A business birthday is a perfect excuse for a celebration —and a valuable marketing opportunity too.
Business anniversaries can be important milestones for your small business. They are a good way to mark progress in your growth, reinforce your trading credibility and track record, and they also help to build your business and personal brand. So it’s well worth recognising and celebrating them.
My own business, Orchard Marketing Associates, was five years old in January 2012 and I marked the occasion by celebrating and promoting it. I am very proud to have been trading for this amount of time, especially as much of it has been during a very tough period of recession. Unfortunately, not all small businesses have been so fortunate. Starting your own business is never easy and we should all acknowledge and celebrate these achievements for our businesses.
The key thing is always to re-visit your marketing objectives. Don't just throw away money on random ideas that don't support your broader marketing goals — for example, common mistakes would be giving away something of high value like a holiday and yet not supporting your marketing objectives such as increasing your website traffic, boosting your search engine rankings, building your mailing list, getting quality Twitter followers, downloads of your e-book, generating online sales, boosting footfall to your retail premises or getting more readers for your blog.
Remember to maximise your birthday PR power by issuing a press release online and distributing this information across all of your available channels — your blog, website, email marketing campaigns or e-newsletters, free online press release distribution sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et al!
1. Run a competition
You could give away a number of items that reinforce your birthday message, such as ten bottles of champagne for the best ten comments on a blog post, or five winners drawn at random from email sign ups or e-book downloads.
2. Discount code or voucher
Why not create a special discount voucher, promotional postcard or code to be redeemed in your online shop or in person when visiting your shop to boost customer footfall. If you offer a service, you can still offer a discount without undermining your brand.
3. Throw a party
A bit of birthday cake and some champagne goes a long way to create publicity and a buzz about your business. Invite your existing and potential customers, influential contacts and suppliers in your network to help celebrate your business milestone.
4. Recognise the efforts of your employees
If you employ staff, recognise their role in making your business and organise a staff party or meal, team reward or incentive, or even a gift for every staff member, to help boost their feelings of company pride, loyalty and motivation. After all, keeping and motivating great staff is important, particularly in the current climate.
5. Customer gifts
Send your valuable customers a personalised gift that carries your birthday message. Again, try and make it fit the theme and offer them a discount if they continue to use your service or reward them for increased spend with your company.
SMS marketing has been tainted by spamming and mis-use in the past. Here are a few tips to help achieve successful response rates from an SMS marketing campaign.
There are different types of customers and different types of messages. New buyers need to be made aware of products and services and guided towards a positive buying decision without alienating existing customers. It’s important to ensure existing customers do not become emotionally unsubscribed to your communication. Since the type of customer determines the message content and frequency, it’s important to analyse your customer database or use social media, blogs and SEO to understand your buyer profile. Social media can be used to empower audiences to form opinions. Combined with other marketing media, it can help push a call to action. It’s best to send an SMS only when you’ve already had some level of customer interaction.
Make sure your data is consistent, complete and correct.
Consistent data means having defined fields to help understand which groups your clients sit in to be able to send personalised messages. This can depend on how you collect your customer data — for example, online with mandatory fields or paper cards.
Ensure all relevant data is completed and saved for a customer to help with segmentation. It can be difficult to know how frequently to send marketing messages if your customer hasn’t told you how often they use your services on an online form.
People change jobs and addresses so it is important to make sure your data is up to date. Making sure your data is complete, correct and up to date means that its value does not diminish as it grows over time. When sending SMS messages make sure your money is working for you. There is no point in sending a message to mobile numbers that are invalid. This is also what a good SMS platform should be helping you with.
The use of keywords or dedicated numbers and replies is a good way to be able to capture data from new customers. UK law states that you cannot send an SMS to a customer unless they have previously notified you and given consent to receiving communication, for instance by ticking a box to receive SMS marketing offers when registering their details. But what do you do if you already have data and haven’t satisfied this rule? There is a term —widely referred to as a soft opt-in rule — which acts as an exception to the above. You qualify under the rule if you satisfy all of the following points:
In addition make sure you include your company name as the Sender ID and provide clients with an opt-out address. If customers choose to opt-out it is your responsibility to ensure that communication is not sent to them. Again, a good SMS platform should be helping.
As with data segmentation, content can depend on your audience. With the rise of smartphones, it can be helpful to push the call to action by including links to your website or social media feeds. This will not only help track certain events but ensure your customer is involved with your brand and company in a multi-dimensional marketing experience. Ensure the message is engaging and concise (try to stick to one SMS) and that any offers are enticing enough to result in action. Get the correct mix of different marketing mediums to optimise your response rate.
If you’re looking to achieve a call to action, such as persuading customers to attend an event, then the timing of your SMS can make a difference — how far in advance you send the SMS and at what time of day.. For example, if you are marketing for a Bank Holiday event, make sure you have provided customers with enough time to plan. Send too early and a customer can forget, send too late and other plans are already made. The frequency of communication also makes a difference: highly engaged buyers probably expect more frequent communication and may have a preferred communication medium. Less engaged buyers may need more of a mixture of media but more occasional communication.
Asha Lad is a Director at Avetio, the SMS communication specialist.
How do you explain 292 pages of deep content in four and a half minutes? I was recently asked to review Brian Solis’ new book, The end of business as usual: Rewire the Way You Work to Succeed in the Consumer Revolution on the radio. It’s about social media and its impact on the new consumer landscape.
Here’s what I learned from it:
There is no escape. Technology is going very, very fast. Five billion people are connected online. The average age of the world population is now 28, which means that we are dealing with very social media savvy customers. Most buying decisions now have an online element.
As result of the evolution (revolution?) online, people are now becoming part of our search engines (which is why it is called social search). This has repercussions for both the individuals (reputation) and companies (brand). The power is back with the people and as a business you need to become part of the ego system of the individual.
As a result, social capital becomes very important (and should be part of your balance sheet). It will go further, social capital will be part of your CV and part of your individual credit score.
Explosive headache for marketers
Our interests, experiences, context and the history of the experiences with the company become very, very relevant. It is not about the quantity of the relations, it is about the quality of the relationship. It is about one-to-one conversations, micro-engagement and heart share. Combine that with collective EQ, IQ and the long memory of the net and you have an explosive headache for a marketer who is very likely to be a lot older than 28 (and therefore does not understand).
The need to be very compelling
How do you stand out, how do you connect with the heart of your customers and how compelling are you? And with the attention span of the “shallows” you need to compel in the moment. How do you make a split second compelling? An important part of that will be the higher purpose of your company — the soul of your business.
Global local village shop
I read Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, The Thank You Economy and from that I got the image of the local village shop on steroids. You need to create the feel and engagement of the local shop where everyone knows your name (with the theme tune from Cheers in background) on a global scale.
But there’s more…
In my radio review, I did not even get the time to talk about the concept of networks, within networks, within networks — niche networks. Or to explain that six degrees of separation is now four degrees of separation. Or that processes such as AIDA (Attention Interest Desire Action) are now circular and have a very strong feedback loop. If you doubt the effect of feedback loops I suggest you read Overconnected by William Davidow.
So what are the lessons?
• Brands are now the sum of the experiences and these experiences are visible online
• We are all becoming brand and reputation managers
• You are too old to understand
• When moments need to become compelling, design is key
• Context is king
• Social capital is an asset
• Soul, culture, passion, heart, ethics will have to become part of the brand experience
• Brands are part of self-expression
• Mediocrity is not accepted
• Engagement will not be transactional but emotional
• Use data mining to segment to near one-to-one level
• Everything is circular and holistic
Four questions to ask yourself
Here are four questions you need to ask yourself as a business:
• How loyal are you to your customers?
• Could you tweet your mission statement?
• How compelling are you?
• Where in the loop is your product or service
It may be a dense book but if you are over 28 years old…
This book is very dense. Maybe too dense. And it does touch on a lot of other books such as Marketing 3.0, The Thank You Economy, Emotionomics and ZAG. They were more enjoyable to read.
However, if you are looking for a comprehensive book on the future of social media, this is the one. If you combine it with Brian Solis’ other book Engage! then you will be sorted on social media for a while. So if you are over 28 years old and a marketer or business owner, you should read this book.
I came across a breakdown of Virgin Atlantic’s marketing department this week. I was astounded by the fact that it had 12 different areas including sponsorship, research and database marketing. I thought it was a great illustration of the range of marketing functions businesses need to consider. I put the fact that I’d never seen anything like it down to a career in third sector marketing, but then I wondered if I was doing a disservice to charities, social enterprises, and their third sector counterparts such as community interest companies and voluntary organisations. After all, lots of for-profit businesses may also be astounded at the complexity of Virgin Atlantic’s marketing department.
Third sector organisations are rarely mentioned in the business pages; however, there are more similarities between third sector and for-profit businesses than one might assume. One of these is locality of marketplace: social enterprises and charities deliver products and services to local, national and international customers — like any business.
Another similarity is the range in size of organisation; there are many small third sector organisations that reflect SMEs in number of employees and potentially in a task rather than a role-based approach. There are also many larger charities and social enterprises that operate like big corporations and have a turnover to match. Take Oxfam for instance, whose 2010/11 income was £367.5m, or Divine Chocolate, the cooperative that has gone from strength to strength in the past 15 years and whose turnover in 2009/10 was just under £10.5m.
Understanding the third sector
The term “third sector’ has gone out of fashion in this current government’s administration but it’s a useful one for our purposes because it serves as an umbrella term for a broad spectrum of organisations. Some of these, such as social enterprises, are structured and function as businesses. Others, charities in particular, are clearly not businesses because the rules on public benefit in the Charities Act and an organisation’s charitable objects prohibit this.
Any debate around the degree to which third sector organisations are businesses is a red herring. The point is that all third sector organisations perform business functions, including marketing, and require support to overcome the challenges they face from their operating environments. For instance, it is notoriously difficult for third sector organisations to allocate a marketing budget particularly when they are commissioned to deliver public services since this is not seen as a good use of public money.
Another challenge is the need to embrace social media while being aware of good practice around digital inclusion. This means developing communications strategies that cater for communities that are not online. Failure to do this means they risk the wrath of the very people they are accountable to.
Social enterprises appear to be becoming more at ease with the idea of marketing. This may be because they use business principles to achieve their social mission. In contrast, many charities find the idea of marketing an anathema; it implies commercialism and profit-making which go against a charitable philosophy. Many of those that adopt a marketing approach retrospectively encounter difficulties managing this change across a staff team with varied and entrenched views.
Marketing in the not-for-profit sector
A recent piece of research we’ve conducted into charity communications reflects the uneasy relationship charities have with marketing. Out of 20 voluntary organisations interviewed, only two had marketing officers. Only two organisations spoke strategically about marketing communications and only two were making full use of social media. It seems that, despite the adoption of specific marketing tactics, marketing is still a dirty word for some charities.
Marketing matters to third sector organisations because it offers a practical approach to business that echoes a core third sector ethos — to meet consumers’ needs. We believe there are three marketing challenges for charities and social enterprises:
This isn’t about breaking moulds but it is about strong leadership and having a good grasp of the potential of a marketing approach for third sector organisations.
Charities and social enterprises don’t need Virgin Atlantic’s marketing department in order to be effective, but Virgin Atlantic offers a useful starting point for rethinking the place of marketing in organisations whose mission is to bring about positive social change.
Sian McClure is the co-founder of Dynamic Marketing, a specialist marketing service for social enterprises, charities, community interest companies and socially responsible businesses.
Sales management is a thankless task, even in the best of times. Steadily increasing revenues have to be delivered every quarter, requiring good people management as well as expert organisational skills.
In the worst of times, customer decisions are often deferred, leaving sales pipelines empty further than three months ahead. There may be plenty of attractive-looking prospects, but recessions make converting them ever more difficult, especially if buyers sense an air of desperation in the people selling to them.
This is especially true for companies that are purely product-based. Customers become more frugal and less likely to replace products when times are hard. My advice to business owners is to try and re-position your company as a service provider.
At least a fifth of every product offering can be defined as a service, such as support or training. All you need to do is ask the customer what they want; more often than not they will ask for additional services.
The dream of every sales manager is to have a healthy pipeline of customers who provide them with recurring revenue as part of a long-term service contract.
Managing a sales pipeline should be the same process as managing people, with a service rather than a product mentality. This approach will seem more natural and thus sit well with both your salespeople and the customers themselves.
Some companies end up at this point by accident; others set themselves up specifically to take advantage of this mutually advantageous business relationship.
Steve Booth started his sales career in advertising and then moved to a security company specialising in closed circuit television systems for retailers. He soon realised that the value was not so much in the hardware itself, but in the data that it generated.
While preventing shoplifting was important, much more valuable was to use the captured data to help improve retailers' knowledge of the footfall around their outlets. Margins in retailing are notoriously thin, so any competitive advantage is highly prized.
His first foray into this business in 1997 was not a success, ending up in administration. Booth puts this down to bad timing, difficult market conditions and the wrong combination of unproven technology and investors.
In 2002 he started again and formed Springboard, which now provides automated customer counting services for high streets, shopping centres, retail parks, entertainment centres and even transport interchanges.
Among Springboard's customers is the British Retail Consortium, the trade association, which uses Springboard's system to monitor shoppers' activity.
Retailers spend significant amounts on marketing to get people to visit shops and once they are there an even greater effort is made to convert them into regular customers.
Crucial to this process are the valuable services that Springboard provides on a recurring basis, which must make their sales manager sleep much easier at night.
The recurring revenue concept is a fundamental part of Springboard's business model. The company develops a long-term relationship with a client, providing a continuing service based on measurable outcomes. While the software and hardware are interesting for the technical people, they are seen merely as detail in the delivery process, rather than an end in themselves.
This neatly summarises the business challenge of every high-tech start-up, including those where I was responsible for selling the software. Smart people had written clever software that had dozens of potential practical applications, but none that were yet proven in the real world.
What was needed was to combine hot technology with a real social driver to deliver a genuine business benefit. Looking back, I was mistaken to try and sell technology as a product.
If I had re-positioned the software as a service, not only would it have been easier to sell on an incremental basis, it would also have ultimately delivered a long-term and recurring service revenue, once proven.
Springboard can be found at www.spring-board.info
Originally published in The Financial Times. Copyright © Mike Southon 2012. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.
You may or may not be aware that a number of events are currently being held worldwide to celebrate Social Media Week.
The annual event, which this year runs from the 13th until the 17th February, hails the power and prominence of social media, and its numerous global platforms. The effects of social media are inescapable, particularly as it has revolutionised the way a number of businesses operate. This year’s Social Media Week sees twenty-one cities worldwide host conferences, events and seminars exploring the impact of social media, and the latest trends. But is a worldwide celebration of social media warranted?
Statistics published in the past few weeks would suggest that it is, as social media continues to go from strength to strength. Facebook, which recently announced its plans for IPO in coming months, has been valued to be worth between $ 75-100 billion. Google announced last week that its social media site Google+ has reached 100 million users. This is in spite of some indifferent reviews from early users of the platform, which was set to be Google’s challenge to the likes of social media giants, Twitter and Facebook. These figures show that the site has continued to grow and establish itself as a separate entity to existing social media tools, as Grant Leboff detailed in his recent blog post.
Somewhat unexpectedly, MySpace is experiencing a resurgence of interest, despite being felt by many to be a waning social media platform. The site, famed for launching the careers of previously unsigned musicians such as Lily Allen and the Arctic Monkeys, had started to lose members and was considered to be a little outdated. However, since being bought from News Corp by Specific Media & Justin Timberlake in a $35 million deal last year, the site appears to have been given a new lease of life, gaining more than 1 million new users in the past month. Boasting a music library of 42 million tracks, MySpace is believed to be a challenger to popular music hosting website, Spotify.
Social media is an incredibly powerful aspect of contemporary society. Journalists frequently quote tweets rather than press releases or official statements as they have both authenticity and immediacy. News isn’t just reported on Twitter; it breaks there too. Whitney Houston’s death at the weekend was reported on Twitter twenty-seven minutes earlier than it was by the Associated Press; a frightening but powerful illustration of the impact made by social media. With such a far reach, businesses ignore the power of social media at their peril.
The ferocious pace at which social media continues to develop is staggering, making an event like Social Media Week more relevant than ever before. The only problem: how to fit it all in a week?!