What marketing actually is and the pros and cons of DIY websites by Paul Tagent of Bath Marketing Consultancy.
I talked recently about marketing in the current climate, the recent social media and online search trends as well as some suggestions for your marketing in a video on our Facebook page.
Adding to the video, here are 3 action points you could and should be looking at to make your marketing more effective:
- They will help you understand exactly how this time is impacting on them and may well give you an insight into what you should be talking to similar prospects about. Become a problem solver!
- If your customer wants to press pause, make sure they have a reason not too and try and put in a mechanism that plans them taking things further with you. There should be a benefit for them that isn’t just cheaper pricing.
- Create a sales message that is actually engaging. So much scrolling and page turning is done these days (or “scan reading”) making your message very easy to skip past. Make people stop and look!
In a digital era, where almost everyone is digitally enabled, you want to ride with the wave and not against it. Most businesses have come to realise the power that digital marketing holds and they have at least put their toes in the water. Digital marketing is all about boosting your footprint and then maintaining that profile and position while you grow your brand.
A digital marketing strategy allows businesses to have direction; it allows organisations to know their market share, and hopefully gain a competitive edge. Getting the plan of attack right is important and that why you should work with an expert who has proven experience in marketing.
Why pay for a marketing agency?
A digital marketing agency really should have a number of potential marketing plans based on the budget and the objectives of its clients. Sit down (or Zoom!) with a marketing expert, discuss objectives which are realistic, play to strengths and invest for the future. It isn’t a coincidence that the biggest spenders are the most successful companies!
For an SME, it is likely that your marketing budget will be small, but make sure you have one. Look at the potential cost per lead and conversion and work out what sort of budget you can afford.
Digital marketing can give countless options and usually is a cost friendly and result-oriented route to market.
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!
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.
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!
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’ve been doing a lot of competitor analysis and market research over the festive period to try and gauge any shifts or trends in what the potential client is looking for from a professional service provider and what the industry is actually offering in return. What I have found quite frankly scares me.
I am seeing more and more organisations shouting louder about lower prices while, you, and me as customers, turn the volume off on the TV ads, ignore the adverts in the magazines and get driven mad by endless cold canvassing and hundreds of “blast” email marketing campaigns.
For example, I came across a number of marketing, website and graphic design “specialists” making ridiculously low financial offers across social media platforms in an attempt to drum up business. i.e I saw a “graphic designer with 10 years experience” offer logo design, stationery, some marketing collateral with “unlimited” amends for £200?!
From experience, this type of project can take anything between 2 and 5 days to deliver so £200 would imply a serious loss-leading campaign or worse still, a desperate scream for business. Not only that, making direct financial offers at ridiculous prices can convey a negative impact on the brand of the organisation making the offer and actually the industry in general.
There’s no easy way to say this, but, if you do not put a value on what you are offering, nor will the people you are targeting or working with. As the subject heading says, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
This way of marketing your products or services is an initiative a lot of industries seem to employ and in markets like retail, the price point can make a large difference to sales. However, it is my opinion that the best route to market is to try and sell the benefits as a package rather than putting all eggs in the financial basket. For example, I rarely see direct financial offers from professional services companies such as Solicitors or Accountants.
I’m not saying that every organisation should charge a premium, but it should have something special about it; a USP which can be marketed. Sometimes that USP are the people delivering the service. Sometimes it can be the product or service itself, but I feel the best route should be to market the “package” on offer.
What you should be evaluating when marketing your company and what it does is the reasons people buy from your business when they can just as easily buy from the competition? i.e.what makes your company different from the rest?
If the money things keeps raring its head, maybe ask a potential client or prospect what sort of value he or she would put on what you are offering. For example, what would it be worth to have a stress free house purchase or how much would you value would you place on having a strong brand, website and ongoing marketing.
Choose your price point carefully and stick to it. If you need to make a direct financial offer to your prospect market, make it realistic and limit the time it’s on offer. Around this, build your brand. research, develop and communicate your USP. Finally, allocate a budget to do this professionally as well as discuss timescales.
Having a strong online presence and a good brand profile plays a large part in marketing and brand awareness and we very much suggest you try and utilise all free avenues such as local listings to aid this part of your marketing and getting “out” your company name. However, online can also be a place where free speech is exercised and reputations can be built and destroyed very quickly if you don’t try and protect your reputation.
Claiming your social accounts and submitting local listings provides protection for your business by having your business name indexed many times. Then, if someone writes something negative about you online, it is unlikely to rank above these authority sites and hence it shouldn’t automatically land on the first page of search results damaging the reputation you’ve worked so hard to create.
What you can do is set up alerts to notify you when your business is being talked about on platforms like Twitter by using hash tags. You can also look at installing some sort of moderator system on your blog for comments and email alters when someone leaves a comment on Facebook.
If you ever see negative comments online, do not automatically respond to them. Stop and think first. If it is a valid complaint you may want to respond directly to the person. If it isn’t, and the person complaining does not have authority………do not lend them yours. Bath Marketing Consultancy became the victim of such abuse from a client we took to court for non payment and it can be stressful and very damaging.
If you have someone who takes a dislike to you and you’ve done all the above, you may also want to get advice from someone familiar with reputation management before deciding what best to do.
I’d like to say that marketing is the be all and end all when it comes to building a successful business, but one of the most important part of a business is its people. Focusing on figuring out what your customers need and giving it to them in a cheerful, helpful manner goes a long way in business.
Think about why you do business. Think about the type of person you want to do business with and where you want to do it. For example, do you eat at a particular restaurant because the hostess remembers you or you have a favourite waitress who provides great service? Do you shop at a clothing outlet even though you suspect they’re more expensive that other outlets? People tend to buy from people they know and like and are sometime prepared to pay more when the overall “experience” is pleasurable.
When it comes to marketing and expanding your business, being consistently good at providing what is most important to your customers (i.e what it is they actually buy from you) and being someone your customers truly like will go a long way. It will also most likely facilitate referrals by them thus helping you grow. In fact that there is nothing as successful in marketing as a good reputation traveling fast!
I have lost count of the number of times I have felt frustrated by people selling to my company without investing time to ask questions or to research what we do and our clients. A lot of sales people automatically assume that making a sale is dependent on price. It isn’t. The experience of working with someone and the extra mile they go can make all the difference.
If you are running a Direct Marketing marketing campaign which is aiming to generate a response, remember that there is no “ideal” per cent response rate – just the profit per reply calculation.
I have heard some people throw around figures like “you might get a 2% response from Direct Marketing if you’re lucky.” This is actually, in my opinion, complete nonsense. Too many people discount using printed material as a marketing platform basing their decisions on response rates……..it doesn’t matter about the percentage, it only matters about the profit per reply.
After all, do you think companies like Boden who use direct marketing as a huge part of their marketing worry about the number of catalogues recycled?
No. They use Direct Mail and Direct Marketing as it works. In fact, each year, more than 20 million copies of their remarkable publication thump through Britain’s letterboxes (source Telegraph March 2012). “Johnnie” now has a fortune estimated at over £300 million and the company’s most recent financial results showed turnover rising 15 per cent to £232 million and pre-tax profits up by 13 per cent to £32.5 million, with few signs of a slowdown.
Not everyone is going to be as successful as a company like Boden, but they have found a marketing platform that works and this is something every organisation must do in order to grow. If you decide to give the Boden model a go, then there are a couple of areas you must consider to get the best out of direct marketing.
1. When people respond, do get back to them quickly, preferably within hours rather than days.
2. If the follow up from you is posted, make sure that your company name is clearly visible as you don’t want your mail binned.
3. Whatever you send or however you follow up, make sure it’s relevant and interesting and make sure that the next step is clearly outlined.
Sometimes it also really pays to know what your competitors are up to with regards to any mailings they are making and what offers they contain. Maybe try and get their material and analyse it in your own terms – what does it tell you about their strategy, their services, their focus, their targeting etc? I will admit to running an email marketing campaign for a client in the automotive sector following a bit of mystery shopping!
Anyway, to recap, when it comes to direct marketing, approach it by:
1. Stating the target audience’s problem – maybe use a headline that your reader can identify with?
2. Promise a solution – with an explanation in the body copy maybe using a case study
3. Ask for a response – don’t tiptoe around here. Be hard, be direct and demand a click or a call!
At Bath Marketing Consultancy, we are believers of printed material as well as online marketing so why not get in touch and see what we can do for you.
Well, 2013 has started and could this be the year to really plan your marketing activity and take it to the next level?! The start of a new year often comes with personal resolutions like losing weight, getting fit or stopping smoking, but what about the business side of things? Are you making a business resolution for 2013 and if you are, what is it?!
The reason I ask is that Bath Marketing Consultancy has already received 4 enquiries in 2013 from companies looking to “get their marketing into shape for 2013.” Each company had identified that they have sat on their laurels too long with regards to their marketing activity and each one had decided that it was time to put a cohesive plan in place and bring in a company to work with them.
Despite every time you turn on the news you hear that the economy is stalling and that the government is looking to take disposable income away by taxing people all over the place and taking away benefits etc, we are finding it very refreshing that small to medium companies seem to be starting to look ahead and then planning for their futures when it comes to how they market themselves. We have always maintained that an effective marketing plan can make a huge difference to the success of an organisation!
Many moons ago, I wrote a post based on my suggestions on the “20 golden rules for running a successful business” which might be something in this article to look at to spur you on!?
Don’t panic, it is impossible for a single person within an organisation to be solely responsible for all marketing initiatives and be an expert at them all so there is nothing wrong with consulting…..a marketing consultant!