A lack of time and money mean that many small businesses are neglecting valuable marketing opportunities. This infographic from Pitney Bowes illustrates the SME marketing gap.
About 95 per cent of businesses I see at the moment have what I call “five-year-old-itis”.
Their problems are five years old. In the past five years, everything and nothing has changed.
About 95 per cent of businesses I see and work with are based on five-year-old business models, based on five-year-old assumptions about who the customer is, what they think they are buying and why, their competitors, and so on.
What I do know is that just about every assumption you had about how customer and consumers behave /buy/pay/talk/share/discuss/choose/receive products and services has changed. With one set of keystrokes I can tell thousands of friends what I think of you and your product (by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). Customers have always talked – but now they can talk to far more people than ever before.
My hunch is that “five-year-old-itis” is endemic nearly everywhere. Just about every start-up has been built on old-world assumptions about customers, channels and products. Just about every existing business has done little to significantly change how they do things from the heady heights of 2007.
Sure you've made some cuts, maybe sacked a few people. Sure you've cut costs, maybe even got a new logo and a new website. But, have you really had a cold, hard look at your business and been prepared to make the tough, and required decisions?
So, quick fix or real fix? The choice is yours.
Robert Craven shows directors and owners how to grow their profits. As well as running the Directors’ Centre, he is a keynote speaker and the author of business bestseller Kick-Start Your Business. His latest book – Grow Your Service Firm – is out now.
Why is it that before we get married, we say we are “engaged”?
Why do many public toilets say the word “engaged” on the outside when they are locked?
The term “engaged” means busy or taken. When we use the term to engage with customers, we mean keeping them busy or occupying them.
Obviously, we are not going to keep our prospects and customers busy with us all the time. So, how often do we need to engage? The level of engagement with our customer base really depends on the nature of the business. There is no hard and fast rule but below is a benchmark you can use.
What’s the right amount of engagement?
My local supermarket engages with me every week. I have a loyalty card and they engage me with relevant coupons and discounts on the goods that I buy. This is OK with me because I engage with my supermarket every week, either online or by visiting the store. Therefore, the frequency of engagement does not feel excessive. Simply providing me with coupons and vouchers is very transactional. However, this again is alright. This is because the nature of my interaction with the supermarket is transactional. I buy a few items and I leave.
If my law firm, dealing with my intellectual property, tried to engage with me every week I would go nuts. I use them roughly on a quarterly basis. If they contacted me every six weeks or so, that would feel about right. Similarly, if they sent me discount vouchers off my next phone call I would think they had gone mad! My interaction with them is not transactional. It is one of advisor and partner. Therefore, it is better that their engagement reflects that position. Providing me with up to date changes in the market, white papers of trends and videos addressing pertinent issues will be much more appropriate.
The exact opposite is true of my car insurance company, which I contact only once a year. I buy insurance and then hope it does not need to be used. I do not want to hear from my car insurance company once a week or even once every six weeks. Similarly, I am not interested in white papers and videos on trends in the insurance market. In fact, as I only interact with my car insurance company once per year, the most they can probably contact me is about three times in the year. Also, the way they can deliver value will have to be very different from the supermarket or law firm.
How to measure the effectiveness of engagement
Once we understand how often we should engage, and the nature of that engagement, we then need to understand how to measure whether we are engaging effectively. The ultimate measure, of course, will be increased sales. This is measured by identifying with whom we are engaging and who is buying. However, aside from the transaction itself, how is engagement measured?
Engagement should be measured by two factors — interaction and influence.
Interaction is simple. By using embedded links and tracking content, you will be able to see who opened your email, read an article or how many watched a video. Obviously, if people are not interacting with your communications they are not engaged. Having 5,000 people receiving your newsletter does not mean you have 5,000 people engaged. If it is only opened by ten people, then those ten are engaged and the other 4,990 newsletters are spam!
Measuring influence is to measure how much action is taken due to the communications you deliver. Do people buy, sign up to the suggested webinar or click through to other pages on your website? This would show that your content has not only been seen but also has spurred someone into taking another action.
Similarly, influence can also be measured by how much a message is shared, retweeted, linked to, etc. This would also demonstrate that people didn’t just see your communications but acted on them by sharing, sending to others and spreading your message. By looking at your levels of interaction and influence you can really measure the effectiveness of your engagement with prospects or customers alike.
Engagement is becoming one of those terms which is now so ubiquitous it is starting to lose its meaning. More and more people talk about the “need to engage” customers, without seemingly having any understanding as to what that means. Let’s hope we can start to change that now.
Every start-up entrepreneur sets out, armed with flip chart and pens, on a mission to draw up the perfect business plan. This often starts with a grand vision, and is accompanied by the financials to get there.
But what continually surprises me, is just how few businesses consider the customer drivers that will achieve those numbers, nor incorporate an up-to-date marketing strategy to reach those customers.
Your plan cannot be articulated without demonstrating that you understand who your customers are, how you plan to reach them and what your proposed sales activities will be. Thus a business plan lacking these elements remains unachievable.
Successful growth businesses evolve too quickly for static “shelved” plans. But without a blueprint for your marketing strategy you risk becoming a reactionary business that commits valuable time, money and resources on fleeting projects of fancy. To make marketing an effective part of your business plan, your strategy needs to be a living breathing document that the whole business is part of. Here are my five top tips for laying the best foundations:
1. Embrace it, commit to it, co-create it
You may spend weeks developing the most brilliant plan under the sun but the reality is that it’s worthless if it’s not acted upon. First and foremost, you need to ensure that you are committed to developing and working to the strategy you implement, and that your team understand and support the plan. The best way, of course, is to ensure that you have all the best minds working on the plan from the outset.
2. Intrinsically link it to your business growth drivers
All too often marketing is seen as a periphery function when actually, as the key representatives of the customer in the business, they should be the leaders of the growth plans.
Marketers need to root all activities in the business growth drivers that each activity will deliver against. Marketing strategy development should begin by focusing on the key business goals, opportunities and risks; it should use market, competitor and consumer insight to identify new opportunities; and present future plans in the context of what they will deliver for the brand P&L with operational and financial plans to deliver them.
3. Make it achievable, motivating and measurable
Be sure to avoid the temptation to set general or unrealistic objectives. Instead be as specific as possible and keep your customers front of mind. An objective that is described in terms of the change you are creating for the customer is much more motivating than one that is generic.
Ensure you have clearly identified the means of measuring success and that when you set out your goals you are clear in what you want to achieve.
4. Assign responsibility and ensure accountability
The success of a marketing strategy is based on how well it is implemented. Long-term goals should be broken down into short-term objectives and projects — with individuals made responsible for individual streams of activity. Through the implementation phase, these individuals should then be accountable for measuring and reporting back on the progress and results in their particular area.
5. Review and revise
As a growth business that is continuously evolving, a degree of flexibility is needed to adapt to changing market conditions. When opportunities or threats pop up, a strong marketer will return to the core business growth drivers and assess these opportunities versus the strategy — pivoting or continuing accordingly.
A good way to keep dynamic is to place the marketing action plan on the agenda for every senior team meeting and use that opportunity to review and revise according to the market and the results so far — enabling swift action to be taken if needed.
Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs, which works with GrowthAccelerator to support high growth SMEs.
Small business owners tend to look at marketing purely as a way to grow. While this is the purpose of promoting, advertising and marketing your business, it’s important not to leave people out of the equation. Effective marketing techniques help you connect with consumers and build relationships with them. It’s these relationships that have the potential to help you take your business to the next level.
Get to know your customers
Whether you own a brick and mortar or an online business, it’s important to get to know your customers. Communicate with them, always being mindful to maintain a friendly, professional demeanour no matter what mode of communication you’re using. Surveys are an effective way to learn about your customers. To encourage survey completion, offer a discount to anyone who returns to your store or site with a completed survey.
Listen to feedback
In many large business settings, customer service gets lost in the corporate shuffle. As a small business owner, you can and should place emphasis on your customers and clients. Ask for and listen to feedback, using compliments and complaints to engage customers in conversation. Use what you learn to improve your business. Small business owners who follow through on customer feedback gain the advantage of earning customer loyalty.
If blog posts, email newsletters or social media updates are part of your marketing plan, use them in a way that offers value to your customers and followers. Today’s consumers are savvy and intelligent, and they’ll quickly determine if the information you’re providing is fresh or redundant; useful or full of spam. Before you send out the next newsletter or publish your company’s latest blog post, make sure it’s something you’d be interesting in reading about.
Everyone loves a deal, and they also like to feel special. Build your mailing list or Facebook fan base by offering exclusive specials to those followers. Customers will spread the word about these exclusive offers to their families and friends, increasing your potential customer base in the process.
Building and expanding your small business is a life-long process. Investing the time needed to get to know your clients and customers is one of the most beneficial things you can do. Since a customer focus can naturally be incorporated into your marketing plan, it makes sense to make it a priority.
Incorporating these considerations into your marketing efforts will ensure you connect with potential customers and provide them with value, while building a strong foundation for your small business.
Mary Ylisela writes for Touchpoint Digital, a full service internet marketing company.
OK, so firstly I want to start off by saying that running a restaurant is not the dream most people hope it will be. The hours are long, the stress levels high and the profit margin sometimes feels like it’s barely worth the effort.
Whatever reason you do it (the love of people or cooking or the loan you took out) at some point in between cooking up a storm and running around like a headless chicken, you might have time to think about marketing.
Unfortunately, when you do get around to typing in “restaurant marketing” into Google, the results are pretty depressing — just companies trying to sell their latest products by telling you what you already know.
So here are some genuine examples of great restaurant marketing campaigns from around the world and what you can learn from them (and apply in your own way).
1. Hipster doofuses
Urban Eatery in Minneapolis put up this billboard down the street from their premises:
“ATTENTION HIPSTER DOOFUSES: Sorry about that, but it’s not easy getting the attention of people who reject mainstream consumerism like billionaires reject tax overhaul. Here’s the thing: Do you ever wake up in your designer platform bed in your urban loft, shuffle over to your espresso machine and wonder: Is this all there is? Day after day of wearing ironic vintage tee shirts and searching the Internet for nu rave techno rap bands from Uzbekistan? Don’t you wish you could let your androgynously cut hair down, wear some not-quite-so-painfully-skinny jeans and kick back and watch the grass grow? Not to get all marketingy, but at Urban Eatery you can take a break from looking vaguely disinterested in everything while wearing your favorite organic fedora. We use fresh ingredients from local farms and offer free valet parking — and free is nice if you have one of those hipster liberal arts degrees. So why not take some time out of your busy schedule of wrestling with existential angst and drop by Urban Eatery. After a hard week of conforming to nonconformity, you’ve earned it.”
This is brilliant because it defines who its target market is and aims specifically at them. Any restaurant can serve good organic food or offer valet services. Often restaurant owners get mistaken by thinking that offering “the best” or a certain kind of food will get the most customers. What they should be aiming for is to target a specific niche and provide services for them specifically. And it’s ironic. Which is ironic, because Hipster Doofuses like irony. Ironic, right?
2. Free coffee
There is a little coffee stand at the Roma Street Train station in Brisbane, Australia. It’s next to three other little coffee stands that offer the exact same thing (coffee).
But it’s much more popular than the others. Why? Because unlike its competitors, this coffee stand offers 50c small coffees on Friday’s, and a free one if you refer a friend.
So let’s do a little analysis:
Offering discounts willy-nilly is just silly; offering them when there is a thought-out reason can have some pretty impressive results.
At New York’s Japanese restaurant Ninja New York, the staff are ninja’s. Firstly, I’m not suggesting you go and hire ninja’s to increase your marketing (although I’d be impressed). I’m talking about focusing on providing an experience.
Offering something that sets you apart from your competition (but still appeals to your target market) can be a good move. You can have the hottest chilli burger in the state. You can have an “eat-free-if-you-finish-it” heart-attack steak. Whether you are the closest restaurant to the beach, the cheapest restaurant or the best in fine dining, create a Unique Selling Proposition that sets you apart.
Three ideas to think about
1. Consider your niche. Not what kind of food you’re offering, but who you are selling to.
2. Use discounts, but only when they serve a purpose.
3. Have a USP that sets you apart.
Chris writes a blog about restaurant marketing at www.foodiebizz.com