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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your other marketing and advertising options include:
Advice supplied by GEW partner, Barclays. Global Enterprise Week takes place until 24th November. You can find out more in our GEW Guide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The sun is shining and I’m thinking about Christmas. My diary already contains activity for 2014. No doubt I’m lagging behind some in their marketing campaign planning.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) definition of marketing includes the word “anticipating” and that’s so true — we’re always trying to be one step ahead of the marketplace, the target audience, and the competition.
Even if a marketer is within the target audience for a product or service, it’s difficult to distance yourself — we’re hard-wired to watch out for advertising messages.
It’s also true that many marketers are not in the real world for the majority of the products or services they’re entrusted with promoting.
According to TGI data (2012 Q2) marketers are:
For the past eight years, online market research agency fast.MAP have tracked the gap between what consumers are doing and what marketers think they’re doing. And we continue to see a gap — sometimes over-estimating, sometimes under-estimating likely responses and preferences.
In addition, the report shows some marketers persistently cling to theory, rather than listening to consumers.
Listening via social media builds on traditional research methods such as surveys and focus groups. But be warned — unlike the carefully designed structure of traditional research, social media conversations are unbounded.
Real-time listening can also deliver benefits in areas such as customer service and crisis early warning. American Express recently reported that 25% of consumers who complain about products on Facebook or Twitter expect a response within one hour!
Beginning with “mentions”, there are numerous free (and paid for) online tools that can be used to listen to conversations about your product, service or brand.
Google Alerts and Twilerts provide timely email updates for company name, brand name or keyword mentions, while management dashboards such as TweetDeck enable you to set up multiple columns for everything you wish to monitor — mentions, direct messages, specific accounts and keywords (highlighted with a hashtag, or #).
Every good conversation starts with good listening and those marketers that listen to their audiences are better placed to manage conversations and create communications that consumers will respond to.
British SMEs are missing a trick — and billions of pounds — by ignoring the importance of marketing.
Research commissioned by Pitney Bowes Smart Essentials and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), shows that only 39% of marketing strategy is being implemented, leading to a potential £122billion in lost sales for UK SMEs. What’s more, 11% of small business owners admit to doing none of the marketing they had planned.
This is not surprising — SME owners are always short of time and this can get in the way of successful marketing practice. So here are six key principles that can become the bedrock of your marketing activity.
By 2014, mobile phones and tablets will be the most common way to access the internet. But is your website optimised for mobile? There are ways to get your mobile site up for less than a tenner and you can optimise a couple of pages in ten minutes.
2. Use social media strategically
If you’re going to start using a social media channel for your business, it’s important to understand the basics — there are plenty of free online guides — and make sure you use analytics; it’s the only way to tell if it is working. I used to think social media was too time-consuming but I realised how valuable it was when we happened to see a negative tweet from a client. We uncovered a case miscommunication, resolved the situation and the customer became a fan, posting an excellent review. The alternative was a frustrated, disgruntled client, who would have given negative feedback about us to others.
3. Measure and respond to user behaviour
Marketers can use free tools such as Google Analytics to see exactly how many visitors are accessing their website from a desktop or mobile device. Give different techniques a go and see what gives you the greatest success. If, for example, you find users are visiting your webpage but not staying for long, try hosting different content — video might prove more engaging, for instance.
4. Don’t discount, add value
It can be tempting to offer discounts to get customers through the door. Try to avoid doing this because you risk being seen as cheap. Instead, add value — for example, a free consultation or product trial. If they understand why, your customers will pay that bit extra for a better experience and your brand will be the stronger for it.
5. Stay in your brand uniform
Think about, write down and clarify your own brand values. Ensure you present a consistent look and feel to your business across all channels and every communication — from the colours you use to the tone of voice you use. Also remember that a sales opportunity can arise at any time. When I first started my business I was shy telling others about it, especially in personal circumstances such as weddings or birthdays. I quickly learnt that I was missing a trick.
6. Don’t be afraid to get others involved
I used to spend a lot of time on getting our IT working and it prevented me from focusing on my customers. In the end I bit the bullet and outsourced IT. It actually didn't cost as much as I thought and we became so productive that I wished I had done it months ago. You can also try skill swapping with other business owners, or perhaps think about hiring an apprentice or intern. After all, you don’t want to spend time ordering stationery when you could be planning your next marketing campaign or talking to customers.
Pitney Bowes has an online app to help SMEs benchmark their marketing against others.