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.
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?