Marketing Tools. There are lots on offer.

Marketing is multifaceted. The suite of marketing tools available these days means there are a wide range on offer for you to place what you do in from of clients and prospects. To me, these “tools” can be categorised into 6 key areas which are –

Cold calling (canvassing) – Appointment making rather than selling
PR – This can be press releases and/or public relations
Advertising – Online and offline, both fall under the heading of paid for publicity
Direct Marketing – Not just direct mail but selling direct to customers rather than through a 3rd party
Print – Company brochures and literature
Conferences, seminars, exhibitions – Placing your skills and services in front of an audience

None of the above should be used as a singular entity or a solus route to a successful marketing campaign. In my opinion, all of the above could and should be used when developing a holistic marketing strategy. Each initiative must be used for the right purpose, with the right objective, at the right time, for the right target group.

I appreciate that the 6 above could be added to, but I didn’t include telesales as this is more about making a direct sale over the phone than the Cold Canvassing indicated in my list. There are cross overs between the skills required to sell a meeting and to make a physical sale, but the intrusion factor is quite different!

Similarly, there are other marketing related initiatives such as offering free samples or special introductory price offers and I haven’t included the wonders of client entertainment, but I don’t really feel I have much to offer here. Obviously taking a client or prospect out and plying them with alcohol or food at a sporting event can play a very lubricating role in your sales and marketing process, but it is really a form of bribery!

Think about what your marketing objectives are. These objectives have to be business related. Aiming for a date to retire or an annual turnover figure are more personal objectives really. Once you set your objectives, allocate a budget and a timescale. Plan what you want to do and more importantly why. Not everything you do will be a success so prepare to test activities and remember, you are unlikely to be an expert. There are good companies out there who can help!

 

Establish your brand

The more you look around, the more it becomes evident that most service professionals are alike in relation to winning new business. You may be not be a marketing person or working within marketing services. You may be an accountant, an architect or a solicitor, but whatever the title and sector, we all have tangibles services to offer. Too often these services remain hidden secrets.

This must change!

We must make our services known. We must make our audience aware of our knowledge base and

experience so that our new business suspects could become business prospects and business clients. In every sector competition is fierce and everyone is clambering for attention. Most prospects will find it hard to differentiate between us and find it tricky to understand what the offers are so they need to be marketed to.

Prospects deserve to be spoken to in a professional, informative and considered way. Advertising is everywhere these days. On petrol pumps, on a screen in the post office, on the back of toilet doors, on buildings or even in the air so how do we decipher who is who and what is what?

People play a vital part when deciphering who is who. How may times do you meet the person before the company and say that he/she was so and so from somewhere? Similarly, how a company presents itself, the messaging it uses and the language it employs are also contributory factors. This is called……………the company “Brand.”

I think “brand” is one of those words that is widely used but never 100% understood.  What does “brand” mean, and how has the word’s application changed over time? The first definition of “brand” is the name given to a product or service from a specific source.  Used in this sense, “brand” is similar to the current meaning of the word “trademark.”

However, a brand is not just a logo or an icon. It is what the company stands for. It is the name. How it acts. How it makes people feel. Getting this right and marketing it correctly will ultimately influence whether a business succeeds or fails.

Yes, I am a marketing person and marketing people always go on about the importance of marketing, but take your time before rushing out and buying a cheap website, having a logo designed from an online store for $10, setting up Facebook and then hitting the networking groups. There are companies out there that can help you get it right first time. Yes, they charge, but that is what they do. They are called marketing companies. They are not called advertising agencies, website design agencies or social media agencies. These are likely to be companies “specialising” in 1 or possibly 2 areas of marketing and not the whole suite of marketing techniques.

We receive a lot of enquiries from people who have set out of the traps with their marketing only to regret it 12-18 months later. Cheap can be very expensive so do your research. How do the marketing companies you talk to present themselves? What is their “brand.” Do they speak your language and ultimately, are they nice people who you’re going to get on with?

We are here if you need us and are happy to meet people at our offices for a free initial conversation.

Focus on what marketing you use and when you use it

This might sound like an obvious things to say, but the key word here is “focus.” i.e Focus on the message of your marketing and focus on the timing of its delivery. With regards to the actual message, are you sending out the right message to the right people? Is your marketing message consistent and/or part of a larger mission statement? Either way, my suggestion is to make sure that you break your marketing plan into clearly defined segments which detail what each segment is supposed to achieve. For example, if your objective is to convey the message that your company makes the best xxxx’s on the market, are you talking nationally or locally? What platforms are you using to convey this message? How often and what style are you using? Consider all these anomalies before going “live” with anything!

Focusing on timing is more tricky to legislate for as you may well decide to use a singular burst of activity or use a drip feed method. Alternatively, there may well be seasonal influences as to when you run your activity. For example, you may want to avoid the summer and Christmas periods, but consider whether this means that you want to join the crowds in the Autumn when everyone else is likely to be active with their marketing?

Given the likelihood that your own resources are going to be limited, I would suggest your starting point should be to aim for a spread of activity across the year with synergy coming from uniformity of your marketing message. Decide on a “hook” and a “look” and roll it out! That way your activity will get noticed and your
budget will last longer!

How to brief an agency

A good briefing of a marketing company in which you can make them fully aware of the marketing background to your situation is crucial to the outcome.

With this in mind, here is a sort of check list of the information Bath Marketing Consultancy suggests you to have to hand for the briefing meeting:

Company background
Your objectives
Your preferred method of communication
Your target market
Their location
What materials
Timing
Budget

This information will go a long way towards giving your marketing company a “full creative brief;” something that will allow your company to really get their teeth into!

Once your marketing company has had time to wave its magical wand, how do you want them to present their ideas back to you? i.e sometimes you may want the information to be presented back in a face to face follow up meeting or you might simply want ideas sent back by email. To be honest, I would always go for the former out of respect for the marketing company as much as anything. Simply getting people to email you their ideas is a little cheeky. In addition, it shows very little commitment from you and your organisation and I am always a little suspicious that such proposal documents could end up being used for others to pitch against.

If your brief was delivered to a number of companies, you might require a formal “glamour parade” presentation of the findings as well as some sort of leave behind document. However, please keep in mind that formal “pitches” delivered by marketing companies can require huge amounts of time and resources allocated by the company and not every marketing company can do this or would want to as it basically falls into the speculate to accumulate category and statistically only 1 in 5 pitches are successful.

On that note, Bath Marketing Consultancy does not do work on spec or pitch work preferring to invest a similar amount of allocated time in getting to know the prospect better, but, when you receive the company’s response, you should evaluate it on the following criteria:

Why
How
Who
How many
Where
What
When
How much

I hope all this helps you the client get the best from a marketing company. Like any “relationship” I feel transparency is key. There is no point in withholding information to your marketing company as without everything, things which could be vital and influence the outcome can be missed.

Also, as a final plea, please respect your marketing company as the ideas they come up with and what they produce really can make the difference to your business!

Bath Marketing Consultancy; the future is bright….and challenging.

In this Blog, Bath Marketing Consultancy has written over 200 marketing related articles. The vast majority of which are dedicated to providing marketing advice and help to the small to medium business. We have also shared our experiences, posted work we have done (and some rather dodgy video interviews of myself!) and given our professional opinions on campaigns, marketing initiatives & what to do in certain situations.

Over the last 3 years, Bath Marketing Consultancy has quickly established itself as one of the West Country’s leading marketing consultancy’s and, as we are full service and operate a “pay as you go system,” we have designed and delivered 30+ websites, numerous logo and advertisement designs, exhibition stands etc etc.

However, I now find myself in a unique situation with regards to the future due to increasing client and prospect demands.

As you may know from my Tweets, I have never been a fan of “sub branding” or diversifying from the key target markets of a business, but one area I am considering is whether to launch a dedicated comms company for the larger and possibly multi site client. Within Bath Marketing Consultancy there is a combined 40 years of experience in the sector which hugely benefits the smaller client as they can draw on this market experience, usually for a fraction of the cost of a larger more traditional “agency.” In addition, the service levels we offer and the single point of contact mean that we build strong and long lasting relationships with each of our clients.

Well, what if larger clients could access this type of experience via a different company that was still linked to the values and working ethos of Bath Marketing Consultancy? What if a national company could call on a pay as you go marketing consultancy offering really “heavy hitting” brand evaluation, design, copywriting, bespoke web solutions and national marketing? In effect, what if there was a different virtual account team made up of industry specialists, all of whom know each other from previous lives who could work together as and when needed to really push the marketing activity of the larger client?

Watch this space…………….

Pretty pictures vs making marketing work

Some might see this topic as controversial, but my aim is to show that having a beautiful logo, a “creative” advertisement and/or a pretty website is not necessarily going to mean a fast track to early retirement! I have spent my career “debating” the importance of creativity with numerous creative directors and, as yet, opinions still differ.


What I am saying is that, in my opinion when it comes to the pecking order, producing an effective marketing platform like a website is more important that what it looks like. Why? Because I feel that design is so subjective. What a designer may like or what an MD of a company might like may be totally different to what a customer or prospective customer may like. This is where testing can play a major part.

Dont be too “arty”

The key area for me is ensuring that the initiative ticks certain boxes BEFORE the creatives get hold of it! I am not devaluing the importance of visual impact (after all, there are awards ceremonies for creativity and not strategy!); more that, if a website doesn’t take the browser on a journey and/or answer all their questions, they are not going to interact with the site. Thus, do a site map for a new website before the initial design.


In addition, the trend a while back was for having an advert with lots of “white space” which meant that essential information that the buyer needed may have been left off. e.g Dont assume just putting a website address or a facebook page will suffice vs showing your full contact details!  


Similarly, never underestimate the importance of good copy. Some businesses are very quick to dismiss content in favour of doing it themselves, but a business owner is unlikely to write about their business in the correct way that attracts a potential customer.

When communicating with customers, give them enough information to make a decision. Yes, make the look of the advert or the website or the exhibition stand inviting, but try not to dwell too much on the look. 

It is the job of the marketing consultant to get under the skin of an organisation; i.e. get to know its personality, its customers, its target market and then put together its brand identity and USP.

I know there are lots of designers out there who may disagree so I would be interested in hearing any comments.

Marketing and the importance of planning and research

Of all the functional areas of a business, marketing can well be the most pervasive and dynamic activity. In my opinion, marketing should lead all other functions as it is in the information culled and the analysis undertaken by the marketing company (or marketing department) where the decisions and planning can be made. For example, once you know how your website performs in search and/or which pages convert the most sales, you can then make a decision on whether to capitalize on this or improve on it. Similarly, existing clients can be the best source of information so the results of analysis into why they bought from you, when and how could again be expanded on and/or improved.

However, every department of a business is dependent on the organisation having clear, unambiguous and quantifiable objectives in order for it to succeed and, with more and more emphasis being placed on achieving a return on any investment made, it is the allocation of and administering of the marketing mix that will influence the long term planning.

The marketing mix consists of 4 key variables – 

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Promotion
  4. Place

Sometimes packaging is added to the list, but this can also be included into the “promotional” part of the mix. One key aspect to consider is that the mix elements are interdependent – alter one and another will also change.

So, what will be the “the marketing policy” of your organisation? My suggestion would be to try and look at the marketing mix in relation to –

  1. Determining the kind of product to sell
  2. Defining the customers at whom the marketing effort should be directed
  3. Defining the action and procedures to be implemented to get the products/services to the customer
If you or your business needs marketing help, then please let me know.

Managing business growth. What do you do?

I thought that this subject was one that could well strike a chord with a lot of my readers and clients as a high percentage of them have been going for 18 months or so now and are experiencing what I have been experiencing for quite some time now – success and growth.

Growth and business success creates a dilemma. Do I staff up to cope with the increasing workload, do I restructure, do I put prices up, do I cull less profitable clients or do I continue to juggle things in house?

Bath Marketing Consultancy has been going for 26 months now and we have worked with over 60 different organisations in that time. Some of these clients have become regular clients and some were one off projects. However, the growth I mentioned has indeed presented me with the dilemmas above as, after all, there are only a certain amount of hours in a day, days in a week etc to manage the requirements.
Dilemma time.

In addition, it is not just managing the actual workload. I am finding that administrative requirements have rocketed; areas like banking, invoicing, reports and simple paper work and filing are taking considerably longer. In addition my travel has increased as have my hours.

But…..I am complaining? No.

These are incredibly tough times for businesses which put even more pressure on having a successful marketing strategy. I don’t know about you, but I feel the success of Bath Marketing Consultancy is down to us being passionate about marketing, having a clear USP (pay as you go marketing), being good at what we do and, above all, being approachable, professional and friendly.

Yes, I have staffed up. Yes, I have roped in my wife to help with the admin side of things and yes, I am considering a price hike. Ride the wave while it is here I say, but ensure that you have time for yourself. All work no play can become very dull!

If you want me to take a look at your business and how you market yourself, get in touch with Bath Marketing Consultancy for a free initial chat. 

Search Engine Optimization – what not to do.

Play with a straight bat.
Following on from my previous article about what to do for SEO, please find Bath Marketing Consultancy’s list of don’ts –
1. Avoid cloaking – Cloaking is when you give your visitors one page and then give search engines another page. Google and its friends want to see and index what your visitors see. Getting caught cloaking can have dire consequences on your site ranking.
2. Avoid keyword stuffing/spamming – This is stuffing your webpage with keywords that are only intended at tricking the search engines. Google is wise to this so, to get the best outcome, just write your text, with keywords in mind, towards your audience.
3. Avoid using flash or javascript for your navigation methods – Search engines usually can’t read these, or read them well enough to be dependable. Always use standard html links to be sure your site is easily walk able by search engine spiders.
4. Don’t submit your webpage url too often, if at all – You can submit your url directly to search engines, though search engines prefer to find your website via a backlink or incoming link. Resubmitting weekly or monthly can heavily damage your ranking with the search engines.
5. Avoid the “quickly get submitted to thousands of search engines” deals – While many of these do what they say, keep in mind that 98-99% of all search engines are powered by Google, Yahoo, or MSN. Just keep these 3 in mind and you’re covered.
6. Don’t forget backlinks – Link popularity plays very large into how your site is ranking by search engines, and is always a key element of SEO. Miss the backlinks part, and your SEO will suffer quite a bit.
7. Avoid excessive graphics and flash presentations – This is not to alter how the search engine looks at your site (directly), but at how your visitors view your site. There are many ways to make an effective website without overloading your visitors, and if a website takes more than 5 seconds to load, you will likely lose your visitor before they even get to visit your website.
To me SEO is about ticking the right boxes and making things relevant and easy for Google. Yes, there are tricks of the trade, but playing with a straight bat and making your site relevant, trustworthy and, above all, trustworthy will really help in effective SEO.