Getting noticed is often a matter of showing up when somebody is looking for what you’re selling.
To do this, you need to master what I’ve taken to calling Three S Timing:
You’ll often find that a customer reports that winning their business was a result of lucky timing. That is, you happened to show up when they were looking for what you sell. Luck has very little to do with this.
What’s actually going on here is selectivity. And, it’s where marketing frequency is absolutely essential.
Have you ever noticed how when you learn a new word, it seems to crop up on the news, in the book you’re reading, or in conversation with a friend? It was always there… you just didn’t notice it.
The same is true when you’re on the look out for a new car, you’ll suddenly see the model you have in mind passing you at every turn or parked next to you at the supermarket. This is a trick of the mind. To enjoy the fruits of lucky timing, your company needs to crop up when a person happens to be thinking about what you’re buying. Which, effectively, means being there all the time.
To do this, you need to commit to a number of regular marketing activities rather than one-offs, or big bang campaigns. The frequency of these will depend on buying cycles in your industry. What you’re aiming for is to act a little like a lighthouse, with a beacon flashing regularly enough to be seen at the right moment.
Tip: Commit to a small number of regular marketing activities such as a weekly blog, a monthly newsletter or quarterly direct mail.
How this works: When Comet Global Consulting, customer technology specialists, were looking for some strategic marketing support, one of their directors recommended my consulting business. I had worked with him for about six months when I was in corporate marketing some three years earlier, and we had connected on LinkedIn. He had never signed up for a newsletter, or clicked on a blog. However, every week (without fail) I update my LinkedIn status with my latest blog post so my blog was popping up in this buyer’s newsfeed regularly. When it came to needing what I offer, he finally clicked on a link. But, without the previous 150-odd updates, he may not have noticed this one.
With a commitment to a steady stream of ongoing activities, you can further increase your chances of showing up at the right time by understanding and matching your buyers’ work and life patterns and scheduling your communications to match.
Mapping a typical day, week and year for your buyers will help you to work out when to get in touch. For example, Mondays and Fridays probably aren’t the best days to send direct mail and calling a consumer at home during working hours is pretty futile.
Tip: Use scheduling tools to maintain a presence outside normal office hours. If you need to respond in these times, think about using a call-handling service.
There’s also seasonality to consider. Even if you’re not an ice-cream vendor, there will be seasonality in your market. Financial year-ends, school holidays, industry events, funding cycles and the like, can all lead to seasonal changes in demand. Map things that happen over the course of a year that you could talk about or help with.
There will be events that happen every year, like getting your tax return in on time, and there will be one-offs in that year specifically, like a big sporting event.
The former should be worked into your ongoing marketing plan; the latter should form part of your specific 12-month plan. There may also be dated triggers that relate to an individual or specific company, like renewal dates, that would allow you to time your communications perfectly.
Tip: If you collect key data, like year-end or birthdays, when people sign up for your email newsletter, you can set up automated emails to go to them at these times.
Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a marketing consultant, speaker, and author. This post has been adapted from Bryony’s 5-star business book, Watertight Marketing and it originally appeared on her own website.
We were delighted to receive a sample Makro hamper recently, aimed at small businesses that want to treat their favourite customers at Christmas.
So we thought we could spread some Christmas spirit of our own by offering it as a prize in a little just-for-fun competition.
Then we started looking at the rules…
These are just some of the things we learned:
In short, our lovely hamper has begun to look more like a hot potato.
So, we’re going to run a non-competitive competition, in the spirit of the age, and publish tweets that make us think or make us laugh, but won’t be giving any prizes (details below).
As for the hamper, we’re going to do what it was designed for in the first place, and simply give it away. We think that a not-for profit organisation that works hard to help get small businesses off the ground ticks all the boxes. So we hope that Brave, a Bristol-based enterprise organisation, can sample at first hand what it feels like to receive a gift with no strings attached.
Liz Dawe is the Donut Community Manager at Atom Content Marketing
What's the best/worst thing about being your own boss? We’ll publish those that make us think...Or laugh #DonutBoss
There is a good example of some “giveaway” rules in detail on the Tech Nutty website. You can also read Sarah Orchard’s great article on how to run a competition on Facebook without breaking the rules.
If, like me and many other startups, you don’t have a dedicated sales person then it will be you and you alone who has to find clients, win the work, do the work, and invoice for it. That’s not one, not two but three hats for you to wear.
If that’s the case, you need cost effective, quick and easy ways to reach out to possible clients and right now, the quickest and easiest option is almost certainly email.
Why? Because you can send an email right now without needing any other input from anyone. There’s no receptionist to halt it at the gate, no engaged tone, it can’t be diverted to voicemail, there’s no door to shut in its face, and it won’t be dismissed as an ad unless you make it sound like one. In short, it gets through. It will go to an inbox and be opened by someone and read — and that’s your opening to make your pitch.
What need can you meet? What problem can you solve? How can you say that as a tweet — in under 140 characters? You won’t send it as a tweet but if you start with that in mind you’ll cut out the waffle. You can use that faux tweet as part of your subject line because when someone is scanning down their list of emails, seeing a solution to their problem will jump out.
Then, in your email proper, tell them a very short story: start by describing the situation your customer is in and the problem they face. Then describe the consequences of their not solving the problem followed by a solution. Start your story with “If…”.
Starting with “if” leads to an automatic question in the reader’s mind: am I in this situation? Yes or no? If they say yes then they’re a potential customer and they are likely to read on.
Do not, whatever you do, start your email by saying things like: “I just wanted to tell you…” or “I’d like to introduce our services…”.
The best time to send a prospective email is at a time when you think the other person will be most likely to open it. If you use a programme like Mailchimp you will see when people opened your emails so you’ll be able to adapt your send out time to get better results.
To start with though, you won’t know when a good time is, so you have to take a best guess. For many of us the first email of the day we read is the one at the top of our inbox, which means it was probably sent after midnight. Avoid Monday and Friday because people are often busy catching up on tasks before or after the weekend so they won’t be paying much attention to emails from strangers.
If you didn’t get a reply, send a follow up asking if they got your first email and if they’ve had a chance to consider it — but always state you appreciate they are busy and may not have seen it.
The quality of the lead is important. You need to find out exactly who you should be emailing, look them up on their website, on LinkedIn or on industry news websites. You could even call the company and ask the receptionist: say that you need their help because you’d like to make sure your email gets to the right person.
Whatever strategy you use, you always need to make sure your email service is safe and secure. Your email system and the emails themselves are part of your sales pipeline so you need to make sure your emails aren’t being blocked because your recipient’s firewall thinks they look like spam or contain a virus or a phishing attack.
Making sure your email system is secure is part of keeping your wider IT system and your business healthy. The last thing you need is your email system going down or the content of your emails stopping you from using it to make contact with potential customers.
Lee Carnihan is a digital entrepreneur writing about small business IT security
You can read more about email best practice in our extensive resources.
When I’m in London, I travel between meetings on the back of a motorbike taxi. I use them because the journey times are quicker and more predictable than my other options. I don’t choose them because “it’s a motorbike”.
Also, my company chose our IT service providers because they could free up our time; not because “we do IT”.
And we selected our accountant because he could help us grow our business; not because “he is an accountant”.
You see, when we buy things, we aren’t interested in the things. Instead, we’re interested in what they give us. Or, as I call it, the afters — why we’re better-off after buying.
Weirdly, we often don’t realise we want these afters. For example, I imagine you recently bought a newspaper, thinking you wanted a newspaper. You didn’t. You wanted the news. Glasses? Better sight. Toothpaste? Clean teeth.
Smart companies use afters to persuade us to buy. For instance, Kodak doesn’t sell by discussing their photographs; they talk about preserving our memories. Disney doesn’t sell by focusing on their cartoons. They talk about making our dreams come true.
So when you want people to buy-in to your messages, what do you focus on? Your ideas? Initiatives? Proposals? Research? Yourself?
Or, do you focus on why others will be better off afterwards? The time you save them. Or the costs. Or the hassle. The fact you reduce their stress, grow their business, help them look good to their boss… Now, those are great reasons to buy-in.
So, engage others instantly by beginning with their afters. This can be hard to do — after all, you are passionate about what you do. But I would never have chosen a motorbike taxi if some motorbike enthusiasts had spent ages telling me about their motorbikes.
People will never buy into your content unless their afters are crystal clear. So next time you’re looking for quick buy-in, start by explaining why the other person will be better off afterwards.
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
You can read more about Andy’s approach to sales here: No more fears — selling made easy
In these times of web 2.0 and online social networking, it’s all too easy to forget the value of meeting face-to-face.
Trade shows, conferences and seminars are all great networking opportunities — they can help you raise your profile, meet new customers, connect with suppliers and more.
Networking events are sometimes viewed as a bit of a skive, but as anyone who attends them knows, they can be hard work — and, used well, this time out of the office can be invaluable to your business.
Online tools have made face-to-face networking less stressful and more time efficient, and a little online research can bypass that awkward first stage of a meeting.
This research can include checking the website to see who’s exhibiting and taking time to read any pre-event emails and literature to devise a plan of attack.
You may have the chance to catch up with existing suppliers or meet new ones. Contacting them to arrange a time to talk can help you get the most out of your visit — alternatively, arrange a post-event follow-up if you need more time.
Try to find out who else will be attending the event. Perhaps there’s a prospect you’ve been trying to contact or an ex-colleague you’d like to share industry info with.
Here are a few ways you can find this information.
Though there’s no longer a dedicated application for events, there are still ways to spot who might be attending. Check status updates to see if anyone has mentioned the event. Update your own status and invite your connections to respond.
Many large events now have a dedicated LinkedIn group, where you can find people who share your interest. Identify group members who are existing connections, read the latest posts, start a discussion about meeting up (don’t make it too much of a sales pitch) or send individual messages to people.
Many event organisers use Eventbrite (embedded in their own website) as a registration tool and to take payment. You can also use it to search for events in your industry or those happening locally.
Look for a list of those who have registered, search for them on LinkedIn and make contact before the event.
As well as following event organisers on Twitter who may be tweeting in the run up to an event, many events have a hashtag you can follow to find out what exhibitors are up to and who else is planning to visit.
Again, this gives you the opportunity to check out profiles and connect before the event. Use the event hashtag to tweet that you’ll be attending, and ask if anyone wants to meet up. It’s that easy!
Use tools such as Foursquare or Facebook to check in to the event, so exhibitors and other delegates can find you. Tweet to say you’ve just enjoyed a particular presentation, or that you‘re about to take a coffee break and you’re looking forward to chatting to other delegates.
So, you did your preparation, made some valuable contacts and had a great time — remember to carry on networking and follow up everyone you met, as well as those you may have missed. Explore the event hashtag stream and check out the LinkedIn group. A quick “great to meet you/see you again” or “sorry I missed you” note will keep the door open for future conversation.
Listen to this cry of anguish. It came from someone commenting at the end of a blog post about Penguin 2.0, which (as I will explain) was an update that Google made to its search ranking algorithm.
To paraphrase: "For eight years I have been trying to follow the twists and turns of what Google wants websites to do. Every time I finish making changes, Google changes the rules again. I am trying to make my ecommerce site successful, but I cannot. I have lost my life savings on this business. I am not going to bother changing after this. If Google moves the goalposts again after Penguin 2.0 they can go **** themselves."
That was in May. Later in the summer Google released the Hummingbird update, a change to the algorithm that was an absolute whopper.
While I completely sympathise with the person whose savings had run out, there is a positive aspect to the changes that Google endlessly makes.
Consider these changes over the last ten years, each one given a name rather like the way hurricanes are named:
2003: Florida update penalised websites that were stuffed with spammy key words.
2004: Brandy update penalised too many synonyms (eg wealthy is a synonym of rich).
2005: Bourbon update hit duplicate content; Big Daddy update hit low quality reciprocal links.
2009: Vince update rewarded news authorities and recognised brands.
2010: Mayday update rewarded specialised niche websites.
2011: Panda update tackled “content farm” websites full of SEO-based content. And as well as algorithms, Google used human testers to identify low quality content.
2012: Penguin update further penalised spammy links.
2013: Penguin 2.0 hit spammy links and other SEO deception activities even harder.
Yes, put simply, Google is trying to penalise the tricksters and reward those of us that provide good, honest, high quality content.
Now Hummingbird moves beyond looking at the mere words in a search; it attempts to understand the full meaning of the query, so it can then deliver search results to match. So you can expect websites that answer lots of questions to do well.
The poor guy who spent eight years losing his life savings on an ecommerce website will have known all along that Google would gradually improve its search techniques, but meanwhile he had to compete using the techniques that were delivering the best results that month. Alas there was no easy option for him, even with the benefit of hindsight.
We are now getting to a point where all of us can focus on content that meets the needs of the website user. The Donut websites have done this all along — because our revenue is not advertising-based and so we do not rely on high traffic figures. So ironically we have ended up with better traffic than sites that may have invested huge sums in SEO.
Rory MccGwire is the chief executive of Atom Content Publishing, publishers of the Donut websites.