In a downturn, it isn’t just small businesses that look to make their pennies stretch further or spend more time investing time resources into ‘free’ marketing opportunities but they certainly have a greater opportunity to do such things. If trade is down and money is tight, things might look bleak and the marketing resources cupboard somewhat bare.
One way that you may choose to keep on top of your marketing activities, even if the budget has run out, is to try out something that requires little or no money (beyond buying a computer and internet connection). Social Networking or online media resources are a great way to make use of your time in an inexpensive manner in order to drum up trade and to make sure your business is ‘out there.’
If you are unfortunate enough to have less footfall than you are accustomed to in headier times, you may be in a position to spend more time on Twitter, Facebook and any of the hundreds of online community sites where you can promote, network, converse or establish your brand and make real connections. If you do this well you may see that trade picks up again and so you have less time to commit to online activities as you are dealing with fantastic customers making purchases. When trade does pick up once again, does online marketing through social networking have to give?
I believe in the cliché that tough times make us stronger but beyond that I anticipate that this recession has rewritten the rules of small business marketing and the online marketing model of the future will see social networking as a standard practice in advertising for small firms. When the tills are ringing again and the ‘R’ word is but a distant memory, try and set aside short and frequent bursts of online marketing activity, be it Twitter, Blogging or Facebook, for great results long-term.
Anyone that follows me on Twitter will know that I'm quite a keen gardener. Last summer, I pretty much managed to grow all our vegetables throughout the summer, and I was looking forward to this year being no different. To add to that I've recently been very interested in growing my own cut flowers, and had enthusiastically gone out and dug up a few new bits of lawn to create a cutting garden. I had big dreams of trugs full of vegetables and armfuls of cut flowers to give to friends as presents.
I started out the year enthusiastically, but to be honest, with a new baby, a business to run, a book to write and everything else us working mums have to contend with, I haven't been out there as much as I should. My little gems have bolted, the beets aren't doing well and the whole garden looks a bit of a mess. And it suddenly dawned on me today that gardening is a lot like marketing.
Every week I just need to do a little bit to my garden to keep the whole thing looking beautiful and becoming productive. I need to keep on top of the weeds, but I also need to thin out, harvest and plant new seed.
As Stephen Covey states, nature is a perpetual cycle that you can't cheat. You've got to do little bits in stages or you get this feast and famine effect. So it seems ludicrous that although we recognise that in gardening you need to do little and often, we expect quick fixes when it comes to our marketing.
Marketing, just as with your garden, has a process that takes time to make work. You've got to generate leads, build relationships, look after the clients you have and make sure you harvest – i.e. close the deal as well. It's really not rocket science, you just need to put in a small amount of effort on a regular basis and you really will reap the rewards.
Guest post by Tom Albrighton
Modern marketing is a lot like a party. Work the room right and you’ll attract interest and new contacts. Fail to shine and you’ll be going home alone. Here are the ten marketing partygoers you never want to meet – or be.
1. The counsellor is full of unwelcome ‘why don’t you’ advice for everyone she meets – she’s the answer to a question nobody asked. Marketing moral: expertise is becoming devalued; cultivating strong personal connections may work better than positioning yourself as an expert.
2. The egotist holds forth interminably on his favourite topic: himself. Marketing moral: focus on the customer, not yourself. (See this post for more.)
3. The wallflower stands shyly on the sidelines even though her best friend could be introducing her to plenty of guests if asked. Marketing moral: proactively cultivate and request referrals and testimonials.
4. The geek batters you into submission with an enthusiastic but crashingly dull monologue about his phone, computer or other gadget. Marketing moral: don’t confuse technical features with customer benefits.
5. The clown keeps the jokes coming even if they’re not appreciated, appropriate or even funny. Marketing moral: Humour doesn’t travel and should be used with care – can you guarantee the reaction you’re hoping for?
6. The miser brings Liebfraumilch but drinks Moët. Marketing moral: In modern marketing, particularly social media, you have to give something (of yourself) before you receive.
7. The butterfly is always looking around the room for someone more interesting to talk to. Marketing moral: don’t neglect here-and-now customer needs in the quest for new connections or business.
8. The gatecrasher shouldn’t even be here at all but he never misses the chance to party, even if he doesn’t know anyone. Marketing moral: don’t waste time and money making a big splash when you really need focused exposure.
9. The nervous hostess flits between conversations, asking everyone if they’re enjoying themselves (and the vol-au-vents). Marketing moral: don’t over-regulate the conversation about your brand or content; allowing criticism shows strength and confirms authenticity.
10. The chatterbox just won’t shut up! Marketing moral: We can’t talk and listen at the same time; make time for learning as well as pushing out content.
You may have heard or read that a cash machine in the East end of London is to offer those making hole in the wall cash withdrawals the opportunity to select between the English language and Cockney English. This regional dialect cash machine has caused quite the stir in PR terms-the company who license the machine and service etc will stand to not only raise their own company profile, but see an increased use of the machine through the sheer novelty of being able to take out a 'Lady Godiva' from the 'Sausage & Mash' machine. But what more could it offer for small firms?
The added benefit of increased use of the cash machine could also be converted into serious revenue generation for companies who advertise on the back of the ATM receipts and advice slips which are issued. A simple idea which can be adopted by many small firms be they offering products or services. If it isn’t an affordable option for a solitary business, it could be useful for a small number of businesses to join together in a coordinated campaign within a town.
More recently, ATM tie-in campaigns have seen special offers appearing on advice slips close to payday - the thinking being that it is the time of the month when you are more likely to monitor finances at cash points and therefore there is an increased potential for exposure to customers who are examining their balances and printed mini-statements.
Do you think the three month trial of the London cash machine will prove a success or is it purely a gimmick that sustains slow news day column inches, pub chatter and the like? I think it highlights perfectly the local level creative ideas that can be adopted by small businesses. Advertising campaigns where your business name appears on the back of another local shop’s receipts or car park ‘Pay & Display’ tickets is a great way of bringing your message to the attention of potential customers.
For a business that needs to gain a general view from a large cross-section of the population, and in as short a time as possible, there is no doubt that online research offers a viable benefit. This affordable way to test one’s target market is ideal for existing firms and new business start-ups and can play a vital role in obtaining financial support for your company.
Do It Yourself or with an agency?
The DIY method will allow you to carry out quantitative online market research (surveys) for little cost. It is definitely a method to consider when it comes to researching one’s market but it is also important to know how it differs from agency solutions. Here are some differences:
Moreover, with DIY surveys, the client puts the questions directly to the respondent so it compromises the objectivity of questioning and the impartiality of interpretation:
In addition, the agency will give you its expert opinion on the order and the formulation of the questions:
See the Marketing Donut resources on Market research
Guest post by Tom Albrighton
The other day, a client facing a big marketing setback confided to me that he was going to go home, have a glass of wine and try to think it through.
I nodded sympathetically. Many’s the time I’ve combined work with leisure by doing some copywriting over a drink in the evening. A drop of something can often loosen up the flow of words, particularly when something expressive or colourful is required. (However, it can also cloud the judgement, so I always wait until the morning to send the results to the client.)
No-one who enjoyed Under Milk Wood, Sgt. Pepper or 'Kubla Khan' could deny that alcohol and drugs can enhance the creative process. Some of our greatest cultural works had their genesis in altered states. And they reached even those who never touched anything stronger than tea.
Yet I’m not sure how my clients would react if I revealed that their copywriting had been done under the influence. Even those who liked a drink themselves might be disquieted. And if I told a client I was going on a week-long acid binge to get ideas for their slogan, I’m pretty sure they’d be looking for another copywriter. (Not that I ever would, I hasten to add.)
The serious point I’m making is that although we know of many factors that boost creativity, we often deliberately exclude them from the workplace. We might grudgingly allow a few pictures over a desk, or a radio on in the background, but these are intrusions of leisure into the world of work, not deliberate attempts to stimulate our minds. Even something completely wholesome, like spending some time in a natural environment, is only allowed in the rigid structure of the corporate ‘away day’ (if at all).
Those in the creative industries often make more effort to stimulate creativity through the working environment (although one suspects that it’s also partly for show). In my view, all work is creative – not just marketing, but every other business function too. We all have innate creativity that we use in solving the problems of our day. Why don’t we do more to let it flourish in the workplace?