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Cuts, cuts, cuts - but cut your marketing budget at your peril.

August 11, 2010 by Sara Brown

The media is full of one story – Government cuts. NHS cuts. City council cuts. All sorts of cuts! In times like these your marketing budget may feel like a luxury and history shows that in an economic downturn, the top of the list of cuts for businesses is marketing. But cut your marketing budget at your peril. Here’s why:

We live in a competitive environment. Brands are competing for attention like never before. Cut your marketing budget and your impact on your target audience will reduce significantly, if not die out because you’ll be swallowed by competitive.

It takes seven touches to move from being unknown into conscious awareness. Let’s use the example of Swirl Printers.

1. Potential client stumbles across the Swirl website from a Google search. They opt in to their e-newsletter.

2. They later receive the Swirl e-newsletter.

3. Then they see a Swirl advert.

4. At a networking event potential client meets a Swirl representative. Potential client takes a Swirl leaflet promo.

5. Potential client comes across the Swirl leaflet promo a few days later and places it in a draw for safe keeping.

6. Another Swirl e-newsletter reminds them of the leaflet promo in the drawer.

7. They visit the website and can quickly find further information on the promo (reinforcing the leaflet). The telephone number is easy to spot and they take action.

Without a marketing budget Swirl Printers would not have had the website, e-newsletter, advert, the representative at the networking event or the leaflet promo.

The seven touch theory also relates to the process of increasing brand awareness. Through those seven touches, Swirl Printers increased their brand awareness to their potential customer. Educating your target audience about your brand takes place through a similar progression of drip fed communications. You’ve got to speak to your target audience frequently so they do not forget your brand.

In a downturn marketing it is even more important than it was before! It is now more than ever that you want to attract customers. Therefore you need to communicate. Since many people stop marketing in a down turn, if you keep it up, or even increase it, you will be at an advantage.

I’m not talking about a million pound budget! I’m suggesting you cover the basics and do it well. You need a simple but effective website that is up to date; some information you can give out on request such as a promo leaflet, booklet or e-mailable PDF; exposure in the form of adverts or articles in relevant magazines, on or off-line; and if your target audience is other businesses then keep networking.

And then there’s the free stuff. They demand some of your time but they do wonders to raise your profile if you add value and are consistent. Use Twitter; blog regularly; get on LinkedIn; write and post articles and press releases; and, offer to speak at relevant events.

These are just a few hints and tips. Don’t follow the trend of cuts, cuts and more cuts. Rather invest in your marketing wisely.

How do you communicate your green credentials?

August 04, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

This is part two of a series of three. Part one can be read here.

According to the experts, Egg – a branding & marketing company in the States, just 7 per cent of consumers are socially responsible to the core, but 70 per cent of the population (I’m assuming they’re talking about the population of the USA) will recycle and occasionally seek out organic food. So there’s a huge market out there for offering sustainable products. But you can’t badge your company “green” and hope that your product will walk off the shelves – there simply aren’t enough consumers that care to their core to make that happen.

No, what you need to do is engage your client with your values. And that’s why I asked you what shade of green your business is. Consumers are looking for brands with values that they identify with, plus communicate with them honestly and create transparency. And that’s why you need to put your brand values at the heart of your marketing plan. And if “green” in whatever form is a part of your brand values, then you’ll find it much more authentic to market your green credentials than if it’s a periphery activity.

If I think about brands that place green at the heart of their marketing strategy, I think of Dorset Cereals, Abel & Cole and Riverford. Their marketing communications are about so much more than say, how good the oats and raisins are in the cereal. They’re about community, sustainability and the environment. Dorset Cereals, in particular have taken their brand values much wider than food, their communication is about “simple pleasures”. They build edible playgrounds for schools and they team up with like-minded businesses who share their values.

How clever is your communication? Dorset Cereals don’t continually bang the drum that “we’re green, we’re green” – it’s implied through their activities, their copy, their packaging and their design. Is your marketing strategy as sophisticated as that?

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

So, exactly how do you market your green credentials?

July 21, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

In the first of a three part series, Fiona Humberstone explores the concept of a ‘Green business’

When was the last time you stopped and considered how effectively you market your business’s green credentials? Many of us are so busy trying to get from one day to the next and see out the downturn that marketing our companies’ green credentials has slipped waaaaaaay down the agenda. But should it have done?

I’m mid-way through a series of seminars I’ve been asked to run for Gatwick Diamond businesses on Marketing Your Green credentials. And preparing for and running the workshops has been an interesting exercise. I wonder whether I’ve given enough thought to how I market Flourish’s green credentials, and whether it’s something that matters at the moment? Are consumers as concerned about green as they are about price at the moment? Can you leverage value and loyalty from being green?

Do our clients even understand what being green means? On Twitter there was a little confusion when I asked my followers: “How do you market a sustainable business?” The responses were varied, and interesting. It appears that the buzz-word, sustainable, means different things to different people. And many simply weren’t sure what it meant at all!

So, is sustainability about reducing resources, the impact of your business on the environment, is it about sourcing locally, creating a business that will be around in 30 years? Is it about the way you treat your staff? Or is it about being socially responsible: about putting as much back into the local economy as possible and adding value where you can?

The truth is it’s probably all of the above. When I asked my first lot of delegates what sustainability meant to their business, one group came up with the answer “You need to be seen to be being green”. And at a truly cynical level, we can all “greenwash” our companies and pay lip service to the environment, but that’s something that both consumers and journalists will see through very quickly.

As Elizabeth Cairns said, you need to put green at the very heart of your business and communicate that with passion. Which leads me on to asking you the question: Just what shade of green is your business? Are you green to the core? Is the setup of your business focused around reducing the impact of your activities on the environment, sourcing responsibly, treating your staff well and working in the community? Is green at the heart of your business? Or is it on the perimeter? Have you felt as though you “ought to do something” and switched your paper buying from normal to recycled? Neither answer is right or wrong, but how you market your green credentials will very much depend on how much it matters to your business.

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

Dragons' Den digest: Week One

July 15, 2010 by James Ainsworth

The new series of Dragons' Den began last night. As well as tweeting along to the episode, we will provide a Dragons' Den digest each week.

Quote of the Episode: "You win the worst invention ever brought into Dragons’ Den today” Peter Jones

Idea 1
Flowsignals - light up traffic signs
Investment sought: '£50,000 for 10per cent’
Handling: Struggled to make a case for the product and appeared not to have conducted sufficient research into if the product was needed. Muddled.
Outcome: Having invested £24,000 of his own money, Flowsignals walked away with no interest from the Dragons
Verdict: Pitch poor

Idea 2
Pebble Bed Vineyard - own your own vineyard
Investment sought:  ‘£60,000 for 20 per cent’
Handling: Nervy start was not a problem. Business plan interogation from Deborah Meaden highlighted a number of flaws in return on investment. Entrepreneur knew his sums but they didn't add up. Duncan saw a way to make it pay.
Outcome: Accepts an offer of £60,000 for 40 per cent from Duncan
Verdict: Pitch perfect

Idea 3
 Dhamaka Events/Flex FX Productions - Bollywood dance events
Investment sought: ‘£200,000 for 30 per cent shares’
Handling: An excellent pitch and dance demonstration. Both well rehearsed. Handling of the Dragons was cagey. Not open enough about the business plan and frustrated all Dragons.
Outcome: No takers
Verdict: Pitch poor

Idea 4
 Worthenshaw's - healthy frozen food desserts
Investment sought:‘£65,000 for 15 per cent equity stake’
Handling: Confident with her research and had done a lot of leg work to get to advanced stages with Tesco. Passionate.
Outcome: £100,000 for 40 per cent from Theo was declined in favour of a joint deal with Duncan and Peter to the tune of £65,000 for 30 per cent 
Verdict: Pitch perfect

What did you think of the episode?

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What shape is your marketing budget?

June 30, 2010 by Bryony Thomas

The questions I most often get asked about marketing budgets are:

  • How much should I spend as a percentage of turnover?
  • Should I benchmark against competitors?
  • How much shall I spend on each discipline (PR, DM, Events, Ads, etc.)?

All totally reasonable questions… but what you should be asking is: what shape should my marketing budget be? Seriously, it is the most important question there is on the budgeting front. So, let me tell you what I mean.

A decent marketing programme is centred on a sales funnel, onto which you’ve mapped the decision making process for your target audience. (see previous posts Making Marketing Pay, and What to Say When).

Chart to show the influence of marketing spend across the sales funnel

Fig1: Chart to show the influence of marketing spend across the sales funnel

From this you can put together a programme of activity that moves a person from awareness to a sale. Each marketing technique has a different level of influence at each stage of this process. You need to determine the level of influence at each stage, then apportion this across the funnel.

There are a few ways to decide the amount of influence each technique has:

  • Workshop with the sales and marketing team to agree the apportionment
  • Surveys or focus groups amongst new customers to get them to assess what they saw at each stage (this can be tricky, as people often post-rationalise decision-making, meaning that emotional triggers are downplayed)
  • A best guess (hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere)
  • A combination of all of the above.

From this exercise you now have a powerful tool for designing programmes and allocating budget. Now analyse your budget in the same way:

  • Split your spend into each technique
  • Apportion this spend as per the influence amount you’ve worked out for that technique (for example, if you worked out that PR has 40% influence at awareness, 10 per cent at interest, etc. your spend on PR should be tabulated to reflect that)
  • You now have an actual shape for your budget

Compare your actual budget shape to the ideal budget shape you’ve established to maintain a free-flowing sales funnel. This allows you assess where you’re spending too much or too little, and to adjust your spend according to the funnel requirements.

Now, if you have a budget cut, or find a pot of cash, you again have a powerful tool to decide how to adjust your spending. The crucial factor here is to maintain the shape. So, rather than cutting a project that happens to be the right level of spend, you can cut evenly across the funnel ensuring that you’re not leaving any gaps.

Bryony Thomas of Clear Thought Consulting

Emergency Budget — a little Wordle in your ear

June 22, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Image source: Wordle

We knew it would be painful. We had seen “The first cut is the deepest” trotted out more times than a prize pig. But was it really ever going to be all that bad from a small business perspective?

Yes, VAT will go up to 20 per cent in January and cuts to business support have been outlined. But if you are one of the UK’s small businesses, there are some useful measures in place to ensure that you are part of the growth of the nation.

George Osborne said “Britain is open for business” on more than one occasion and with small business tax being cut to 20 per cent from next April and the employers’ National Insurance threshold increasing to £21 above inflation, there are reasons to be cheerful.

The Wordle above shows that “public” and “spending” featured prominently in the Chancellor’s speech, and that he studiously avoided the word “cuts” - even though he mentioned frequently the “billions” that need to be shaved off the national debt.

Pride of place is occupied by the word “tax”. Obviously, without taxation, the Government wouldn’t get close to recouping the billions that are required to get the economy on an even keel.

“Government”, “people”, “country” and “public” share a near equal billing, which is indicative of the “We are in it together” rhetoric that featured heavily during the election campaign. With such unequivocal fiscal measures taken today, the Government is keen to stress that the burden is to be shared among us all.

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