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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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!
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.
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.
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.