How to Plan an Effective Marketing Strategy

May 29, 2019

Marketing_Planning

If you run a business, how do you build an effective marketing strategy? It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

If you’re not sure of how to plan your marketing, the worst approach is to adopt a scatter-gun approach. The following are statements that are heard too often in companies who have just realised that they should be doing more marketing: “It worked for so-and-so”, “Look, this is new so we must try it”, or conversely “We’ve always done this so let’s keep on doing it”!

Let’s bring planning, analysis and objectivity into decision-making around marketing.

You shouldn’t even start on your marketing plan until the business plan for the company is in place. Marketing is not a panacea for the business. You must know who you are trying to sell to, in what markets and have researched the competition. Pricing and product design needs to be just right as otherwise your marketing will not work.

So assuming that you have a business plan in place, budgeted targets for the year to come, and know who you are selling to and what you are selling, how do you put together your marketing strategy?

Discussion and research are the next steps. In B2B marketing, the number of people who really matter is small. So find them. Find out what they read, which events they attend and how they like to be contacted. If you’ve not marketed your business before, put together a plan that includes a good spread of different activities so that you can measure the results and fine tune your offerings.

How to Measure Marketing Activities

Here are some simple measurement tools:

Your website: Install Google Analytics and become familiar with the reports. You can look at everything from the number of visitors to the geographical locations of visitors, to their journey through your site. Look to improve your site to remove or edit poor performing pages. Do more of the things that work.

LinkedIn Posts: Get into the habit of logging shares or Likes for your content and comparing the performance of different types of posts.

Social: Use Twitter’s professional reporting for stats on your engagement. You can log into your YouTube account to see simple figures around views in the Creator Studio dashboard. There are a large number of social media monitoring packages out there such as Hootsuite. Check out this useful article.

Events: How many people attended? How many people did your team engage with? How many followups / orders resulted from the activity?

These are just a few of the measurements that will help you analyse your marketing activities without needing to turn yourself into a premier data scientist (with a huge team and a budget to match). This sort of analysis (effectively Marketing KPIs) should form part of your assessment of your success every month, quarter and end of year.

What’s the Best Format for a Marketing Plan?

If you don’t have a specialist marketing software, start with a scaled down approach where everything is plotted out in Excel. Create a front worksheet for general company marketing and then create a worksheet for each business line that you need to promote. List all the forms of marketing that you will use for each business line. Typical headings would be: Website and Digital, Email Marketing, List Purchasing, Events etc. Under each heading list each activity with the date of the event and the budget. Add another column for the Actual Budget.

Marketing_Plan_Example.png

If your plan requires you to market a lot of products or business lines simultaneously, it helps to add all activities into a digital calendar so that you can see week-by-week what you have to do. Google Calendars enables you to colour code each product or business line so that you can keep track of them.

Having done all of this, if you need a summary document to explain it all, you can create one in Word. Some boards need an executive summary.

If you would like the sample marketing plan in Excel shown above, ask me to send you one here.

 


Why Spend Money on Social Media? Yes Really.

January 18, 2013

Social_Media_Image_purchased

Over the last few days I’ve been interrogating the rationale behind social media. I’ve been suffering from an existential angst that all this social media stuff is at best a kind of ‘branding wallpaper’ and at worst a big waste of company profits. OK, maybe this is an oversimplification, but bear with me while we consider it further.

These thoughts have arisen from a number of conversations with people I respect in various marketing-related areas.

First, in conversation with a published leader in creative thinking and ex Creative Director of several major ad agencies, the prospect arose that “Social Media might just be a big South Sea bubble.” I assume that my co-debater’s rationale relates to the overwhelming hype surrounding social media and the proliferation of platforms, some of which have questionable influence. The same person also cited Apple’s strategy in not engaging in social media – no Facebook, no Twitter, just strong brand building using other channels.

Second, reading an article about new Facebook measurements which set more store by local popularity. The tenet of the article based on the work of a company called Social Bakers was one of “look at who’s now up the list and who has gone down” as if it was some sort of beauty contest.

Third, working with a client whose family business has been running since 1947, who expressed the wish not to be a ‘busy fool’ – he wasn’t specifically referring to social media but the way that various forms of promotion can involve expense, effort and, in the end, er, perhaps not the anticipated profits.

So why spend money on social media? Here are just a few answers to consider:

1. There isn’t another way  to reach your customers and other interested parties such as the press and investors with such reach and immediacy.

2. If you are not controlling the conversation about your brand, someone else will – and it might not be favourable.

3. Social media enables you to engage in a conversation with the market, to learn more about customers’ views of your products and services and to ensure that the market views your company as open and approachable.

That said, social media can act as an enormous money pit and it is important to consider the objectives behind every channel and campaign. As with any off-line marketing, think about audience carefully – as each channel has a different profile – then allocated resources accordingly. Ensure that communications within the channels you choose are fitting in terms of style and tone. Measure all activity using both online tools and offline tools such as client surveys and even just talking to customers to understand where they go for information.

Many of my clients are businesses who make money by selling to other businesses. For these companies, social media is equally important but the channels may vary. Facebook is relevant for some B2B businesses and LinkedIn and Twitter are probably relevant for all.

On reflection, social media should be an important element of a company’s marketing strategy but I’m glad that I considered the question This is because it is easy to become over-influenced by the social media industry. The social media industry is like any other business. It’s there to do a job but it’s also there to make money. Make sure that social media activity is strategic, regular in order to be effective, engaged and well managed. Above all, focus on measurement and the bottom line.


Burgeoning Asia

September 18, 2012

Hong Kong – Just One of Asia’s Burgeoning Economies

Last week I was fortunate to be invited to a seminar on the burgeoning Asian economies of Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong organised by the redoubtable and charming Mei Sim Lai, businesswoman, this year’s Master of the Worshipful Company of World Traders and senior member of the City of London IOD.

Japan continues to dominate the Asian economies despite the recent disaster at Fukushima. The country is one of the seven leading global economies with a strong emphasis on research and intellectual property. Japan boasts and enviable portfolio of successful global companies and is rated one of the safest nations in the world with the best infrastructure. In many ways the the country’s handling of the recent earthquake’s aftermath has reinforced Japan’s reputation as secure and well managed and communications specialists have much to learn from the smoothness of the country’s public relations surrounding the disaster.

Korea has grown 144 times over since it was devastated by war 60 years ago. There is a wonderful quote from Warren Buffet that “Korea, which has intellect and passion, can’t help but succeed”. The country is a technological powerhouse with the highest broadband penetration in the world, a position in the top seven for R&D investment and an IT industry worth $271 billion.

China is of course growing rapidly but the figures, when seen in black and white are astonishing. No longer just a production base, there are 5.4 million mainland private enterprises and an annual GDP growth of 9.4% over the last 10 years. China has a growing middle class that currently stands at 300 million, which is leading the country towards travel, wine purchasing and luxury goods. The country is now the second largest luxury consumer market in the world.

As one of China’s two independent territories (the other being Macao), Hong Kong is a gateway to mainland China with simple taxation and easy communications links. Hong Kong is undergoing an incredible rate of infrastructure development including five new railway projects, the development of the Western Kowloon Cultural District, a bridge linking the territory to Macao and a new Cruise terminal.

Clearly there are enormous opportunities for both trade and consumer business across these markets. There is much in Asia to occupy Western CEOs and Marketing professionals can be sure of enjoyable – if heady – ride. A word of warning came from David Cairns, now with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and formerly Director of UK Trade & Investment in Japan: beware of ”hot and cold’ marketing within Asia, particularly in Japan. Business Development must be seen as a long term strategy in order to win respect. This is a challenge for public companies where the temptation is often to tweak marketing budgets from year to year depending on last year’s performance.

If you’d like to discuss market development in Asia or anywhere else, I’d be delighted to share some ideas.


Marketing Trends for B2B Businesses

September 1, 2011

Marketing Trends: Running Forward not in Circles

We’re often assaulted from all sides by the newest marketing trends and for many companies, there’s just not enough time to sift through and work out the worthwhile. It’s all too easy, then, either to stick with the known or to jump into the newest trends without much thought or research.

As a marketing consultant, I spend a lot of time reading up on the latest techniques and also trying to make assessments as to what has worked, and not worked, for my clients. I’d like to share some recent thoughts based on both my own experiences and research.

Workable Marketing Trends for B2B Businesses

1. The website. OK, we all know that you need a website, but I’m really talking about a constantly evolving, compelling website that knocks the socks off the competition. Dedication to Search Engine Optimisation strategy, good writing, excellent design and links to the right kind of social media sites.

2. Networking. This is critical to any B2B business and should involve strategic networking with potential clients and industry influencers. It can include conferences, seminars, networking events and online networking using social media tools such as LinkedIn. Don’t believe me? A recent study created by Citrix Online showed that events and breakfast meetings were ranked as the highest scoring strategy at 37.8%, with public relations running shortly behind.

3. Public Relations. Never, ever underestimate the impact of your company’s name in print or online. Get there first, make your opinions heard and this will put you ahead of your competitors. There are also secondary benefits to mentions of your company URL in terms of the links it will provide to your website.

4. Social Media. The impact of social media is growing. We are now seeing a real online community developing, and as time goes on, I really believe that it will be better managed and more closely mirror the offline world. So for example, whereas we sometimes need to ignore badly run LinkedIn groups or vacuous Facebook pages for business, increasingly we will see a higher level of scrutiny and approval by the online community. Essentially, as people become more confident and familiar with the online world, they will be become more demanding and start to filter those that they do – and do not – want to hear from. Social media of this decade will be about utilisation of fewer channels and a higher quality of communication. Remember the dross that used to pop up on internet searches? Notice how the search engines have refined search results? Watch this happen now with social media.

5. Multimedia. Video is the new photo. We really will see a great deal more use of video and interactive media to illustrate points and promote companies. There are SEO benefits here too.

So those are my views on future trends. Let me know your thoughts on the way that marketing is heading.


How Storytelling Sells

March 23, 2011

Corporate Storytelling as Undiscovered Riches

There is a growing movement that believes in the power of storytelling to communicate in business, even to sell products and services. What is behind this thinking and how can we tap into the power of our inner voice?

First of all, I’m not claiming that anything I say here is new. I was lucky ten years ago to meet an interesting man from the Mars Corporation who had worked on exactly this area. As usual, Mars were ahead of the game. Disney have also habitually understood the power of storytelling as part of building their brand, perhaps because their films are a succession of stories and their experiences and merchandise are so dependent on the stories they tell.

So why is storytelling so effective? First of all, storytelling taps into one of the oldest pastimes, a way of uniting communities, conveying truths and entertaining those we love. Children beg to be told a bedtime story, and so, a small part of us continues to feel comforted and reassured by information presented in the form of a tale.

There is a strong oral element to storytelling. In history, tales were communicated from generation to generation without being written down. Sometimes music accompanied the storyteller. Sometimes storytelling took the form of drama, initially in ancient Greece, perhaps even in caves, and certainly in the plays of Medieval mummers.

Storytelling is therefore an important part of the dialogue between people. What is the first question you ask a someone you meet at a business networking event? I bet it’s something along the lines of “How long have you been with your company?” To which, oddly if you think about it, the classic answer is a story: “I’ve been with Plastic Holdings for three years. Well, before that I was in a different industry, helping research into oil based paints. Now though with Plastic Holdings I’ve had the chance to travel the world and help people understand the importance of the right materials to the job in hand.” See what I mean? The questionner didn’t ask his new acquaintance to tell a story, but it was immediately the first response.

There are two ideas that spring from this th are significant. The first is the strong oral tradition of storytelling. Stories were initially passed down from person to person, and as such, any corporate ‘story’ needs to have an oral element. In addition to appearing in company newsletters, on websites, etc, the company story needs to take flight in the conversations of staff members. This is where it starts to feel part of the company culture. Video can also play a part in disseminating the story.

Second, and these two are connected, it needs to feel, and be, completely authentic. This is important. We’re not talking fluffy myth making here. OK, myths are stories too, told first at the hearth and then in theatres and on stage but veryone knows them for what they are. Myths do not belong in corporate culture. Stories do. A good corporate story is a carefully researched and validated recording of real events.

The wonderful Max Howard, President of Exodus Film Group and owner of the Max Howard Consulting Group is now working worldwide helping organisations understand the importance of corporate storytelling. Animation specialist, ex-Disney and Warner, a man who can spot a good story from 20 paces, it will be interesting to see his progress with major organisations over the coming months. The views on storytelling raised above are my own; I am sure Max could tell it better.


Is iPad Advertising Like Harry Potter?

February 23, 2011

iPad Advertising is Very Harry Potter

Those who love Harry Potter will remember the portraits that are hung throughout Hogwarts and elsewhere. Living pictures that move and gesture from within their frames. In Harry Potter, the pictures in books move too.

It struck me the other day that real life advertising is becoming increasingly like the Harry Potter portraits and books, which is ironic considering that Harry Potter is set in a mythical and slightly old fashioned world which no references to Harry’s trainers can quite dispell.

So why are ads becoming increasingly interactive and what lessons are there for the keen marketor (with or without a broomstick)?

It is natural that as technology evolves, there will be an interest in stretching the boundaries as much as possible. Think of moving poster sites on the underground, at bus stops and other outdoor advertising locations. These digital billboards have evolved the concept of advertising from a static image to video, with the potential to tell a story in bite-size portions. It is important with this type of medium to consider the angle at which the consumer will see the ad, and whether there is more than one screen available. With the screens that appear on the tube escalators, it’s much better to show different elements of the story on each screen rather than show the same ad on every single screen.

In the same way, as businesses and consumers reach for tablet computers to read publications and get their news, advertising will have the potential to become more interactive, either showing a video or interactive experience, or, more spookily, and in true Harry Potter style, showing video content within a static ad. Already, stock photography sites such as Getty and iStockPhoto have made this type of content available.

So how can this content be used? What does it contribute to a static ad? Video content inserted into a static ad must add something to the message, rather than just be a gimmick. It is easy to distract the viewer and the intention should be to enhance the message. As with a photo, consider the angle of the subject’s eyeline how the composition works across the ad to include this moving content. Take as much trouble as with a photographic stock shot to ensure the mood, tone, and audio work for the brand.

It would be great to hear from digital magicians in this area and those who simply have ideas as to how it would best work.

 


LinkedIn as a B2B Marketing Tool

February 9, 2011

LinkedIn - the Business Development Powerhouse

LinkedIn is, as many readers will know, the grown-up corporate ‘cousin’ of Facebook, although they are of course run by different companies. If you’ve a few grey hairs and been in business for at least 15 years,  you will also be able to testify to the fact that LinkedIn was around before Facebook and has always been a useful tool for business to business marketing and networking.

This corporate social networking tool now has over 70 million users and at least 1 million company profiles. I say ‘at least’ as the newest figures I can find are from last June, and the last seven months have seen a steady increase in the number of people and organisations actively using its services. This partly due to LinkedIn’s shrewd marketing and also their focus on usability. LinkedIn is very clear and easy to use and this helps busy people make the most of its tools and features.

LinkedIn is an ideal tool in the B2B armoury as a high proportion of decision markers in the English-speaking business world use it. Its main advantage is that it is free to sign up, although some services come with a price tag. LinkedIn’s additional revenue comes from advertising which is carefully thought through and considerate. The French equivalent, Viadeo is moderately successful but there are challenges for growth due to its charging model. The German speaking countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland use a similar site called Xing, but those who speak English often have LinkedIn profiles as well.

Now that LinkedIn data is now accessible to the search engines, it is even more important to use this site to improve your internet presence.

So how can you use LinkedIn to raise your own and your company’s profile?

  • Ensure that you have a comprehensive personal profile listing a full career history and explaining your areas of expertise. Use a variety of terms to describe your areas of expertise so that your profile is seen by people regardless of the search terms they use to get there. For example, if you are the CEO of a bakery company, do not just use the term ‘bakery industry’ in your company description but also ‘food supplies’, ‘baked goods’, etc.
  • Regularly update your profile as this will appear in LinkedIn updates
  • Get recommendations from clients, colleagues and ex colleagues and suppliers
  • Ensure that you use a profile picture and that there is a company logo on your company profile
  • Include links to any social media accounts that you are using such as blog sites and Twitter accounts
  • Include a link to your company’s LinkedIn profile and your company website
  • Fill in all the various tabs on your company profile dealing with company services and follow the LinkedIn guides for this
  • Consider advertising to the right profile of individuals

After writing this blog, it occurs to me that it seems like a ‘LinkedIn rave’. Well I think it’s good and anyone who isn’t currently using it should do so. However, here are some ‘negatives’ if you want to be picky:

  • Loss of privacy – it’s the sacrifice you make for further commercial exposure
  • You need to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is a balanced representation of your business otherwise you could be pigeonholed into a particular area
  • As with any business information edited by its subjects, check that the information you are being provided with is correct

For further discussions about the effectiveness of LinkedIn, please feel free to post a comment.


Growing Your Business in a Recession

February 2, 2011

 

Keep a Sense of Focus in Recessionary Times

In November, I posted on How to Market in a Recession, explaining the importance of free information, relevance and careful testing of marketing strategies.

The more I talk to clients and consider the best ways to grow my own business in the current climate, the more synergies I see. So I decided to share these learnings in the hope that they are useful to others.

It may seem hard to imagine, but there is indeed much business in the current climate. It’s just a case of identifying where it is and tailoring your proposition to fit. Here are some thoughts on how to run your business in a recession:

1. Explain the value in your proposition. Don’t just give your customers value, explain where the value is. Your customers may need to justify their spend either to a board, their colleagues or even themselves.

2. Provide open pricing models. Offer a variety of different pricing options with the services very clearly defined for each one. This puts customers fully in control of how much they buy and for how long. This is true whether you are promoting office maintenance services to companies or running a restaurant for tourists. By providing an ‘a la carte’ or ‘set menu’ offering, customers feel in control of their purse strings and are more likely to want to buy from you.

3. Understand your client’s business in depth. By tracking your client’s business, you can help them stay on track and understand the challenges that their business is facing.

4. Deliver quality. Quality is always a prerequisite, but look at the details. What more can you offer to enhance your service offering? What can you do better?

5. Sweat the detail. Think about everything that’s important to your customer and make sure that your products and services meet those needs. For example, if you are running a tourist restaurant next to a beach, what would make someone visit your cafe instead of the one next door? Then, no matter how inconvenient to you, make those changes. If there are fewer customers on the beach, you want them to be eating lunch with you, not your competitor down the promenade. It sounds Darwinian but it’s true. If you are running a telecoms service for businesses, what annoys clients about the way other companies send their bills, extend lines of credit, send their engineers, pick up the phone? Take every one of these points and do them better in your organisation, even if it means taking tough decisions.

6. Continue to market. There are some cuts that need to be made in tough times, but make sure that everyone knows you are still there and open for business. Use innovative strategies, challenge pricing models, by all means, but make sure you promote your company with as much energy as in the good times.

I hope that these thoughts are useful. It would be great to hear your experiences.


How to Write a Press Release

January 19, 2011

Writing Press Releases is Simple

Last week I gave some tips on how to structure a press release template. This week, here is some guidance on writing a press release – assuming that you already have your press release template together.

1. The Headline. The headline should summarise the entire press release and encourage the journalist to read further. If it’s a business to business press release, something along the lines of  ‘Sondberg Printing Announces Acquisition of Greenink Supplies’ would work well. If the press release is for business to consumer, you might want to adjust your tone if the subject is a little lighter; for example ‘UK Consumers Love Peachy Scents this Valentine’s Day’.

2. Writing Style. Your writing style needs to vary depending on the content of your release. Think about the publication or website in which you want your release to appear and write about your news in a way that it likely to appeal to the editor. If you are sending your release to The Telegraph, The Sun or Baking Professionals, the style is going to need to be very different. With B2B PR, you can assume that the editor and the reader will have a lot more background knowledge of the subject.

3. Make a Great First Impression. The first paragraph should summarise all the key points. Remember that a busy editor will want to understand your press release quickly before putting it forward for possible inclusion or rejection.

4. Give Enough Detail but Not Too Much. Use your second paragraph to give enough – but not too much – additional background. About 100 words is enough.

5. Add Quotations. Add some quotations from interested parties. There should be at least one quotation from your company, perhaps from the CEO, plus a quotation from another related group. This could be a client or business partner if the release is about an agreement, or someone who understands the relevance of the news, either an industry spokesperson or consumer expert.

6. Finish with your Contact Details. These should be in the press release template I described last week.

This framework should form a useful template for writing a press release. I’d be happy to answer any questions your have if you leave a comment.


Tips for Creating a Press Release Template

January 12, 2011

A Press Release Template in Less Time Than It Takes to Find the Coffee

If you are planning to release news to print and online journalists, it will help to create a proper press release template. Once you have set up a template, it can be used for future press releases, saving you time. Here are some tips on the essentials that you need to include:

1. Create your press release template in MS Word or another, similarly accessible format. If a new version of Word comes out, use the slightly older version until you are sure that most journalises will be able to open the new format.

2. Add a logo to the top of your document.

3. Underneath, on the left hand side, add ‘For Immediate Release’.

4. In the centre, add the words ‘Press Release’.

5. Underneath, add a headline for the press release such as ‘ABG Graphics Acquires West London Design Company’

6. Start your press release with the location of your news release and the date – for example “London, 15th February 2011”

7. After the main press release, add a final paragraph containing boilerplate about the company; for example

‘About ABG Graphics:

ABG Graphics is a London based graphic design company specialising in design for all types of fashion industry catalogues. Founded in 1985, ABG now has a staff of 165 people in the UK and China and dedicates itself to serving leading names in fashion retail.’

8. At the bottom of the release add a section: ‘For Further Information:’ and then include your contact details which should include your name, your title, telephone number and email address.

These tips should help to get you started with any PR activity. Look out for next week’s post on writing press releases.