Leaky bucket?!

Sometimes a business can be represented by a leaky bucket where there is water going in (new business) as well as water going out through the hole (clients leaving). Your objective is to keep the bucket full of water and to make it overflow if possible. However, every business has a hole in their bucket and it virtually impossible to plug the hole. (The hole doesnt represent unhappy clients by the way!).

There is a multitude of reasons why today’s live client can become tomorrow’s lapsed client – the economy, budget cuts, personnel changes, relocation etc etc but do your best to ensure that the leak is as small as possible, maybe by using contracts or client maintenance programmes.

Anyway, I digress. The danger is to see this whole bucket, water and leak scenario as a short term situation. If you truly believe in winning new business then sometimes the best way to proceed is to assume that every client is vulnerable and that new business is a constant need.

Also, no matter how busy you are at the moment, you must sell for tomorrow and this is where I feel marketing plays a vital role. I have experienced a great deal of prospects coming to me as a knee-jerk reaction to hitting quiet times in their businesses looking for a quick fix with a tiny budget. (this is not meant to offend anyone, but merely point out that distressed purchases come with unrealistic expectations and that planning in advance can make all the difference). If you wait until you are less busy with time available for marketing, there is a good chance you will be too late.

In business, it is not unrealistic to assume that you will lose up to 20% of your billings per year and therefore have to bring in a minimum of 20% per year to stay still. In addition, year on year 10% of your clients will vanish from your list and 40% will spend less.

I have written a number of articles over the last 2 years about winning new business which will help you achieve your goals, but ultimately my suggestion is to plan ahead, be realistic, be proactive and, if need be, to engage the help of a marketing professional.


To blog or not to blog…

…..that is the question! For the first time in years, I have genuinely found myself at a slight loss as to what to write about this week. Since 2009, “The Marketing Expert” has written some 180 articles for this Blog; most of which have been dedicated to helping the small to medium business with their marketing by providing tips and/or sharing experiences and the feedback I have had has been incredibly positive so many thanks to my readers and keep the emails coming!

Anyway, I digress. In a nutshell, I have found the marketing industry has changed hugely in recent times and a great deal of initiatives that can now be employed are “free.” This might be considered a good thing by the business owner who can very quickly set up a website, a Twitter account, a Blog, a Linkedin account etc and start their online marketing.

Leave a good footprint

BUT, with these sorts of platforms being so readily available, I feel it is even more important to make sure that using them becomes a part of an organisation’s overall marketing strategy. Remember, everything one does on the world wide web leaves a footprint which can be seen by anyone or any organisation. This means that the emphasis for leaving a quality footprint is incredibly strong. 

So, what does putting a marketing strategy together actually mean and why do I need to do one? Well, the short answer to this is that a marketing strategy is about thinking and planning what your business wants to achieve.

In my opinion, an adhoc, knee jerk marketing campaign very quickly becomes inconsistent, hard to monitor and can yield very little actual value for your business. To me, it is absolutely paramount that any business gives serious thought to exactly what it is offering, to who and why before putting together a logo or any brand identity. In addition, just putting together a quick (cheap!) logo and bunging it up on a WordPress website and then Tweeting is not what I would call a creditable way forward. Cheap can sometimes work out to be very expensive.

My suggestion is to talk to a marketing professional about your plans; bounce ideas off someone so that you have a second opinion. I have lost count of the amount of times I have met a client who has been 6-12 months into their business having jumped straight in with both feet and pulled in every favour possible from friends and relatives who might “know computers” and have now found themselves wanting to back track and do it properly.

Clarity and authenticity are key elements for a business and investing (and I stress the word “investing”) in your business initially by working with a professional could make all the difference.

2011 – 20 pointers to look at to ensure success

What can be better for a small business than looking at a full diary; a diary that has lots of potential new clients booked in?!

Marketing Check List for 2011

In my opinion, getting a meeting with someone new is a great achievement and essential to business growth as, without these sorts of meetings, your business is likely to really struggle. Yes, it is great to “network,” to get referals and to interact on Twitter etc, but it is getting new business that is the core to business development.

So……always be thinking of that little bit extra. Perseverance and tenacity will always be rewarded, especially if accompanied by flair. Don’t expect results overnight, but do expect results from your sales and marketing.

Below are 20 golden rules to try and stick to –

Create a fire; you cannot just flick a switch
Invest time AND money
Treat your business as a brand – research it and define your USP
Remember marketing is not just new business/sales
Construct a clear vision of where you want to be
Aim high – but have a safety net
Do a few things brilliantly rather than loads averagely
Remember the competitive framework
Look after your database
TEST new ideas and initiatives
Use all the tools you can
Invest in training if need be
Consider contra deals
Work on “selling” a meeting in the first instance
Try and get to know local editors
Make sure you have a good team & suppliers
Keep in touch with clients and prospects
People give business to people who really want their business

With 2011 pretty much upon us, why not give Bath Marketing Consultancy a shout or come in for a coffee and a chat to discuss your marketing?

The Christmas period and how it impacts on the Small Business

After one of the most hectic ends to one month/start to another I have ever experienced on both the professional and personal front with some large projects coming to fruition, a number of new client wins and a new baby, I am back on the blog trail and have decided to write about………this time of year and 2011 as I am very interested in hearing any thoughts on the below….

Christmas Party

Traditionally the Christmas and New Year period become labelled the “silly season” where people in business let off steam after a hard 12 months and generally work a 2 or possibly 3 week month before taking time off to recharge for the next working year.
This was very much my experience of corporate life; an easy month for the same disposable income as the busy months with the possibility of a bonus and always a very good pi** up at the end. In addition, being senior management for a long period of time, I knew that any Christmas/New Year work wouldn’t fall onto my lap as I was off from Christmas eve until Jan 2nd at the earliest!!

However, is this really the case for the small business owner? Do we also see December as a time to take it easy (…sorry, easier) or do we see December as a nightmare month where time available to do things is dramatically reduced, income potential is reduced, bills take longer to be paid, the people we need to get hold of are very rarely available and the chance to have an office party is non existent?

The Grinch

Well, I am afraid that after 16 years of corporate life, for the last 2 years I now fall into the category of December being a very hard month as the person who owns and runs Bath Marketing Consultancy. That is not to say that I am a “Grinch” when it comes to the Christmas period! No. What I am saying is that when a working month is dramatically reduced and the workload stays the same or actually increases, it makes it very hard to let off steam in the traditional way!

When it comes to the industry I operate in – Marketing – I am already seeing a trend towards some businesses taking a serious look at their Christmas marketing with email marketing, Christmas cards, gifts,  new initiatives etc and some of my clients are looking at 2011 in terms of putting together a strategic plan focusing more of SEO or Social Media.

Unlike the vast majority of my blog posts, I am not going to give advice on what to do. What I am interested in however, is your experience of December. Are you taking the foot off the pedal or are you furiously working at home late into the night?!

p.s. don’t feel too sorry for me as I am going to the Sole Traders Christmas lunch at Babington House on Friday and will not have my phone on…….purely to support my clients of course!!

Social media – a case study

What do you do when one of those notification emails arrives in your in box letting you know that another person/business is “following you” or that someone has left a comment on your blog? Do you simply delete it feelign quite smug that someone else has noticed your business, do you make a note to look at it later or do you click on the link to see who they are are and what they may have said?
The power of Twitter
If you are a small business, time sometimes comes at a premium so actually acting on one of these notification emails might not be at the top of your list. However, I wanted to share with you a little story about what happened to me as a result of a notification email.
Many months ago, Bath Marketing Consultancy received an email saying that someone else was “following my tweets.” I immediately clicked on the link of this persons profile to see where they were based and if they had a website. What I found was that this particular follower was Bristol based graphic designer. I then looked at their website and it looked really quirky and cool.
Now I am not ashamed to admit that I outsource to people when I identify a particular marketing need for a client such as graphic design, back end coding or print and thought that being “connected” to another graphic designer who was local to me was probably a good idea. I, therefore, followed this person back.
Now as you fellow social media people probably know, Twitter is a platform that allows people to interact with each other over the internet and allows you to develop sort of virtual friendships online. It also provides a platform for businesses to manage their reputation and to stamp their personality on their brands. I am not a fan of the “it is cold outside” or “I am off to make a coffee” tweet so I tend to post (what I feel) are useful snippets of marketing information as well as links to my Blog posts and I also enter the odd online conversation.
When I noticed @mangoink (the business in question) Tweeting, I sometimes retweeted or made the odd comment and Mango Ink also retweeted my tweets etc….a relationship developed. I also noticed that @mangoink were on Skype so I added them to my Skype contact list. I then thought to myself, why not call @mangoink to see what they are like and to see whether it was worth meeting up as I knew I was heading into Bristol for a meeting shortly….
What resulted was a lovely, lenghty conversation with a lady called Emma Lewis @mangoink. (You can probably guess where this is go….and, no, not a date!!).
We did cross paths at Emma’s offices and swap notes and got on like a house on fire. So much so that Emma emailed me at the start of November about a pitch she had been invited to do for a prospect in Bristol. Emma said that there was a graphic design + a marketing requirement and would I be interested in getting involved.
We went through the brief together and bounced some ideas around and then Emma and her team started putting together brand identity visuals and ideas while I looked at the prospects’ online offer and made some suggestions about mystery shopping and gathering existing marketing material.
We pitched the prospect in Bristol yesterday morning as a “design and marketing team” where both Mango Ink and Bath Marketing Consultancy presented their skills. We were up against an incumbent plus one other “agency.”  The result………………………..we have been awarded the account where both Emma and myself will work together to deliver the full suite of design and marketing initiatives. Welcome to Abode Property Management in Bristol.

For those people who do not believe in the power of social media, I hope this gives you some cause to re think!

Why outsource?

When you stop and think about just how much is involved with marketing, you may stop and ask yourself how can you possibly do it all yourself. The answer is that you can’t. Not on your own and especially if you want to cover all your other responsibilities. This is where outsourcing comes in. While you might think this is just a way of paying someone else to do something you might be able to do, don’t. Outsourcing is the best way to bring in an expert to do the jobs that you are either not very good at or simply don’t have time to do.

One of the many reasons why it makes sense to outsource is that it will let you take advantage of the principle that 80 per cent of your value comes from 20 per cent of what you do. If you can put more effort into that 20 per cent, you’ll be able to bring in someone else to do the other tasks you are shedding. As a small business, the temptation to do everything yourself is great especially as outsourcing will normally mean a cost, but don’t forget specialists will actually save you time and money in the long run. In addition, in areas like marketing, a specialist will be able to open doors for you that will bring in business actually helping your business grow and actually make you money.

Outsourcing is all about bringing in the right person or people to do a job that you don’t have the skills to do effectively yourself. In my opinion, outsourcing is a positive step in business as it means that you have identified a possible weakness in your business plan and brought in someone who can turn it into a strength; adding value to the process.

What can be outsourced:

Accounting services
IT support
Phone answering
Logo design + other graphic design projects
Website design
Search engine optimization
Copy writing
Producing audio or video
PR + promotion

Whatever you outsource, you must find someone who is right for you and your business who cannot only do the job you need, but can do it at the right price. To start the ball rolling, right down exactly what you want and do some research. Maybe ask other people who they use, or use search engines to find what you want. For example, if you want “marketing advice Bath“, put that phrase into Google and see who comes up top – Bath Marketing Consultancy!