I was at a meeting last night made up of respected leaders from a well-known membership organisation that provides volunteers and funding to local and international communities. We were all there to talk about how we might be able to work across the boundaries of our individual clubs to create a bigger impact with regards to the public image of the organisation.
Whilst talking about the various ways we can market ourselves it became clear that some clubs re still scared by social media, fearful that it will only bring negativity and downgrade their good name and good standing in the community.
This got me to thinking, is social media really something we should still fear in 2019?
Social Media Is Where Your Customers Are Spending Their Time
If you are afraid of or confused about the social media landscape and are avoiding it, I am here to help. Stop keeping your business in the dark ages, it’s time to get on social media and connect with your potential customers and dedicated fans.
If you think social media is just a fad, then I’ve got news for you… social media is here to stay.
Furthermore, I have had the pleasure of working with many amazing clients over the last few years by helping them grow their social media following from ground zero. So don’t worry you aren’t the only one who is afraid of change or investing in a “new” marketing strategy.
But trust me, if you are not using social media just keep in mind your competitors are using it to attract your target market away from you! So don’t miss out on the opportunity, especially if you are a small business!
If you are hesitant about using social media to build a community around your small business, you aren’t the only one. In fact, I have noticed that there are three specific reasons many small business owners are hesitant about investing in a social media strategy but why they should today.
1. Small Businesses Want Immediate Results
One of the biggest reasons many small businesses stay away from social media is because they want to see immediate results. Unfortunately, growing a social media following takes time and if you want to build a community of fans around your brand, that also takes time. Unlike traditional advertising methods, social media is a long-term strategy which is often a scary thing to hear. Especially if you are a small business, every pound counts, I get it. But just think of it like this, an investment in social media marketing today could pay dividends in the future!
For example, one of the biggest business social media influencers right now is Gary Vaynerchuk. But how did he rise to fame? He invested years into growing his personal brand on social media through the creation of inspiring content, entertaining viewers through a Wine show called, “Wine Library TV”, and providing value to people on their entrepreneurial journeys. Over the years, Gary’s brand has adapted and grown to new heights which have allowed him to not only leverage new content but build trust with viewers. In addition, this newfound “trust” has allowed him to generate new clients for his advertising agency, Vayner Media!
So think of social media as a long-term marketing strategy and you can leverage it to grow your personal brand and your business’s brand online!
2. Small Businesses Don’t Understand the Benefits
Another reason many companies are behind when it comes to social media is that they don’t understand the benefits of social media marketing. Social media has the power to connect a company directly to their target market while providing them with actionable insights. Are you still not impressed? Well, social media has the power to drive traffic to your website, create a community around your brand and help your bottom line.
If your goal at the end of the day is to get more customers, social media can help you on your journey. For example, one way many companies use social media is by driving customers to their website through entertaining or educational content. Don’t believe me? One brand that has become well-known for educational and inspirational videos is Goalcast. They have grown a substantial following on social media by creating biographical videos of famous individuals such as Elon Musk and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So don’t underestimate the power of social media, it has the potential to take your business to the next level by generating more potential customers while creating valuable brand loyalty.
3. Social media creates negativity
A successful business cannot lay in fear of risk but embrace the rewards it can achieve. Brand negativity by those few you speak about will occur even if your business never logs into a social network. In fact, there's a greater risk since that negativity will be the only content feeding social proof around your brand. Social media does embolden haters but it also provides a new soapbox for great experiences. If anything, social media has increased the importance of building positive customer experiences online and off.
Social media does have a powerful amplifying effect. But just like any technology, it can be used for good or evil. The key is building the right social strategy for your brand. It's not a "one size fits all" marketing solution. It has to be adopted in strategic, tailored ways
There is no reason to not invest time, money, and effort into a social media strategy this year. Social media has truly changed the way that businesses can communicate with their customers. That’s because it gives businesses an affordable and accessible way to grow a community around their brand.
Seriously, don’t fear the social media landscape. Think of it as a way to communicate with your customers and grow a community around your brand!
So what are you waiting for? Get your business on social media today, contact LjH Consulting to start that journey.
Content marketing is a powerful weapon for influencing brand development and attracting new customers. It is also among the fastest growing branches of digital marketing. If you’re a content marketing veteran, you know how important it is to keep up with the emerging trends and innovate. From implementing new technologies to putting new spins on old tactics, the content quality bar is rising. To help you level up, we present you with the ultimate content marketing tips for 2019.
1. Have a Documented Strategy
A great content strategy starts with a simple content marketing assessment. Did you know that marketers with a documented content marketing strategy are five times more likely to succeed? In order to leverage the full potential of content marketing, you need to have a guiding strategy.
A great content strategy starts with a simple content marketing assessment that identifies the primary challenges and outlines the steps you’ll take to overcome them. Certain points of interest like lead generation and SEO are a good start, from which you can customise the strategy depending on your specific goals. Furthermore, you should include a unique perspective of your organisation and find an approach that will set you apart from the competition.
2. Tell a Story
Sticking to the good old “How To” lists won’t always do the trick. That’s where brand storytelling kicks in. Brand storytelling gives a whole new perspective to content marketing and gives you an opportunity to connect authentically with your audience by humanising your brand. This is particularly important now, when people appreciate the brands they can connect with.
You can start by sharing your own experiences. How the company started and what it took to get it where it is now is an excellent beginning. You can also reach out to customers who claim your products have changed their lives. Talk about their experiences in a way that your potential customers can relate to.
3. Take Advantage of Live Video
It’s safe to say that video is the future of content marketing. Cisco’s predictions indicate that by 2021, video will take up as much as 80% of all internet traffic. The wide acceptance of the video format opens up numerous possibilities to communicate your story and build relationships. One of the trends that should be singled out is live video.
Facebook users spend triple the amount of time watching live videos over traditional videos. Similarly, social media stats show that Instagram’s videos get two times the views of its photos. Live video creates a real-time connection with the audience, driving engagement and response.
People love seeing their favourite brand humanised, showing that not everything is always perfect. There are endless possibilities, from using live streaming, hosting Q&A sessions, and giving product demonstrations, to hosting interviews with topic experts.
4. Embrace Artificial Intelligence
Ever since it was introduced, artificial intelligence has been one of the hottest topics in the marketing world. You can use this powerful technology for discovering keywords, planning blog topics, and reviewing analyses, as well as accessing data reports that would guide the creation process, shaping it for your core audience. Furthermore, AI-powered predictive intelligence enables the gathering of information that can be used for offering personalised experiences. You can instantly get valuable insight into what your target audience is searching for, when they do it, and what content would be the most successful at any given point.
5. Go for Micro-Influencers
Influencer marketing has come a long way. In 2009, content marketing strategies generated over £68.98 billion in revenue, and, in 2019, they’re expected to generate more than £237 billion. Influencers continue to utilise social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to grow their base of followers and then leverage them to ensure a six-figure income from featured brands.
But in 2019, predictions are that the micro-influencers — those with smaller yet dedicated following—will overshadow the ‘big sharks.’ The main reason for this shift is the lack of dedication coming from macro influencers as they take on more sponsored posts, thus reducing the authenticity and, as a result, the impact of the marketing. Micro-influencers, on the other hand, build more personal relationships with the audience, delivering an authentic message.
While there’s no doubt that it will continue to be one of the most important tools for boosting brand awareness, building trust, generating leads, and educating audiences, you need to be aware that trends change. Start with preparing a documented strategy, dive into your storytelling, embrace live video and AI, and you may as well proclaim yourself the king of content marketing.
According to an article by the American Marketing Association (AMA) in 2017, individuals are smacked with 10,000 marketing messages per day – but probably don’t remember even 1%, because as savvy consumers, we’re experts at tuning out marketing and advertising, unless it strikes us personally. From advertisers who scream in their ads, “Buy me because I’m awesome” to marketers who say “content, content, content – oh, and read this, too.” Mainstream and viral forms of media seem to communicate with arrogance, as if we, as media consumers, should wait with bated breath.
If someone talks AT you instead of TO you, do you listen? (Let’s hope the answer is NO!) Marketing is no different. Prospects and customers (and every stage between, before, and after), want to be part of a conversation, not a victim of a marketing rant. Her's how to do it right
SAVE YOUR BREATH FOR THOSE WHO CARE
Not everyone will be a prospect for your company. If you do business right, only a sliver of what you consider your target market will be a prospect. If you make it seem like you sell to everyone, you’re not targeting anyone. Step back, study, and consider who you want to appeal to. Don’t be afraid to pick verticals and be intentional about who you want to target. Prospects may want to find a company they like, know, and trust, but your business also deserves to work with customers you like, know, and trust.
PERSONALISE, BUT DON’T BE OVER THE TOP
Everyone knows there are personalisation tokens in emails that sync up to your contact database, but if you insert too many, you’re practically begging to look like a marketing automation robot.
Remember about saving your breath for those who care? Try personalising emails with information that relates directly to the prospect; for example, include an interesting fact you learned about the prospect, follow up on an event the prospect shared with you, etc. If you show you care, if your empathy is apparent, if you see more than a number or an email address, you’ll set yourself ahead of the competition. You can’t beat authenticity.
EMPATHY WINS. ALWAYS.
Merriam-Webster defines empathy as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this.
Doesn’t it make you feel good just reading this definition?
Empathy pulls at your heartstrings. It makes you feel alive. It makes you feel appreciated and understood. From a prospect’s perspective, it makes them feel like their challenges and problems matter. Having received empathy is a building block to the foundation of trust. And you know where trust gets you in a relationship – everywhere.
If you can’t be empathetic in your communication and how you handle prospects, customers, and colleagues, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Go beyond being believable – be real.
CREATE CONTENT THAT MATTERS
Your marketing folder is likely chock full of stuff – eBooks, webinars, guides, etc. But do the marketing materials truly matter? And salespeople, this goes for your sales materials, too. Yes, it may have taken a lot of time and money to create that eBook three years ago, but if there isn’t authentic value in the material, don’t offer it to your prospects. There’s no sense in judging their intelligence or wasting their time.
Instead, focus on creating marketing content that’s engaging and packed with valuable insight and expertise that goes above and beyond what your competitors are offering. Invest in quality content writing, killer graphic design, and an aesthetically pleasing layout. (Shameless plug: talk to our team at Leading Results to nail the above.)
Your prospects are testing the waters to see if your company is the best fit, and this is when you put your best foot forward. You can’t know – or even predict – how they find you first, so make sure every interaction with your prospects is top notch.
BE WHERE IT MATTERS
I’m a rock fan, and I thought of the song ‘Everything’ by Everclear, a 90s alternative rock band, as soon as I thought of this blog.
You do what you do
You say what you say
You try to be everything to everyone
You know all the right people
You play all the right games
You always try to be
Everything to everyone
It’s exhausting to be everything to everyone, and it’s exhausting to be everywhere to attract … no one. Remember: if you target everyone, you’re selling to no one.
If you’re intentional about prospecting to your defined target market, be where they are. If your target market reads scientific journals, then by gosh, your company better be finding creative, engaging ways to be seen in scientific circles. The important thing is to avoid wasting your time in spaces your target market doesn’t frequent. You’re wasting time, energy, and resources that could put you in front of the prospects best suited for your company.
Clear goals, a clear direction, empathy, and authenticity win. This form of marketing and communication isn’t just refreshing, it’s how prospects want to be courted. It’s how HUMANS want to be treated.
Does your marketing need humanisation? Contact us – we’d love to chat with you about a marketing strategy and program that will align and resonate with your target market and prospect base.
The rise of smart phones, apps and mobile internet access has made the mobile phone a key battleground in the fight for new business and customers' attention.
Although the pace of technological change gives you the chance to try innovative techniques and ideas, there are still opportunities for more traditional kinds of mobile marketing, like text message campaigns.
One of the main attractions of mobile marketing is that mobile phones are almost always switched on and people usually have them to hand. That means text messages (also called SMSs, for 'short messaging service') are usually read.
Mobile internet is growing fast
What's more, the mobile phone has become the first place people turn in all kinds of situations: to check for directions or to look up the price of a product, for example - indeed, to find any information online. Because people use their phones in these ways, your business can benefit hugely from intelligent mobile marketing.
In fact, the majority of people in the UK now access the internet from mobile devices. This means potential customers are going to try and reach your business via their mobile phones whether you like it or not. You need to consider the experience they have.
Mobile marketing improves satisfaction
For small businesses in particular, the mobile phone offers exciting opportunities to improve customer service and satisfaction. Texting and emailing customers on their mobile phones can be part of a better, more personal service. Sending details of promotions and events can boost business.
If you're more ambitious, you can create your own mobile app. But whatever you do, you need to mobile-optimise your website so that people using smart phones can find what they're looking for.
With the mobile landscape still changing swiftly, don't regard mobile marketing as separate to your other marketing efforts. In particular, it's becoming harder to determine where online marketing ends and mobile marketing begins.
With mobile internet access commonplace, you must consider mobile users whenever you're changing your website or sending a marketing email. (Statistics suggest most emails are now opened on mobile devices, so it's vital your emails are readable on small screens.)
You can't control how or when people use their mobile phones. And as other mobile devices like tablet computers become widely used, the mobile world will only continue to grow.
Using mobile phones to inform your customers
When it comes to mobile marketing, small firms often have an advantage over big brand names because they already have a personal relationship with customers. As a result, contacting them by mobile phone does not appear so intrusive.
Many small businesses can benefit from mobile phone communication. For example, local entertainment businesses such as restaurants can use text and email marketing to advertise special events. And retailers can text details of sales or vouchers timed to catch shoppers in the right place.
Businesses that work by appointment, such as opticians or hair salons, are ideally placed to use text messages or apps to send reminders and to alert customers when it's time to book their next appointment. What's more, they can send special offers and details of last-minute availability.
Mobile marketing targeting
Smart phones offer some interesting targeting opportunities. Most are equipped with location services, which means they can determine their location via GPS.
Your mobile app or website can use this facility to direct customers to their nearest branch, or to display special offers when people are in your neighbourhood.
With the right timing, this sort of targeting is valuable. Contact shoppers when they are on the high street - at the weekend - and you increase the potential for new business. But whatever you do, never send intrusive messages at unsocial hours.
Finally, remember that if you intend to contact customers via text messages or calling their mobile phones, you need permission - just as with all other direct marketing.
If you're marketing to a local audience, there are more tools available than ever to help you. In this blog find out how you can use online services, as well as traditional marketing techniques, to attract local customers.
Appealing to local customers is easier than ever. And it's not just about flyers and local ads; technology can also be used to market at town or even postcode level.
It's just easier to market within a defined geography, for example, in theory I can consult across the whole of Europe, but in practice I keep to my home town and neighbouring counties. I can network locally, I can use local marketing techniques, and there are enough customers in the catchment area to keep me busy. It's about fishing where the fish are.
Get listed in local directories
The internet is an increasingly powerful local marketing tool. As a first step, you can get listed with Google My Business so customers searching Google and Google Maps find your contact details.
Free Index is another free online directory. With FreeIndex, your local customers can add reviews. The more positive reviews you get, the higher up the index you go. Basic listings on sites such as Thomsonlocal.com and Yell.com are also free.
Location-based social networking
Another easy step to ensure local customers find you online is to optimise your website for local searches. At its most basic, this means including your operating area in the keywords of all pages and page title fields, and adding as many relevant backlinks (links from other local websites) as possible.
Increasingly, social media is also lending itself to local marketing. Restaurants, bars and shops, for example, might consider listing on Foursquare, a free location-based mobile app that uses global positioning data to allow people to share information about places to eat, drink, shop or visit. Users can pick up automatic suggestions on where to go from within their vicinity.
Traditional marketing for local businesses
Face-to-face networking can be an extremely effective way of building local custom, particularly for business-to-business customers. If someone has met you, they are much more likely to want to use your firm or refer you.
Networking can also help you develop marketing partnerships with local, complementary businesses. For example, a high-street wedding dress designer and florist may find it valuable to promote each other in their marketing.
Other traditional marketing techniques you could use to attract local custom include targeted leaflet drops, press releases to local media and local sponsorship.
Evaluating response to your local marketing
To ensure you're spending your time wisely, measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. Put in tracking mechanisms so you can measure how successful each technique is. Evaluating web-based marketing can be easy using Google Analytics, which is free, but if you do only one thing, ask all new customers how they heard of your company.
As social media platforms have evolved into full-blown communication channels, more brands are relying on these platforms to reach their target audiences.
Consumer attention is scattered across various social platforms, not to mention apps and other online diversions. Brands that hope to capture consumers’ attention and dollars need to keep in touch with how their audiences utilise these platforms. The bottom line is that, as trends evolve on social media, so must the corresponding marketing.
What is going to influence social media users? What does this mean for brand marketing? And what do we need to be aware of to stay current and relevant?
Here are the top 10 social media trends to keep an eye on in the new year.
1. Rebuilding trust in social media platforms.
Social media platforms continue to grow annually -- in fact, Facebook has more than 2 billion active users each month. However, the picture isn’t entirely rosy. Consumer confidence in social media is on shaky ground.
Users are growing increasingly leery of the information they find on social media. And marketers may be contributing to the situation when they fail to properly label paid advertising posts or they bombard a platform with targeted ads that overwhelm users. All of this can leave users feeling distrustful of both the brand and the platform.
Younger generations have little tolerance for marketing that comes off as disingenuous. Brands will need to look for ways to build consumer trust. That means focusing on ways to authentically connect with audiences, and ways to highlight their humanity. Brands need to connect with their audiences on a meaningful level. No one likes being constantly swamped with ads. Even worse is when you’re being marketed to and don’t even realise it.
2. Social media is about storytelling.
Social media’s popularity is rooted in the fact that it allows us to share our life experiences with friends and families. We get to tell our stories through our posts, and we get to see a snapshot of everyone else’s lives through our news feeds. At first, that was through written posts and photos, but video content is increasingly popular.
Social media is adapting, embracing new ways to allow people to tell their stories and share their narrative with the world. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are embracing this trend, and it’s changing the way we consume social media content.
This opens the door for brands to share more human stories of their own, which will inspire audiences to try out their product. Storytelling feels real, immediate and personal, but it also demands a mix of more time-intensive video, images and graphics, and requires brands to be more creative and thoughtful in the intent.
3. Build a brand narrative.Along with honing their human stories, businesses are going to need to build a strategic narrative behind their brand. Narratives capture moments and experiences shared between a user and a product; they’re the conversations that are occurring, and they’re often about trying to create a broader, more positive change.
These narratives can be distributed through social media and digital media, and they reflect what a brand’s community is saying about them. If a brand can build a larger story, it will have a better chance of success.
Brand narratives need to be compelling and lead audiences to an action. Evaluate your brand story, and ensure it is inspiring and stands out against the messiness of other social media content.
4. Quality and creativity over quantity.
Marketers often have a knee-jerk reaction to trends by flooding platforms with mediocre and uninspired content in hopes of riding the trend wave. Would-be customers react by tuning out and quickly dismissing sub-par messaging. The threshold for gaining customer attention and trust has grown exponentially. Marketers who hope to gain consumer consideration must be willing to go the extra mile in creating engaging content.
The bottom line is, to have an impact, brands must be purposeful and creative. Less content, if it’s created thoughtfully and is well-positioned, will have greater impact than an abundance of content that is uninspired, heavy-handed or seen as shallow or dull.
5. Put a human face to your brand.
Personal branding is a must on social media. Putting a real, human face to a brand is key in building trust and loyalty, especially for small, relatively unknown businesses. Personal branding gives a business a human element that will naturally connect customers and make the brand seem more relateable. Businesses that learn to foster their human element will have a real advantage over those who hide behind a logo.
One popular trend in humanising a business is to promote the personal brand of the business owner or a high-level leader. This can be done through guest blogging, podcasts and webinars. Giving the public an up-close view of the company’s leader can strengthen its brand reputation.
6. Influencers continue to grow their communities.
Influencer marketing continues to develop and grow on social media platforms.
Influencers are social media figures who have gathered a defined community around themselves. Their large followings (which can range from the thousands to over a million viewers) give them influence over others. They can be incredibly effective as salespeople because we inherently trust the people we follow on social media.
Much like personal branding, when done well influencer marketing gives a human voice to brands. Influencer marketing is less direct than traditional forms of advertising, but it can effectively create authentic ways of connecting with customers.
7. Selfie videos and branding.
The selfie culture continues to flourish on social media, with the popularity of selfie photo evolving into the self-recorded video. These “selfie videos” are drawing high user interest on social media. Like the selfie photo, the selfie video allows users to capture a moment in time, but the video format allows users to communicate in a deeper and more personal way than a photo ever could. Selfie videos tend to be short and feel more immediate than a written post with a photo.
Businesses need to take note: viewers spend hours watching friends’ videos on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Brands would be wise to look for ways to incorporate first-person “selfie video” content as part of their marketing strategy. Traditional advertising can be off-putting to younger audiences, who are more cautious about their purchases and want a more authentic experience with their brands. The selfie video can help a brand seem more relateable and trustworthy.
8. Segment your social audiences.
While brands talk about their customers and audiences, the reality is that most businesses will have multiple audiences. Segmentation is the process of organising your audience into manageable groups (or segments) so you can tailor your messaging and communications to the preferences of each group. Social media is most effective when you segment your audiences so you can be relevant to the right groups of people at the right time.
Making assumptions about your audience and lumping them all together could limit your ability to reach more people. So the more you know about your audience and the various groups that make up your audience, the better you can adjust your messaging and narratives to fit each segment.
9. Hyper-targeted personalisation.
Customers have come to expect brands to tailor special offers and discounts to their wants and needs. To keep up with expectations, businesses need to step up their game when it comes to targeted advertising. Nearly every social media platform offers some level of audience filtering when you opt to pay for advertising. These options range from simple geographic targeting to advanced filters that refine audiences into highly specific segments.
In the coming year, brands will increasingly turn to hyper-targeted personalisation to reach their audiences. This is often achieved through re-targeting or re-marketing ads. Ever wonder why you’re seeing an ad on your social media site for something you were shopping for earlier? That’s hyper-targeted personalisation at work.
Using “cookies” while you browse online, marketers collect data on users, such as online habits, the area they live in and any other pertinent information. But marketers will need to find a balance between being too pushy and being able to offer personalised advertising that will genuinely interest customers.
10. Know your platforms.
Businesses should carefully consider which social media platforms to focus on, as each platform tends to be used by different groups. For example, over 80 percent of Pinterest users are female, and more than 50 percent of users are from the US. So, if a brand is targeting American women, posting on Pinterest could help isolate that group.
Meanwhile, Snapchat users tend to be younger than those who use Facebook. And career-focused professionals spend more of their time on LinkedIn. Brands that use multiple platforms should use these distinguishing characteristics to decide where to post content and on which platforms to focus the majority of their marketing efforts.
Content is at the heart of today’s marketing strategies as businesses use websites and blogs to demonstrate their own expertise. "Content marketing is the only marketing left." Seth Godin.
If you run any type of professional business today you’ll know that, in terms of marketing, the world has changed dramatically. Tried and tested activities for getting client attention just don’t work like they once did:
You are expert in what you do and know that there are clients out there who would really value your assistance. How on earth do you get their interest?
Changed buying behaviour in a web-driven world
In the past five to ten years, the web has transformed buying behaviour. In the past, if a potential client wanted information on your services, they’d call your office and engage you or one of your sales team to get the lowdown on your offering.
Today, their first port of call is undoubtedly the internet. They’ll search on Google, check out your website and expect to sign up to article updates or social media feeds to find out more. They are checking to see who they could best trust to solve their business problem. They expect to find valuable content.
Your clients are in control, and you’d better make sure that the information you put up about your company answers their questions and positions you as the trusted resource they seek.
Today, effective marketing is all about creating high quality content and sharing this across the web. By quality content we don’t just mean information that is well-written or artfully produced. We mean information that is first and foremost of real value to your particular client base.
Educate your clients, show them best practice, tell them what to look out for, give them valuable tips on how to achieve success, demonstrate how you’ve helped others in their shoes, answer their problems, open their eyes.
Creating and distributing this kind of relevant, valuable and compelling information will help you turn prospects into buyers and buyers into long-term fans.
Create the type of information your buyers actually want to consume. Marketing with valuable content is a win-win for your company and its customers - your potential clients get the information they require and you get to demonstrate your expertise and usefulness.
Valuable content will help you sell. It helps your ideal clients find you and makes it easier for them to buy from you. It’s an opportunity to position your company as the place to turn to when the time comes to buy.
A different approach to client communication
If you want to reap the rewards that valuable content brings, you need to start communicating differently. There are different rules of engagement here. The valuable content approach is not about continuing to holler about how amazing your firm is, as we all did in the past. Unthink what you learned about sales and marketing messages.
Your position should be not "look how great we are" (as in a traditional brochure) but "look how useful we are - we have the answers to your problems."
This approach is truly customer-centred. Create content that is genuinely useful to your customers. Make yourself indispensable.
Not easy but essential
Creating and consistently delivering this type of information takes effort. You need to build a deep understanding of the needs of your target client base and of where and how you add value. It also takes time and skill.
Valuable content may not be easy but it is an essential tool if you are going to grow and sustain a successful business in today's web-driven world.
Marketing tools and opportunities are more accessible and more affordable than ever for small businesses. But any marketing activity takes time and for the cash-strapped small business owner, time is money.
There are so many ways to do-it-yourself when it comes to marketing your business today - from social media and pay-per-click advertising to e-newsletters and events. However, cost-effective marketing is about testing and fine-tuning; and getting a measurable return on the time and money you spend on marketing.
Take a disciplined approachIt's tempting, when you don't have a lot of budget for marketing, to simply try things on the basis that anything is better than nothing. But lack of budget is not an excuse for scattergun marketing. Anything you do can and should be planned and measured.
So-called “free” marketing methods - such as social media - must be approached with discipline. That means you need to set objectives, monitor time spent and measure results. Thanks to analytics software, this is easy to do.
Know your limitsThe dilemma for many business owners, though, is when the DIY approach is actually less cost-effective than getting outside help. A professional website design, proper branding, strategic use of search engine optimisation - all these are jobs that business owners frequently try themselves before realising they need more expertise.
Specialist freelancers, such as here at LjH Consluitng, often provide the most cost-effective solution here.
Every business is different. With a wealth of ways to reach your audience, it's up to you, the business owner, to investigate which marketing methods will work best and to make sure they are delivering results - so your spend isn't wasted.
Nine cheap (or free) ways to market your businessThe internet is your gateway to millions of potential customers if you know how to advertise your business online. If you don’t, there are a lot of online agencies and consultants trying to get into your pocket by offering services that will promote your business
But the good news is that you can do most of this marketing yourself very cheaply or even for free.
Building a websiteIt may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. Your business needs a website to be competitive online. Without a website you will be facing a constant uphill battle. It will only cost you a few pounds a year for hosting and a domain name; and with that you can generate customers and sales. The likes of Wix, WordPress and Go Daddy offer cheap or free website templates which can be used to build a simple website.
Search engine optimisationFree search engine traffic is tantamount to winning the lottery. If you are able to convince the search engines that your website is the most relevant site for your targeted keywords, you will experience a consistent stream of search engine traffic. With the right SEO strategy, this traffic can be converted into revenue. You can either do this optimisation yourself for free, or you can pay someone else to do it.
Content marketingA successful content marketing strategy will drive traffic to your website as well as help with search engine optimisation (SEO) - and it’s completely free. It can be labour-intensive to write regular blogs, articles and case studies; but all that work will bring rewards. A well-crafted content marketing campaign can significantly raise your ranking in search engines
Social networksWhatever business you are in, there's at least one social network for you. Increasingly, small firms are finding that image-based apps such as Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram are helping to build their brand and attract new customers.
And Twitter and Facebook still have the power to deliver an army of fans and followers. Social media allows you to interact directly with your online customers and the only cost is your time. You can target specific audiences and engage with them interactively in order to build profitable long-term relationships.
Online video sharing sitesIf you are able to produce some interesting videos that are related to your business, posting them on sites like YouTube and Vimeo could send you a steady flow of website traffic. These sites are free to use and the potential traffic gain from them is astronomical. Make sure that you submit more than one video to maximise your exposure.
Online photo sharing sitesOnline photo sharing is like online video sharing. If you have some photos that are relevant to your business, don’t be afraid to share them on Flickr. This will increase your website visibility and send more targeted visitors to your site.
Pay-per-click advertisingYou may think that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is an expensive tool but you can control your costs with PPC and drive high converting traffic to your site. But you have to find the balance between cost and revenue; otherwise it can be a drain on your budget. It might seem like a good idea to pay for the top spot on Google, but if you aren’t converting enough sales it’s not worth it. The trick is to make sure you are getting a good return in investment with every PPC campaign.
Email marketingEmail marketing has been given a bad name by spam. But the difference between a legitimate marketing campaign and spam is that people will actually request emails that are legitimate. So how can you make your email marketing campaign legit? All you need to do is create an email list of prospects and customers to send regular emails to. Creating that list is a little more difficult; you have to persuade people to agree to be added to your mailing list. Once you have created your list, you can begin email marketing but it is important to allow your recipients to remove themselves from your list if they want to.
Local business listingsIf you are promoting a bricks and mortar company, you should be taking advantage of local business listings online. This will place your website on the front page of search engine results with similar local services when someone does a search within your area. This can be a great way to get a fledgling business in front of the eyes of thousands of potential customers in your area.
There are many different ways to get your name out there and you should use all of them. For cheap, or even for free, you can drastically increase your customer base by making the most of online marketing.
Marketing Strategy is the fundamental goal of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.
Every time you speak to someone about your business you are involved in marketing. Any conversation about your firm is an opportunity to promote your business and increase sales.
A marketing strategy will help you focus. It will identify the different ways you can talk to your customers, and concentrate on the ones that will create most sales. It tells you what to say, how to say it and who to say it to in order to make more sales. Because timing is critical, it will tell you when to say it, too.
Marketing strategy: objectives
Your marketing objectives will focus on how you increase sales by getting and keeping customers.
To explain how to do this, experts talk about how best to package your products and services, how much to charge for them and how to take them to market.
A marketing strategy will help you tailor your messages and put the right mix of marketing approaches in place so that you bring your sales and marketing activities together effectively in an effective marketing plan.
Marketing strategy: knowing your customers
A successful marketing strategy depends on understanding your customers, what they need and how you can persuade them to buy from you.
There's no substitute for knowledge. Experience and regular two-way communication will tell you a lot about your customers. But targeted market research will build a more detailed picture of customer segments with similar needs. It will help you understand how to target these people so you're not wasting time on people who aren't interested in your offer.
But you'll also need to understand how your market works - where do your customers find out about your offer, for example? Your strategy should even tell you how you measure up against the competition and what new trends to expect in your market.
Marketing strategy: making a plan
A marketing plan explains how to put your strategy into action. It will set marketing budgets and deadlines, but it will also tell you how you're going to talk to your target customers - whether that's through advertising, networking, going to trade shows, direct marketing, and so on.
Crucially, it will tell you when to talk to your customers. Timing your activities to fit their buying cycles will save money and maximise sales.
Finally, your marketing plan should look to the future: it should outline how you follow up sales and what you're doing to develop your offer.
As with any plan, progress should be regularly measured and reviewed to see what's working and what isn't, so you can set new targets as your market changes.
Lisa Hunter is an experienced Marketing, Events and Project Manager. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the IT and marketing industry, delivering strategic marketing support and managing creative projects for a wide-range of clients. In this blog she shares her knowledge and experiences…we hope you enjoy it.