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Posts for September 2011

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Marketing has changed - seed and grow

September 30, 2011 by

Plant seedling{{}}This is the third of James Walters’ series on how marketing has changed. Part one focused on the changing face of marketing and part two revealed how to get customers to come to you. Now he considers the role of research.

Social research – listen to the demand

Research is still as important as ever. But now it’s much easier to do. You no longer need to plan and execute surveys or events. One of the benefits of digital marketing is that you can simply monitor the conversation. Using clients for Twitter, Facebook forums or your own Q&A/FAQ section on your site, you can gain real-time results and at a far lower cost than that of traditional surveys.

This is a well known concept. The costs involved with using this business strategy, while not non-existent, are certainly far lower than traditional methods. You no longer need multiple departments - making it cheaper. You no longer need to create huge advertising campaigns for minimal returns - making it cheaper. In addition, the tools you need to monitor conversations is free.

Change your email marketing approach – Transform

As outlined earlier, it is clear that email marketing is failing. Spam filters are adapting to become more and more effective, meaning that a straightforward email marketing strategy no longer works hard enough. However, this does not mean that email as a tool is over. You simply need to adapt your email marketing approach instead. Rather than using it for lead generation, you use it for lead nurturing, to encourage people after they’ve shown interest, rather than to create it.

Improve and repeat

The key is keep repeating the steps. As with any business strategy, learn from the successes and take note from those that didn’t go as well. Identify the areas or articles that perhaps let your campaign down, identify any weak areas and keep track of those that exceeded your expectations. Focus on evolving by growing your content and ensure that it reaches leads and potential customers as soon as possible. Keep the steps up, so that returning visitors don’t lose interest and new visitors can see the best of what you have to offer.

James Walters is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and is an account director at inbound marketing consultancy, Tomorrow People.

For more on marketing research, read The 20 questions that research could help you answer.

How to keep in touch with potential customers until they are ready to buy

September 28, 2011 by Sonja Jefferson

Eighty per centIn his article, Why 8% of sales people get 80% of the sales, marketing expert Robert Clay reminds us of the importance of good follow up. His research shows that only two per cent of sales occur at the first meeting; the other 98 per cent will only happen once a certain level of trust has been established.

Incredibly, only 20 per cent of sales leads are ever followed up — that’s a shining pile of potential opportunity lost without a trace. You may be well aware of the power of keeping in contact but it’s often hard to know where to start. After that initial enquiry or sales meeting how exactly do you keep in touch? What information should you send? What tools can you employ to prove that yours is the solution that your prospects need?

Many companies get follow up badly wrong and lose the good will of potential customers in the process. Effective follow up does not mean pushy closing and constant demands for orders or appointments. It takes a different mindset: an ongoing dialogue; gently building rapport and proving your expertise, not bashing down doors.

At the heart of this approach is good content — meaningful, useful communication that helps to build trust in the eyes of your potential customers, keeping you top-of-mind.

Here are five examples of useful content you can use to keep in touch.

  1. Articles: get your expert opinion and ideas down in writing — on the web, in magazines, on blogs (your company blog and/or other well-respected blogs in your field). Write for your customers: write articles that show them how to solve their business problems. Include these in regular newsletters or emails to keep in touch.
  2. Newsletters/e-newsletters: inform and educate your contacts on a regular basis with valuable content — news, views, research and case studies that they’ll find of interest.
  3. Case studies: show how other customers have benefited from the type of approach you’re proposing. These powerful sales tools help you capitalise on past success. They turn your claims into evidence and open the reader’s eyes to what is possible if they work with your company.
  4. Whitepapers: somewhere between an article and an academic paper, these persuasive documents contain useful information and expert opinion, promoting your company as a thought leader and helping solve customer issues.
  5. Third party evidence: send your prospects articles and research by others that back up your proposed approach and lend weight to your argument.

This is where good marketing can really help sales.

Develop customer-focused, helpful information that customers will find valuable. Your sales teams can use these to keep contact with potential customers until they are ready to buy. This is the most powerful way to build trust and warm up the relationship with your prospects: prove your worth and boost sales success.

Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and owner of Valuable Content Ltd.

Read Robert Clay’s article, Why 8% of sales people get 80% of the sales, and join the debate by adding your own comments.

It's not luck, it's good marketing

September 26, 2011 by Bryony Thomas

Fingers crossedHave you ever noticed how when you ask people how they landed a big client, they’ll often say it was just luck that they were in the right place, at the right time.  OK, so sometimes luck plays a part… but you can be a whole lot luckier if you know where the right place is, and when you should be there. It’s called marketing.

Wow, what perfect timing…

It’s absolutely true that it is very often the case that your letter, phone call, blog article, or simply bumping into someone at a networking event appears to conveniently collide with when they are looking for the very thing you offer. It can certainly seem like serendipity as the person on the end of the phone says, “Well I never, what perfect timing, we were just starting to look for someone to do xyz.” But of course, your timing gets a whole lot more perfect if you’re always there, in readiness for when they happen to notice you.

A person’s attention is selective

There’s a phenomenon that you will no doubt have experienced yourself, that is vital to understand if you’re to master effective marketing for your small business. It is selective attention.

Imagine, you learn a new word… suddenly people seem to be saying it everywhere – on the news, on the radio, in a document you’re reading. The word was always there, but because it hadn’t entered your consciousness, you didn’t notice it. Or perhaps, you’re thinking of buying a new car and you have your eye on a particular model – you’ll suddenly find yourself parked next to one, seeing them on every corner, spotting ads for them everywhere – again, they were always there, you’ve just become hyper aware and you’re spotting them.

The same is true for your potential buyers. Only when they are in the market for what you do might they prick their ears up and notice you. Which could, of course, happen at any time. So, you need to always be there.

When I worked as marketing executive at Mason Zimbler nearly a decade ago, we would send out a set of case study postcards every six weeks without fail. They would go out to our database of marketing professionals in technology companies. It could be up to two years later, when someone had been receiving these every six weeks for that whole time, that they might pick up the phone, or request a follow-up. We had always been there… they just noticed us when they were in a buying mood.

Be a beacon in your market

You need to create a lighthouse effect for your small business. Showing up at regular intervals to make sure that people know you’re there. The interval at which you send something, or drop people a line, depends on your market and your budget. Having a think about the average length of a buying decision can be a useful place to start. If it typically takes someone six months, six weeks or six days to work through their decision to buy – you need to show up at least that often. But, that’s a bare minimum – because they could start that buying journey at any time. We advocate a “little and often” approach to marketing – so that you’re always there rather than occasionally very loud and then forgotten.

Go on, give it a go. You will get a whole lot luckier if you do a whole lot more marketing, a whole lot more often.

Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a marketing consultant, speaker, and author. Her first book – Watertight Marketing – is available Summer 2012.

Book review: A website that works

September 22, 2011 by Sonja Jefferson

A Website That Works bookNot all websites work like they should. And too many companies don’t expect them to. They see their sites as an extended brochure.

“We’ll never get any real leads from our website,” some say.

But you can make your website work for your business. You can make it into a powerful lead-generating tool; one that makes a significant and measurable impact on your revenue, if you do it right.

Here’s a new book that shows you how. A Website That Works is written by Mark O’Brien, MD of niche web development/consultation firm Newfangled. Written with design agencies in mind, the approach it teaches is for anyone who wants a website that gets results.

Five important lessons for your website project:

  1. Planning is key: don’t start with visual design. (Wow! This is so refreshing to hear from a web design company!) Websites take a lot of time, money and energy to create. As Mark clearly states, you risk all of this if you don’t invest in some strategic planning at the start of the project. This is a mistake that many companies make. Don’t dive into web design without thinking through what you want the website to do for your business, who you are selling to, what the message is that you want to get across — how the website will achieve this.
  2. Demonstrating creativity is only a small part of what converts a visitor into a prospect. If you want your website to really work for your business, it has to be about more than putting up an inspiring portfolio online. It must be a highly usable and a valuable resource for your target clients.
  3. Content matters: you need a content strategy. Mark defines this as: “a plan for adding unique, expert, and indexable content to your site on a regular basis.” Demonstrating your expertise in your on-site writing (e.g. through regular blogs or newsletters) is not just a bolt-on, extra activity. It’s core and essential. This is what will attract visitors to your site, and inform and engage them when they arrive. If you want to get found and generate leads, get your content strategy right.
  4. Be very focused on the type of clients you serve. If you truly specialise you’ll know more about your area of focus than most firms. You’ll have something unique to say.
  5. Traffic is meaningless; action is everything. Mark talks about the three goals of a professional business website — to attract prospects, get them to the areas of the site they are most interested in, and then bring them into the next level of their relationship with the firm. The action you want is for visitors to either get in contact with you (to call or email you) or give you permission to stay in contact with them (sign up to your mailing list). Site traffic per se doesn’t pay the bills and measuring the success of your site on this basis is dangerously misleading. Real engagement is a far better measure.

I agree wholeheartedly with all five points, and this is just the start. You’ll find more nuggets of wisdom in the book too: Mark’s nine-step process covers your entire web strategy, from persona development to social media, analytics to SEO.

I think that A Website That Works is a superb book – both in terms of its content and design. I recommend it extremely highly to business owners and design agencies alike.

“Your website is a work of commerce, not a work of art.” Mark O’Brien, Newfangled.

A website that works is a website that sells. This is something we can all achieve if we approach our websites and content in the right way.

Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and owner of Valuable Content Ltd.

Find out more about creating the right content for your website in our article, Web copy that works.

Six rules for writing memorable content

September 22, 2011 by Sharon Tanton

Green penWe all want to be remembered and recommended. The best leads come via our contacts, because the ground-work is already done; you’ll already have been talked up, so there’s less explaining to do. Your website should fill this role of referrer too, it should be full of useful content — tangible examples of how you help, so it’s easy for potential clients to remember you as “the people to go to for….”

Writing memorable copy is what copywriters are paid to do — we create those catchy little phrases that hook brands and products into customers’ minds. But you don’t need to be a copywriter to start creating unforgettable content, you just need to pay attention to the following rules.

Rule 1. Get to the point fast.

You know the way it is when someone asks for directions: ‘Left at the Queen Victoria pub, straight on, right at the second lights, third exit at mini roundabout, second on the right.’ All we remember is the ‘left at the Queen Vic’ bit. When you’re writing about what you do, be succinct. Don’t add too many layers to what you’re saying.  Say the most important bit, clearly, and deal with the rest separately.

Rule 2. Shine a light on memorable details.

There are hundreds of IT consultancies that deliver better systems and an abundance of leadership consultancies that help businesses develop their management teams. So how do you stand out?

  • Who do you work for? We met a Financial Advisor recently whose clients included many premiership footballers.  That kind of detail is great for referrals – he’s the man who advises top footballers.
  • What campaigns are you proudest of?  Be known as the people who got deliveries to customers in the harshest winter Britain has ever known.
  • What’s unique about your service? Is there anything you do very differently to your competitors that will improve the lives of your clients?

Create content on your site that breathes life into these details, so that readers can quickly understand them and relate them to their own situations, and those of their friends and acquaintances. I mean content like case studies, Q&As, blogs — well written information that roots your offer in the real world. It’s show not tell, again.

Rule 3. Think heart not head when constructing your messages.

We remember things that pack an emotional punch more easily than those that are purely rational.  Do your potential clients care most about implementing their HR strategy, or do they just want a day when the phone isn’t ringing off the hook?  Consider how your services connect to your clients on a human level, and give these messages top billing on your website. Use these emotional hooks as the basis for strong home page messages with clear calls to action.

Rule 4. Engage, don’t preach.

Back up your messages with content that demonstrates how your service makes their working lives easier — think about creating an “is this you?” quiz, “service health checks” or video blogs as well as more traditional testimonials from happy clients.

Rule 5. Use memorable analogies.

Analogies and metaphors are great for bridging the gap between head and heart quickly. They’re useful when you’re thinking about your key messages, and also when writing blogs that develop and deepen your theme. However, if you compare your help desk to a box of cats, no one’s going to forget it, so think of comparisons that are useful as well as memorable.

Rule 6. Make people smile.

Humour can be a tricky one on websites, and we wouldn’t advocate filling your site with a stream of “have you heard the one about the…..” and YouTube viral funnies. But using wit in headlines and body copy, and creating engaging content that surprises, is a great way to get people to want to share your site with others.

Content is key to getting referrals. It’s the proof you need to show what you do, and it’s memorable material for your contacts to spread the message for you.

Use these six writing rules to create unforgettable messaging, and develop creative content that makes it come alive.

Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.

Want to know more? Read Drayton Bird’s excellent words of wisdom in our article, Keep your sentences short — and other secrets of good writing

How to become well-connected on Twitter

September 21, 2011 by Grant Leboff

Blue birdsSocial media now accounts for almost a third of all activity undertaken on the web. A lot is spoken about how it can be a fantastic tool for companies to accelerate growth. However, many businesses venture into this brave new world only to be left disappointed with the results.

Of course, platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or many of the others are merely tools. It is how companies utilise these that really matters.

Many businesses are still confused as to how Twitter is best used. Too many are simply using it as a broadcast tool, shouting their message to a small group of random individuals who happen to follow them over time.

Twitter, however, like all these social platforms, is a great way of developing relationships and staying engaged with prospects and customers alike. Of course, in the first instance one requires followers in order to have people with whom to build relationships and stay engaged.

When starting on Twitter one of the easiest ways to engage, with the right people, is to follow people who are interested in what you do. 

This is achieved by searching on individuals and businesses that work in the same sector as your company. When you identify one of these, you can then see who follows them by clicking on their followers tab on the top of their profile. While some of their followers may be family and friends, it is also likely that many of these followers are interested in what this company or individual stand for, or provide. Therefore, by following these individuals you will start to be in contact with many people who are predisposed to be interested in what you do.

Once you are following these people you can start to listen to their conversations, develop relationships and contribute content of value when it is applicable. Many of them will probably follow you back and, therefore, you will start to be able to reach out and engage with them.

When trying to build relationships and engage, Twitter is no different from any other social platform. There are certain principles to keep in mind.

Firstly, listening is more important than speaking, which is true in any online or offline conversation. 

Secondly, people don’t join Twitter to find out about your products and services. They join to stay in contact with friends, meet new people and obtain information of value to them at their time of choosing.

Therefore, simply broadcasting messages is ineffective and inappropriate. However, providing content of value, retweeting content which your followers may find valuable, and entering into real and genuine dialogue with people, will enhance your reputation and will, over time, lead to opportunities for your business.

Grant LeBoff is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and CEO of the Sticky Marketing Club.

New to Twitter? Read Get started with Twitter.

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