The Content Marketing Dilemma

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It is the most common question I hear when talking with clients about the potential of social media….

Will we have enough to say and the time to say it?

In practice, finding subjects to talk about is not as challenging as people sometimes imagine – see this post on developing a content radar – but there it still takes time to turn these subjects into content and there is always the danger of focusing on quantity rather than quality. Even Twitter and its 140 character limit benefits from tweets linking to more substantial content where quality is essential – though not always delivered! This dliemma was summed up perfectly in this image I saw recently

The content marketing dilemma
Thank-you to Marketing Land for the image
This is neat but there is also another angle to the issue…. As with many things in business, a bit of planning can really help with content production but all too often, to meet their content needs, marketers simply focus on their own company stuff and write about themselves. Unfortunately, most readers aren’t bothered about the details of other businesses so does this make sense? What they are bothered about is their own business and taking it forward.

The art of curation

Hey, isn’t helping your customers in their businesses something you know about? After all your business is focused on delivering benefit to your customers which should hopefully make you a bit of an expert in an area of interest to your customers – use that expertise! As I mentioned above, too many people go down the route of delivering high volume, low quality content, which interestingly presents an opportunity. Be different – use your knowledge to work through the rubbish and sift the nuggets of real interest. Become a Curator and build a name for yourself as someone who gets rid of the low quality content from your sector and feeds through the high quality so that your readers can jump straight to reliable quality.

Don’t forget your own content

By becoming a curator you are gathering quality content from across your sector and packaging it to be easily accessible for your readers, and readers who see good, relevant, interesting content will want to come back for more! I said earlier that some people become over-focused on their own content but if you become a committed curator, there is a danger of going too far the other way and never mentioning your own stuff! Mix mixing your own content in with your curated content you can create a great balance where the marketing messages you want to communicate are framed by strong, sector-relevant information attractive to readers. As a guide, a ratio of 4:1, Sector Content:Your Content, is a good objective.

A perfect balance?

If you hit the 4:1 ration it means that you only need to create 20% of your content from scratch so maintaining a quality feed becomes much easier as your 80% curated content is based on teh work of others where you simply select the best bits! The end result is better content, easier to deliver and with your business at the heart, a great way to communicate your message and build your brand. If you want to find out more about content curation, check out this great post from relevance.com – or give me a call….

Is your telemarketing joined-up?

lead-generation-system_captionsTelemarketing is a communication tool. Note: A tool, not THE tool. It can be expensive to implement and, in my view, should only really be considered and used as part of a joined-up marketing approach. Good telemarketing is based on a pre-qualified target list then monitored and managed while the calls are being made. All as part of a joined-up plan – yet too often it isn’t quite like this in practice….

Pre-qualified list

A client using a telemarketing company can be faced with a fundamental difference of position: The telemarketing company has a team of telemarketers who are earning revenue while they are making calls. Switching clients and briefing on new projects all takes time, and costs the company money while the telemarketers aren’t active. To this end it is preferable to have a large list for the telemarketers to work on. Better this than a smaller (albeit well qualified) list that the telemarketers can work through more quickly and then be looking for a new project! The client is after results. A pre-qualified list will be smaller but the outcomes will be more frequent and the list will take less telemarketer time to work through – so less cost! More leads at lower cost – can’t be bad! The solution: Because BSA has a team of experienced, specialist freelancers, we don’t have a hungry telemarketing machine that we need to keep fed, we can work with our clients to use telemarketing selectively and efficiently

List pre-qualification – an example:

We recently worked on a project where we were targeting a range of specific industrial product manufacturers. Initial research directories and list brokers resulted in a list of some 500 records. Not a bad business to business targeted telemarketing list, but could we improve it? We then:

  1. Limited the list to companies within around 100 miles of our client (we could go back to the others later)
  2. Scanned through the list to exclude obvious wholesalers, retailers, service providers and other non-manufacturers

OK, this process took a bit of time but the end result was that the list reduced from around 500 to just under 200 – reducing the potential telemarketing cost/time by up to 60% Also, because the listings we excluded were less relevant to our client, we excluded few, if any, targets that might have resulted in a positive outcome – and we could still go back to them in future – nothing lost.

Getting the most from the calls

Telemarketing is easy to monitor. You are normally paying a day rate for your telemarketing staff. Telephone costs are consistent (and really quite modest these days) so your return on investment depends entirely on what you get out of this applied effort. No matter what many telemarketers tell you, it really isn’t all about how many calls they make! It isn’t just about working hard, it’s about working clever. I have touched on this before but it is important:

  1. If the telemarketer is looking to make appointments, that’s fine, but get them to qualify the list while they are at it. Someone who is not ready for an appointment today may be a good prospect for the future so check out just how much authority/influence they have and how relevant your product/service is to them. Check their contact details and email address.
  2. If the telemarketer is checking and updating a database, make sure they are asking ‘qualifying questions’ where possible and if they happen to be talking with a key influencer, ask if they have any current interest – what is there to lose?

In either case, use the information from the calls to build a qualified database of YOUR market. You can then use this database to keep in touch with people by mail, email, social media etc – all less costly than more telemarketing and any of which can be great sources of enquiries.

Keeping in touch

  1. Email – With email you can track who is opening your emails and clicking on links – suggesting possible interest – which could be a great basis for some more, targeted phone calls to generate enquiries and opportunities – like I said, joined-up.
  2. LinkedIn – Once qualified, tracking a contact down on LinkedIn is fairly straight forward, and you would be surprised how many people actually use it in their day to day working lives. Once you have that connection, they will be kept updated by everything you post on the platform, continually re-enforcing your message, making it more likely that you will be on the list of people to call when they nave a requirement.
  3. Other Social Media – Dependent on your market, other social media may also have a role to play in the process of keeping in touch. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook (or Pinterest & instagram if you have a visual product) are also great ways of engaging with target markets, further re-enforcing your brand and message.
  4. Website – In ALL cases don’t forget, one of the first things that anyone interested in what you offer will do is visit your website – so make sure it says what you want it to say. Make sure you are proud of it.

Your sales team (OK, maybe that is just you!) does the selling. Marketing is about looking for people to sell to; communicating your proposition to your target market and qualifying opportunities. It is a step by step process. Different communications using different media (both online and offline) have different impact and by using them in a joined-up marketing process you will have maximum control and the best opportunity to get most benefit from each step of the way. There is no doubt that, used correctly, telemarketing can play a vital role in the process, but by focusing on the long term potential as well as the short term opportunities can significantly improve its effectiveness. …and finally, back to our example:

The Results

Because the list was pre-qualified, there was typically a good ‘fit’ between the target contacts and our clients’ services. This made it easier to speak with relevant individuals and have meaningful conversations. Key numbers:

  • Over 70% of the companies on the target list were contacted.
  • Over 10% of contacts interested in a short term follow-up
  • 74% of contacts happy to ‘keep in touch’ going forward.

A very positive outcome all round! So all that’s required now is to keep in touch, build relationships & awareness and make the most of the opportunities as they arise…..but that’s another story…

Using online quizzes to engage prospects

Quizzes are becoming more and more prominent in the online world. You only have to browse BuzzFeed for a few seconds before you come across one. Usually, they’re just a bit of fun. However, you can use them to engage prospects and generate leads. To be effective quizzes should follow 4 simple rules:

  1. Keep them light hearted & fun – Although they do have a point, an online quiz should entertain the participants
  2. Keep them short – No one will sit through 30 questions to be told that they’re really not very good at something. There should be no more than 10 questions.
  3. Use the questions to make people think about the service/product you offer – Seeing the question subject matter will get them thinking about that area and if they can improve that aspect of the business.
  4. Aim to tell the participant “you’re doing okay, but you could do better – Naturally, you can help them with this!

We have recently created 2 quizzes in which participants answer questions about how they approach lead generation and marketing before being given a category based on their answers.

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Are you a marketing bee? The marketing spectrum

Having entertained and engaged the participant, asking for them to subscribe to your newsletter so you can give them more of the same type of stuff can be a natural progression. Enjoy…

Living with a Joined-up Marketing Plan

To fail to plan is to plan to fail.

joined_up_comms A cliché maybe, but definitely true! I gave a seminar to an audience of SME business owners. Taking a bit of a flyer, I asked for a show of hands. “Do you have a live marketing plan that you actively use?”  Not a single hand was raised! Anyone who reads our Marketing Matters newsletter, or this blog, regularly will know how we stress the importance and value on a joined-up marketing plan. The lack of hands would suggest that nobody sees the importance of a planned approach to marketing, but more detailed discussion always tends to suggest the opposite. People see the value, but just never seem to get round to creating one, or if they do, it ends up on the shelf being ignored. In my view, having a plan is only half the battle. Equally important is having a structured process for implementing, monitoring and reviewing this plan as part of your ongoing business activity. To really make your plan work for your business, you need to have a structured process to integrate your planned approach into your day to day work. The idea of allowing time to work on your business rather than spending all your time working in your business is well established and certainly the planning process calls for ON time rather than IN time. However, integrating your plans into the business is more about IN time so does that mean you have finished the job of working ON the business? Emphatically NO!

It is virtually impossible to keep a business on-track without on-going review.

If a business simply runs day to day, it will drift. It is virtually impossible to keep a business on-track without on-going review. This means time working on the business should be a continuous element of business management. Here is the review approach we have developed at BSA which we find works well for us. Hopefully it may give you some ideas:

Annually…

As part of your business planning process, when you are setting financial goals, the marketing plan should have a detailed review, linking it to these goals. If you are going to grow revenue by 20%, what is the Marketing strategy, and the activities that are going to drive this growth, and what are the short term metrics you are going to use to indicate if these are going in the right direction.

Quarterly…

Take time out of daily business activities – ideally away from the office – for a more detailed review of the plan. When making plans, you make assumptions, which are tested as your plan is implemented. Are your assumptions correct or do they need adjusting? Are the activities you are undertaking delivering the results you had anticipated? If not, do the results you have seen help point to how things can/should be changed?

Monthly…

Look at management accounts. How do the actual outcomes compare comparison with the targets? Is the year going as planned? Are the planned marketing activities actually happening? If not, why not and what are you going to do about it to get the implementation back on track?

Weekly…

A more task-based review of marketing activities. How are activities progressing, and what are the planned activities for the next week? Every action that is agreed during this meeting should have a name against it to show who is responsible for making it happen!

Normalise review processes into your day to day business

Sounds really easy, doesn’t it, but in the real world of running a small business, it is much harder to sustain. Things get in the way, the phone rings, meetings get postponed and before you know it, 6 months have passed and the marketing plan is still on the shelf. there is no getting away from the fact that management review does require discipline but normalising review processes into your day to day business can be a great step in making those processes realistically sustainable.  

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Winston Churchill

The importance of business credibility – part 1

I was talking with a number of consultants last week and we came to a common view: many SME businesses believe there is a simple answer to their business needs:

More Enquiries and Sales!

Business CredibilityCertainly, revenue (well, profitable revenue!) is vital but I often hear business owners talking about a cycle of feast and famine. A push on business development can drive an increase in sales then while fulfilling that business, eyes are taken off the sales and marketing allowing the flow of enquiries to dwindle until revenues decline and the whole process starts again! How can enquiry levels be built and then maintained in the medium and longer term? How can customers be encouraged to come to you? This is the first of 2 articles where I suggest an answer – and an approach to achieving it.


The answer is, IMHO, driven by building strong, sustained relationships with markets and customers. You become known as a reliable, professional expert in your field, a natural point of enquiry when someone is looking for the products/services you supply – and that requires credibility Like it or not, building credibility takes time and consistency. If you want to build real credibility for your business, here are a few things to think about…..

Do I have a joined-up strategy?

It is an often-stated cliche but there is no Marketing Magic Wand! Don’t just try a single approach in isolation hoping it will be THE ONE, then drop it when it doesn’t really give you what you are looking for the try something new only for the same thing to happen again! A well-considered and joined-up strategy which brings together the core elements of your company and identifies messages demonstrating the real benefits you can offer to your target markets is more likely to deliver consistent results. To give your marketing the best chance of delivering, it is important to have a plan which takes a joined-up strategy and allows different marketing activities to work in harmony and be effectively controlled and managed.

Take time to develop a strategy

Creating a realistic, practical business development strategy is a vital step to building business credibility for your company. Demonstrating a well thought through strategy will build the confidence in your brand that is a vital element or real credibility. Creating a strategy can be much easier with external support – Click here for information on funding and expert help that is available

Do I have a realistic action plan?

The best strategy in the world is a waste of time if you don’t do something with it! If you want to build credibility through your strategy, you need to communicate and engage with your target customers and markets. I talked at the top about the cycle of business development feast and famine. Not having an action plan is another driver of this cycle as you tend to only do something when you think about it, when you notice. If you are busy, you are less likely to notice! An action plan sets out who is doing what and when to ensure your marketing communications happen and you talk to your markets.

Don't just act when you think about it - set out an action plan

Sometimes you just get too busy and something has to give. When this happens, it easy to let your own marketing suffer.  It is simpler to forgive yourself than trying to get forgiveness from your customer (which doesn’t help your credibility either!) Conversely, regular communication with your customers and markets, delivering relevant messages with useful and interesting content means people get to know you, and the right content helps them to engage with you, to understand what you and your company are about. As this understanding grows and they see it fit with their own needs, your credibility becomes established.

Delegate, delegate…

Maintaining regular communication is where delegation can make the difference and having an action plan is central to effective delegation. An action plan should set out what needs to be done, by whom and when. Part of setting out your plan will be to make sure the person or people tasked with doing the job have the knowledge and capability to do it. If not, you will have to do it differently this time but maybe you have highlighted a training opportunity – and a well trained, capable team is a valuable element of credibility, but more on that another time!

Use technology

Technology has revolutionised SME marketing. E-mail and other social media platforms can be great ways to engage with your market and with the host of support tools that are available, you can – when you have time – schedule tasks forward to happen later  – when you are busy! You can also drive market communication from your mobile when you are out and about allowing you to make use of time that otherwise might be wasted.

Next Time…

OK, so you have a strategy and an action plan. Next time I look at putting them in to practice in the best way to build your business credibility.

Focusing on building your business credibility is a platform for real success

Business Support Funding – A bit bureaucratic but can be worth it!

Free money available!

Business_Support_FundingFree money always sounds like a good deal in principle but maybe it is too good and is there a catch? Whatever your political views and allegiances for the past 20 years or more the Government (whatever the hue) has recognised to potential for the SME businesses to drive economic and employment growth and has backed up this recognition with an undertaking for financial support to SMEs who show a commitment to growth. There have been many different programmes aimed at both startups and established businesses that have come and gone.

Most funding is targeted at strategic development for SMEs

There have been business support programmes aimed at specific sectors and specific objectives such as product development and innovation but by far the most common goal is to drive strategic planning and development. These programmes have had different names and eligibility criteria over the years but there have been some core recurring features:

  • A goal of significant Growth Value Added (GVA)
  • An expectation of jobs created (or at least protected)
  • Funding is to support strategic development

Typically grants can cover up to 50% of project costs though they are normally subject to a maximum figure.

Is it worth it?

Short answer: If you are committed to growth then Yes! Slightly longer answer: it depends…. Over the past few years there has been an explosion in the number of business consultants out there and most of them rely to a greater or lesser extent on these funding programmes to be able to offer reduced cost services to their clients. Most consultants are very good and can bring real insight into your business but there are a few who simply trade on the ‘access to grants’ which can become their raison d’etre rather than delivering real benefit to their clients. The bottom line is I don’t believe that going for a grant is a sensible route if it has been ‘sold’ to you. If you are only considering working with a consultant because there is a grant available.

There needs to be a good fit between you and your consultant

It is important that you are committed to moving your business forward (whatever that means?) and that there is a good fit between you and your consultant, not just in terms of their expertise and credentials but also individually. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular consultant then maybe you should look elsewhere. If you can find the right consultant they can be immensely valuable as a sounding board and a source of ideas and creativity. If you can access funding to support your work with them , why not?

Application process is not too daunting

Applying for funding does take some time but the process is not normally too daunting, and remember, the advisers from the funding body have targets to make sure the funding programme works and your preferred consultant should have considerable experience in working through the application process for particular programmes so they can both be a great help in making the application straightforward. You will be expected to provide some key numbers from your accounts and payroll but nothing too sensitive. These are to demonstrate that your forecast growth is realistic (no problem for it to be ambitious!) The application process should normally take no longer than an hour or so. Like I said, if you are committed to growth, a couple of hours effort with the potential to release £2-3000 into your business probably makes sense! It’s also worth remembering that although the focus is on GVA and jobs, the forecast growth is an objective rather than a requirement. Grants do not have to be repaid if the projected growth isn’t realised.

It can be painful but it can deliver REAL benefit

Working with a consultant gets you out of your day to day work and encourages you to spend time working on your business rather than in your business. It may be a cliché but developing your business is the only way to really move your business forward. Simply taking time away from the coalface can be hard but working with the right consultant, you will be (and should be!) challenged. Your business is the way it is because that is how you (and your team) have made it. If you want to move forward, something will need to change. It is not uncommon that strategic planning can result is a seismic shift in your business and, if you are ready for it, it can take you and your company to the next level. If you are committed to moving your business forward and your growth is going to contribute to the UK economy. Why not get the UK to help you?