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A new business quick fix — it doesn’t seem possible, does it? I’m afraid that’s because it isn’t.
Many small businesses find themselves in need of new clients and they are looking for quick results. But getting new business is about building relationships and that can take time.
The problem is that many firms fail to focus on new business until they are suddenly facing a drop in orders. That’s when firms tend to look for a magic quick fix. But a short-sighted approach can easily be perceived by the target audience as aggression and ultimately may be damaging to the reputation of a business.
The best approach is to work on new business relationships over time, showing potential customers what you can offer and gaining their trust. Then, when those customers need a service like yours, they are more likely to come to you.
A successful new business programme is based on a long-term vision and achieves a steady flow of good quality opportunities. There are a number of phases that need to be realised before optimum new business results can be seen. A new business typical cycle looks like this:
1. Groundwork: steady, focused and tailored activity to gradually warm up your target audience;
2. A pipeline of mid-term opportunity is developed: clearly scoped against targets and a timeframe;
3. Trust is won and doors are opened.
As with any relationship, there needs to be an initial chemistry before trust is won and that interest then needs to be cemented before you’ve won over your conquest. To get to this stage you need to ensure you have the right approach in place and make sure your message is appropriate to your audience to get you noticed.
Good new business development is a skill and it is also a perpetual and evolving cycle. Those that adopt a long-term strategy will enjoy the greatest return — assuming the approach is researched well, pitched well and managed closely.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Your sales team is a valued tool in that marketing tool box, knowing the process and listening to your customers makes all the difference.
Marketing campaigns followed up with a sales effort will give you that ROMI you’re looking for. Simple.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
Editor, Marketing Donut
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?