Five Ways to Improve your Marketing

October 20, 2010

Improving your Marketing is Really Very Simple

We are living in times of thin resources, both in terms of time and money. It’s not always possible to have the team of marketing and PR professionals inhouse that you might prefer. So how, with limited resources, can you get better at marketing your company and improve your results?

Here is a guerilla-style guide to getting your marketing in better shape.

1. “My website isn’t performing well on the search engines” This is a common problem with many companies. The ranking of websites on the search engines is now an increasingly professional activity. It needs experts. Call in the experts (you can start with me if you like) and get your site reviewed for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes. This will include a study of the way the website code is written, how the site is structured, the copywriting and design of the site. After this, there will need to be a study of the links to the site from other sites and a plan for how to improve the number of links. This is called Linkbuilding. For more information on this topic, please visit my blog post Planning Search Engine Optimisation from Scratch.

2. “I’m not standing out from my competitors” It’s probably your branding. You may need some work on your branding to help it stand out from the competition. Branding is much more than just the development of your logo, it’s about the essence of who you are as a company. The colours, style and images used for your branding are really only a reflection of a deeper projection of your brand values. This does not mean throwing a bunch of ten pound notes at a wall to see what sticks with an expensive advertising agency, but it does mean developing a coherent approach to explaining who you are and reflecting this in your marketing.

3. “Our competitors seem to be everywhere” That’s probably because their PR and understanding of SEO is better. It’s important to develop an ongoing PR strategy that issues news on a regular basis. Trade press PR should be a monthly activity. Digital PR on websites and blog sites should be a weekly or biweekly activity. Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn) should be a daily activity. Sound a lot? Yes, it is quite a lot of work, but it will certainly help you get new customers.

4. “We need more customers” SEO should help significantly in this area. However, when you are trying to sell business to business services, sales activity is very important. There is absolutely no substitute for metaphorically ‘knocking on doors’, whether this means spending time at the right industry events, responding to online debates, phoning up regular customers and contacts or sending very personalised emails.

5. “Sales are so Patchy” That’s probably because like many companies, sales and marketing are not ongoing activities, but dipped into when business is quiet. Then -bingo! – it all comes at one time. Then goes quiet again. End your own personal cycle of boom and bust and give someone the role of seeking new customers on a weekly basis. Measure their output and performance and give them lots of support and encouragement. Make sure they are searching in different parts of the market and assess which areas are performing best.

It might be tough out there, but there’s no reason to let your competitors steal a march in these easy-to-fix areas. Good luck and feel free to ask any questions on the suggestions raised.


Five Considerations in Spending Your Marketing Budget

October 15, 2010

 

How Would you Spend your own Money?

 

About this time of year, marketing directors around the world are considering how to allocate their marketing budgets. Sometimes it is hard to decide whether the marketing methods you choose are reaching the right people and leading to new orders for your company.

Here are five considerations that may help you to decide whether the money is well spent.

1. Will it reach your target market? If you are in business to business marketing, as with B2C marketing, your target market will be those who have the need, and the budget, to buy your products or services. No one else matters. Awareness raising is all very well, but focus on the people who count.

2. Is it appropriate? If your business is selling car parts to automotive companies, your communications should reflect reliability and engineering prowess; if you are promoting your game development services to Electronic Arts, you are going to want to show creativity as well as technical ability. Does the route taken reflect your brand and people’s perceptions of it?

3. Is it measurable? There is often a way that you can make marketing activities measurable. Anything internet based can be easily measured and you should aim to select measurements that are as meaningful as possible. Also, due to the sheer glut of information available with a lot of website monitoring packages, try to reduce the number of stats you work to. Just pick the best, only use a few, and you will have memorable stats to refer to over time. For non internet based activities, try to think of ways to add in a call to action such as a website registration, a phonecall to your customer service team or a response paid postcard – or all three.

4. Is it creative? Even if you are using a tried and tested route, seek to be creative and different. Try to keep your branding moving on without destroying the brand ethos that people know and love.

5. Is it value for money? Read books on purchasing strategy and treat your marketing budget as your own money. Go the extra mile to get extra quotes and use more time consuming but cheaper routes. For example, if it will cost £1000 to airfreight an exhibition stand in three days but £300 to ship it by land three weeks earlier, plan ahead to make sure that this happens.

There are so many considerations to making the right choices with your marketing budget, but aim to get best value wherever possible. Try to imagine the route from an interested potential customer to the final order. How does it happen? What are the steps along the way? How can you make it happen quicker, cheaper, more creatively? We’re living in financially straightened times, let’s all get more creative.


How To Write a Marketing Plan

October 13, 2010

 

 

The Marketing Plan - Where Creativity, Marketing Expertise and Financial Responsibility Meet

 

Marketing plans are critical to the success of your marketing year and are the only way of controlling costs. As a company grows, it is essential to map out the intended direction of the company and how marketing plans and expenditure work in this context. If you have never produced a marketing plan before, October is a good time to start putting together your marketing plan for next year. In my next post, I will discuss how you decide which items are important to include in your marketing plan.

There are long articles on marketing plans and what they should include. I’m assuming that you do not have all the time in the world but need to create a workable document that can be built on year by year.

Here is a short guide to some of the elements that every marketing plan should include:

1. Introduction to the Marketing Plan

Even if this is the company’s sixth marketing plan since its growth from a tiny corporate acorn, it’s still important to summarise the objectives of your marketing plan. It helps everyone to focus and to put the plans and their associated costs in context.

  • What is your current market position? How much of the current market is serviced by your company? How do you rank against your competitors? Devote a section to each of your competitors and how you compare to them. Do a SWOT analysis.
  • Explain the company’s objectives. What is your desired position in the market? Where do you think it is reasonable to aim for by the end of next year? What are the longer term objectives?
  • What were last year’s sales figures? Where did you feel you succeeded and where is there room for improvement?
  • What were the results of last year’s marketing activity? Item by item, what would you repeat? How did your results measure up against costs?

Depending on the complexity of your product offering, it may be necessary to segment this section to cover progress across different products or business lines. This will help your company set targets and consider how marketing and sales can best work together going forward.

2.  Describe the Market

  • Estimate the size of the market for your services or products
  • Explain the approach that is needed to reach each target market in turn
  • Analyse the demographics and psychology of the market
  • Describe the motivation for purchasing your products or services and any key influencing factors
  • Explain the potential route to a purchase and where marketing can help to influence purchasers at each of these stages

3. Explain the Direction of the Plan

  • Summarise the key areas of the plan
  • Explain why you have chosen to favour particular activities
  • Discuss the results you hope to gain from them
  • Explain how these activities will be measured

4. The Plan Itself

  • Use Excel to create a line-by-line breakdown of all activity
  • List the activity and next to it, the budget in all relevant currencies
  • Show actual expenditure in a column next to the budget
  • Show the difference between real and actual expenditure next to the other columns, positive or negative
  • Breakdown bigger costs into smaller items. Where an item involves a large number of smaller costs, break these down on a separate worksheet and place the total on the main worksheet at the front
  • Total up all figures at the bottom of the spreadsheet so that you have a total spend in each currency, and over time, a total actual spend and total variance between the two figures
  • Set an agreed currency exchange rate. If you are working in different currencies, set an agreed exchange rate with your finance director

5. Managing the Marketing Plan

Over the course of the year, you should keep the actual spend updated and make a note of any items that you later decide not to proceed with. Do not remove them from the spreadsheet as you want to track your annual spend against budget – just put a zero against the actual spend for that item

I hope that this post has helped to demystify the marketing plan for those working in B2B marketing. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


8 Ways to Improve your Email Marketing Campaigns

October 8, 2010

 

Improve your Email Marketing Campaigns or Disappear

 

Clients have expressed considerable concern at the challenges of delivering effective mail marketing campaigns in the current market. Yes, it’s a challenge. When I first started working on email marketing campaigns, so few people used them that a well put together campaign would achieve phenomenal results. Nowdays, most of us receive a lot of spam (or ‘bacn’ – legitimate but unrequested emails) and the ISPs are also working to filter email on our behalf. Google’s Priority Inbox is a good example of this, an optional feature that allows users to authorise Google to filter their messages by certain criteria.

Yet there is still a lot of very effective email marketing, and I thought I would share some effective tips to keep you in the inner circle.

Tips for Improving your Email Marketing Campaigns

1. Maintain a good list. This does not just mean a list of current addresses, but as much information as you can gather on who people are, why they might possibly buy your products, and their stage in the buying cycle.

2. Use email marketing software that gives you as much information as possible on who has opened and read your email, whether they have clicked through to your website, and then their route once they have landed on your website.

3. Ensure that for every email marketing campaign, you use a good landing page that is optimised for that campaign. Research has shown that customers feel much happier if they arrive at a website landing page with the same message as the email that led them there. Do not just route to the contact page.

4. Match your email campaigns to the current status of the target. Have they just signed up to your email list? Are they an existing customer? Map the behaviour of the target to your message – do they click through to read more? Have they ever requested more information? What is the potential timeline for a purchase? Where is the target in the buying cycle? Map all of this in your CRM system before you create any individual campaigns.

5. Use good copy. Employ the services of a professional copywriter if you can. I would recommend Laurence Blume at Freelance Copywriter.

6. Make sure that the design of your template looks and feels the business and that any images you use say exactly what you are saying in your copy, not just something close.

7. Test your email fully across all browsers and platforms.

8. Measure your results and follow up any hot leads in a timely manner.

I hope that the above suggestions to improve your email marketing campaigns have been useful. If you have additional suggestions, I’d love to to hear from you. There is plenty more to say on this topic, so expect further posts too.


What Makes Good Design?

October 1, 2010

Choosing Creative Partners is About a Fusion of Understanding

In these days of fast moving technology, it is easy to become so absorbed in deciding on the right communications channel that design and creativity get left behind. Yet creativity has never been more important. As we strive to make sense of messages on new platforms that are leading edge and experimental, creativity is the hit between the eyes, the glue that binds us to the message.

Yet it is also important to work with creatives who understand the needs of your organisation and how to extend basic brand guidelines into something much bigger and more exciting.

It is undoubtedly true that the best work comes from a creative individual or agency who understands your company and brand but has a fresh enough perspective to drive the message forward. It’s impossible to tell you what is good and what is not, but the primary concern should be whether the creative makes an impact in both the advertising space and against competing promotions. Would it leave you wanting to know more? Would it make you want to click through to a website, pick up the phone or take action in some way?

Here are some suggestions for those seeking creative partners for medium term assignments:

  • Check their technical capability. How do they go about the design process? Which artwork packages do they use? Ask for technical as well as creative references – what do printers and website developers say about their work? Are they able to provide graphic design only or HTML design for websites and digital advertisingas well? Pure graphic design is fine, provided it is executed with a good understanding of how the internet and websites work so that the designs can be effectively converted into HTML or other software at a later date.
  • Look at their work. How well have they interpreted a brief? How well have they understood or developed a core branding proposition for their clients? Is their work derivative or original? How have they extended a brand message across different media?
  • How do they handle the basic asthetics of creating an ad? Do they typeset well? Are the fonts in proportion to the images? Is the right amount of text on the right lines?
  • Ask for references and testimonials. What do their clients say about their work and approach to service?
  • Discuss charging models upfront. Ask for a quotation to cover a number of forthcoming projects and remember to agree copyright for any designs.

In summary, good creative is absolutely essential to driving home your message. Sweat the detail. Challenge any concepts that you believe need more work. Remember that as a client, you get the creative you deserve.


What’s the Scoop on Viral Marketing?

September 22, 2010

Viral Marketing Works - Sometimes

You know the kind of thing. An amusing cartoon, a game, a puzzle, riotous political humour sent to your mailbox. Maybe on a monday morning. It’s viral marketing, and whilst sometimes it can be associated with ‘just a good laugh’, in reality it has a commercial objective with the intention of getting us to change our minds, buy something or become active in some way.

In the faceless office buildings of Shoreditch, the funkier parts of New York, the media areas of Sydney and many other parts of the world, viral marketing campaigns are devised to influence us and to get us to spend our cash.

Do they work? More importantly do they work in business to business marketing, the focus of this blog? In rare circumstances yes, but it’s a more complex strategy than it first appears.

For one, you’ve got to come up with something really interesting. This is not as easy at it looks, which is why specialists are increasingly establishing themselves in this field; people such as Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed in NewYork, who is fascinating on the subject. According to Jonah, a critical aspect of making an impact in viral marketing is targeting the ‘Bored at Work Network’, a network which he rightly assets is bigger than the audience of any broadcaster. Fine, but is this the right way to find purchasers of business services? I’m not sure.

I did mention that viral marketing could work in some instances. I think it can potentially work in the games industry, the software industry and in certain situations where you want to break down expectations and deliver an element of surprise. Perhaps to amuse your audience and prove to them that you’re not as stuffy as they thought. One thing’s for sure though, measurement is very important. This isn’t a “chuck it out and see what sticks”. Like any form of marketing, you’ve got to trial your communication, measure and tweak before the next time around. The route that your communication takes will be all important. It’s not just about the big idea – think about how people will read and pass your message on, and don’t ignore the basics like testing the format to make sure that it works on everyone’s machines and mobile media.

So viral media is another option on the table. I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried it in B-2-B marketing and how it’s worked out. Thanks for reading this and have enjoy the rest of the week.


Planning a Corporate Brochure

September 3, 2010

 

 

Plan Your Brochure with Care

 

So, planning corporate brochures? We’re all very digital these days, but that’s not to say that at some point you will not need to produce a corporate brochure. In fact, even if your brochure is never printed, you may need to have a corporate brochure designed that can be viewed from a web browser. It’s also worth bearing in mind that now that there are so many forms of communication fighting for attention, a brochure has to work twice as hard to be noticed.

Don’t believe, however, that printed communication is dead and buried. Direct Mail expert, David Hyams, has recently launched his Real Print direct-mail-on-demand service. This web-based ecommerce site allows companies to order as few as one brochure at a time and have it sent with an accompanying letter direct to the customer.

So here is a simple, and hopefully easy-to-follow strategy for planning and producing your a corporate brochure.

How to Plan a Corporate Brochure

1.  Start with your Audience

Work out who you are trying to sell to and what you are trying to sell them. Try to focus your brochure as much as possible on that particular goal. Think about the language you should use to communicate with your customer, bearing in mind that your tone of voice should also echo your company branding and any official brand guidelines.

2. Assemble Your Information

Make sure that you have a good overview of the message you are trying to convey. Then think about the factual information (lists of services, relevant facts and figures) that need to be included. Contact those who hold this information ask them for what you need.

3. Work out the Size of the Brochure

Most brochures are four or eight pages. This means four or eight sides of paper, not physical pages. Sorry if this is ridiculously obvious to most of you!

If you’re looking to be more adventurous, talk to your printer early and ask for their help in working out an interesting type of brochure style, such as a gatefold or pocket containing inserts. In all cases, be driven by the message that you are trying to convey and not just novelty. Ask your printer to mock up a version of the brochure in white card. This will help you to imagine how the brochure will look when it is finished and whether there are any technical issues you have missed. For this, you need a good printer who understands the mechanics of finishing, who will make sure that there is enough space for the pages to sit inside the cover and will pick up any problems with the artwork. I don’t usually recommend anyone in this blog, but if you are based in the UK (or even if you’re not), Scott Pearce at Datum CP is one of the soundest printers out there.

4. Plan Your Content

Get a piece of paper and fold it into the shape of your brochure. If necessary use sticky tape and scissors. (Believe me, this is the closest I ever get to art!) Scribble on each ‘page’ of your brochure what you expect to be there in terms of content. For example, for an eight page brochure, the first page would be the cover, the second, perhaps an introduction to the company, the third page might be an overview of the company’s services, the fourth might be about customer service, the fifth about technical expertise, the sixth could be some concluding words, the seventh might contain contact details and the eight might be the back cover. Get the picture?

5. Plan the Pages

Think about breaking up the copy into paragraphs of solid text and paragraphs, or even text boxes, of bullet points. Work with your designer to come up with creative solutions to the layout of text so that it is easy to read and the key points are easy to assimilate.

6. Plan the Images

Are you going to organise a photoshoot or source some stock photography? There are some good free stock photography sites around now, but they only have limited content and usually you need to include an acknowledgement which can look odd in a corporate brochure. It’s therefore worth paying a fee to get good images. Try to seek interesting photographs and perhaps give them an unusual treatment so that they look a little different. If you want totally original photographs, find a good – and that does not necessarily mean expensive – photographer.

7. Involve the Designer

Work with your designer from an early stage to ensure that you understand how any text you are writing is likely to look on the page.

8. Write the Copy

This can be challenging and if you’re not good at it, it’s worth employing the services of a professional copywriter to do it for you. Make sure the copy has been approved internally and then pass to your designer. Be prepared to make further changes to the copy so that it works well with the design.

9. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

Did I say proofread? We’re used to the digital world now where copy can be changed as needed and mistakes can be corrected after the event. This is print. Check the spelling of people’s names, company names, product names, trademarks and web addresses and also ensure that the correct trademark or copyright information is used against the first mention of any trademark. Don’t forget to add the copyright boilerplate in small print on the brochure. Ensure you have permission from clients for any references or product shots.

10. Get Signoff

Make sure you know who in your organisation needs to sign off your finished brochure.

Good luck and I look forward to hearing your comments and experiences.


Ten Ways to Improve Your European Marketing

August 27, 2010

European Marketing

European marketing is an challenging task for the uninitiated. This blog is devoted to business to business (‘B2B’) marketing, so although we are not delving into the challenges of labelling a chocolate bar in fifteen languages, nonetheless, European B2B marketing has its own complexities.

Here are some top ten suggestions for getting European marketing right.

10 Tips for Improving Your European B2B Marketing

1. Start with the company name –  conduct research in every country in which you wish to operate. Check how it sounds, what it could mean, and whether it can be pronounced.

2. Register your internet domain names in every country in which you either operate or wish to operate as soon as possible.

3. Take a lot of trouble with your website or websites. There should be a dedicated area for each country.

4. Employ search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists to optimise your website for each country. Start with individual keyword research by country – do not just automatically translate your English keywords. Notwithstanding that, take into account that the US and UK use very developed online marketing compared to some other European countries.

5. Translation is not the same as localisation. Have everything rewritten by an specialist translator so that it resonates in each country.

6. Keep a glossary of industry terms, job titles, and terminology for each country so that your communications feel as if they have been written by the same person. Decide on the gender of your company (for languages where this is a consideration.)

6. Empower your local teams but work closely with them too so that they understand the priorities of the business as a whole. For example, they might have a lucrative business line that they want to prioritise when it might be more important for the company as a whole to deliver a small order early to one of your biggest global customers.

7. Ensure that pricing is managed carefully across all your European facilities.

8. Work with a branding specialist to develop branding which is both consistent but flexible enough to reflect local differences.

9. Keep in close contact with your colleagues, sales agents and contacts across Europe. Learn how the business works in each territory and ask their opinion on key decisions. Be prepared for surprising marketing campaigns and social events to be suggested by local staff. Listen to the reasons why they want to do this activity before making a judgement.

10. Roll up your sleeves and get out there! Understand how the business works by meeting local customers.

Enjoy – have lots of fun – and make the company lots of money too!


The Essentials of Business to Business Marketing

August 20, 2010

Renjith Krishnan http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=721

Marketing is the Path to Growth

This blog is devoted to Business to Business (or B2B) marketing. It’s not meant to sit at the bleeding edge, but to offer some home truths and practical steps for those who need to promote their company without wasting money, hopefully achieving a suitable return on investment for their efforts.

It’s a big topic but I hope that the following tips will get you started, or at least help to create a brief in order to recruit additional specialist help in the form of a Marketing Director or Marketing Consultant.

How to Win New Clients

  • Perform a full audit of your website. Make sure that it explains your services clearly and that you would be proud for potential customers to see it. Second, look at where it appears in the search engine rankings. To improve its positioning, read my blog on search engine optimisation, ‘What’s the Importance of SEO?’ to get you started.
  • Identify your existing and potential clients. If you’re in business to business marketing, the customer base may not be that large. In some industries, and for some products, the potential target client base could be as low as 500 people, yet those people have the ability to make or break your sales figures.
  • Once you know who you should be talking to, make sure that you have up to date information about them. Even three month old data will need rechecking. This is quite a big job, but be careful who you ask to check the data for you. Whoever contacts the companies should be prepared to speak on behalf of your business, so don’t just see it as a job for the tea maker. You can also check client data by visiting online sites such as LinkedIn.
  • Decide how best to engage with your target market – do some of them know you already? What are their views on your company? Which services do you need to promote? Be prepared to segment your target list into even smaller groups. If each target is worth a lot to you, think about personalised mailings combined with very good telesales follow up.
  • As part of this, you’ll need to consider whether you use email marketing or conventional direct mail. Approach this with an open mind, depending on the target market, the message and the best way to explain your product or service.
  • Where possible, try to engage your targets further with an invitation to an event, a gift of some industry data, or anything else that helps you to open up a dialogue. This is where sales and marketing need to work in absolute harmony. Sales calls need to follow marketing activity on precisely the right day and time. Don’t even consider starting this until you have the Sales Director’s absolute commitment to work alongside you.
  • Start blogging and tweeting. They are now essential routes to raising your profile the Web 2.0 era.
  • Think about industry events where your clients are likely to be in attendence. Consider sponsorship, hiring a booth or at least buying a ticket. Be active, be vocal.
  • Develop relationships with the trade press and industry websites. Issue regular press releases and consider advertising in trade magazines.

This is by no means every part of the strategy you could adopt to increase your presence, but it’s a good starting point. If you’d like to discuss your requirements in more detail, I’d be happy to buy you a coffee and talk some more – here’s where to find me.


Why Blog?

August 18, 2010
Easy Blogging for Business

Easy Blogging for Business

There’s so much blogging taking place these days that it’s got to be worth asking why it’s suddenly so popular.

There are many reasons for a corporate blog post and the following is a brief explanation which will hopefully shed light on the reasons that so many of us are now involved in this activity.

Why We Blog

Apart from the admittedly enjoyable aspect of blogging, here are the more practical reasons for writing digestible sized posts on a regular basis.

  • Blogging is a great way to tell customers more about your views and services. I write this blog as it is another way to explain marketing issues in more detail to clients and people I meet. It’s great to be able to send links to people on subjects we might have only had time to half-discuss in real life.
  • Search engines are becoming increasingly fond of new content. Even if you use a separate blog engine, the content should also appear on your company website, thereby helping your website in its crawl up the search engine rankings.
  • Believe it or not, writing will help to get your thoughts in order. It will help you focus on what is of interest to your clients and the wider business community and awill help you answer questions in a straightforward way.

How to Blog

  • Decide on the days of the week that you’re going to blog and then stick to your plan. You cannot expect people to follow your posts if you are not consistent with your publication dates.
  • Create a blog strategy where you work out what you are going to cover in each post. This will make your posts read in a coherent style, from one to the next, and will also enable you to reference future, as well as past, content.
  • Don’t feel that your posts always need to be long but keep them in line with your readers’ expectations  – you are trying to build a following, after all!
  • Write from the heart. OK, you might be blogging about oil pipelines or yeast allergies, but care about your subject and the words really will flow.
  • Even if you have the budget to integrate your own software into your website content management system, use a blog site – it’s much better for search engine optimisation and you can always reskin your blog to match your corporate branding.
  • Be sure to make use of the categories and tags in the blog software to help your SEO.

I hope that these tips on blogging have been useful. It would be great to hear your comments.