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.
Two new surveys suggest that the majority of Britain’s 4.8 million business owners are confused about marketing in general and internet marketing in particular. And this confusion comes at a huge cost — the research pegs the shortfall at £25,417 per business.
Research by Wolters Kluwer has found that small business owners are prone to a “lone wolf” approach to decision-making. The vast majority are much more likely to trust their own instincts than seek qualified guidance from an expert.
The second survey, carried out in association with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), found that UK businesses are losing out on £122 billion of sales because of poor marketing.
More money is wasted on marketing than in any other part of most small businesses.
You only need to have a look at a firm’s website performance to see how unprofessional they can be. A typical website for a small business might cost £1,000 to £4,000 and yet most produce few leads.
One of the myths about internet marketing is that having a better looking website will create more leads. It is simply not true.
There are two key factors affecting online success; traffic and conversion. The average conversion rate on the internet is 1% and that means that 99% of the people that come to small business websites leave without making a sale. This is costing SMEs a small fortune in lost sales and income.
Small firms need to be more prudent with their marketing and do three key things:
The first step is to understand your marketing numbers. This includes numbers like the volume of people that visit your website or the number of networking events you need to attend to get a lead.
Step two is to think about improving your numbers. How can you win more business from referrals? How can you create an on-going stream of leads from LinkedIn? How can you improve your lead conversion rate?
Step three is to start to build new streams of income in a tested, measured and consistent manner.
Steve Mills is a UK marketing expert and author of the e-book, The 10 Biggest Lead Generation Mistakes Most Small Businesses Make.
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.