As business owners, we like to think we know our customers pretty well. After all, we spend much of our day either speaking to them directly or communicating with them by email and on social media networks.
But just how well do you really know your customers? Try answering these questions honestly. Do you know:
You may be able to answer some of these, but few of us can say we know all of the answers for sure — and of course some of the answers may be dependent on our different products and services and are likely to change over time.
Or you might think you know the answers but then be surprised by the results when you gather customer feedback — proving that your assumptions aren’t always accurate.
But you don’t always have to ask your customers for feedback to get the answers you need. Often your existing data can tell you a lot.
Start by segmenting customers according to the specific products they have purchased. From here you can identify the audience most likely to respond to future direct marketing campaigns, helping you to increase ROI.
You can also identify which criteria means a prospect is most likely to be interested in your product or service, based on your existing customer knowledge. For instance, for B2B customers you can analyse: best sectors, company size, regions, contact types and so on. For B2C customers, you can look at: best income bands, regions, hobbies, ages, social class and more.
This knowledge can also show you where your best cross-selling opportunities are with existing customers.
Ultimately, the more customer knowledge you derive from your data, the better you can identify prospects and target those with the highest propensity to become a customer. This, in turn, will reduce your communication costs, improve response rates and maximise the efficiency of your marketing campaigns.
Antoni Chrysostomou is sales and business development director at Data HQ.
According to the latest research, 86% of business directors agree that exhibitions are the second most effective means of generating sales leads after a company’s own website.
This finding may surprise you when you consider the array of other alternative channels available to companies. So why are exhibitions still such a successful means of drumming up business?
One reason why every company, regardless of size, should get showy is due to the unique captured target audience you can gain from attending a show. At trade exhibitions you can be certain of reaching a large portion of your target audience.
Most people who make the effort to attend exhibitions up and down the country aren’t there to window shop. If they’re taking the time to visit a particular show then these are real potential customers with real money to spend. The fact that you can access a relevant, filtered audience is the key to trade exhibitions and is a great reason why businesses should exhibit.
Another big gain is brand affinity with your customers. In a world where everybody is connected by computers, brand differentiation often gets lost in translation.
By giving your target audience the chance to physically engage with your brand in an environment that is primarily in your control, you can gain a serious upper hand on your competitors. When done in the right way to suit your brand, this can be a great way to stay in people’s minds.
Even though it can seem an expensive option, in the long term an effective exhibition stand can be a much more economical investment than other ways of trying to reach your audience and it can deliver real results.
It’s definitely worth considering taking the time and effort to get yourself and your business in front of your target audience. Just make sure of a firm handshake at the end of it!
Rick Hewitt is marketing and graphics assistant at Envisage.
Recently I’ve been hearing lots of people saying that Facebook has become their preferred choice of social network for promoting their business. Lots of people seem to be making use of Facebook, but are reluctant to start using Twitter or feel it’s not the right social network for them.
So I thought I would share my top four reasons why Twitter is better than Facebook for marketing your business, to give you the inspiration to start using Twitter, or to re-ignite your passion if you’ve started feeling a bit “meh” about it recently.
So, in no particular order:
Image credit: mkhmarketing on Flickr.
Now I know to the newbie Twitter user, the first time you realise just how fast moving it is, you can feel a bit like you’ve suddenly found yourself at Victoria Station at 8am on a weekday!
But the pace of Twitter opens up plenty of opportunities for you to get in front of your ideal clients.
Because it moves so quickly, most people don’t screen what they tweet in the way they do when posting on Facebook. Twitter users are much more likely to “brain dump” into a tweet — which means you get access to lots more detail on people than you ever will on Facebook.
On Twitter you’re more likely to post the minutiae about your day; the train is delayed, the fact that you stopped for coffee en route, your immediate thoughts after the meeting, the quick whizz around the shops, the people on the train and so on.
So think about what your ideal client might be tweeting about during their day — and search for it on Twitter. They’re right there.
It is actually miles easier to learn how to use Twitter than it is Facebook.
The reason is that Facebook changes the blooming rules every other day; so just when you think you know what you’re doing, it all changes.
I can only think of two changes Twitter has made in the past six months, and one of those was about the way you report (and they deal with) abusive tweets. The other was the introduction of a new feature that allows you to accept direct messages from anyone who follows you — regardless of whether you follow them.
Both of those changes will make very little difference to how the majority of us use Twitter.
Conversely, Facebook have made about 98,516 changes to their platform in the last month — slight exaggeration but something changes in Facebook at least once a week. Grrr!
This week we’ve needed to find three types of businesses, and as we’re new to the Isle of Wight, we don’t have many contacts in the offline world. So instead of faffing around skimming through the Yellow Pages, Google etc, we decided to do what any Twitter fan would do — we waited for the IOW Twitter Chat.
So on Monday night , we hit #WightHour to look for the people we needed. By 9.30pm, we had sourced an electrician, IT person, and a cleaning company. Job done, easy.
Are you participating in your local Twitter Chat? Or in all the Twitter chats your ideal clients are? If not, you’re very likely losing business.
I like to compare the social media world to a shopping mall; Facebook is the shops around the edge of the mall where they set out their window display, then have to wait for customers to come inside.
Twitter is the row of stands that sit down the aisles of the mall. The advantage the stands have over the shops is that they are right in the middle of the crowds of shoppers. So they can easily move into the crowds and talk to people to get their attention.
And that’s exactly what you can do on Twitter. You don’t have to wait for people to come and find your page; you can get yourself into the crowd and initiate conversations yourself. Who do you want to tweet with? Just do it.
Veronica Pullen is a social media expert and small business coach. She is the author of the free ebook, Unlock the 3 Best Kept Secrets to Skyrocket your Sales from Twitter.
A one-minute video can convey as much information as 1.8 million words — that’s according to a study by Forrester Research. Big brands recognise this and are increasingly running image-led campaigns to increase awareness and generate sales.
But what are the best ways for small businesses to harness the power of images and why are pictures so powerful?
Images can tell a story succinctly, keeping the viewer’s attention because they convey emotions. Images are also extremely shareable, giving businesses the chance to reach a wider audience.
Traditionally, brands have sourced images of “customers” by buying professional or stock photos, however stock photo libraries can feel stale or staged and images are often over-used. Brands today need real images that their customers will connect with, such as those shared daily on social networks.
Social media platforms are powerful tools to connect your brand with your community to co-create visual content. You might not have the budget to create all-star image campaigns but there are numerous ways that small businesses can echo big brands’ success without breaking the bank.
Build your community on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to engage customers by sharing photos that may interest them. For example, an events consultancy could share photos of events they have organised; highlighting their expertise whilst offering expert opinions on food and drink.
You can also crowdsource images from your customers and members of the public. By using “real” photo and video content produced by the public in your marketing, your campaigns will truly reflect your customers, and in turn, your brand. Letting them get involved in co-creating your content is highly valuable because it creates a bond, making your customers more loyal to your brand.
Through image-led engagement, small businesses can raise awareness, building a community and driving sales and brand loyalty as a result. The social tools available mean that it’s easy to get started quickly, and without spending a fortune — so what’s stopping you? Snap to it.
Petri Rahja is CEO of Scoopshot.
Exhibitions are a brilliant way of getting your brand under the nose of industry movers and shakers. But they can also be very expensive and hard work. Exhibiting at a trade fair can take a huge chunk out of your company’s marketing budget and it’s important to make sure the investment is well used.
For me, the stands that I am attracted to and that I remember after an event are those with a clear offer. It might be because they are clearly showing, through their banners or literature, that they deal in something that my company needs, either now or in the future.
But suppose you’re exhibiting at a trade fair where there are lots of companies who do exactly what you do. You have to compete with them for the attention of as many attendees as possible. There are several ways you can entice attendees to engage with your stand rather than that of a rival.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box — novelty sells! Fancy dress and themes can be great ideas. At one exhibition I attended, I came across a stand for a company that sold office cleaning products and services and the staff were dressed as fairies — even the men! It drew a lot of attention and they were busy all day long. This sort of thing may not be to everyone’s taste but if you can find an angle, it really can work for the right company.
Creating a buzz and atmosphere is a big draw too. Get some interactive games going, and have a leader board with prizes for the top scorers. There’s nothing like a bit of competition to pique the interest of company executives!
And what works for us? Comfy chairs. Exhibitions are tiring and attendees appreciate the rest while we’re bending their ears about our products. Not many stalls provide them for fear of slowing down attendee turnover, but the longer you can keep people on the stand, the more chance you have of making that sale.
Finally, don’t underestimate the draw of sweets and giveaways. All kinds of exhibition-savvy visitors will make a detour if they get word of a decent freebie!
Jo Morris is director at Rio Lounge, an exhibition furniture hire company.
2013 has been a game-changing year as we’ve seen real signs of economic recovery and the continuing evolution of exciting online opportunities, including multi-channel marketing, crowd-funding and social sharing.
In some ways, it has never been easier to start a new business. But challenges remain, especially as many small business owners now seek to grow their enterprises and take advantage of new opportunities.
Here at Marketing Donut, we are focused on bringing you the latest news, views and advice to help you with everything from day-to-day decision making to long-term strategic planning.
This year our ever-popular blogs have covered the full gamut of marketing issues affecting every small business — from customer service to content marketing. We’d like to say a warm thank you to all our experts and guest contributors that have shared their wisdom and experience so generously.
We’d also like to say a big thank you to you — all the hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners out there — for visiting us throughout 2013 and for sharing our content with the wider world.
Here are some of the highlights from our blogs in 2013:
Sara Drawwater: Lessons from a secret millionaire
Rupert Staines: Nine simple ways to make your hashtags work
Robert Craven: Has your business got 'five-year-old-itis'?
Sharon Tanton: Five ways to miss the content marketing bus
Rachel Miller: Four lessons David Bowie can teach us about marketing
Grant Leboff: Dumb marketing question #1 - does social media work?
Mike Southon: Customer care lessons from a fish and chip business
Andy Bounds: Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds
Sarah Orchard: Just how much is a Facebook Like really worth?
We’re taking a short festive break but we’ll be back with more top tips and valuable resources next year. Happy Christmas and see you in 2014!
The Marketing Donut team