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.
Marketing isn’t something that always comes easy to the average small business owner, and often ends up being overlooked in favour of the day-to-day “busy work” that invariably clogs up our to-do lists. It’s no wonder, then, that many of us — particularly small businesses whose focus is primarily local — get it wrong.
Here are five common mistakes many of us make with local marketing:
Far too often small business owners take the approach of just throwing as much stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks when it comes to their marketing. This often comes as a result of treating marketing as “just another thing” on the to-do list rather than as a crucial business function.
Without monitoring, measuring and analysing your marketing activity, there’s no way of identifying what’s working and what’s not, and by extension what’s a waste of time or money and what you should be investing more into.
A lot of local business owners will tell you that they get most of their new clients through word of mouth. There’s no denying that word of mouth referrals and recommendations are extremely important; but a huge mistake a lot of people make it having no strategy or system in place to both cultivate and manage word of mouth.
Too many people rely on dumb luck or take for granted that word of mouth will be a natural by-product of what they do. This simply isn’t the case and even if you are doing well from word of mouth, the chances are you could be leveraging it to even greater effect if you took an active approach to nurturing referrals and building a reputation.
It’s easy to be seduced by the opportunities social media and other such advancements afford us in terms of our ability to reach a global audience; however in doing so many small business owners overlook the wealth of potential in their immediate local area.
How many potential customers are there within ten miles of where you are right now? How many of them do you service?
Surely it would be easier to work on dominating your local market than trying to build a global behemoth of a business? You can build a highly successful business solely by focusing on local marketing on your home patch.
Having run a web design business for many years, I can safely say that while almost all small business owners know that they need a website, far fewer actually know why, or what to do with it.
It has become part of the startup business “checklist” these days — logo, check; business card, check; website, check!
Typically most businesses — except those for whom it’s necessary to transact online such as ecommerce stores or hotels, for example — opt for the standard “brochure” site — a page about the company and its mission statement, a page outlining its services, and possibly even a blog (that may be updated for the first few weeks then abandoned).
Savvy small businesses don’t use their website this way as they recognise that doing so is wasting an opportunity. At the very least, your website should be working as part of a lead generation system — even if that’s as simple as an appointment booking form, or a callback request form. However, I’m still amazed at how many people don’t even put a phone number or email address on their site.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking that a business whose marketing is focused on a local area doesn’t also need to be marketed online.
Business networking is something that can be key to an effective local marketing strategy, and with the right approach can reward you with far more than just new clients; however some networking organisations intentionally limit the network that you’re exposed to.
Often this is a characteristic of referral organisations and is a result of the “category lockout” these organisations employ. While this is something that is essential for the type of format and structure these groups have, many people fall into the trap of only sticking with those people “in the room” rather than continuing to develop their network outside of those meetings.
Limiting your business network to 15-20 people is counter-intuitive, so even if membership of an organisation is core to your local marketing strategy, then you should be complementing this will further networking activity.
The good news is that all of these five mistakes can easily be remedied. And by doing so, you can stop spinning your wheels wasting time and money, and start getting more from our local marketing efforts.
Do it! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition by David Newman is a refreshing new book filled with blood-on-the-wall, “fierce competitor”, no nonsense marketing tips. All 77 of them of them are practical and applicable to businesses like yours. And there’s a workbook at the end to help you go and do it.
This book has restored some of my faith in marketing.
Businesses are struggling with marketing. It has become incredibly complex. The marketing mix, the communication mix, the channels available, measurement, the pressure on budgets, delivering ROI, understanding social media and technology — these are all hot topics.
Marketing sometimes gets a bad press. It’s not accountable, it’s manipulative (“brandwashed”), it doesn’t understanding social media. The old rules don’t apply.
This books asks who are your clients and why? It encourages you to focus on the “what” after you have answered those two questions. What do you want to be known for, how can you speak the language of your clients, position properly, brand properly and sell?
Here are some of the highlights:
Your clients are not interested in your business. Apply the “so what test” and the “prove it” test. Your brochures, website and other collateral are most likely to be all about you — and that is boring.
Could you say what has been written out loud to someone in a conversation? Without them having a laugh? Use authentic client language from your conversations with your clients.
Are you visible and annoying, visible and insignificant or visible, credible and consistent? Are you, in other words, buyable? Is it a mistake not to buy from you?
There are only three problems you can solve. Process, people and profit. Which one is it? Ask the right questions and develop the right sales conversation.
Position your offering in more control and less chaos. Buyers will only remember one thing about you after one week. Clarity is key. Speak, write and use social media. It is called “expertising”. However, competency will not win you clients. That is a given. Be unique.
52-72% of B2B professional service buyers are willing to switch. So do not revert to self-promotion, self-solicitation, pathetic begging or self-commoditisation.
Always include a call to action. Establish a referral circle of trusted contacts. Sell like a girl — it is relational, not transactional. All leads are 999 calls — you have 15 minutes.
The “be serious” section is one of my favourites and it highlights some of the marketing crimes that some small businesses are still making:
Export is vital to the future prosperity of UK plc. The chancellor’s target of getting 100,000 more companies exporting and a doubling of our exports to £1trillion by 2020 is a clear indication of how much importance the government is placing on British businesses trading overseas.
But before you leap onto the international stage, what factors do you need to take into consideration when you’re marketing a company, product or service abroad.
The essence of export marketing is in getting under the skin of the people you plan to sell to; really understanding them and then communicating your offering to them in a way that appeals and makes sense. These fundamentals will help you do exactly that.
Now go export!
Neil Payne is the marketing director of Kwintessential.
Exporting events and resources
Following the success of Export Week in May, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) will be running regional events from 11-15 November encouraging businesses to increase their export activity, with the ExploreExport road show visiting eight English regions.
In support of the week, we’ve gathered together free resources — including guides, articles, checklists, blogs, tools and case studies, all aimed at businesses that want to sell more to customers overseas.
When times are hard, it does seem that the sky is falling, as Chicken Licken famously said.
But, as we come out of a period of recession, obsessive entrepreneurs like me know it is an excellent time to do what comes naturally, to start and build a new business.
In hard times, good people are more available and there are great deals to be had from suppliers. Once you are up and running, the best way to beat a recession is to sell your way out of it. If you could work out how to double your sales overnight, then the downturn would be something that only affects your less nimble competitors.
A key to achieving this is to get everyone in your company, not just the salespeople, involved in sales. This is particularly important for outwardly undifferentiated service suppliers such as PR or marketing agencies and the more traditional professions like the law.
The websites of such businesses tend to show fascinating people with top-quality skills and experience. Which is great — but what is now required is for them to get out there, talking to customers.
And there's the rub; some are natural networkers, forever bringing in new clients, while for others, attending a networking event is second only to root canal work.
The solution is some simple training in the basic mechanics of sales, and maybe a bit of confidence-boosting. Sadly, training is often the first casualty as belts are tightened. This is of course a false economy; the most important assets for any business are your employees, the only people who will be able to get you out of a recession.
So-called discretionary spends, such as training, are always prime candidates for the chop. But to retain your best staff you should invest in their skills, particularly in something that should get short-term results, such as good sales training.
One thing your people will learn on good sales training is the difference between “hunters” and “farmers”: the former go after new business; the latter work with their existing client base, looking for new opportunities to sell. It is this latter role that most technical people in a business are best suited to, and are actually often very good at.
Farmers actually generate more sales than hunters: I've heard it said that for business service companies, 85% of their work comes from existing customers.
The ideal farmer has a streak of entrepreneurial opportunism in them. Clients are always happier to talk about their problems with a farmer than with a hunter, so your delivery people should always be on the lookout. This should not be just to sell existing services, but to be always asking what new products or services you might provide.
These may be close to what you already offer, and thus easily delivered. If the new request is for something radically different, then the farmer can offer to discuss the proposition with his or her bosses and see if it is feasible to deliver it profitably, on this one occasion, for this special client only.
This may be a one-off, but it could also be the start of a whole new business adventure, the opportunity to re-brand and re-position your company in a recession. Kentucky Fried Chicken did exactly that in 1991, during a recession, becoming KFC, and growing very quickly.
Perhaps that is what happened to Chicken Licken back in the recession of 1930; he cheered up and became Colonel Sanders.
Copyright ©Mike Southon 2013. 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. This article is a chapter from This Is How Yoodoo It — a collection of Mike’s Financial Times columns.