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What is the best form of marketing?

January 17, 2011 by Sian Lenegan

If you’re looking for an easy answer, stop right there because the answer is “it depends.” It depends on your business, product or service, marketplace, positioning, brand awareness, the weather and a few other variables. Sounds a little like Marketing 101 right?

Yes and no. There are so many tools in the marketing mix at your disposal (don’t make me list them all). The real problem is that advertising and marketing have become less effective and your target audience is building up an immunity to it all as they are constantly bombarded.

This is compounded by the increasingly expensive forms of advertising; people becoming more discerning; increasingly competitive markets and let’s not forget the credit crunch!

If any of this strikes a chord, you’re probably losing sleep over what to do next and where to put your limited budget to maximise your Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI).

I don’t have all the answers in this short post. However in the face of this marketing mine field here are some tips to get you well on your way to focusing your marketing effort. 

Know your audience

If you know who you are talking to it will be easier to talk to them. Take a blank piece of paper and write a profile of your typical customer. Make up a name, job, kids etc. It can be fun not to mention insightful.

What brand awareness do you have?

This is particularly important as it will help to shape placement when you get down to tactics, where to market and who to market to. For example, outdooradvertising can be fantastic if you already have a great deal of brand awareness! We used to let our fingers do the walking but now this has completely changed with the web and mobile technology. This has opened up a whole new ballpark, seize it and jump in or you’ll be left behind.

The message

The message is as important as the delivery, just make sure it’s painfully simple. Writing that profile we talked about can really help shape the message accurately.

Consistency is king

This cannot be reinforced enough, from your brand to the message to the delivery consistency is key. If it’s not consistent, youcan do untold damage to your credibility.

Know your sales process backwards

Your sales team is a valued tool in that marketing tool box, knowing the process and listening to your customers makes all the difference.

Follow up follow up follow up

Marketing campaigns followed up with a sales effort will give you that ROMI you’re looking for. Simple.

Integrated approach

Ensuring all channels of marketing are pointing in the same direction and not competing with each other with a seamless message will ensure success. It’s mathematics and it’ll multiply exponentially.

 

Any marketing can be effective if it’s done properly with a splash of creativity and dash of intelligence. Find out what works for you, stop doing the activity that doesn’t work and focus. It might not be rocket science but there is an art to marketing yourself that all starts with the variables and answering one simple question; Why do people buy from you?

 

Sian Lenegan is account director at AHP Design.

PR without wining

January 10, 2011 by Ceri-Jane Hackling

Just recently I read a question on a PR forum from a PR person asking whether it was still possible to achieve PR coverage without a big budget for wining and dining journalists. I was all set to reply until I realised that if she had worked in PR for a number of years and still thought that wining and dining was the way to achieve PR success, then maybe she shouldn’t even be in PR and especially not in the “age of austerity”.

Since I started Cerub PR in 2003, we have worked with a wide variety of clients, but in all that time, we have been working to tight budgets and have very rarely had the opportunity to take journalists out for dinner and drinks. Instead, our work is focused on what some people call the “donkey work” — coming up with story ideas, writing press releases and media alerts, telephoning journalists, responding to news stories and working on behalf of our clients. If we were to spend time taking journalists out for lunch, we’d probably get a lot less coverage for our clients.

The trouble with this attitude is that it gives the impression that PR really is all about wining and dining and maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, but for me and my colleagues, it’s more about getting on with the work and achieving great coverage for our clients. To prove my point, we’ve recently had coverage for clients in The Financial Times, Sky News, CNBC, Something for The Weekend, Magic radio and Real People — all while sat in the office!

 

Ceri-Jane Hackling is the managing director of Cerub PR.

What's your priority - customer acquisition or customer retention?

January 06, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

Ok, so that’s a bit of a leading question, but whilst we all know what our answers should be, it’s tempting to focus all of our time and money on acquiring new customers rather than looking after the ones we have. Acquiring new customers satisfies our need to get onto the next thing, it seems exciting and new. But does it make good business sense?

The short answer is no. It can cost you up to six or seven times more to gain business from a new customer than it does from an existing one according to Flowtown. The same blog highlights that you can increase your profits by up to 95 per cent just by improving your customer retention rates by five per cent. That sounds pretty optimistic to me, but even an increase of 20-30 per cent in profits wouldn’t be a bad thing for most businesses.

Your loyal customers will spend more money with you, they cost you less to gain repeat business from, and they’re probably more loyal and less sensitive to price than new customers. So, if retaining the customers you have makes good business sense, then why don’t many businesses put their existing customers at the heart of their marketing strategy?

In the small business world, it’s easy to think that it might be a lack of strategy. Many business owners don’t have a strategy or a marketing plan and will often lurch from advertising to leaflet drops to manic social networking without taking a considered or planned approach. Perhaps that’s a very unfair way of looking at things, but I do believe that without a strategy to retain customers you leave yourself open to losing customers unnecessarily.

That said, big businesses aren’t immune to failing to retain their customers effectively. Talk to anyone renewing their insurance and you’ll wonder whether the insurance companies have even heard of the concept of customer retention. I know that it’s always cheaper for my family to apply to our existing insurance company as a new customer, than it is for us to just renew. How unbelievably inefficient for us all!

Large and small businesses could do well to think more carefully about customer retention. In this age of comprehensive spending reviews and increased efficiency, frankly we could all do with whatever help we can get in leveraging more business from our valuable customer bases. What strategies do you use in your business?

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

Merry Christmas from Marketing Donut

December 22, 2010 by Rachel Miller

2010 has been a fantastic year for Marketing Donut and we are about to take a seasonal break to recharge our batteries ready for the challenges that 2011 throws at us!

We couldn’t have done it without all of you — your insights, comments, blogs, tweets and advice make Marketing Donut a living, breathing resource for small firms in the UK.

In particular, we’d like to thank the experts that have generously passed on their marketing know-how and the small firms that have shared their experiences with us — Naked Wines, Ling’s Cars, Chase Vodka, A Quarter of and Crazy Fox Golf to name just a few.

Here are a few of our achievements this year:

On top of this, we’ve interviewed some of the biggest names in UK enterprise and shared the stories, views and comments of hundreds of small-business owners.

What does 2011 hold? Well, you can expect fresh Donuts and an even stronger local presence in the next year. And of course, we’ll continue to champion the cause of small-business owners across the UK.

Thank you!

None of this would be possible without your enthusiastic support of our work. The Donut sites are all about you — the owners, managers, employees and supporters of the UK’s small businesses owners — and we appreciate all the kind comments and messages of support you’ve sent us throughout the year.

Have a great Christmas and a fun New Year. We’ll be back on 4January with more news, stories, tweets, offers, competitions and advice — everything you need to help you run your business better.

Happy Christmas!

Rachel Miller
Editor, Marketing Donut

Loyalty - the festive lunch strategy

December 21, 2010 by Jonathan Clark

I don’t think it takes a huge amount to make us feel valued as consumers. Know my name when you can, talk to me as a human being, I have been loyal to you, please be courteous and considerate and offer me a fair deal. It’s not a big ask and it’s not rocket science either.

Actually it’s just the little things. Perhaps it’s worth making the point that these little things are worth far more than the constant discounts and money-off offers that we are being bombarded with.

I heard a story a while back about a guy who had worked in Las Vegas as a porter for years. He was a master at remembering faces. Importantly he knew if someone had stayed before. So if a guest arrived and indeed they had stayed before he would put the luggage trolley in the hall on the left, meaning they were a previous guest. The receptionist would then greet the guest with a simple “hello Mr Clark, welcome back”. If they had not stayed before then the trolley was left on the right and the welcome here was equally effective — “Good morning Mr Clark, welcome to our resort and thank you for choosing us, can I show you around?” or words to that effect. Nice, very nice.

So how can we reward loyalty?

Here’s a thought. Think of the challenge as a festive lunch. The doorbell goes, you open the door, the house is warm — you greet your guest with a huge smile and a kiss (kissing customers is optional). You chat, feed them, give them gifts — they might not like the gift but they appreciate the gesture – and at the end of the evening you part as friends having had a great time.

So yes, you’ve put a lot of effort into the relationship, but my you are rewarded. Your guest leaves feeling loved, cared for and appreciated, and the Brucey bonus is that they will probably tell their friends that they’ve had a good time as well.

Let’s call this the Festive Lunch strategy. Consider these things:

Who are you inviting?

In analyzing your data have you segmented it accurately? Do you want to invite everyone? Do you invite the ones who you know will never ask you over for lunch? You really should invite the ones who had you over for lunch a year back — they would really appreciate it.

What’s on the menu?

Are you rewarding your loyal valuable customers with appropriate offers or rewards? Are you using the knowledge you have of them in the most appropriate way, showing them you understand them? Defining their traits might lead to some great insights. If you’re a busy working mum you might want to save time rather than money, so offering money off wouldn’t be as effective as offering a means of saving time (priority parking or bag packing).

The key is not to discount current behaviour, but to reward new or valuable behaviours (to us) for a change of habit.

Do you ask for a cover charge?

Well good luck. If they have been loyal this will be unwelcome. Offer them a surprise, an amuse bouche, and they’ll be feeling the love. Use your knowledge of them appropriately, and make sure you offer them an appropriate product and pricing strategy. They will stay a little longer.

China or paper plates?

Are the channels you communicate to them in appropriate? Do you offer choice, and rewards or value back if you have a low cost to serve channel?

How’s the table looking?

We are all hit with a lot of communications these days. Is your message clear and concise? Is it easy to understand and digest (sorry!)? Present the facts and costs clearly, separate the important from the not so.

Who’s paying the bill?

Finally it is vital to avoid the trap of “well my competitor’s got a reward card/scheme, we better get one”. That simply gets you to a me-too place. Drill down the USP – what would drive the competitive advantage you are seeking? And the point here is that if you are simply paying for loyalty with no increase in acquisition or retention rates then what’s the point, especially if you have not set any measurement or tracking metrics. It will cost you dear.

Yes building loyalty can be hard but most of the time a smile and a handshake go a long way. Remember my name and feed me well. I’ll remember you, I’ll remember the care you took to make me feel welcome and valued, and you know what, I will stay a little longer.

How hard can that be?

 

Jonathan Clark is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and is the executive chairman of Bright Blue Day.

Reversing the decline of our high streets

December 17, 2010 by Rachel Miller

You don’t have to look far to see concrete signs of the recession hitting small businesses hard. Walk down any UK high street and the empty shops say it all.

But boarded up shops is one thing — the danger is that they could soon become piles of rubble as unused properties are demolished to avoid paying rates.

Parliamentary under-secretary of state Bob Neill has announced this month that the government is to take an extra £400m per annum from businesses next year, by scrapping business rate relief given to the owners of empty properties.

But don’t blame us, says Neill.

"This is a Labour tax,” he says. “There are many Labour taxes that we would like to scrap, but we are simply unable at this point because of the disastrous fiscal legacy left by Labour. But we are taking action to tackle problems with business rates — such as scrapping Labour's retrospective ports tax and by increasing small business rate relief."

In fact, Labour introduced this tax in order to encourage regeneration schemes before the recession took hold. Obviously, this “incentive” to keep business premises occupied could not compete with the global recession.

So will we really see businesses bulldozing their own premises to avoid rates?

It’s happening already according to the British Property Federation. What it calls the “bombsite Britain” tax has led to millions of square feet of property being demolished since its introduction two years ago.

There are plenty of empty premises, that’s for sure. According to the Local Data Company, 13 per cent of all town centre shops are now lying vacant. The majority of the boarded-up blackspots are in the Midlands and the North with a shocking 29 per cent of all businesses in Blackpool closed up.

Napolean Bonaparte called us a nation of shopkeepers. The fact is that our high streets reflect the state of our nation and it doesn’t look good — some are turning onto ghost towns, others are high street clones with few independent stores.

So what can be done to encourage more enterprise on our high streets?

People power is one way. Pop-up shops, cafes and galleries are moving into empty premises and using them to improve community life. By starting small, many projects have been able to get off the ground. Some have turned into permanently successful going concerns — like the Dock Kitchen in West London which was set up in the old Virgin recording studios complex.

But pop-up shops aren’t going to save the high street single-handedly. Even economic recovery may not immediately change the fortunes of our shop-keepers, according to the British Retail Consortium. Director general, Stephen Robertson, has said: "Many of the problems of town centres have more fundamental causes than simply the economic slowdown. High street shops are often battling to pay big bills for business rates and rents”.

The BRC has called for a moratorium on business and property rates. Certainly, national and local government have to find ways to reduce the barriers that stop entrepreneurs setting up businesses on our high streets — from business rates to planning and even parking.

Something’s got to be done — before boarded-up Britain becomes bombsite Britain.

 

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