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.
When most firms in your industry look pretty similar (actually almost identical) then why should people bother to buy from you when they can buy from the competition?
Most service firms, PSFs (Professional Service Firms) and businesses in general make life very difficult for themselves.
The really small ones have no idea how to run a business; they spend most of their time struggling to find clients; the larger ones may be more successful but also struggle to keep clients in an ever-changing world where the clients, competitors and staff seem to be constantly changing their behaviour.
Professional services firms think that the key to success is their technical skill-set; however, they don’t understand:
Most “professionals” have been trained to be technically excellent but no-one has told them how to run a business.
People love buying from an expert — whether you are an accountant, a homeopath or a plumber. And because everyone will know and see you as the expert … they will ask you to do the work and they will pay a premium price!
And there are two additional things that an expert does:
The interesting thing is that these attributes all interlock. Once you clarify your specialisation then you can walk and talk and write about it (using the same case studies or examples) to confirm your expert status. Each element of the “expert model” supports the others.
Experts present themselves as an authority or source of knowledge. They present themselves as “positioners” (where they set out to adopt a specific position in the eyes of the customer) rather than “prospectors” (who are chasing work and clients).
The purpose of most expert activity is to command respect rather than to hustle for business. Often, experts take an education-based marketing approach to attracting new clients; and this education includes giving away valuable information and advice rather than giving a sales pitch.
The mindset of the successful expert is that:
Most people are happy to run with the pack. However, in this age of mediocrity you only have to be 5% better than the competition to stand out … and if you stand out then people remember who you are.
Robert Craven is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. Robert 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.
Brett King is the author of Bank 2.0, a futurologist, a banking sector specialist and founder of Movenbank. He’s an author who practises what he preaches. When he wrote Bank 2.0, he was ahead of the curve and with Bank 3.0 he now jumps even further.
Banking is of particular interest to us, but I think this book is relevant to any industry or business. Brett King takes all the changes in:
and explains how that impacts on banking. All these changes are also impacting on your business. Change at a neck breaking speed (everything is faster, cheaper, smarter) is ensuring an explosive mix of not only a lot of new technology but also much quicker adoption of new technology by consumers.
A key question for you is how to sync the adoption rate of your clients with your own organisation.
The answer is with intelligent, non-intrusive permission marketing. Customer service. Digital. Driven by convenience and relevance. Without friction. When and where they want. In context and with an ability to predict, and be precognitive. Preferably on a mobile device and as an app.
And with a social media engagement layer on top. Engagement and dialogue as part of the customer service mix are critical. Why? They are talking about you anyway. And engaged clients spend 30% more. Not pursuing a social media strategy will be more expensive that not.
How delightful, frictionless and social media savvy is your customer service?
Are you and your organisation ready and digitally competent?
Bank 3.0 (=Business 3.0) is about change. Change that is inevitable, change that is speeding up and change that is extremely disruptive. You may not agree with the predictions. But you hopefully agree that consumer behaviour has changed and you are amazed how many people use iPhones, Android devices and tablets. Or how many people are discussing Facebook and Twitter.
Keep talking to your clients. Innovate and experiment. With the current adoption cycles you can’t afford to wait. Create a team that is both an advocate for customers and enabling advocacy by customers. Create great customer journeys. Give these resources huge support. They are your future.
If you don’t adapt, customers will pass you by at warp speed. Get on board or get out of the way.
A cracking book!
Friday 5th October marked one year since the death of Steve Jobs, but his legacy as an entrepreneur lives on. In particular, there are important sales lessons that we can learn from Steve Jobs.
In particular I admired his ability to release new products that people didn’t even realise they needed until he released them! At which point they became must-buys for a lot of people — and that’s coming from the owner of an iPod, iPhone, Macbook Pro and iPad 2.
So what sales lessons can we learn from him?
1. Don’t be afraid of being different
Steve Jobs was never afraid to stand out from the crowd and to pursue things that other people thought were stupid. Until he did them and the people stood back and applauded. In a sales context, what aren’t you doing right now because other people think it’s stupid?
2. Love what you do
One of Steve’s favourite sayings was “love what you do”. My question to you is “do you love what you do?” The answer for most salespeople, and most people in general, is “yes, when things are going well”. I’ve always said that in my opinion, sales can be the best job in the world when things are going well…. And the worst job in the world when things are going badly! So for those of you that don’t currently love what you do, you need a more compelling reason for doing what you do.
3. Turn your TV off!
I remember Steve saying: “We think you watch television to switch your brain OFF, and work on your computer when you want to turn your brain ON”. I’ve always loved that saying. When I ask most salespeople “how much time do you spend on trying to improve your sales or your sales career against how much time do you spend watching TV?” guess which one is normally most popular? Most salespeople I meet rarely work on their sales career outside of work and even inside of work they rarely work on improving it — they just end up doing it.
4. Create a buying experience
Steve Jobs and Apple were fantastic at creating a “buying experience” every time you bought one of their products. Anyone who has bought from Apple will confirm this! Whether it’s an iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac or anything else in their product line, if you’ve bought one you’ll know that it’s a bit different from the usual buying experience.
An Apple store experience is just that — an experience. The majority of people on the shop floor know exactly how to answer your query, or find someone who does in a minute. Does that have any impact on how many people buy more products from Apple? Of course it does!
5. Don’t fear failure
The majority of people I speak to, at some point, have to deal with failure. So therefore most people also have to deal with a fear of failure. Something that happens in advance of an event that they think will mean failure for them. So one of the things that I do when I work with an individual or sales team is to look at what failures they’re afraid of. Number one on this list is usually cold calling, or in some cases, any kind of sales calls at all! How many of you or your team are putting off calling a prospect that could be a really good source of income for you, because you feel like you’re not ready?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about marketing over the years it is this. As proud as you may be of your company, your product and/or your service, you should know that your customers or clients are definitely not as interested as you are. Their only concern is how well you can help them to meet their challenges and needs. If you want more of them to buy from you, your focus has to be on them, not on you.
Obsessive self-orientation is a mistake that many businesses make with their websites. They are convinced that the purpose of their site and their marketing is to talk continuously about how fantastic their company is. This is the belief that the louder you shout, the better the image you put across and the more sales you will get — otherwise known as megaphone marketing.
“Don’t be egotistical. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). What people care about are themselves and solving their problems.”
David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR
Yes of course the purpose of marketing is help to you to win more business, but if you want your messages to be welcomed rather than seen as an irritation then shift your focus. Make every marketing communication primarily of benefit to the people who receive it and secondarily of benefit to you and your business. It’s not rocket science; it’s a simple awareness of human nature. And it will make all the difference to your marketing.
Putting your customers first
Practice management consultant Mel Lester demonstrates this customer-focused attitude perfectly. His desire is to create content that serves his clients and he leads his website with a strong promise:
“Mel Lester is pleased to offer this website as a valuable source of ‘how-to-get-things-done’ information and tools. I set out with an ambitious goal: to create the best Internet resource for helping managers of architectural, engineering, and environmental consulting firms succeed, both corporately and personally.”
Taken from the home page of www.thebizedge.biz
Mel’s statement demonstrates all the valuable attributes to aspire to. His content is helpful and focused (more magnet then megaphone), his goal clear and compelling. He has committed to content excellence and is evidently sincere in his desire to help. He focuses on the customer first and it gets results: by not selling so hard he elicits more sales.
If you are going to succeed with your marketing put your customer first, like Mel.
Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and owner of Valuable Content Ltd. A new book — Valuable Content Marketing — by Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton is published in January 2013.
Want to read more by Sonja Jefferson?
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Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath — these are what we commonly think of as the seven deadly sins. However, in marketing today, there is another sin being committed by companies the world over. This offence creates so much dissatisfaction for prospects and customers alike, the punishment for committing such a crime is becoming increasingly severe.
This deadliest of marketing sins is — irrelevance.
There was a time when we all regularly received irrelevant communications. This is because there were very few companies who knew the timing of a purchase. For example, a car insurance company may be able to ascertain when your car insurance was due for renewal based on an enquiry from the previous year. However, how would a training provider know you were looking for training, an accountant know you were looking for a change or a watch manufacturer appreciate that you were currently saving for this luxury purchase?
Most companies would have no reasonable way of knowing who was interested in their products or services. It is because of this that companies focused very much on the demography of their clientele. If you had no idea who was specifically interested in buying your product or service, at least you could target the “most likely” group of people. The result of this is “business owners” would receive messages about an accountancy service even though they were delighted with their current supplier. Meanwhile, HR directors would receive training catalogues even though they were not currently purchasing training, and people living in affluent areas would receive communications about a new luxury watch although they had no current desire to make a purchase.
However, we all put up with these irrelevant communications for one good reason. In a world before the internet, where we had relatively little access to information, it was often marketing that informed us of what was going on in the world. The value exchange was clear. We would often find out about interesting developments in products and services that we may have not discovered in any other way. In turn, however, we would have to put up with irrelevant messages which we could ignore if we wished. For most, the exchange was worthwhile.
Widespread access to information
Today, however, the value of being interrupted by these marketing messages has all but disappeared. The internet, combined with the ubiquity of modern communication devices, means that we can now access all the information we require wherever we are in the world. Consequently, we no longer want to be interrupted by communications when a company feels like shouting at us. Today, we will go and find the information we require at our time of choosing.
Of course, if a company were to send a direct mail about their new carpet cleaning service at the very moment we were thinking of having our carpets cleaned, then we may appreciate the communication. The problem for most companies is, in order to get the timing right for one customer, they have to send a mass mail out which annoys another 5,000 potential clients. Of course, when we do require a carpet cleaning service, between our networks and the web we are assured that we will be able to access all the information we require to make an informed buying decision.
The point of many digital platforms such as websites, blogs and social networks is not that companies can shout at individuals in lots of new irritating ways. Rather, it is that when people are interested in what you do, they can access your marketing at any time of the day or night. This is when it is both convenient and more importantly relevant for them.
Customers have been empowered. The most effective companies are the ones that understand this new paradigm and leverage it to involve customers in what they do. The cardinal sin committed by the businesses that don’t understand this, is to shout at prospects with irrelevant messages.
For customers and prospects alike, receiving irrelevant communications from any quarter is irritating and will leave a bad taste in the mouth. Consequently this sin is one that will be increasingly unforgiven by consumers who will vote with their wallets and no longer engage with that business.