Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts

Data or Creativity?

Had an interesting chat with an old colleague of mine the other day who came through the old school marketing ranks (to be fair, so did I), he spent a lot of time in a senior data role in a telecoms company we both worked for; and he has kept the strong ethos that marketing should be strongly data-led first and foremost, it should be the driving force behind the strategy and tactics of the business.

I disagree to some extent, there are obviously times when data is incredibly important (predominately if you are doing some qualitative research on what your target market(s) think about you or you are analysing analytics from campaigns or web site etc), but this should only inform you and not be the single driving force behind any major business decisions or campaigns.

Data (just like technology) enables opportunities for marketers, but the creativity is where the real value is created.

I think we see this problem occurring everyday, big brands push their flashing advertising on us, but very little of it sticks in the minds of the consumers – they lack the creativity needed to be memorable (and therefore successful), I’m sure the data says the execution was perfect, but if it doesn’t hold consumers interest or create that desire, you’ve lost the war.

So yes, data is important, let it drive discussion and debate in the boardrooms (I’m all for that), but never let it drive business decisions; creativity is what’s needed to drive the creation of the value, and it’s this value which will ultimately decide whether your strategies and tactics are successful.

Volkswagen cannot possibly survive the emissions scandal unscathed

The emissions scandal surrounding the battered car manufacturer, Volkswagen, will hit such heights that the brand will be unlikely to survive as it is today, it will have to change.

It’s been about ten days now since the use of a “defeat device” by VW to cheat emissions tests around the work surfaced, in that time we have learnt that over 11m vehicles are affected which in turn have been spewing millions of tonnes of emissions and poisonous gases into the atmosphere.

Their CEO has already gone, and at the moment three other senior executive are under investigation, all their brands have been implemented and it will cost them £billions to sort out.

Not only will they have to recall all of their cars for fixing, but they have fines coming out of their ears and VW owners are clamouring for compensation.

Volkswagen had one of the strongest brands in the auto industry before all this, so what is likely to happen to it?

The brand impact

Volkswagen were a trusted brand, but the admission that they purposely cheated the emission tests to con the car industry and consumers will hurt them badly, VW deliberately set out to break the law.

On a positive note, it looks like consumers still some faith in the brand as retailers in the UK haven’t noticed any major dip in the public looking to purchase the brand, although now we know for a fact that this isn't just a US problem and we have 1.2m of these vehicles in the UK – this may change.

But experts do expect sales to decline considerably.

So can Volkswagen survive?

Volkswagen has promised to spend at least £4.7bn to help “restoring consumer trust” in the brands they control, my gut feeling is that they need considerably more than this.

In a statement the brand said its “top priority” was to avert damage to customers and it will inform the public constantly and transparently on further progress.  They want to win back trust and credibility.

But whilst the Volkswagen brand is unlikely to die as a result, it’s not impossible that it could disappear!

What is more likely is that the country could be restructured and broken up, some of its brands could be sold off.  The global fines could be anywhere between £15bn and £25bn – selling off parts of the business could help the Group to recoup much of that money.

It could turn into a case of not just protecting the brand, but protecting the car business from going under!


Digital Marketing Predications for 2015!

The life of a busy digital marketer is a varied one, and knowing where to put your marketing effort is an important factor, but where should you plan to put those efforts?

Everything is changing - and will continue to do so - remember that the only constant is change.

Technology, business models and consumer behaviours change in the blink of an eye; old tactics no longer work (or aren't as effective as they once were).

So as a digital marketer, what should you be considering for the year ahead?

In this article on LinkedIn, I've tried to capture some of the key elements that are important to Digital Marketing in 2015 - enjoy.

Digital Marketing: My Crystal Ball Predications for 2015

Learn from Politicians!

In the UK the local elections are happening this week, so it gives us an opportunity to take a leaf out of our MPs' books and raise the profile of your business and website?

Just like our politicians, you too can build a professional online brand and profile for your business with some very simple tips; and changing the way your website portrays and promotes you could do wondered for your sales too!

The Personal Statement


Just like the political parties your business should employ a personal statement. Your personal statement and the way your present it on your web site is critical as this is one of the first ‘things’ that a visitor who doesn't know you very well will seek out (whether they are aware of it or not!), and it has the added benefit of helping them understand more about your business.

Your company's personal statement simply needs to be the top 2-3 things that you want your visitors to know about your business, they should show how you can help your prospects.

For example, you might want your visitors to be aware of your huge selection of products, the fact that you are an award winner, your customer service stats, your low prices etc – whatever it is that you think your market will go wild over and that you can satisfy.

Once you've decided on what your business personal statement should be you need to ensure that it is easily and quickly seen on your site. Are these 2-3 statements obvious on your site? Are they mentioned at all or hidden in your navigation?

Put them to your homepage and make them easily viable throughout your site.

Your Professional Profile


You only need to take a quick look at any of the political parties web sites to see what views, experience and values their leader has.
You can find out about their history, achievements, what they stand for and how they believe that they can personally help you.

Does your site portray its top Directors in the same way? Is it easy to find out about them, what skills, experience and background they have, and what they think that they can do for your prospects?

If you don’t talk about the top people in your business then you are missing a trick; research constantly shows that the “About Us” pages are usually one of the top pages that prospects visit on your site and these pages can help sell yourself and your business if done correctly.

Say what you want about our political system, the parties and politicians, they do know how to promote themselves and how to get us following them and believing in them, and by following these simple tips you will be able to better promote your site and make you more appealing to your prospects.













POTS and PANS!

What type of site so you own or manage? Is it a Pretty Ordinary Trash Site (POTS) or a Pretty Amazing Natural Sites (PANS) site?

Obviously you don’t want to own a POTS, these tend to be trashy, thin content, poorly linked to sites, where as the more superior PANS have lots of lovely content that visitors want to read and share, their content also attracts links naturally.

A site needs to have a clear and definite purpose; if this can be portrayed successfully to visitors then half of the battle has been won.

Sleek, modern design is a winner. Visitor needs and design trends change often, sites that don’t follow these will look dated very quickly and will be an instant turn-off.

Content needs to be unique and fresh and needs to speak concisely to your target market – avoid waffle and clutter and keep the messages as simple and as concise as possible.

Ultimately for any website to be successful it needs people to use it; site design and appearance are very important, but they will never replace the need for excellent usability.

A websites navigation affects how usable it is, and when developing or redesigning an existing site then the navigation (how you visitors are doing to find the great content) should be your primary concern.


In Summary

POTS PANS
Site Design Designed in the 80’s/90’s.
Cluttered.
Appealing
Modern – fresh, clean.
Content SEO focused.
Doesn't read well.
User focused.
Clear, well-written content.
Clarity Visitors confused.
Unsure what you site is about.
Purpose clear.
Visitors feel happy on your site.
Usability Confusing leaving visitors impatient.
They will leave.
Simple to use.
Customers stay and look around.
Navigation Visitors can’t find what they need.
No structure to site at all.
Visitors can find what they need quickly.
1-3 clicks and they are there.




The new Lead Generation Content Strategy

If you are responsible for sales or lead generation then you will no doubt be familiar with the classic sales funnel.

Traffic or Leads are basically thrown in at the top of the funnel and due your magnificent sales and marketing nurturing you pass these leads through the different levels of your particular sales funnel all the time attempting to create a customer at the end of the process.

It’s a classic image used in business today and it works well ….. up to a point!

You see what this model doesn't adequately explain is that THIS process is a process that converts traffic or leads that have shown an active interest in your product or service.
But there are many, many more individuals or businesses that are not yet interested in you, but you can still get them into this funnel, they might not buy yet, but they will be aware of you when they are ready to purchase and by changing the way you talk to your market will help you to become “front of mind” in their future purchase decisions.

To change this mind-set within your market all you need to do is talk about something closely related to what you sell; so for example if you sell computers, then create guides to help people use them or understand common problems and how to resolve them.

This would mean that you are then likely to attract people who (whilst not ready to purchase) use computers, and your great use of associated content means that there is now a chance that when they are ready to buy you will be “front of mind”.


This is a fundamental shift on how businesses look at content and their content strategy, but this simple tweak to make content available that is closely related (and helpful) to your core business offering can bring in more prospects.

Online Lead Generation – Great Follow up Strategies that WILL lead to sales

OK, so your generating sales leads online, but it’s not working as well as you would have hoped! What’s going wrong?

Well if you want your lead generation efforts to generate decent sales, you need to build a robust lead follow up system.

Ideally what you want to achieve is for your lead follow up system to manage your sales leads automatically.

Here are the things that you need in place to help you towards your goal of online lead to sale.


Create a landing page

Hopefully you have taken this first very basic step in generating great sales leads.

This page should really hold two purposes:
  1. Get them to buy online - if your prospect buys straight away then you don’t have to bother with any additional sales process!
  2. If they fail to buy then you want to capture their details, in my last post I talked about great ways of capturing prospect details. The prospect capturing system could be part of the online sales process – start by asking for an email address on a single page, then if they leave the sales process part way through you have their email contact details to enable follow-up.


Prompt contact is key

If your lead leaves your page, then it’s possible that the left because they wanted to take a look at someone else’s offering before they make their final purchase decision - if you can get in touch with them within a couple of minutes then you're highly likely to retain the sale - the longer you leave this recontact, the less likely you are to get the sale.


What’s the Score?

If possible, ‘Score’ your lead.

If they have been on your site for a while or visited numerous pages or emailed you then they are probably more interested in what you have to offer.

Other factors like their geographic location may make them a better prospects - or in B2B sales did they leave you with a ‘real’ business email address or just an anonymous Gmail or Hotmail account?

Follow up by email

As soon as you have your contact details, it’s time to start following up with them. Email is easiest and quickest to do and you can automate the process.  But as soon as you can, you really need to get a real sales person trying to contact them.  Remember people buy off people, not off automated emails!

The initial immediate follow up will ensure that you are still very fresh in their mind.


Get them in your list

Many businesses mess about with having a separate list for prospects and one for customers, get them all in the same database, it’s much easier.

Ensure that you are able to track all the communications that you sent them or the name of any campaign that brought them into you (all very useful analysis).

Also ensure that you have an ‘opt-out’ field in case they decide that they no longer want to hear from you, but only ensure that you stop sending them communications if they ask.

Keep sending the updates and newsletter etc along with your regular customers.



These simple steps can help you put your lead follow up virtually on autopilot so you have time to work with clients and hot prospects rather than constantly prospecting for new business.



Online Lead Generation Magnet

Why a magnet?
By its very definition, a magnet is something that attracts objects – in this case we want to attract leads.

There is a vast amount of traffic online, and what every single website wants to do is pull that traffic it into their website – but online traffic management mustn't end there!

What if someone visits a few of your pages and then leaves – you are likely to have spent time and effort (and perhaps money) in attracting that visitor in the first place, and they have leave your site without providing you with any value whatsoever!

Now the ultimate value is that they buy from you; but even if they don’t buy they could have left you with the next best thing – their contact details.

Many, many site and business owners never think about collecting visitor data to use as a remarketing tool, but it is incredibly important that you do; the more details you get about visitors who are interested in your product and service, the better, more profitable business you can generate.

So how do you generate these sales leads?

The best way is to provide some useful information.

We all love information on the internet that can help us – maybe help us do our job better, save or make us money, and your potential customers are no different.

Now they might not be willing to part with hard cash for the information you have, but they might be willing to leave you their email address at the very least!

There are numerous ways we can do this online, but the best ways are:

  • eBooks - needn't be huge, a decent 20 page eBook can be a great way to establish leadership and authority in a marketplace
  • A downloadable “kit” - worksheets, videos, articles etc
  • Free quote or consultation - these could be delivered in person, my email or over the phone. The great thing about these is that the requester knows that they will need to part with a good amount of information to get the best advice or quote from you.
  • Email course - send out a series of informative and educational emails. Over the course of a few weeks or a month you could send numerous emails automatically building authority and trust with the recipient.
  • Free samples - if you are the type of business that can send out samples then they make a great lead generation tool.
  • Activate a trial - software companies always collect visitor details if they want to download software and get a free trial. During the trial period ensure that you send out automated emails to encourage a conversation with them.
  • Whitepapers - a white paper is basically a smaller version of an eBook – so if you find you can’t provide enough detail to make a convincing eBook, make a convincing white paper. They are inexpensive to develop and will add greatly to your credibility.
  • Newsletters - do you have information that you can regularly send out as a newsletter?
  • Invitation to a webinar - people love webinars, mainly because they are usually free to attend; they are a great way to delivery the same piece of information to a wide audience and they are very cost effective to do.

In Summary

As already mentioned, once you've built up a steady stream of internet traffic, your job is far from over. You now have to implement some type of lead generation magnet(s).

With the automated delivery of follow up emails you’ll start to see some great results and you’ll find that some of these prospects will start to known on your door.

Best of luck.

SEO: What to expect in 2014

Improved Webmaster Communications

First and foremost with Google constantly looking at Link Devaluation and more Penguin updates expected this year, I’m hoping that Google start to help webmasters out a little more by providing a tool that can quickly detect poor linking patterns and allow you to simply Disavow links that you don’t want to be associated with anymore.

On the subject of Disavowing links I’d like to see Google working towards helping webmasters by providing an easy way to send a request the webmasters of external links by using the Google Webmaster Tool inbox. The advantage here is that Google will be able to see clearly when a webmaster is trying to clean up their act.

Content, content, content

Quality content creation will become the watch word for all SEO practitioners during 2014 (if it isn't already!) as Google will tighten the noose around the neck of thin sites.

Content needs to be seen as a valuable business resource that can be reused or reworked for web pages, social media, audio and video etc

The technical aspect of SEO

SEO will become more technical, so that we can deal with the likes of schema, authorship, crawlability, etc.

KISS – Kall It Sales Stupid!

I see more of us focusing on real lead generation, conversions and sales rather than simply how are our keywords doing in SERPS!  We need to move to really help businesses with the bottom line.

Personalisation

If nothing else then the personalisation of search results will change what SEO means; when I search for “Dolphins” I expect Google in the future to provide more personal results for me and supply more Miami Dolphin sites; if my eldest daughter (who wants to be a Marine Biologist) conducts the same search I would expect her results to show more instances for the marine mammal.

Other stuff

I see further strengthening in AuthorRank and now we have Hummingbird, more natural language capabilities.

Finally I see lots of ‘SEO’ people around the globe complaining that Google updates have ruined their ranking simple because they failed to follow good practice!

Optimise your LinkedIn pages

Whether it’s your person page and you want the next great job offer, or it’s your company page, a well optimise page will do you a world of good.

Think Visually
Use bold images to provide a real world glimpse into you or your business.

Think Digitally
Whatever you say, keep it brief. Remember that online, attention span is shorter.

Think Video
Showcase with real stories or examples to engage members more deeply.

Think Customised
Adapt your content to viewers based on their LinkedIn profiles. Target based on geography, job title, industry that you want to attract etc.

Advertise, Don't Spam

There is a really fine line between advertising and spam and unfortunately many business owners and new marketeers do not understand the difference between the two.
This is really important because while a clever, well designed and executed internet marketing campaign can help to attract new business and keep existing customers loyal, spam is highly likely to alienate both new customers and existing customers alike, resulting in damage to your profit margin.

During this post will take a good look at just three basic online marketing strategies such as email campaign, banner ads and message board posts and describe how each can quickly cross this fine line from great advertising to spam.

Email Campaigns
These can also be very useful tools to internet marketers, but again, they must be done correctly.
These campaigns may involve sending periodic e-newsletters filled with information as well as advertisements, short, informative email courses or emails offering discounts on products and services.
Loyal customers who opt into your email list (and you MUST get opt-in addresses to ensure the success of your campaigns) will likely not view these emails as spam as they may know your business or have dealt with you in the past, and therefore may purchase additional products and services from your business as a result of this marketing strategy or at the very least you will remain 'front of mind' when they decide they need to purchase solutions that you offer. Additionally, potential customers who have specifically requested additional information on your products and services will also find this type of marketing to be useful.

However, email recipients who did not request information are likely to view your emails as spam and unlikely to result in a sale or goodwill, further more if the recipients of spam email decide to take action against you then you could find a fine coming your way.
Harvesting email addresses in a deceptive manner and using these addresses to send out mass emails will likely always be considered to be spam.

It's also worth noting that sending an email to someone you did business with too long ago may be inappropriate too; so remove anyone on your list who you haven't have any dealings or contact within the past 2 years.

Banner Ads
These were once one of the most popular strategies accompany an internet marketing plan, and they still have their place in modern online marketing tactics.
These ads are usually the ones that appear at the top of websites and they tend to take up the full width of the site; its is from this appearance that they earned the name banner ads but actually banner ads can refer to a variety of different sizes and shapes which appear in an array of different locations on a website.

In many cases the business owner purchases advertising space on these websites but the banner ad could also be placed as part of an exchange or an affiliate marketing campaign. Exchanges are situations in which one business owner or marketeer is granted permission to place a banner ad on someones website, in exchange for this other business owner is allowed to post a banner ad on his site.
These are great agreements and are usually made made between individual business owners with complementary businesses or as part of exchanges facilitated by a third party. In the case of affiliate marketing, an affiliate posts and advertisement for your business in exchange for compensation when the banner ad produces a desired effect such as generating website traffic or generating a sale. The terms of these agreements are determined beforehand and are generally based on a scale of pay per impression, pay per click or pay per sale or lead.

Now that you understand what banner ads are, it is also important to understand how they can be easily overused and appear to be 'spammy'.
Expertly placing your banner ad on a few websites which are highly likely to attract an audience similar to your target audience is very smart marketing, placing your banner ad on any website which will display the ad regardless of the target audience can be construed as spam. Internet browsers who feel as though your banner ads are everywhere could take an instance disliking to your business and may become extremely unlikely to purchase products or services from you as a result of your banner ads.

Message Boards
Finally, message boards provide an excellent opportunity for business owners to obtain some free advertising where it will be noticed by members of the target audience.
If the products and services you offer appeal to a specific niche, it is worthwhile to join message boards and online forums related to your industry of choice.

Here you will find a large population of internet users who may have an interest in your products. You might consider including a link to your business in your signature or posting the link when it is applicable to the conversation. However, care should be taken to carefully review the message board guidelines to ensure you are not doing anything inappropriate. This is smart marketing. Conversely, replying to every message with a link to your website when it is not relevant to the conversation is likely to be construed as spam by other members. Once they begin to view your posts as spam, they are not likely to visit your website via the links you post.

Some forums attach various rules to their posting guidelines (i.e. you can only post a link after a certain amount of time or after you post a certain number of helpful posts for example).

10 Common Business Website Mistakes

I've managed many different website projects and now feel that it's time to show the 10 most common business website mistakes out there.

1.  Using A Brochure Design

Numerous businesses basically take their print brochure and turn it into a website.  A website isn't a print medium; websites and printed material are used differently by their audiences, the interaction with the reader is completely different for both, and hence the designs and user experience need to be completely different.


2. Not Having A Strong Call To Action

What do you want visitors to your website to do?  Fill in a form?  Visit a download page? Call you? Focus on what the primary action is that you want your website visitor to take and ensure that the action is obvious.  Use buttons that are a different colour to anything else on the site to draw their attention.  Use a subtle shaded background to draw their attention to particular pieces of information or calls to action that you want them to take etc.

3.  Ignoring SEO

I must admit that I've been guilty of this myself, but it's important to get some of the basics right here.  Ensure that all your pages have the basic Meta Tags completed (specifically the TITLE and DESCRIPTION one as these could be used and displayed in search engine results.
Read my Real Basic SEO Tips for more information.

4.  Paying for Design and Not Copy

Too many businesses will pay a heap of money for a great design then ruin the finished product by inserting all of their old, lousy content into the site.  If you are willing to pay for a designer then you are willing to pay for a good copywriter!  Even if you can't afford much and can't afford to rewrite all of your pages then just search Google for "Cheap Copywriters" - remember to get a few quotes before you pick one!

5.  Failing To Define Who They Are

Your brand is important to you and your business; without it you are nothing.
I guess you know what your brand stands for, so here is a quick test for you.  Visit your website and see if you can see evidence of your brand promise or value proposition within THREE seconds!  If you can't then I'm sure your visitors can't either!

6.  Contact Forms

People really hate filling these out and many website just have them to ask for [name], [email address] and [comments]!  What's the use?  Just provide an email address and your prospect will supply you all this without asking and without they having to complete a silly form!

7.  About Us

Much of what a website should be about is providing some element or trust and confidence in your business and brand ... so why do so many sites miss out lots of information about themselves in the "About Us" section of their sites.  As these are one of the most visited pages on your site then this is one great chance to sell yourself and your achievements.

8.  Using Flash Intros

Don't do it, no-one likes them and they add absolutely no value to your website at all!  They are just very annoying.

9.  No Goal

Some business owners make their sites an extension of their business cards and as such their sites lack a direct goal.  Every website should have a purpose whether it's to generate a lead, generate a sale, build brand exposure or give more information. Homepages should be making visitors click though to a great landing page that will convert.

10.  Ignoring Social Sharing

Whether you simply have your Twitter account in good view or allow visitors to share the page they are on through their own social networks, you need  to include them.  More and more of us are engaging with social networks and we are happy to promote great content through them.

Eight Hour Marketing Plan™

Develop a basic Marketing Plan in only 8 hours with the 8 Hour Marketing Plan™
I first published my eight hour marketing plan in 2000 when I worked with a number of online businesses to try to get them to understand how easy it was to develop a simple plan.  This is a little out of date now and I will get around to updating it at some time; but I thought it was worth publishing anyway.

Hour 1 - Information gathering about your business

Get yourself a large box. Gather as much information as you can in one hour. This may not seem like long, but believe me after one hour you will be glad to stop ... and surprised at how much information you have gathered!.
Do not stop to read any of it ... this is the gathering phase. You may enlist others to help you in this or any other phase, but keep them within the same one hour restriction.

Your gathering should include all of your past advertising and marketing materials. Include items such as letterheads, envelopes, business cards, direct-mail pieces, magazine ads, Yellow Pages ads, invoices, statements, counter cards, sales samples, packaging materials, press releases, PR stories, promo items, print outs of web pages and anything else used to market your company.

Next, add sales statistical information available about your company. Place sales reports from the past three years in the box. Look for breakout information such as sales by year, month, product line, customer and geographical area. Place any target information or sales rep information in the box. When your time is up, stop. If you happen to run across something else, drop it in the box, but don't spend any more time on this. The secret is to keep to the time limit.


Hour 2 - Information gathering about your customers and competitors

Use a second box to gather information about your customers and your competitors, but again, do so within a one-hour time frame. Put in the box copies of your customer/client lists, details about your top customers, mailing lists, etc. If you have time, talk to your best customers and ask them why they do business with you.

Competitor information can be easily gleaned from several sources (web sites, in-house material etc).
Find copies of their magazine ads. Focus on the information that is readily available.


Hour 3 - Preparation

This third block should be used to compile the documents you have gathered into meaningful information. Again, give yourself one hours of uninterrupted time and, this time, you may want to consider getting away from your office or normal place of work.
Spread out all of the contents of your first box onto a table. With a note pad handy, start by looking at the sales numbers. Take a few moments to jot down the answers to these questions, as well as others you may have:
  • Who are your biggest clients?
  • What do they buy from you?
  • What months are the most successful for you?
  • What is your best product line?
  • What are your sales trends?
Next, look at all of your marketing materials. Spread them out on the table. Think about each piece, as well as the entire collection. Obviously, you could spend a whole day critiquing your sales numbers and your marketing items. But by keeping the exercise to just one hour (remember you can build on this work later), you will better focus your attention. Here are some questions for this part of the exercise:

  • What do your marketing pieces say about you?
  • Is there a consistency to your approach?
  • To whom are you speaking?
  • Do the pieces tell the message you want told?
  • How do your message increase sales?
  • What relationship does your marketing team have with your sales team?
As you're making these notes, take one sheet of paper and designate it the "ideas page". As an idea comes into your mind ... no matter how crazy ... write it down.


Hour 4 - More Preparation

Now, put the sales numbers and the marketing materials aside.

Take the information and materials about your clients and your competitors and place them on the table. Select your three strongest competitors and your 10 best customers.

Spend a few minutes (3-4) thinking about each of them. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do your best 10 customers choose you instead of your competitors?
  • Do your competitors spend all their money with you or some with your competitors too?
  • Do you offer your customers anything unique?
  • Why are these competitors good? (if they are!)

This is the critical step in this process. An hours sounds like a long time on this, but it isn't!.
Once you have finished, put everything back in the boxes and stop (remember the time limit).

Congratulations ... you are halfway through the process.


Hour 5-6 - The Outline

Get your notes (for this part you can refer to specific items in the boxes if needed).
Unlike the other sections, you need two hours of uninterrupted time to complete this next stage. Beginning with your notes, build a brief outline of where you are. To help in the process, I've put together the following questions; most questions should have between three and five answers:

  • What were your sales in the past three years?
  • What do you want your sales to be next year?
  • Why do your best customers do business with you?
  • Who are your main competitors?
  • Why do our customers do business with someone else?
  • If you lost 2% of your average sized customers, what revenues would you lose ?
  • How many customers are you losing each year?
  • What does your current marketing materials say about you?
  • What is the single best thing you do to market your business?


Hour 5-6 - The Outline

Remember you have two hours to complete this Outline stage, if you are asking the right type of questions, and really thinking about the answers, honest, truthful answers .. you need the two-hours.


Hour 7-8 - The Plan

This is another two-hours stage.

Use your notes and the items you have in the boxes to help with this final stage. You are now going to prepare the first draft of your marketing plan.

The idea is that you now have enough information and ideas to put together your marketing plan.  Don't worry if you find you cannot complete yours as shown here, just do what you can with the information you have, use your plan as a start of your activities and go from there.

What you have done will start as a guide for your day to day marketing activities, and you should be able to answer simple questions like; what do you want to say? why do you want to say it? to whom do you want to say it? where do you say it? wow do you want to say it? etc.

If you spend the Eight hours wisely, you will have a simple plan for marketing and the beginnings of the full marketing plan.


Hour 7-8 - The Plan

Remember that this is another two-hours stage.

What you have done will start as a guide for your day to day marketing activities, and you should be able to answer simple questions like; what do you want to say? why do you want to say it? to whom do you want to say it? where do you say it? wow do you want to say it? etc.

If you spend the Eight hours wisely, you will have a simple plan for marketing and the beginnings of the full marketing plan.

Continue working on the plan on a day by day basis, NEVER let it gather dust, you really need to revise the plan at least every quarter to get the most from it, and next year, it may only take you one hour to completely revise for the new sales year!

Elements of a Marketing Plan

I just wanted to publish this really quick Marketing Plan template for you all.

1. Executive Summary
Write 2-3 paragraphs that just explain the document that the reader is about to read. I would suggest that your write one paragraph on what business you are in, one on your target markets/customers and one on where the revenues are going to come from.

2. Situation Analysis
What business are you in maybe some high level figures (sales, market share etc). Anything on any specific threats or opportunities.

2.1. Market Summary
Where are your best sales generated from ? (what type of customers?, which products etc).

2.1.1. Market Demographics
An overview that profiles your best markets/customers (i.e. what sector are they in, how big are they etc).

2.1.2. Market Trends
Any trends spotted in your notes, and general market trends of forecasts noted.

2.1.3. SWOT Analysis
During your note taking, you will have noted your companies strengths and weaknesses, and also any opportunities and threats when you looked at your competitors.

2.1.4. Competitor Analysis
Any notes of interest about your competition, especially if you believe its why they are good at what they do.

2.2. SWOT Analysis
Write down your companies strengths and weaknesses and any External Opportunities and Threats that you have made a note of, you only need bullet points.

2.3. Competition
Do your competitors fall into certain categories?
Name your largest competitors, do you know what percentage of the market they have?

2.4. Services
What services do you offer your customers?
Again, bullet points are fine here, you just need basic information for now.

2.5. Keys to Success
Do you know what these are ? They usually center around:

  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Growth
  • Customer Retention
  • Operations Effectiveness
  • Products
  • People (your staff)

2.6. Critical Issues
Do you know what these are ? They maybe things like:

  • Customer Retention
  • High operating costs
  • Poor brand awareness
  • Poor market focus
  • Little marketing effort
  • People poorly trained and lack motivation

2.7. Historical Results
Jot down those old sales figures, note anything activity or product you were particularly successful at.

2.8. Micro-environment
You may not be able to fully answer this right now, but use the following headings later.

Consumer trends - what's generally happening in the market.
Economic changes - is the market spending? General business economy good or bad ?
Technology advancements - technology is advancing, are your products ? what are your customers expecting ?
Competitive activity - is competition increasing ? What sort of customers are they winning ?
Political and legal environment - is your business related to political changes ? This could include tax, legislation etc

3.0. Marketing Strategy
Based on what you know, you should have a good idea of what you need to do, this is your Marketing Strategy, write it down.

It could be based on revenues, operating costs, customers or market share

3.1. Mission
You might be in a position to suggest a Mission for the business.
There are a few basic elements that a good mission statement offers:
  • It identifies your organisation
  • It identifies your customers
  • It tells the world what you do

3.2. Marketing Objectives
How do you intend to achieve your stated strategy?

3.3. Financial Objectives
If you want to, you can set yourself some financial objectives. These really need to be worked out with the sales teams too.

3.4. Target Market
What are your primary target markets?

3.5. Positioning
How do you intend to position yourself in the market.

I recommend using the following template ... "For [Customer Segment], our [Product/Service] is [Your USP's or SSP's]".

3.6. Strategy Pyramids
A Strategy Pyramid if correctly written will show in bullet form your proposed Short Term, Medium Term and Long Term strategies.

3.7. Marketing Mix
Write an overview of what (if anything) has worked well over previous years.

3.7.1. Services Marketing
An overview of the services you will be offering your customers.

3.7.2. Pricing Policy
What pricing policy will you adopt ?

Is it to charge less than your competitors ? Cost plus model ?

3.7.3. Promotion Policy
Provide an idea of the value of the budget you might adopt for marketing (if you really do not know at this stage, quote between 1.0 - 2.0% of revenues.

What type of media would you expect to use ?
  • TV
  • National Press
  • Regional Press
  • Trade Magazines
  • Advertorials
  • Exhibitions
  • Direct Marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Business Gifts
  • Case Studies
  • Newsletters
  • Literature
  • Presentations
  • Sponsorship

3.7.4. Product Policy
Do you have any specific product policy in mind ? Any products sold well in previous years that need updating ? Any products not selling and need withdrawing ?

3.7.5. Distribution Policy
Will you be using a direct salesforce? Indirect salesforce, Internet ?

3.8. Market Research
Will you be conducting any market research ?
Are there any areas of the market you have little or no knowledge ?

4.0. Financials, Budgets, and Forecasts
Financial overview, include marketing budget, potential forecasts, and any assumptions you may have made.

4.1. Breakeven Analysis
If you have the time to quickly workout your breakeven point note it here.

4.2. Sales Forecast
What sales are you expecting for the year ?
If you can, break it out by month, product and sales area.

4.3. Marketing Budget
Have a quick think about the amounts of money you need to spend on marketing and start detailing it here, just use a 'rule of thumb' if you need to right now;

example:

Business Press ... 34%
Literature ... 10%
Exhibitions ... 14%
Direct Marketing ... 8%
PR ... 4%
Regional Newspapers ... 15%
National Newspapers ... 15%


4.3. Marketing Budget - Return on Investment
You know what you want to spend on marketing, you have made an assumption about the value of the sales, therefore you can work our your return on marketing spend.

5.0. Controls
What controls will you put in place?
Recap on your objectives, pull out some milestones, and sales goals..

5.1. Tactical Plan
Make a chart, marketing activity up the left hand side and quarters or months along the bottom. Suggest some headline activity that should be taking place.

5.2. Marketing Organisation
Quickly draw your marketing organisation, show where they feed into sales

5.3. Contingency Plan
Always plan for the worse, some things that can go wrong include:

Revenues EXCEED projection - can your after-sales team support the effort ? You may need to hire additional staff, and bring in more equipment.
Revenues MISS projection - you have to prepare for the possibility, you may have to redouble your marketing efforts (you MUST NOT decrease marketing spend ... things will then get worse!), you have to get your message out to the market clearer.

Convert website visitors to customers in 5 easy steps

We all want to attract visitors to our website, but more important that getting those visitors is the simple fact that once on your pages, you need to be able to convert them into customers, here are some very simple steps you can take to help in that goal.

Design to Delight - OK, I know, this one is obvious right!  Right, but you would be surprised how many website owners forget this one simple rule.  

Sites needs to be well laid out, wish simple, clear navigation (key navigation buttons should be either across the top or down the left hand side).  Use colours that are easy on the eyes and keep fonts simple, the words on the page should be easy to read.  Use images ONLY when they add to what you want to convey.  One or two column content layouts are fine, but always try to put the main content in a slightly wider column to help attract the eye.

Split Test – Google's Website Optimizer is now Google Content Experiments and brings with it the power of split testing to anyone with a website.  Essentially, this and similar tools allow you to test two possible website elements (this could be image, test or buttons etc), and will help you to see which version your visitors engage with the best.

So for example if you have two headlines and you didn't know which one to use then this simple A/B split testing would help you decide which your visitors thought was best.

Usability Testing - This covers a range of options from getting friends, family or colleagues to look at your website to recruiting a specialist agency to do it for you.

You can let them navigate your site freely noting problems and issues that they have with it or provide a list of actions that you want them to perform; tests done yourself are usually best when you can watch your subjects browsing as you can see all the small problems that they have that they might not later comment on.

Titillate your Titles - Did you see what I did there!  Titles on webpages, articles, news and blog posts provide you with a great opportunity to really grab your visitors attention.  If it's suitable for your brand then use a little humour in main titles; break down your content into chunks and start each section with a sub heading, this helps draw in visitors and also makes the piece easier for reading.

Lead them into that all important call to action.

Chat - Consider introducing a live chat feature on your site so if visitors get stuck or need to ask you a question then you are only one click away from an answer; the key is to keep them on your site at all times.

Sneaky way to improve your Klout score

This is a little sneaky but it does the job!

Ok so you love Klout, you need to improve your score, to do this you know you need to get people to interact with you but you have no idea how to do it … here’s a great tip.

Simply ask questions 

Pick an account with a large following (Consumer brands are the best ones to pick because they know the importance of responding to Twitter users).

Ask a simple question (maybe where they are based, where can you buy their product, what is the link to their website, what is their customer services email or telephone number etc), it doesn’t really matter what it is, it just needs to be a simple question that will make the brand look like they are helping out a consumer of theirs.

Once you get a reply, as them another simple question immediately afterwards – you should get another quick reply, but Klout recognises this as a communication, and ENGAGEMENT and you’ll improve your score.

Note: There is no replacement for real engagement, use this tactic sparingly.

Getting more Twitter followers easily

Some simple tips for you to follow to help get more Twitter followers easily.
  • Post great content that people love and are interested in. 
  • Posting content on trending topics may get you a number of followers that are interested in those trending topics. 
  • Use a real photo of yourself might get you more Followers 
  • Your Profile is really important, so write it to attract the right followers 
  • Follow only the people who you want to follow you 
  • INTERACT with people that you want to Follow you. 
  • #FF #FollowFriday can help you get Followers from the people that you mention 
  • Can you start a Twitter Competition? This will always get you lots of new followers 
  • Try a Twitter Q&A session 
  • Use popular or trending #Hashtags
Good luck

Christmas Retail Branding!


Christmas has always been a time for brands to shine, but it seems that the 2012 festive period is somewhat different!

From last year I remember the Morissons ad with Brucie and Freddie; the John Lewis with the kid excited about giving his gift to his parents; Jamie Oliver cooking Sainburys food; Tescos had happy kids on a school stage; Iceland had Stacey Solomon driving home to her family; Argos had their aliens – and all the brands solidly had their respective promise that as a viewer we understood.

Proposition and brands are clearly identifiable; and this is important if they are going to attract lots of business from us shoppers.

Today is very different; John Lewis again went for the snowmen tearjerker and Argos have stuck with the aliens; but to be honest the rest of them have just merged into one brand/message/proposition!  Not sure what Littlesons, M&Burys and Bootalan are offering this year; I'm a very confused viewer and shopper!

Be really interesting to see who the retail winners and losers are this year!

Five Tips to Search Engine Success


Tip 1 – You can’t outsmart Google
It’s a fact that if you try to beat Google by trying the latest way to force your pages into the top of the rankings then you will get found out!  Site owners that were spanked by Google's most recent updates (Penguin or Panda), will testify to the fact that you have to bide your time.

A spammy approach to gaining good ranking will hurt you and your business in the long run.  There is no automated way to the top, no quick win – only and effort will get you there.


Tip 2 – Normal business rules apply

If you owned a ‘bricks and motor’ store then I'm guessing that you wouldn't expect to attract customers for free; the internet is exactly the same, it isn't free nor easy to attract visitors to a website.

Invest time and effort and you’ll do well.


Tip 3 – ensure your site has a good infrastructure
It stands to reason that your site won’t survive for long if it had a poor design.  To get ranked well you need a fast loading site filled with pages with great content and pages that link to all the other pages within your site (needed so that search engines spiders know where all your pages are.)

If you're serious about your website, don't use the cheapest web host or designer. Slow poorly designed pages can influence the rankings of your web pages.

Tip 4 – Take Control
Stop searching for gurus or secret tricks that promise to make your site number one in Google (or any other search engine for that matter), they don’t exist.
Work with a search engine marketing professional, ideally someone who understands business and how search engines work.

With their assistance discover what your unique selling proposition is
Identify your audience and make a plan.
Create a great website with valuable content (if visitors like your site word will get out)
Advertise your site (use SEO, paid advertising, even traditional advertising to promote it)


Step 5 -  Act Now
There is always something is your business that’s more important that promoting your website (or so you think), talk to someone today (talk to me) about improving your search engine rankings.

SEO is not necessarily about getting backlinks. It's also not necessarily about getting high rankings on Google. It is about getting sales. It is about improving your business.

The easiest way to get someones attention on Twitter


Twitter is great when you finally get noticed by an influencer or business that you want to get your brand or service in front of; but how do you get their attention?

The easiest way is to tweet about their favourite things or to retweet popular past tweets, but how do you find out that they are?

Favstar will allow you to do just that, by simply entering http://favstar.fm/users/their username into your browser you will find out what they like to tweet about and what are their most popular tweets; this then gives you a chance to engage with them on top topics or simply retweet their best tweet (which could have been from years ago!).

If you want to find out what tweets that your target have marked as a favourite then enter https://twitter.com/ their username/favorites

These are very simple tactic that I have used successfully many times.