my website on Google” and we packed out the room! We also had key media there who did a write up about the seminar afterwards.

Remember, the success of a brand is measured in decades not months or weeks and your success remains mostly in your hands. Plan your marketing for the next 3 months and stick to it. Set yourself a realistic target such as 1 new meeting per week. Collate the names of the key people you want to speak to and pick up the phone. You are the expert in your field and people need to know about what you can offer them. Make sure your marketing talks about the benefits you bring not the features. Send an eshot in advance of the phone call with a case study.

What you can do for someone is a lot more attractive than telling them what you do, trust me! When in a social situation and someone asks me what I do for a living, the mere mention of marketing tends to send people to the bar! Mind you, by the end of the night those people who head to the bar are the ones usually asking me questions about what they should do about their marketing!

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!

 

What to do when planning advertising

Theories about advertising come and go, but the basic starting point for designing an advertising campaign is the USP. As a minimum, there must be a USP – Unique Selling Point – compromising a benefit which is uniquely yours and which attracts. Then you must gain attention from the reader.

Creating a print ad with both these elements is a skill which, in my opinion, demands the hiring of professionals. A good idea drawn on a napkin during a business lunch is not normally a good way to plan an advertising campaign!Nor should you be using the publisher to design your advert. Many publishers offer “free design” as a part of their sales pitch and you must resist the temptation to take them up on their offer! They do not know your business or what your aims are so may well miss the point altogether. In my opinion, there must be no economising at all with advertising and no DIY.

Many designers will relish the chance to display their talents in print and there are many companies to choose from, but set a clear budget and give a clear brief or the design could end up costing a lot more than you thought. If you do make your advertising professional you will stand out from the crowd and this is a worthwhile investment.

At the risk of repeating myself from other posts, please don’t forget to have some sort of response mechanism in your advert. After all, a key aim should be to sell a meeting so give your target market the chance to identify themselves! Some companies display the name and details of a senior person within the organisation to encourage a response.

When purchasing advertising space there is one key word – negotiate! Very few companies will pay “rate card” so nor should you. Explore a special offer or an introductory offer if you are a new advertiser. I would suggest you avoid advertising in supplements as these are generally a vehicle for the media to generate additional revenue and you will quite often find yourself surrounded by your competition which will reduce your potential impact.

Fight to get a colour spot if there is a difference in cost between colour and mono advertising space. Try for a full page for the cost of a half and try for a repeat ad at no additional cost. Some agencies (like Bath Marketing Consultancy) have very good links with the media and can negotiate an advertising package on your behalf which may well include a press release or a news snippet in the magazine or paper. However, most agencies will take a commission from the media so beware of costs (BMC do not).

And then there is the internet……………..