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The power of promotional marketing for start-ups

January 04, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

The power of promotional marketing for start-ups{{}}So you've decided to start a business and join over 4.9 million other small businesses in the UK. You've got an amazing company name and you've bought the website domain. You've a great idea for a product or service and you know your potential customer base. Now just how do you let them know you exist?

Some start-ups are lucky enough to have a client list from day one. Often they have spun out of an existing business or they already know someone looking to buy what they can provide. Other new companies have to work harder to attract their first customers. Once are up and running, the next issue is how to continue their turnover growth and reach a wider audience, with limited marketing funds.

In today's business environment, clients and prospects expect certain marketing elements to be in place. Without them, a start-up can't be seen to compete with established businesses.

The marketing communications mix can seem daunting to many non-marketers. Direct mail, advertising, publicity, PR, packaging and sales promotion can seem daunting. They are not. Marketing is simple if you keep in mind your target audience, the message to be conveyed and the action(s) you want clients to take. Thanks to the internet, most entrepreneurs can kick off their own marketing plans on a small budget and with limited promotional experience.

Starting out

The first step in any new marketing campaign is to get the logo right. You'll also need a strapline; a phrase that encapsulates what you do and that will underpin your marketing strategy for the long term. Freelance websites provide a low-cost way to get bids for logo design work. Website domain sellers offer technologies for website design and hosting, sometimes for free or charged for on a monthly basis, often with search engine optimisation as well.

The next step is social media. Most people already use social media and so marketing their new business comes easily to them. You can follow online guides to set up your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn pages. Link them where possible and post relevant content to build a following. It's also worth using Google Adwords but be careful to test and start with a small budget.

Promotional merchandise

Many new businesses also find that promotional merchandise helps them to establish their name within a local area or sector. Here, success lies in working with a promotional gifts distributor and selecting the right products to brand with your logo and contact details. Then it's all about getting them out to your target audience - through exhibitions, sales visits, meetings and via mailshots, introductory letters and flyers.

Imagine the impact of handing out 1,000 items branded with your company details to potential clients and seeing a high prospect to new client conversion rate. That's the power of promotional merchandise.

Copyright © 2016 Robin Koffler of Redbows. Robin is a Marketing Donut expert contributor.

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Revealed: 13 marketing secrets of the most successful small firms

November 12, 2015 by Dee Blick

Marketing secrets{{}}When it comes to marketing, it's tempting to think that successful small businesses know something that you don't; they have discovered that one elusive marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow.

But the truth is there's no such thing as a marketing miracle. Or at least that's my experience having worked with hundreds of small businesses in the past 31 years.

What I've found is that the businesses that get it right with their marketing and as a result that reap the rewards with sales galore, are doing these 13 things consistently:

  1. They know that a fantastic product or service is not enough to build a successful business. And so they put marketing at the heart of their business. They market in good times even when they are super busy; and they market in lean times when they know they have to intensify their efforts to keep sales rolling in.
  2. Even though they are proficient jugglers, they know when it's time to drop the DIY approach and enlist the help of experts. I'm talking about the graphic designers that give their logo and communications real sparkle and flair; the web designers that do likewise for their website; the copywriters for when they're full of ideas but find it challenging to put pen to paper.
  3. They radiate enthusiasm wherever they go and are always ready to do business. They are also natural connectors always looking for ways in which they can collaborate with talented folk that complement their skills. They are generous, referring hot leads and business to others knowing their generosity will come back to them in spades.
  4. They are crystal clear about their offering. Ask them what they do and within a few sentences you've grasped it, so much so that if you're in the market for what they offer you want more. They're big on benefits and they know what their customers need and want.
  5. Although they keep a steady eye on their competitors so they can learn and improve (and avoid complacency) they're not obsessed with them, preferring to blaze their own trail instead.
  6. They make their marketing accountable. They won't shrink from abandoning a marketing activity that's failing to deliver despite their best efforts. And they won't hesitate when it comes to spending money on marketing. They keep close tabs on the responses and never let their marketing drift.
  7. They're always looking for ways in which they can improve their products and services. This ranges from the small tweaks that can be accomplished easily to bigger changes that have to be scheduled and budgeted for. Running parallel to this is their overwhelming desire to continually delight their customers. They build their business around happy customers and never lose the personal touch.
  8. They don't stay in their comfort zone. They take calculated risks, set bold goals and invest in their own personal development. It might be daunting but they do it anyway.
  9. They invest time in their marketing plan before diving into marketing tactics. As a consequence they know who they want to reach and why. They know where they can find their target audiences so they can successfully reach them. They commit to campaigns over time to build trust and break down barriers to a sale. They focus on creating captivating, relevant and attention-grabbing messages wrapped in appealing content.
  10. They understand the value of traditional marketing as well as social media. Unlike many of their competitors, their choice of marketing tools and communications is determined by the preferences of their target audiences - not their own.
  11. They build on their expert status, investing in their skills and broadening their knowledge. They share the fruits of their expertise across marketing platforms, from social media to public speaking.
  12. They have a conscience. They actively seek ways in which they can support special causes and are keen to minimise their impact on the environment.
  13. Their business keeps them awake at night with excitement and sometimes fear. But they're resilient. When times are tough they don't dive under the duvet, they double their efforts, coming back stronger and fitter.

And of course it goes without saying they love what they do.

Copyright © 2015 Dee Blick, Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.

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Marketing - the real winner of the Scottish referendum

September 29, 2014 by James Walters

Scottish referendum{{}}The Scottish Independence vote was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a triumph of democracy and 97% of Scotland’s citizens are now on the electoral roll. This means that there are two real winners from the referendum, the people who organise the jury service (97% of people are now eligible for jury duty) and marketers.

Not only do we have almost all of Scotland’s population’s data available to access on the electoral roll, but we also get to examine a marketing case study like no other.

The key to marketing success: combining the rational with the emotional

The referendum was an example of two very different styles of marketing. The Yes campaign, headed up by Alex Salmond, was all about emotion. The Better Together campaign, headed by Alistair Darling, was all about rational considerations.

Despite the victory for the Better Together campaign, it’s not a clear that they ran the better campaign. The reality is that both campaigns were lacklustre in some ways.

The Yes campaign made a basic marketing mistake. It was all spin and no substance. You might think that’s a bit unfair, but when your campaign is basically the marketing equivalent of trying to re-create the “They cannae take our freedom” speech from Braveheart and you get accused of lying about things, then it’s a sign that on some level you have failed. In the end, their campaign lacked solid foundations and cost them victory.

What can you learn from the Yes campaign?

Emotional appeals aren’t everything. You need facts and figures.

The Better Together campaign was about the rational. Alistair Darling quizzed Alex Salmond about the economy, what currency we would use, what the impact on jobs would be. This is important, of course, but it’s boring. There wasn’t any emotional appeal. It was a total snoozefest. This failure meant that polls started to show leads for the Yes campaign and caused Better Together to panic.

What can you learn from the No campaign?

No matter what YouGov says, quantitative surveys aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Dan Hodges put it best during the referendum when he pointed out that the poll which showed the Yes campaign had its first lead was the result of just 13 people saying they would be voting yes. If you’d asked them on a different day, got them in a different mood, or asked others, the results could have changed drastically and the entire narrative of the campaign would have been very different.

With surveys, you need to back up the data. Look at search trends and combine this with some qualitative analysis from interviews and focus groups to get a much stronger idea of what your results mean.

The turnout for Scotland in the 2010 General Election was almost 64%. For the Independence Referendum it was almost 90%. What’s more, 97% of Scottish citizens registered to vote. In marketing speak, 97% of Scotland entered the sales funnel and 85% of them responded. I’d kill for those sorts of stats.

So, what’s the difference between the referendum and the general election? The referendum was seen as important — it would have a tangible effect on people’s lives.

That’s why you need to find out what matters to your target audience and use it as a hook to solve their pains.

Copyright © 2014 Steve Haynes, SEO and site optimisation consultant for inbound marketing agency, Tomorrow People.

Can your marketing make people feel good?

July 07, 2014 by Sharon Tanton

Feel good clouds{{}}Many small business owners feel uncomfortable about marketing. Some positively hate it.

A new client of ours — the head of a very successful consultancy — has shied away from marketing for years because to him, it feels intrinsically wrong. In his eyes, markeing is putting on an act, pretending to be something you’re not. Like many people, he thinks there’s a dishonesty at the heart of marketing that doesn’t sit easily with the way he feels about himself or his business.

He’s not the only one. Pretending to be something you’re not is never a good feeling.

Don’t be a pushy marketer

We all have a short fuse when it comes to being marketed at by pushy marketers — cold callers, spammy emails, incessant amazing never-to-be-repeated deals (until tomorrow, that is, when you get them again). And that means we don’t want to be that pushy person ourselves 

We say look at marketing differently. When you approach marketing from the standpoint of ‘how can we help our customers better?’ rather than ‘how can we sell more stuff?’ it becomes easier. And, it works more effectively. It’s easy to switch off from a marketing message, it’s not so easy to switch off from something that genuinely answers a question that’s been really bugging you.

Right now, it would be impossible for me not to click on something that showed me how to get my 16-year-old son to revise.

You’ll stop seeing it as pushing, lying, or manipulation if you don’t push, lie or manipulate. Create marketing content that is genuinely helpful and you take the pressure off yourself.

Of course feel-good marketing is only possible if what you’re selling makes a difference. But that doesn’t mean you have to be Greenpeace, it just means you genuinely want to improve your customers’ lives.

Do good to feel good. That’s feel-good marketing.

Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, creative director at Valuable Content and co-author, with Sonja Jefferson, of Valuable Content Marketing. 

Marketing lessons for start-ups - from Julia Roberts

February 05, 2014 by Marc Duke
Marketing lessons for start-ups - from Julia Roberts/Julia Roberts{{}}

   Image: epublicist on Flickr

Do you remember the bit in Pretty Woman when Richard Gear asks Julia Roberts her name? Her response is start-up marketing gold dust: “whatever you want it to be”.

How many times have you heard a pitch from a start-up which goes along the lines of: “Our product is unique. No-one else does what we do.” This is especially common in business-to-business services. Ask the same start-up who their competitors are though and they often say: “We don’t have any competition as our proposition is unique.”

Really? I think not and here’s why: the customer.

The customer is king

The customer is king, and in their eyes you are not unique. Well you might be different but the customer still has to have some frame of reference to compare you against to make a purchasing decision. Given that they have to pay for the product/servi

ce they will have a very definitive say on how your product is positioned so you ignore their views at your peril.

Granted your product or service might be totally different to anything else out there but the customer has to position it against what they currently use. That way, they can then decide whether they want to purchase it or replace an existing solution. This is not a trivial decision — particularly in business-to-business.

As a founder of your business you see things very clearly. You know exactly what you do, how you are different, why you are better… The trouble is people outside your business don’t — if they do you are lucky and be, very, very nice to these advocates. But, for the most part, they have neither the time nor inclination to work it out. So you have to help them – big time!

The importance of positioning

In the IT space there is an old adage: “No-one gets fired for buying IBM”. The point is that we know what the company does and stands for. The challenge for start-ups then is doubly hard. First, you have to get to the decision maker and then you have to convince them to trust you and risk their money and reputation. If the product or solution is positioned in the customer’s mind in a way that reduces this risk, you are half to making a sale. Which brings me neatly to the final point — the pivot.

It’s a classic piece of re-positioning. There are times when start-ups create a product or service that ultimately no one needs or offers benefits that are of limited value. When this happens there are two options: quit or re-position.

I worked with a social networking start-up that was aimed at highly regulated industries. However, the offer of a social network was not particularly attractive to that audience. The start-up repositioned its product as a collaboration tool to reduce time to make decisions and support sales. Suddenly, it was much more attractive.

The product didn’t change but the positioning did.

Marc Duke is a marketing consultant and founder of Marc Duke Consulting.

The restless consumer: why your customers are way ahead of you

December 11, 2013 by Marketing Donut contributor

The restless consumer: why your customers are way ahead of you/race{{}}Guess what? Your customers are quicker than you.

It’s a frightening thought, but once you embrace the concept of the “restless consumer”, the more chance you have of keeping up with them. Who knows you may even be able to predict what they want, which is almost like being ahead of them.

But let’s not run away with ourselves. They’re the ones in front, they move faster, they’re agile, hungry and they never sleep.

So how do you keep up? Your time is already pushed and this is just one of the many races you’re in.

Solid strategy and planning will guarantee you a head start, as well as a full and rounded view of how your audience behaves online.

Once you’re out of the blocks, ideas based on insights connected to an irrefutable product or service truth will keep you up to speed. Playing the guessing game is not the best strategy here; hard empirical data puts you on solid ground.

It also helps you work out if you’re adopting emerging technologies fast enough, or investing time and budgets in the right places.

If your brand is tracking trends, researching and acknowledging, you can quickly earn the enviable reputation of being a collaborative and pro-active organisation. And, as it turns out, people get behind businesses and brands that are like that.

It’s not impossible. Time and time again, we’ve seen consumers develop a strong emotional attachment and a sense of shared ownership with a particular brand, product or service.

Imagine that — your users with a vested interest in what your brand is up to online.

Before you know it, you can be right alongside them and even, dare we say it, setting the pace.

Steve Peters is digital business director at Manchester digital agency, Code Computer Love.

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