What is an online marketing strategy for my small business? And why do I need one?

The key to this question really lies in developing a firm understanding of the fundamentals of marketing.  Understanding the cogs that make the business turn, that generate revenue, attract and retain customers really is what marketing is all about.

There are so many platforms available where companies can market themselves and the internet simply adds more options into the mix, but the underlying principles remain the same. If you understand what makes your business tick and what your “offer” is, yo u already have a better  understanding of marketing.Small Business Marketing StrategyWhere many business owners fall down is that they understand their business well enough (their “features”), but fail to get across the benefits of working with them. Similarly, environments change as do the players within them and SMEs need to stay in touch with changes and adapt with them.

In addition, whilst most business owners recognise the internet is a force to be reckoned with, they fail to embrace the true opportunities that could help to secure the future of their business. In my experience, this new era means a constantly changing environment with factors that need first to be understood and then utilised within your marketing mix.

As an example, before the internet, small service businesses would rely heavily on directory listings in printed media such as the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local to be found locally by their potential customers. You need an electrician so you grab the massive yellow book and turn to E for electrician. These days, Google search has virtually replaced these doorstop directories as we all turn to our phones or laptops to “Google it” instead.

This is where adapting to the changing environment really comes in, by optimising your company’s Google My Business listing it can appear when customers in your area search for the services you offer, simple.

As every business is unique there is no ‘one size fits all’; you must understand and utilise the right mix of ingredients for your business, whether it is all or a combination of the marketing tools available on and offline.

Discuss the job in hand and then play which tools to use to get the job done, that’s a marketing strategy, simple!

The methods are changing rapidly, and your time is precious. So if it makes sense to you why not leverage the knowledge and expertise of a trusted consultant? Find someone with their ear to the ground who can advise you of the current landscape.

Digital Marketing or Traditional Marketing.

These days, the business owner needs to consider a lot when creating their perfect marketing mix. For example, do they focus resources on traditional or digital marketing…or both? Each company is different so some would benefit more from one type of marketing than another. But, why are these two types of marketing considered separately? What’s the difference between digital marketing and traditional marketing, and how does it change your marketing mix?

Digital
Digital marketing is any type of marketing using digital means. It includes channels like social media, websites, search engine marketing, online advertising and more.

Traditional
Traditional marketing usually includes all forms of tangible and physical marketing (business cards, posters, brochures, advertisements, posters, word of mouth, radio commercials, and more. Television ads are also predominantly considered part of traditional marketing.

Can I Compare Digital and Traditional Marketing?
You can’t directly compare one to the other or say that one is better than the other. Instead, you have to look at some of the individual aspects of each and how it could benefit your marketing.
For example, marketing generally needs to produce measurable results. While both types of marketing can provide data, digital marketing can provide those metrics in real time. This means you won’t have to wait for a whole month to find out a new ad isn’t working well, and you can make more instantaneous changes. A good example of this is Google AdWords.

Similarly no type of marketing is more effective than the other all of the time. But, you need to choose the right type of marketing for your demographics, business type, industry, etc. For example, businesses whose main customer base is aged above 30 years should probably not focus on social media marketing on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. These are not ideal for reaching their target audience, so they just wouldn’t be as effective as traditional marketing.

You should never assume one type of marketing will work for every business. There are some marketing elements that are useful for most businesses, such as websites, but they can’t be universally proclaimed as the best way to do marketing! After all, just having a website isn’t enough. It needs to set out your stall correctly, have a good customer experience and, above all, be findable in Google.

In general, digital marketing campaigns are less expensive than traditional marketing. This doesn’t necessarily yield a higher ROI, though the low cost is usually attractive to businesses. For example email marketing to a subscriber database or advertising on Facebook or the Google networks. Just like anything else, digital marketing must be done right in order to give an ROI.

In terms of who your marketing efforts can reach, digital marketing has a clear advantage. Not only can you reach a wide range of people, but you can also choose to reach out to a very narrow group of carefully selected people. For example, you can put your ads only in front of select groups of people with specific browsing or purchasing habits. This is especially true with targeted ads on Facebook selling a product or service direct to a customer.

Traditional marketing still holds a slight advantage when it comes to local marketing. It is simpler to get the word out about your business locally using some fairly inexpensive forms of traditional marketing. Digital marketing can be targeted to a local area, but it must be done precisely to be effective, whereas traditional marketing like advertising in local magazines can easily be locally focused. 

Traditional marketing campaigns that use tangible materials have the distinct advantage of longevity over digital marketing campaigns. People will sometimes hold onto business cards, flyers, and other physical items for days, months, or even years. It is difficult for people to keep hold of any digital marketing products, even though things like emails can be saved indefinitely in an inbox.

Hard copies can be particularly effective at keeping a business in the view of the customer. It can also lead to greater brand recall benefits long after the campaign is over. Digital marketing ends the moment the campaign is over, and it is immensely difficult to keep in the view of the customer afterward.

Traditional marketing struggles to create engagement and interaction with customers. It is generally a way to broadcast information, but it often fails to bring in new information about your customers. This is strength of digital marketing, as it’s much easier to create a direct interaction with people at any time.

Both digital and traditional marketing have their strengths and weaknesses, but elements of both should be considered for the strongest marketing mix. You shouldn’t simply ignore one altogether and embrace the other, as this may not lead to the best marketing strategy for your business. Focus on what will work best for your business specifically without trying too hard to be everything to everyone.

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!

The new business pitch

In my time I’ve been involved with many “beauty parades” vs other agencies and I can safely say that they are incredibly time consuming and can tie an agency up in knots as well as drain resources. So, if you’re asked to pitch for some business, the only acceptable outcome is winning. There really is no point in coming “a close second.”

In a pitch situation, I would expect that you’ve gone past the selling a meeting stage with your sales and marketing activity and now you’re most likely one of four or five companies in the running to work with this prospect in some sort of formal and professional way.

In contrast to an initial meeting or a creds presentation, which are usually a fixed format with the content decided by you, the competitive pitch is led by the client. Of course, not all pitches are the same, but the principles of making a successful one remain the same.

Firstly, clarify and maybe even challenge the brief. Ideally, the prospect should’ve written down the brief so that the playing field is level for parties involved. If you see something you disagree with, now is the time to ask for clarification or to question it. The same applies if the timescales or the budget are not realistic.

From experience, always research the attendees, their roles, the environment you are pitching in and the resources available on the day. I say this from experience, as many years ago I took a team to pitch Group 4 (as it was called then) and we arrived with 3 people in our team and were confronted with about 25 people from Group 4 and felt very under-gunned. We also were not given the correct information about what tech was available and ended up having to power up a projector using a kettle lead from the kitchen. We did, however, win the account!

Plan your team and appoint a pitch leader who can draw up a timetable and manage things. Do not add the title of pitch leader to their day job as an account director if they are already incredibly busy. Existing and paying clients should, and most likely will, take priority which will impact on the timetable.

I always used to try and ascertain who we were “up against” so I could make comparisons…in our favour! And finally, don’t get separated from your pitch material. Once a colleague of mine turned up to the pitch having left the presentation in his hotel room. We didn’t win that one.

But……..before you tie up your resources, step back and think very hard as to whether the end justifies the means. Is this prospect likely to just want lots of free ideas or are they serious and “in the market.” At Bath Marketing Consultancy, we charge people for our time if asked to pitch. There are other elements to look at such as how far you are prepared to go both geographically and with any ideas you want to present. In the marketing industry, too many agencies turn up at beauty parades armed with fully designed and rolled out marketing campaigns. This, to me, shrieks of desperation where the old adage of throwing mud in the hope that some sticks works. The prospect could then be forced to make a decision on whether they like the creative and hence, judge you purely on design. A subjective element to say the least.

I could go on and on about the negative side of the beauty parade, but you have to decide whether to speculate to accumulate and if so, how much speculation is required!

2016. Look at these marketing ideas to make it a good one

I don’t know about you, but I have received countless email campaigns so far this year offering to “increase my sales in 2016” or “improve my website” or “increase my rankings.” Now I know that these are from companies playing the numbers game and blasting thousands of emails addresses from some sort of purchased list, but I am curious to know whether they actually get engagement.

Have you received these types of emails and, if so, what action do you take with them? My inclination would be to say that they get deleted fairly quickly. However, what would happen if you were wanting to improve any of the marketing areas the email you received suggested; you were “in the market” so to speak?

A lot of marketing in January contains some sort of resolution or objective for 2016 so if you were in the market, the category of the email would suddenly change from being junk or spam to being relevant and may well hang around in your in box. It is unlikely that it would be acted upon, but it may well get you thinking.

Now apply this sort of approach to your own business. Do you email your clients and prospects offering to do something for them or promoting a new service you are offering? If you’re not doing this, then you could be missing a trick. For 2016 instigate some sort of plan to market to your targets. Email marketing is all about relevance and timing. It shouldn’t be a numbers game that becomes a spamming exercise. Construct a clean database and categorise the recipients and tell them something relevant and useful. If you’re not doing this, then you can bet your competitors are!

Another marketing consideration for 2016 is to make sure you have a consistent brand and reputation online. For example, are all your social networking platforms up to date and displaying the correct information? With regards to messaging and tone, are you just spouting a monologue from Twitter full of facts or are you engaging with people and connecting with them?

Customers these days are able to huge amounts of due diligence online before they make a decision whether to contact you or not so make sure your website looks modern, says the right things and can be viewed on all platforms including tablets and smart phones. It is also worth asking for reviews from customers (providing the experience was a good one!) and displaying these reviews on Facebook.

Finally, if the turn of a new year has re instigated your enthusiasm and you want to expand or reach a certain new goal, invest in marketing yourself and your business. 2016 doesn’t mean that you can just do what you did last year with the same website, logo, advertising etc and expect the market to change. My suggestion would be to try and get a totally independent view on where you are in your marketing activity. Engage a marketing professional if need be and work together to construct a realistic and fully costed plan.

By looking at these marketing areas, I am confident that 2016 will be a great year!

Sales and marketing – you CAN do it!

I’ve written a number of posts associated with sales and marketing, but Bath Marketing Consultancy has had a number of meetings recently with clients and prospects who have indicated that boosting sales is their key requirement and I think it is important that we examine how the 2 initiatives interact.

Sales is defined by Wikipedia as – 8e34c-sales-marketing-funnel

A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation. Signalling completion of the prospective stage, it is the beginning of an engagement between customer and vendor or the extension of that engagement.

Marketing is defined by Wikipedia as –

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers.

To me sales, therefore, is an outcome of marketing. i.e sales is something that happens where marketing is the continuous process that facilitates it. Yes, marketing can and does play a major part in influencing a companies’ sales, but simply “doing some marketing” is not an instant route to increased sales! Marketing is very much an ongoing element to your business that has a start, a middle but no end.

However, what I would suggest is that, if your company simply wants more sales, you look at the offer you are making to the market first to make sure that the way in which you market the company will make a real and positive impact to your sales. Questions to ask yourself could well be……

Does the market you are talking to really exist?
Do some street and online research if need be to see what your target actually wants. After all, there is no point in making an amazing product that no one will really want (think Dragons Den!)

What is your brand saying about?
Are you coming across incorrectly? Don’t have a quirky logo with a wacky graphic if you are a more corporate type of company.

Is the look and identity really and truly reflective?
Don’t make false claims or say anything you cannot substantiate – “we provide the best service in Somerset….”

Is your USP clear?
Make sure you outline the reasons for people to work with you/buy from you

What platforms are you using to promote your company?
Where are you talking to your audience? There is no point in running a bus inner campaign when your target market are unlikely to use public transport.

What style and/or design you use?
Design is very subjective so don’t get too close to the design. After all, it is unlikely you are your own target audience.

What method and what frequency?
Are you advertising your company/product in the wrong magazine or maybe only advertising twice a year and therefore, are not building up brand awareness.

What are your competitors doing?
You are likely to be releasing your message into a noisy market; make sure you are heard and keep a close eye on your enemies!

Are there likely to be seasonal fluctuations that influence decisions?
An example of which could be a decrease in market size due to a national holiday period

Does each platform require a different approach?
It isn’t often that “one size fits all” and you need to make sure that the platform you use to market yourself is saying the right thing to the right audience. Consumers want to feel special so cut your cloth accordingly!

Is your pricing structure clear and justifiable?
Too cheap and people will be suspicious or not value what you are offering. Too expensive and people will form the wrong opinion of you.

The above are not the full suite of questions I’d want to know the answers to, but try them on yourself, talk to a marketing company who could then put a strategic marketing plan together………………….which will help sales!

 

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!