Showing posts with label strategy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label strategy. 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

Should you undertake Link Exchange with other businesses

In recent years the practice of arranging to create links to sites that link to yours has been frowned upon (especially by Google), but can this practice actually have a good and lasting effect on your website, traffic volume and rankings?

The idea of exchanging links with other websites, typically on some kind of special ‘we recommend’, ‘our partners’, ‘friends of ours’ or something similar, used to be a primary method of building links to sites.

One of the major ways that the Google ranking algorithm works is in making the suggestion that a link to your website from another one is a positive vote from them to you, Google used this vote to basically determine your reputation (in fact it still works this way today).

The problem was that as this method of gaining links if very cheap and very easy to do, suddenly all sites had hundreds (if not thousands) of links pointing to them, and search engines like Google realised that these types of links weren't really an honest vote of recommendation for the websites but rather just a way for businesses to boost their rankings.

Whilst website owners can still do this, this approach to link building is nowhere near as beneficial as it was in the past.

As a result, less weight was ‘reputation’ weight was given to what were labelled ‘reciprocal links’ – a term which covers the scenario I have just referred to.

As it became common knowledge that reciprocal links had been devalued, many businesses simply gave up on them. Some even went to the length of deleting all of the reciprocal links they had in case they incurred a penalty against their site.

It’s actually a myth that reciprocal links result in a penalty. These types of links have just become devalued, which is very different to them attracting a penalty.

Reciprocal links still provide value to the sites involved, however, the level of that value is less than it was before; but if you are struggling for links then some value is better than no value at all – so it would be a huge mistake to ignore reciprocal links altogether. You just shouldn't make this your only linking strategy, providing good quality content to attract natural and real links is always be best approach.

Two sides to every coin!


Whilst we are talking here about using reciprocal links to gain improved search engine rankings, there is also the other side of the equation and benefit to consider, that is, traffic referral.

Each link you have on another site is a chance that one of their visitors make click the link and come to your site; the way reciprocal links are tend to be set up (on special ‘links’ pages) then you probably won’t get much referral traffic from them, but again, some traffic is better than none.

Reciprocal links are not created equally!


Some reciprocal links are always going to be better than others and you do need to be very careful about who you exchange links with. For example if you sell soft furnishings and you have a link from a website that sells car parts, I don’t imagine you get any visitors at all!

Link partners should be in some way related to your own. In our example above, your soft furnishings site would be much better served if you had a link from a home improvement site!

Always think before exchanging links – “Would someone else consider this link to be logical? Or would they be confused as to why my site has a link from this one!”

A few links from irrelevant sites isn't a big deal, but the more you have the more confusing your site’s back link profile becomes, which makes it more difficult for search engines to clearly establish the topic of your website and which keywords to rank it well for.

Also, too many irrelevant links can look very spammy and would start to lead you to a penalty by the major search engines.

Quality wins!


Also consider the quality of the site you want a link from (Google will!), ensure that their content is of excellent quality and unique to that site.

If search engines see that you are linking to low quality sites, again this is a red flag to them and you may get a penalty (or just reduced ranking).

So, if you’re unsure about the quality or trustworthiness of a website then play it safe and don’t link to it.

Approaching other sites


Once you have a list of sites that look relevant and have great content, then it’s time to contact them, the best way is to use email or call them; explain that you have found their site, you love the quality of it and you think that a link between the two sites would be useful to both businesses.

You’ll find that the success rate for link exchange isn't great, and it takes some time and effort, but it does work. The key is to do a bit of research on them first. You shouldn't just send out hundreds of emails using the same set template. That might seem like the easiest way but your emails will mostly get ignored.

Finally!


As already mentioned, done well and carefully this can be a good way to get links to your site that WILL help ranking and gain real visitors to your site.

But this approach should be a low level tactic and not the main way to gain links, like I said earlier, great content will always attract natural links from other sites.

What the future of SEO?

When Google entered the search engine market back in the 90’s they changed the game.

Before Google all you needed to do was stuff your web site full of keywords and as long as you had more keywords stuffed than anyone else you appeared at the top of the rankings for that particular ‘stuffed’ term.

Since Google started spreading their magic on the search landscape things have changed, suddenly keyword stuff got you absolutely nowhere and links to site became the most important factor (as links suggested that the page was liked by someone).

Then Google started to look more at the quality of the links that link to you – if a high quality, relevant and trusted site linked to you then Google rightly took more notice of this link and trusted it more than lower quality sites that linked to you.

Things are changing again with Google Panda (rolled out in 2011) and further more with Hummingbird (rolled out in 2013) – now the quality AND meaning of your content is looking more important.

So with these algorithm changes and other developments, what does the future hold?

As SEO practitioners we are still providing good quality content that answers visitor’s questions whilst chasing those important linkbacks, but will all this activity be beneficial in the next few years!

Backlines are still important and will continue to be until something else comes along which can help Google understand the reputation and trustworthiness of a site; but as links can be easily gained AND the value of link erodes over time then a new way of working out Reputation needs to be brought into play.

Reputation networks like Klout, PeerIndex and PeerReach are examples of other networks trying to understand the reputation of a site, business or individual by trying to understand the context of any engagement; predominately in a social media context.

But it’s this social context that holds the key for reputation in real-time; with the erosion of link value over time then Google admit that once a link to a piece of content is provided it almost immediately starts to become out of date (hence the erosion of value over time), so real-time analysis MUST be the way forward.

The reality of the future of SEO and the question of reputation probably lies in a mixture of the types of work; i.e. the analysis that Klout, PeerIndex and PeerReach are working on and the latest Google Hummingbird platform changes.

A merger of these two sides would mean that Google would have a idea (in real-time) of how a brand, business or individual is being talked about, and from this it could be determined whether that discussion or engagement looks to provide positive or negative reputable (lots of links/mentions from could mean that it’s a valued resource for example).

Also with the Hummingbird update Google is showing that it’s starting to understand natural language and the semantics on how question and answers can be phrased.

I imagine within the next ten years Google (or AN Other) will be able to determine the basic reputation of a site or author (by links and real-time reputation analysis) and understand the real meaning of the content on a site; with these two pieces of information a search engine provider will be able to provide search engine results that provide the very best answer to a question with a higher degree of certainty.

But as we do not live in this world right now then links and great quality content are the way to go.

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!

Your Search Engine Profile

SEO (Optimising your site for search engines) is a balancing act and its becoming much clearer to more and more SEO professionals that this balancing act can be a very delicate one when looking at activities needed to help a webpage move up the rankings; and these activities go towards developing a Search Engine Profile for a particular page or site.

There are numerous factors that you can spend your time on, some of the more basic ones being:

On Site Factors
  • Is the HTML coding clean and correct?
  • Can search engines easily see all of your webpages within a couple of ’clicks’?
  • Is your navigational structure working in favour of visitors and search engines?
  • Are all your internal pages linked to from other internal pages?
  • Do you have a good robot.txt file on your site?
  • Etc etc
Off Site Factors
  • Are you Followed and Liked on key social media channels?
  • Is your site mentioned often on social channels?
  • Do you have a good number of backlinks to your site?
  • Are ALL backlinks of a good quality?

Do too much of one element and not enough of another (i.e. too much time with social media without building fresh new content on your site) and you’ll find it difficult to rank well, you need a good blend of a number of different factors (social, on site elements and quality link building etc).

But to what degree you do each of these (your Search Engine Profile) differs from sector to sector and website to website, the important element is to work out what your key competitors are doing and what their likely Search Engine Profile is, then attempt to get somewhere close to that.

It is unfortunately a long, manual job, but it’s a job worth doing and will pay you dividends in the long term.

What’s the Purpose of Business Development?

You have a business with a great marketing plan, an absolutely brilliant brand image, you’re growing brand equity, have a constant supply of successful campaigns going out, through social media channels you are increasing your Fans, Followers, Pins etc and engaging with your market.

Are you booking the right kind of (profitable) work with the clients you pursued, or are you a hapless bystander who took whatever projects (and price) that came your way?

So what’s next, how do you take your business to the next level?

Answering these questions is where business development comes in.

Business Development Role

A supreme understanding of all media (both online and offline) is just the start, the key role of business development is to understand to the nth degree customer relationships, how to build brand advocates, and how to cultivate strong brand equity through customer service.

Business development must involves an evaluation of customer feedback and some form of sentiment analysis to determine if current the marketing strategies and tactical outputs are indeed as effective as originally planned.

Only by working through this analysis can it be determined if there are any missed opportunities or refinement to existing strategies or campaigns.

Where Businesses Fail

We are all seen businesses and business owners start off with the very best of intentions. They go big (often punching above their weight), as they should, they employ the perfect marketing strategies designed to target their perfect audience (and customers), and slowly they start to build their brand equity. However, if their marketing plan is not evaluated and re-evaluated how can they be sure that their plan is continuing to be effective (or are they simply wasting time, money and energy!).

As technology changes, trends change, and the target audience responds differently to marketing messages, so much the marketing plan needs to change. Consider the following questions when re-evaluating marketing plan:
  • Have the core demographic changed?
  • Is there any new technology been employed by the market? (apps, mobile devices, web platforms, media etc) 
  • Have the trends changed? How have changing trends altered your audience’s behaviour or attention?
  • Are you still making the best of your company’s available resources? 
  • Have there been any legal, political, social or major economic changes since the marketing strategy was devised?
  • Is every aspect of the business on track with the marketing plan? Is every department remaining consistent? 
  • Is every aspect of your marketing and advertising still remaining true to your brand message?

The Purpose of Business Development

As already mentioned, Business Development should understand completely customer relationships and how the market and customer behaviour changes, how the interations you have within your business alter those customer relationships.

With this knowledge, business development teams are able to refine marketing plans and improve your overall business plan.

They should be in a position to be able to:

  • Identify gaps within your marketing strategy
  • Recognise unused internal resources and missed opportunities
  • Cultivate and grow current customer/partner relationships
  • Attract new customers and partners
  • Brand advocates
The more you can let ‘business development’ into the marketing planning process, the more you can tie activity to desired results, the more leverage you have in driving client development behaviour.

Link Building is NOT Dead!

I recently read a short blog post about how Link Build is supposed to be dead (in fact illegal!), but that Google's Eric Enge it's been suggested that "webmasters to change their thinking about how they build links", in fact it was suggested that "[webmasters] need to reverse their process and should really think first about compelling content."

Hang on!  This is exactly what real link building has been about since day one, any webmaster or SEO bod worth their salt will first ensure that the target website is fit for purpose, it stands to reason.

Whilst I recognise that this is a really simplistic explanation of the process, but lets imagine that you have a really poor website design with poor content but my sheer dumb look or black hat techniques you manage to get more links that everyone else for your chose keywords/keyphrases; get to the top of Google SERPs anyone that clicks through to your page is going to be mightily disappointed and push that back button! 

So stop thinking first about getting those links, and instead build a great site with fab content that will make people want to visit you in the first place!

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.

LinkedIn - successful lead generation

If you have ever spoken to a B2B businesses about their online lead generation you'll find some discrepancy about how much business they get from LinkedIn, some seem to get absolutely loads of leads and traffic from this professional networking site where other get very little or none at all! If you want to be in the camp that get lots of leads, then follow these simple tips.

Create a company profile page

OK, it seems fairly logical, but still not that many smaller businesses actually have a company profile page on LinkedIn. Ensure that you complete your profile as much as possible and also ensure that all of your employees a) have a personal profile on LinkedIn and that their profile links to your company page.

Tip: Including keyword rich descriptions on your LinkedIn company page, product and services tabs . All of these elements are an essential part of the SEO approach and will help you get found from within LinkedIn's own search functionality and potentially from an external search engine too.

Promote the page 

You are still going to get businesses and individuals that find your business website first, if they do ensure that they easily find a link to your LinkedIn company profile page so that they can follow you. Only by building company followers will you add social proof and generate credibility to your company profile.

Status Updates

Having followers on LinkedIn is no use unless you engage with them; so ensure that you post regular status updates. Your followers will then see your updates and have the option to engage with you and amplify your messaging around their network.

Tip: Aim for at least two updates each week, this maximises your chance to get your status out across more of your network.

Create a Group

I also recommend that you engage with others in your target market by joining Groups that are of interest to them and contribute. BUT a more important strategy is create your own open Group. Lots of businesses still don’t understand the presence and the power of LinkedIn groups. Groups that contain lots of your potential customers/clients do not exist on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else for that matter; Groups on LinkedIn are basically Communities of prospects for you.

My advice would be to start by making a niche Group; a software developer in Yorkshire for example might start a “Software developers in Yorkshire” group, start my inviting relevant individuals from your network to get and get the discussions started; you'll quickly find that you'll start to get lots more interested individuals to join in,

Once you have a successful Group then organise some events to get some face to face time with prospects.


There are many more ways you can get more business from social networks; if you need more customers or need help understanding how social media fits into your strategy then get in touch with me today.

Crawl, Walk, Run - a basic online marketing strategy.


Testing the water with digital marketing is incredibly important; at some time all digital marketers face a project where something is not working as it should be (i.e. traffic not converting on a website), but what is actually going wrong can sometime take a whilst to get to the bottom of and fix.

Crawl, Walk, Run is a phased methodology for controlling elements of the online marketing mix in careful bite-sized chunks so that problems are carefully and correctly fixed.

Crawl – look at options that you directly own; this phase overs the core website design and user interaction, and media that you own/control (i.e. Content, SEO, Social Media etc). Fixing these elements first is usually the most cost effective approach to take (even if you need to outsource some of it).

Walk – now it's time to turn your attention to media that you might have less control over or need to pay for or digital marketing tactics that need to have the basics right first, for this reason you should only enter this phase after you have a solid Crawl foundation.

Here you are looking at Pay Per Click (PPC), third party advertising, email marketing, blogging, banner advertising etc.

For the Walk phase you are looking for a minimum of a 5 times return on your investment, so for every £1000 you spend you need to see £5000 returned. 

Run – You'll know when you hit this phase as business will be really good for you, conversion rate will be over 10 percent, online you'll have a low <30 percent bounce rate.

Much of the activity around this Run phase is earned; by now as your business is doing well you so you might be already getting approached by third parties for comment or editorials, and valuable links to your website will be starting to come into you.

Certainly there is more marketing activity you could be undertaking for this Crawl, Walk, Run model, but hopefully this has given you an insight how what digital activities you should be undertaking and when you should be doing them!

Killer Social Media Strategies


Social media allows businesses both large and small to have a lot of impact and power, here are just a small number of things that you can do.

1. Q&A's
Social media has been developed to engage with your potential customers and customers alike, but may businesses have no idea how to do this easily.  The best way is to hold scheduled Q&A sessions – let your Followers and Fans alike ask you anything they want about your business, products and services.  You may even quickly discover problem areas or new product ideas; this approach will also do wonders for your brand too.

2. Solve Problems
By doing regular searches for your brand name, product/services or market sector you will quickly discover people who are asking questions on Social Media platforms about things that you should be an expert in. 
Respond to them, answer their questions; don’t answer with your sales hat on unless the question specifically warrant you suggesting your companies services but try to answer with your customer services hat on.

In fact this approach goes beyond traditional customer services and you’ll be seen as active within the wider community; this is huge for your brand.

3. Promotions/Offers and Competitions
You will have lots of loyal Followers/Fans, and it’s nice if you can reward then from time to time for being there for you.  Give special offers, promote events, provide competitions – anything to further your engagement with your market/community.

Give value and you’ll have a Fan for life!

4. Value added links
If you are a business that just provides links to your homepage or your products and services pages then you are missing a huge trick; provide links to useful resources/news items (whether on your site or not); this will continue to add value to your brand and your wider community.

Work SMARTER, not harder!