The consumer experience is headed towards personalisation at top speed. Everyone’s chasing the elusive ‘single customer’ view, and we all want to achieve deeper interactive engagement with our audiences. At the same time new analytics are supporting the drive, letting business owners interact with consumers as never before. And none of it can be achieved without data… lots of it. What’s going on in the ever-changing world of digital marketing?Read More
How sensitive are you? Would you name your business after Isis? Probably not, now the name has been co-opted by an evil rag-tag, nutter-centric terrorist organisation. But what if you had already done the deed and perfectly innocently called your business after the ancient Egyptian goddess?
Some businesses are carrying on regardless, determined not to let the Isis nutter brigade win. Others are re-branding as fast as they can – a grim task when you’ve spent time, effort and money marketing your brand name and all sorts of positive associations have fixed themselves in the minds of consumers.
Here’s what a handful of British businesses are doing to overcome their now less-than-fortunate name.
‘My company is called ‘ISIS’ – To ditch or stay on board?
Isis boutique in Malvern is no more. Now it’s called Juno Boutique, after a few people lodged ‘very unpleasant posts’ on social media about the shop’s name. In the owner’s words, “I have absolutely no sympathy with these monsters in Syria and it is for very innocent reasons that we chose the name.” The Isis Beauty Academy in Walton-on-Thames had a similar experience, with people ringing up asking if they were a terrorist training organisation. Bookings were tailing off fast, so they changed their name to the Omni Academy of Beauty.
Isis Business Brokers is keeping its name. But they constantly examine the issue in case change becomes necessary. Their boss feels the positive things associated with the company name far outweigh the negatives. On the other hand he has experienced delayed US payments, probably thanks to the company name, facing extra money laundering checks before he was allowed to register with a US bank.
Common sense says a terrorist organisation wanting to launder money would probably avoid calling themselves anything to do with Isis. But common sense has very little to do with it when death and destruction are on the cards.
Isis Education re-branded last year and now call themselves the Oxford International Education Group. They did it because they were worried their mostly-foreign client base might have negative perceptions of the name.
Name changes come with more than re-branding issues. They have internet search implications. Google might justifiably decide to tweak its search algorithm to suppress the term Isis, which means a website with ‘Isis’ in the url could end up invisible to searchers. Not good.
It doesn’t matter what you think
In a sense your own opinions about changing names doesn’t matter. This is business, and what your customers and prospects think matters a lot more. If you’re seeing a drop in sales and complaints coming in, you will probably want to change your business name.
How we can help
It’s a bit like moving house and having to tell everyone your new address. You need to tell everyone your new name. This might include a complete website migration to a new url, in which case your designer or developer will put 301 redirects in place from your old pages to the new ones, so you don’t lose out. And changes on stationery, directory entries, online accounts, memberships and a whole lot more. We can help you project manage the change.
“A new vision for marketing is being formed as CMOs and CIOs invest in technology for marketing automation, next-generation omni-channel approaches, content development, customer analytics and commerce initiatives.”
If that sounds like marketing-speak, it is. It sounds impressive but when you dissect it, it’s empty-calorie jargon. Let’s de-construct it and see if there’s actually anything worthwhile and new hidden in there.
If you’ve got your ear to the digital marketing ground you’ll have heard of ‘dimensional marketing’. But what, exactly, is it? And how can you harness it to the benefit of your small business? We thought it’d be useful to deliver a plain language explanation of the latest digital marketing ‘phenomenon’.
What is dimensional marketing?
Here’s an explanation we found on the rocketfuel website which we’re going to translate into plain language, bit by bit.
“Marketers understand that their brands are defined by all customer interactions, online and offline, paid and owned. However, organizations with siloed data find it extremely difficult to manage those interactions as consumers move between channels.”
This means: A brand is nothing without customers. Every time a customer comes in contact with your brand, however they happen to do it, it matters. But if your data is stored by marketing channel you’re missing a trick. When people engage with your business via several different channels, you can’t always join the data dots to create a full picture of their behaviour.
“This year, Data Management Platforms (DMPs) will bring increasingly more offline and owned-channel data together with online media data for a singular view of the customer. Dimensional marketing hubs will centralize data, decisioning, and delivery to deliver value at every step of the consumer journey.”
This means: Digital marketers are finally beginning to keep all their customer data in one place so they can draw sensible conclusions about the way their customers behave. And they’re designing intelligent marketing campaigns accordingly. In other words, personalised marketing.
“Innovative marketers will make “touch-point management” the centerpiece of their strategies by uniting their mobile, direct mail, call center, email, and online channels to get an up-to-the-moment view of their customers. What segment the consumer is in and where they are in the purchase funnel will determine the message they receive—not just the channel.”
This means much the same as the previous paragraph: marketers will be targeting messages to customers according to their past behaviour, the medium or media via which they prefer to engage with the business and the stage they’re at in the sales journey. Which, let’s face it, is something digital marketers should have been doing all along. This is not rocket science. It’s the way professional marketers have always worked, way before the internet happened.
“In our fragmented media universe, consumers determine when and how they interact with advertisers—creating a ton of data in the process. They decide which sites they visit, which emails they open, the keywords they search, and which devices they use to go online. How marketers harness this data is the key to tailoring relevant and memorable conversations that are valuable to consumers and effective for brands.”
This means: Consumers are more savvy than ever, and they’re in charge. When marketers take note of this and act accordingly, their campaigns work better and people buy more stuff. No surprises there, then.
“The goal is to create a virtuous cycle where paid media can inform owned media, and every interaction can predict and inform the next.”
This means: Data-driven integrated marketing is the way ahead.
What does dimensional marketing mean to you?
“This modern era for marketing is likely to bring new challenges in the dimensions of customer engagement, connectivity, data, and insight.”
Hm. More fur coat and no knickers. Luckily, when you translate it into plain English, the message is clear: despite all the technical advances we can take advantage of these days, maybe even because of them, marketing is still a challenge. We never would have guessed…!
Is any of this exciting or new? No. It’s stuff that good marketers have always known, going as far back as the 1950s.
Everything was wonderful. Everyone felt rich. Business was booming. Then, in 2008, the Credit Crunch and banking crisis struck, and all over the world businesses started to die. Things have been dodgy ever since. If you’re still here, you’re doing brilliantly. Congratulations!
So what, exactly, makes a small business recession-proof, and how can you survive the next one? We thought it’d be interesting to look at a bunch of factors that help small business owners keep their heads above water when things get rough.
10 tips for small business survival
- Maintaining your marketing budget – The smart money keeps on marketing while others around them pull in their horns. Marketing is often one of the first things to go by the by, but it’s essential if you want to survive in the long term
- Creating an emergency plan – Boy Scouts know it. Climate change scientists know it. Governments know it: it’s essential to Be Prepared. Utilities companies have emergency plans. Blue chips have emergency plans. Do you? It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a few key actions to take if thing go belly up. Think about the worst, average and best scenarios, and plan what you can do to survive under each circumstance. Head on is the only way to meet the challenge.
- Preparing your finances – Hopefully you won’t need a cash injection, bank loan or financing. Having debt hanging over your head is never a good thing. But it’s wise to be prepared just in case you need to move fast to plug an unexpected finance gap or move smoothly in another direction.
- Keeping the lines of communication open – If you do run into issues, it helps if you’ve kept the organisations with an interest in your business – for example banks and suppliers – in the loop. People are more likely to step in and help when they’re fully aware of your situation. It’s much better than delivering a nasty surprise to your stakeholders
- Achieving brand consistency – Is your brand all over the place or reassuringly consistent? Trust becomes even more important when times get tough, and brand consistency is one way to show the world you’re confident, solid and there for the duration.
- Staying flexible – A difficult business landscape means you might have to change tack fast. Would it be relatively easy or a nightmare? Go figure…
- Being better than the rest – A recession can be a beautiful thing. But only if you’re top dog. Less-than-solid businesses are the first to go, followed by the slightly rocky ones, leaving only the strong and resilient to survive. If you’re doing what you do better than anyone else in your sector, industry, country or local area, you stand a much better chance of sticking around until the hullabaloo dies down
- Maximising customer service – A large part of being the best-in-breed is customer service excellence. The happier you make the people you engage with in a business context, the more loyal they’ll be to your brand
- Going for admin gold – When times are difficult it’s more important than ever to know exactly where you stand. Administrative chaos is dangerous at any time in a business’ life, never mind during a recession. Keep everything in tip top condition and you’ll always know where you stand
- Valuing a smooth cashflow – When everything’s rosy, you can afford to let your cashflow slip a little and be generous with late payers. But it’s a slippery slope that can land you in trouble when the economy goes a funny shape. It’s far better to be firm yet fair from the offset and encourage good habits
- Knowing when to get support – Are you spread far too thin? Intelligent delegation helps you concentrate your efforts in the directions that will make the biggest positive difference to your business instead of being bogged down in fiddly everyday minutiae. Find a trustworthy VA and hand over the basics to free up lots of lovely time
- Implementing efficient systems – If you’re struggling with archaic or needlessly complex business admin systems, streamline your world by identifying and putting in place a suite of free online tools to help you do stuff faster, more efficiently and effectively: accounts, customer contact, the sales process, cashflow, invoicing, filing…
What about the small business owner?
You’ve survived the recession. What do you think was the single most important factor that ensured your success through one of the most difficult periods in business history?
Facebook ads were hot property for a while. But some marketing experts now have serious doubts about their cost-effectiveness and impact. As a small business owner should you dive into paid social media marketing via Facebook? Or is there a better way to spend your promotional budget?
How do Facebook adverts work? The signs aren’t looking good…
For a start it looks like customer engagement on Facebook has declined so much recently that many people are finding paid promotion is the only way to achieve meaningful results.
There are currently around 30 million small businesses with active Facebook pages. In 2012 the network said small business pages only reached 16% of their potential audience organically. So Facebook brought in Promoted Posts to help small businesses deal with the network’s very low organic reach.
In January 2013 Facebook announced 500,000 Pages had tested Promoted Posts, a big number representing a very low level of penetration. Most businesses stuck with free engagement options, and a few of them succeeded.
Facebook ad reach fail
It appears top brands on Facebook only manage to reach 2% of their fans, with just 0.07% of followers actually interacting with posts. Which is, from a marketing perspective, lamentable. At the same time a high proportion of people claim they don’t want to interact with brands on social media.
A recent Facebook announcement revealed the network was planning to cut the reach of posts even further, especially business posts it feels are ‘overly promotional’. Hm. It looks like Facebook is determined to make free promotion as difficult as possible.
But there’s more. The Fast Company has published an article about new research suggesting businesses which put Facebook the centre of their marketing strategy are making a big mistake. The Forrester Research study they quote reveals just 0.07% of followers actually interact with Facebook posts.
Put your human head on and you can understand it. Advertising is advertising, whether or not it’s on Facebook. And a good proportion of people simply don’t enjoy being advertised at, especially in a place they feel is theirs, a private area where they interact with friends and family. Perhaps shopping isn’t that good a cultural fit.
Taken overall, the situation is disturbing. If you’re happy to pay for Facebook promotion you might get some decent levels of engagement on your posts. But it looks like there’s very little chance of free promotion hitting the mark.
The network has even introduced new, more sophisticated, advertising tools to help businesses target messages more closely, but they’re more popular with bigger budget, marketing savvy direct marketers in large companies than ordinary bods.
How do you know if Facebook free or paid promotion is working for your business?
You need to do the numbers. It’s easy. If the stats don’t stack up, it isn’t working.
- How much have you spent?
- How much profit have you generated?
- If you’ve spent more than you’ve made, it’s obviously a no-go
Is there an alternative to Facebook promotion?
- Facebook’s declining organic reach means it’s time to look elsewhere
- Facebook is still a good place to build a free online presence, but it is no longer the best way to drive meaningful engagement
- The Forrester study suggests email marketing as a sensible alternative. A lot of people think it doesn’t work, but that’s because they’re not doing it properly with direct marketing in mind. More than 20% of people should be opening your emails… much better than a Facebook post’s organic reach
- Which brings us on to database marketing. Do you have a customer and prospect database and if not, why not? It might well be best to drop Facebook paid and free promotions and hone your email marketing to perfection instead
On the other hand there’s hope. But it involves dropping the corporate stuff and repositioning yourself as a human being rather than a corporate entity. The messages that are still achieving a good Facebook reach are being posted by real people, not brands. If you can interact like a human being instead of a business, you can still make a impact worth having.
Have you paid for Facebook ads? Did they work?
If you’ve made a big success of free Facebook promotion, how did you do it?
People get very confused about taglines, AKA slogans or straplines. While it’s by no means essential, a strapline is a handy little thing in some circumstances. Now and again it can make a real, tangible difference to your brand. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
In much the same as your company logo defines your brand, a well-considered tagline adds texture, depth and emotion to the impact your marketing material makes. But a nasty one will just fall flat, neither adding to nor detracting from your appeal.
What is a tagline?
A tagline tends to sit just below a company logo or name. If your business sells cheese online, for example, your strapline might be: The world’s finest cheeses, fresh to your doorstep. Which delivers a big, fat clue about why straplines are so useful…
When do you need a tagline?
Imagine you run an online artisan cheese shop. When your url and company name include the phrase ‘artisan cheese sales’ or similar, or at least mention ‘cheese’, people can tell what you do at a glance. When your url and business name are totally unrelated to cheese, they don’t help explain anything about the things you sell.
In this case a tagline provides a beautifully simple way to reveal what you do and wax lyrical while you’re at it. Explain succinctly, include superlatives and you’ve created a miniature yet powerful marketing message, communicating positive feelings and thoughts to anyone who reads it, whether they’re conscious of its effect or not.
If your url and company name are adequately descriptive, you don’t have to include a strapline. On the other hand it ‘ll do no harm unless, of course, you do a horrible job of it and confuse the heck out of everyone.
When straplines go wrong…
One way to ruin a strapline’s potential is to create a fur coat and no knickers tag. A great strapline works hard, has a real impact and actually says something worth knowing. Empty, pretentious stuff like ‘Moving ahead’, Getting there’, We deliver’ and ‘For the journey’ are poor attempts, more or less meaningless.
3 ways to dream up a great strapline for your business
- Use an online slogan generator tool, something that punts out a choice of brand slogans
- Take a step back from your business and everything it means, jot down a load of ideas and collaborate with trusted people to come up with something that’ll inspire your target audience and boost brand equity. If you’re lucky it might even have a positive effect on sales conversion rates
- Ask us to help you create something that hits exactly the right tone for your audience. We can even bring our hot copywriting and marketing contacts into the equation to help you see the wood for the trees and provide professional input
If you’d like us to pitch in, get in touch to discuss your strapline project.
Social media management is a challenge, with millions of voice fighting to be heard amongst the media noise. So how do you maximise social media success? Here are 13 ways to improve your chances of getting where you want to be.
First, where exactly do you want to be?
It’s no good harnessing social networks for business unless you have a clear plan. It can be very simple, a one liner like “We want use social media sites to spread the word about our business and get more people to visit our website”. Or you can push the boat out and build a full social media strategy. There’s plenty of excellent advice online about how to build a workable plan, including:
Once you know what you’re aiming for, you can go get it.
13 ways to maximise social media engagement
Give people content worth sharing – half the social media battle involves providing content to link to and talk about. Unless it’s worth sharing, you’re onto a loser. Blog as often as possible, do a fantastic job and if you get it in front of the right people, some of them will share it.
- Get real and think like a human being – Your audience are people. You’re a person. If you think you’d love to see something on social media, other people would probably appreciate it. If you think it’d bore you to tears or annoy you beyond all reason, it’ll probably bore or annoy other people just as much.
- Go easy with the links – A constant stream of messages jammed with multiple links is nowhere near as interesting as a variety of Tweets, LinkedIn entries or Facebook posts , most without any links at all.
- Soften your sell – Do you enjoy being sold to all the time? Probably not. Hard sells are not what it’s all about.
- Be entertaining – Being too earnest, serious or (worse still) corporate puts people off. You’ll do much better by trying to make your audience warm to you on a personal, emotional level.
- Use hashtags with sensitivity – The same as with constantly posting links, filling Twitter or whatever to the brim with endless hashtags can also be counter-productive. Visual clarity is important and taking it easy means when you do use hash tags, they make more of an impact.
- Follow people you think might want to buy your stuff – It’s easy to end up in a self-congratulatory, self-referential space where everyone you’re engaging with is in the same sector. Linking with competing businesses can work to a degree because you can sometimes access and influence their But you also need to engage with end customers, those who might actually buy from you.
- Think networking rather than marketing – While you can drive direct, attributable sales through social media it’s more about networking than marketing, more about creating positive interactions and building brand equity than actual selling.
- Be brave – It’s OK to be contentious, dramatic, entertaining, funny… too many people are scared to express any personality whatsoever on social media, but it’s a great way to stand out from the often-bland crowd.
- Use pictures – Imagery makes posts much more interesting than image-less messages, so use them whenever it makes logical sense to do so, whenever it supports or enhances your point.
- Automate with care – You can load up your posts to automatically drip-feed throughout the day. But don’t just let everything lie. If someone responds in any way at all, reply instantly. Social media are instant media and leaving people hanging won’t do your brand any good.
- Get familiar with Facebook Search – FB search is a semantic search engine designed to give answers to natural language queries, and you can harness it to improve your Facebook performance. The Wikipedia page about it is excellent – here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook_Graph_Search. And here’s a link to a blog post about 17 ways marketers can leverage Facebook search: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/facebook-graph-search-marketing/
- Stay up to date with developments in social media technology – Stay ahead of the pack by searching Google for the latest SMM news and you’ll give yourself an advantage.
How do you score?
If you’re doing all this, you’ll be doing a better job than many. Keep up the good work! And let us know if you’ve discovered anything that’s helped you make dramatic inroads, please your audience, get shares or attract backlinks to your website.
Why is it important to have a well-rounded online presence in 2015?
If you run a small business and don’t have a website yet, you don’t need us to tell you that it’s an essential part of any business in the 21st century! But assuming you do have a site, how should your plans look for 2015?
Digital marketing – Formalise your plans
If you don’t do any marketing yet, it’s time to begin. But it’s no good approaching it willy-nilly. You need a proper, formal marketing strategy even if it’s just a list of months and the activities you’re planning within each month.
What to hang your digital marketing strategy on? You need a structure. Take a look at your business goals and ally your marketing activities with those goals, so the things you do move your business steadily towards achieving them. If you don’t have any formal business goals, you’ll need to jot them down first. They might look something like this:
* To grow our prospect database by 50% in the next 6 months
* To improve sales conversion from 10% to 20% by the next financial year
* To increase the value of each sale by 20%
Content strategy – Ally your content with your business goals
The best way to keep your business alive and kicking online is to add fresh new content to it regularly, the kind of stuff your audience is likely to find useful, relevant and interesting. Your content strategy should, ideally, be a subset of your digital marketing plans, allied to your business goals, and should always include a blog, one of the fastest and easiest ways to add great content to any website.
Social media management – Get busy with social networking
Social networks are the best way to promote new content on your website, blog posts, special offers and so on. Otherwise all you end up doing is adding lovely new information in a vacuum. As people click through to your site via social media, read your content, share and talk about it, your reputation grows.
Brand development – Build your brand equity
Doing all of the above acts to improve your brand equity, positioning you as a lively, proactive business that knows what its audience wants, provides it, helps them find it, stays current and and keeps up the good work through thick and thin.
Need help getting your marketing act together?
If you don’t have time, don’t know where to start or can’t see the wood for the trees, we’ll help get your plans in shape for a really successful 2015.
Aren’t humans funny monkeys? We divide the year up into twelve chunks. And at the end of each twelve month chunk millions – if not billions – of us do our best to start fresh, whether it means behaving better, doing less or more of something, giving something up or trying it for the first time.
New Year is all about new starts, no matter how arbitrary and illogical it might seem. To an awful lot of us it’s a little bit magical, the chance to make positive changes to the way we live and work. So how can you make the most of this strange man-made opportunity for improvement, a time of year when change really is in the air?
Plan your resolutions early
Don’t dream up your New Year resolutions in January. It’s too late this year, of course, but planning them in December when you’re in a fitter, more businesslike state of mind makes a lot more sense. Especially if you’re one of the many business owners who start the week a bit fuzzy, only becoming truly incisive and decisive towards the end of the week when you’ve been in full flow for a few days. Wait until you’re on the ball, at your business best, then take a dispassionate look at what you could do better and make diary notes for January.
Don’t give bad things up – Do more of the good stuff instead
Did you know it’s much easier to be positive than negative? Mother Teresa of Calcutta knew without a doubt that it’s much more of a challenge to fight against something than fight for it. Instead of giving things up and giving yourself a hard time, resolve to do more of the good stuff. You’ll find it much easier to achieve your business and personal goals that way.
Be realistic to achieve more of your New Year goals
Forget perfection. There’s nothing more demotivating than aiming for it and failing miserably. Failure to achieve perfection is almost always inevitable, so change tack and make improvements to the way you do business in small, achievable increments instead.
Everyone’s doing it…
You won’t be the only one on their best behaviour at New Year. If you have a troublesome client, a challenging supplier or a difficult employee, New Year might be the perfect time to tackle them, make an appeal to their better nature and persuade them to toe the line. Or it might not… but it’s worth a go!
Finally letting things lie
Has something driven you nuts all year? If, for instance, a client owes you money and you’re struggling to get them to pay up, New Year might be the time you throw in the towel, give up for the benefit of your own sanity and peace of mind… and sack the buggers. Sometimes it just isn’t worth bothering about, and you’re much better off forgetting about their madness and leaving it behind.
The tax man cometh
If you’re self employed you’ll have tax bill to pay at the end of January. Get your act together in the New Year and you’ll be prepared in good time. Which means you can relax for the rest of the month.
Hatch brilliant ideas
If you’re wise enough to have given yourself a proper break from work during the festivities, you should be feeling nice and fresh despite all the seasonal over-indulgences. A clear, rested mind is a powerful thing so jot down any bright ideas that fall out of it, no matter how off-the-wall they might seem. You never know, you might unexpectedly hit on something utterly brilliant.
What’s one New Year resolution ever small business owner deserves?
You are rubbish at business when you’re tired. Everyone is. If you only make one resolution, make it worthwhile: award yourself a good work-life balance and you should find that your business does better in all sorts of ways. Your business – and you – are worth it.
Of course, New Year resolutions can be absolute monsters, ending up much more negative than positive. Next time we’ll look at why it might be a good idea not to make any at all…
What do you do with customer and prospect contact data? Nothing? Chuck them in a drawer? If you’ve neglected inbound marketing it’s time to start building a list, AKA a database.
Why? Because existing customers are commercially valuable creatures. They’ve bought from you once and may do so again, provided they enjoyed and appreciated the experience. Prospects are also valuable since they’ve made a connection with you in one way or another, already know about you and as such are ‘warm’.
What does a customer and prospect database look like?
At its simplest it’s an Excel spreadsheet with a few key fields:
- Company name if appropriate
- Contact name
- Contact job title if relevant
- Street address
- Email address
- Telephone number
- Whether they’re a customer or prospect
Once you’ve created a database you can use it for email marketing, telephone sales campaigns, direct mailing, surveys and so on. Every time you make contact with someone and do a good job of it, you bring them further along the sales funnel and closer to buying from you.
You can do it by hand. But there are masses of excellent free and paid for Customer Relationship Management tools online to make your inbound marketing life a lot easier through automation. Alternatively you can hand over database creation and management to us – it’s one of our specialities.
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