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Why communication is like tennis; and how to do both better

January 05, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Why communication is like tennis; and how to do both better{{}}"Andy, you are rubbish at this."

So said my tennis coach, Vicky, last week.

She wanted to know what was going through my mind every time I hit the ball.

So, she had asked me to shout “good”, “bad”, or “OK” every time I hit it.

Now, I'm not very good at tennis. So, I shouted “good” if I got it over the net and “bad” if I didn't.

But she told me: "Your objective is not just to get it over the net. You’re supposed to hit it where I'm not. You aren't just trying to get it in; you’re trying to win the point."

To be honest, I was a bit embarrassed that I needed this pointing out! In fact, I've since found out that everyone else in the world knew this.

But, as soon as I changed my focus, my game improved ­– almost immediately. I now know what “good” looks like. So I'm aiming for it and often achieving it.

So how does this apply to communication?

Well, if you had to grade each of your communications as “good”, “bad” or “OK”, how would you decide which each was? Would it be whether your communication:

  • covered all the agenda items?
  • finished on time?
  • engaged the audience?
  • had 100% attendance?
  • was better than last week’s?
  • wasn't derailed by detailed discussions about irrelevant issues?

All these are useful, yes. But they aren't the true measure of good communication.

So, here’s my version of Vicky’s advice:

"Your objective is not just to communicate. You’re supposed to trigger actions as a result. You aren't just trying to say things. You’re trying to cause things."

And, once your focus changes to this, like my tennis, your communications will improve – almost immediately. You now know what “good” looks like. So you aim for it. And you will often achieve it.

If I'm being brutally honest, even though I'm focusing on the right things now, Federer could probably still beat me. Probably.

But that’s fine. I'm better than I was. And I always aim for success, not perfection. And, now that I'm focusing on the right thing, I keep improving.

What about you? Will your communications be better today than they were yesterday? Well, if you focus on the right thing – their impact, not their content – you've got a great chance.

Copyright © 2014 Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

What makes people buy?

October 27, 2014 by Richard Edwards

What makes people buy?{{}}What factors help a customer to buy?

There are a wide variety of things that influence a purchase decision – budget, timing and personal psychology to name a few; but there is one fundamental factor that brings all these influences together – value.

Value is a subjective perception created through a blend of need, price and the belief that one product is better than another. Good value is seen as a high quality solution which meets all of a customer’s needs at a reasonable price.

Here’s how need, price and belief play into a perception of value:

Need

I see a pair of hiking boots on offer and I recognise the brand; but the fact that I don’t go hiking means that I won’t value them highly.

Some marketing works to convince the consumer that they have a need. For example, if I’d read an article explaining how hiking boots improved posture, helped stimulate blood flow and were good for your feet, then by the time I saw the boots I may have developed a “need” for them.

Grooming potential customers this way is an excellent way of enhancing the perceived value for your product or service and can help you break into new markets.

Price

Set your price point as high as you can; this helps to enhance the perceived value of your product.

A big mistake is to slash prices. This can work, particularly when it comes to more exclusive discounts, but offering a huge discount lowers the perceived value of the product. Who is going to pay “full price” for a sofa at DFS when most of the year they are offering 50% off?

Belief in product

The price point will often lead customers to believe one product is better than another. However, people will not be willing to pay a higher price if they do not believe in the product; the two factors work in tandem.

Belief is about your brand, your marketing and their knowledge of the product range. It is what 80% of your marketing budget helps to create. And it is the one area over which you have the most control.

So how do you go about creating this belief in your product or service?

There is no single method, but there is a core concept: “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I will understand.”

Tell me

People may forget the specifics but they will be primed to receive your brand, and priming can be important in establishing credibility.

For example, you conduct a PR campaign where you write thought-provoking articles relating to your product or service. In the article you describe the problem (establish a need), drop some hints as to a solution (brand priming) and get it featured in an established trade magazine (credibility).

Show me

Visual memory is more powerful for most people than verbal memory, particularly when “show me” still involves some verbal explanation – “show and tell”. Exhibitions and trade shows are great for this.

Involve me

"Involving" your prospect creates an experience that uses all three types of memory/learning: verbal, visual and kinesthetic (touching and using) to create an almost unbreakable belief in your product. If you are there to tell the prospect the benefits, you can create a need. At the same time you show how the product or service meets those needs visually. Then, the final step, you let the prospect try with the product, get them involved in using it and create an experience.

Creating a complete and immersive experience of your product or service increases recall, generates belief in the product and, in the end, turns prospective customers into brand ambassadors. You aren’t as likely to share the fact that you saw some new product, but you will want to tell people what you just tried out - experiences are made to be shared.

Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.

Four marketing must-dos for 2014

February 04, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Four marketing must-do's for 2014/To Do List{{}}I love the fresh-scrubbed feel of a new year. It’s a great time to set goals and it inspires me to charge ahead.

I do more looking forward this time of year than looking back, but it is important to pause and take stock of where I’ve been. It helps me avoid making the same mistakes twice, and reminds me of things we did that worked well, so that we can try to repeat them.

To that end, here are my top four marketing must-dos in 2014: 

1. Define your marketing goals

With clearly defined goals, you have something to aim for and a way to measure your progress (or lack thereof). Throughout the year, I can easily analyse the numbers and see whether I’m on track; if I’m not, I know I need to address any problems.

Goals include how many followers or connections you’ll gain on your social media networks, and how many new subscribers you’ll sign up for newsletters. Sales may be a number you take into account, but remember — sales are the result of a comprehensive strategy of which marketing is just one component. 

2. Develop your own marketing database

Building a database with email addresses and relevant information about former, current and prospective clients is absolutely essential. It allows you to communicate with them, reminding past customers of all you have to offer; strengthening the confidence of current customers; and encouraging prospective customers to move toward a sale.

If you’re just getting started, create a database of all the people you know who might be interested in hearing from you including friends, family and all your business contacts. Your communications should not be sales pitches; they should offer valuable, helpful and relevant information.

Grow your database by including a “call to action” on your website — an invitation for visitors to share their contact information in exchange for something that benefits them. That could include free reports, how-to videos or subscriptions to your blog posts.

3. Maintain your marketing budget — even when sales slump

The first thing some people do when income declines is minimise expenses by whacking their marketing budget. Huge mistake! In fact, you need to pay more attention to marketing when sales drop off.

The new prospects you develop today, and the prospects you’ve been establishing relationships with, will be your paying customers tomorrow. If you allow that stream to dry up, you’ll be in even more dire straits a few months from now.

4. Use every marketing tool available to you

Today we have more tools than ever for communicating the value of our service or product. Many of them cost you nothing. Today I can jump on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and the other social media networks and reach a potentially far larger audience for free.

Speaking engagements may be old school, but they’re still effective; personal, face-to-face experiences create lasting impressions. Traditional media — radio, newspapers and magazines, and TV — are also still powerful and carry the additional benefit of giving you credibility. That implied endorsement from journalists can set you apart.

Creating a great website accessible to millions of potential shoppers doesn’t have to break the bank, and you can ramp up its value by using it to showcase your publicity.

Use everything at your disposal to share your message.   

Marsha Friedman is the ceo of EMSI Public Relations and author of Celebritize Yourself.

Nine top tips for newbie marketers

November 20, 2013 by Marketing Donut contributor

Nine top tips for newbie marketers{{}}Global Entrepreneurship Week is an inspirational event for would-be entrepreneurs that need advice and guidance to get started and build their own businesses. And advertising and marketing are an important part of any start-up strategy. Here’s a nine-step plan to help you make the best use of your marketing budget — however modest.

  1. Do you need creative help? The biggest mistake many start-ups make when promoting their company is to produce their own adverts. It can be tempting (money being tight) but often these ads don’t do justice to the business. Consider getting professional help — there are smaller advertising agencies that work with small businesses.
  2. Which adverts do you like? Studying what other people are up to, what works and what doesn’t, will give you a benchmark that you can use to judge your own ads.
  3. Who is your most valuable customer? Take time to think about who you want to buy your product or service and who can you make the most margin on? Professional marketers often build a picture of their typical customer including everything from how much they earn to what media they consume.
  4. What’s your budget? For most businesses, marketing is an unavoidable expense. Decide how much you can afford in the first year and pick methods that match your budget so you can carry them out regularly. Don’t blow all your cash on one high-profile advert — it’s far better to run a mixed marketing campaign over a longer period of time.
  5. What’s the point? Think about why you are advertising — do you want to build your brand or directly generate sales? Even if you can make sufficient sales through personal recommendation, advertising can help you build a strong reputation and sow the seeds for future growth.
  6. What’s your message? Figure out what you want to say to your customers. You should aim to build a strong business reputation over time but may also have an immediate message such as a promotion or discount. Bear in mind that your key message could change over the year, especially if your business is seasonal.
  7. Which channels? Pick a mix of marketing methods, focusing on channels that appeal to your target market and match your budget.  A website is essential. Even sole traders that rely completely on word of mouth will benefit from a simple site. Be mindful that customers will read a lot into your business based on what they see about you online. A website specialist can charge anything from a few hundred pounds to thousands to build a website. Or you can set up one for free using a service like Getting British Business Online.

    Your other marketing and advertising options include:

    • Business directories. An entry in appropriate trade directories will generate enquiries and may allow you to link back to your website (which will help improve your ranking on search engines).
    • Pay-per-click advertising. Pay per click (PPC) ads are the ones that appear next to search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo. You write the words, nominate the search terms that trigger your advert and wait for people to click through to your site. You’re charged only if someone clicks on your ad. Go to Google AdWords to get started.
    • Newspapers and magazines. You should be able to secure a discount on any set prices and don’t forget to ask for free editorial coverage too — that applies to local media as well as trade publications.
    • Local radio. Can attract immediate results but is relatively expensive.
    • Promotional cards and leafleting. Sticking cards in shop windows and notice boards can work well. In addition, delivering leaflets is inexpensive but can be too indiscriminate for many businesses.

  8. Is it working? It’s no good spending money on advertising if you aren’t getting the right response. Ask new customers where they heard about your business and compare sales before, during and after a campaign. Google Analytics lets you analyse your website traffic so that you can identify which parts work most effectively.
  9. Is it time for a rethink? Be sure to constantly review your 12-month advertising plan and don’t be afraid to rethink your strategy if it isn’t working. Your advertising plan should evolve along with your business.

Advice supplied by GEW partner, Barclays. Global Enterprise Week takes place until 24th November. You can find out more in our GEW Guide.

 

How to make your business stand out from the crowd

October 14, 2013 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to make your business stand out from the crowd/stand out from the crowd{{}}In many ways, it’s easier than ever to start up your own business but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand apart from the crowd. But it’s not impossible. Here are four ways to help your business to gain valuable visibility.

1. Stand for something

Businesses that lose themselves within the crowd are often the ones that don’t have anything to stand for. I’m not saying you need to be prepared to fight crime Batman-style, but do agree on a clear message that you want to communicate and share this with your audience.

People will remember you for your message — just look at Volvo, with its “safety first” message. This is how we remember Volvo; this is what makes the brand stand apart from its competition. If you want a safe car, you know where to turn.

2. Create a dream team

We can’t score the winning goal on our own — we need a team around us to help set it up, block the defence and pass the ball. The same applies to making your business stand out from the crowd; you have to create a trusted dream team — and that includes partners and customers as well as your own staff (if you have them).

Whether you have a marketing team or do that job yourself, you need a fearless brand leader, loyal staff and brand advocates (the customers). These are the people who will set your business apart. This dream team can be difficult to construct but get it right and you will be able to take on the world.

3. Go digital

If your company isn’t online yet — it should be! A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking what they do or sell won’t translate online. They couldn’t be more wrong. It’s time to make what you do or sell visible online because this is where your audience is.

There are many ways to communicate with your target audience online — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr and YouTube. This is where your message needs to be clear — it’s easy to confuse what you’re trying to communicate with the audience and your message can get lost in translation. Don’t spam your audience, choose the most appropriate media, have a clear message and communicate at the right time.

Going digital is perfect for small businesses as it cuts out the advertising middle man, saves thousands of pounds and provides you with greater control of your marketing message.

4. Look around

If you don’t know what the competition is doing, how can you set yourself apart? Take time out to research what those around you are doing; what worked and what didn’t.

If your competitors are doing something you like, think about how you can adapt the idea for your own ends and do it better. Or better yet, take on board everything those around you are doing and do something completely different.

Leah Jarratt is writing on behalf of Salt Recruitment.

Mary Portas' marketing tips

June 26, 2013 by Marketing Donut contributor

Mary Portas has made her name championing small businesses and helping to turn around many small retailers facing declining footfalls and tough conditions on the high street.

Here she gives some of her top marketing tips, with her usual direct, back-to-basics approach.

 

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