Sales and Marketing – Long and Short Term

plantOver the 25 years as a marketer in both the SME and corporate worlds, I have seen quite an array of approaches to sales & marketing. Back in the early 90’s when I started my career in a large corporate engineering company. sales was king, and marketing’s responsibility was to support the sales effort through the provision of market intelligence and promotional collateral (brochures, exhibitions, advertising PR etc). Measurement was all about meeting the end of month sales figures, and marketing was seen as a cost. Roll forward 10 years and things had changed somewhat. Whilst it was still about the figures at the end of the month, the relationship between sales and marketing had developed to being more of a partnership. Whilst sales was still about doing the deal and meeting the revenue targets at the end of the month, marketing was being seen much more as an investment in creating and developing the brand. In this new era, marketers were able to take a much longer term view of their activities. It was at this point that I took the plunge and entered the world of SME Marketing. In the early 2000s internet marketing was in its infancy, (Google moved out of the garage where it started up in 1999 at which point it had just 8 employees). For SMEs, marketing was about creating sales leads, usually through direct promotions like advertising, PR and direct marketing by mail & telephone. At this point branding was still very much the thing big FMCG corporates did, and was outside more modest SME budgets. Progressing another 10 years to today and things have moved on again, predominantly due to the rapid development of online & digital marketing. This revolution has had 2 key impacts on the world of marketing:

  1. The ability to measure pretty much everything
  2. The dramatic reduction of the costs of developing and communicating your messages

In my experience, SMEs have tended to embrace only the first of these, focusing on delivering leads through tools like SEO, pay per click advertising, email, etc. and measuring success in the short term through conversion rates and return on investment and so forth. In my view it is the second impact that delivers the real opportunities. Back at the end of my corporate days, building a strong brand was becoming the norm rather than something only FMCG busineses did, and the ones who did it well are now reaping the benefits. The internet revolution has opened opportunities for SMEs to do the same and the idea of building a brand on an SME marketing budget is now reality. For smaller businesses, creating & converting leads that put money in the bank is still vital, and thus the ability to measure and tune activities in real time is a real bonus, but the true benefit comes from the opportunity to cost effectively create & communicate a brand on a limited budget, as it has been proved that having a strong brand makes the sales process much easier. So what’s this got to do with networking? The fact is that most SME’s approach networking with the attitude ‘who can I sell to today?’, and measure success by counting the short term leads at the end of the meeting. In my experiences, even if successful, this approach is unsustainable. Alternatively  if you can find the right groups, networking meetings are a great opportunity to build your brand and develop relationships, and ultimately it is these relationships that will deliver leads in a much more sustainable manner. So to finish, I would like to leave you with these 5 rules for successful brand building through networking:

  1. Understand clearly the value you offer, and how top communicate this
  2. Look for ways you can demonstrate this value to the group
  3. Look for opportunities to “sell” (most networking groups will offer this through things like the “60 second pitch” slots), but other than this focus on engaging with the other participants rather than selling to them
  4. Integrate your networking with other media (website, email, social media etc)
  5. Be consistent in your message

Ultimately – Focus on the long term goal of building a strong brand, engaging with people and demonstrating the value you offer, and the leads will take care of themselves.

Joined-up LinkedIn

Those of you who read our blog posts regularly will know we talk about “joined-up marketing” a lot. Joined-up marketing is, in essence, making sure that each facet of your marketing (and general activities) are working in tandem with each other. It is no different with social media, LinkedIn in particular. LinkedIn is viewed as the network for business professionals and so there is much focus on it. If used well, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for a business professional. Joining it up with the rest of your marketing and what you do is important, so it is a good idea to make the most of the platform. Here are 3 steps to make sure your LinkedIn activity is joined-up!

Posting your news/blogs to LinkedIn as well as your website!

You go to the trouble of writing your latest news articles (usually for your email newsletter?) then don’t push them through your LinkedIn page? If you’re not posting your news onto LinkedIn, you should be! Having a blog and sending e-newsletters raises awareness of what’s going on in your business. Increase your reach by telling those business people you have met over the years, your LinkedIn connections. If you have one, you can post an article to your company LinkedIn page and share it out to your connections. Alternatively, you can reach all of your connections directly by posting to LinkedIn Pulse, which is like your own blog on LinkedIn.

Keeping engaged with your connections

Call me old fashioned, but you will never replace a good old face to face conversation, be it in the pub, business meeting or networking event. Networking events still have an important place in business. You’re doing the rounds at a local networking event that you haven’t attended before, you talk to a selection of people and collect a number of business cards. By the time you’re back in the office, it can be challenging to  remember who is who! No matter, you can connect with those that you spoke to on LinkedIn. Joining up those who you meet professionally with LinkedIn is a valuable habit to get into. If you’re new to LinkedIn, you will need to build up your connections, much like growing followers on Twitter. LinkedIn then works as a management system for all of your contacts, giving you reminders of their progress and vice versa for you. All opportunities to keep in touch.

Monitor industry relevant groups & pages

That industry magazine that gets sent to your office every month has been delivered again. You don’t read it but think it will look good on the coffee table in the waiting room. You put it next to last month’s edition. As good a publication as that magazine is, you never have time to read it in any depth. Instead, join up that specific sector news with your LinkedIn feed. You can do this by following relevant groups and pages. This means you can see industry updates from various places at your leisure, be it in a small snippet in passing or reading a whole article when you get 5 minutes. From these updates and articles, you may see current news and have an opinion on it. You have the start of your next article!

Joining the small things results in a powerful marketing platform

None of the above are particularly time intensive. You can post an article to pulse and share it with all of your connections in a couple of minutes. Likewise, both adding a few connections and following some pages are nice and simple. If you have a joined up LinkedIn and utilise it, then it can be a very useful platform for spreading your word.

Networking and Marketing Engagement

I had a phone call this afternoon from someone called Kelly who was desperate to sell me a new phone system. It would have all the bells and whistles and do all sorts of things that our current system doesn’t do – but there was a problem, well a few actually:

  1. She rang me when she wanted to talk to me; which was not when I wanted to talk to her
  2. I don’t want to buy a new phone system
  3. The one we have works just fine thank you very much
  4. Despite her best efforts, none of the ‘must have’ features sparked my interest
  5. and did I mention I don’t want to buy a new phone system

You see, buying_not_sellingI think there has been a seismic shift in the world of Business to Business (B2B). It’s no longer about selling, it’s about buying. People don’t sell things, people buy things. With the internet at your fingertips, you can quickly learn a lot about pretty much anything at pretty much any time, day or night; so if you want to buy something for your business (even a new phone system), a quick search on Google (other search engines are available) will deliver vast quantities of information. All this info presents issues itself, as much of it will probably be incomprehensible. So you don’t need a sales person to try to sell you Brand X. What you need is someone to help you understand all the information and work out what your options are. You need someone you trust to understand your requirements and give you straightforward, relevant information to help you make a decision. ..and yes, this does include people letting you know about new products or services, not so that they can sell them to you, but so that you can include this knowledge in your buying decisions. If you do find someone trying to sell you ‘Brand X’, good old Google will soon throw some light on whether Brand X is actually any good for what you are looking for – and what experience others have had for that matter – which can put even more pressure on the ‘old-fashioned’ sales approach as they need to get you to make a decision before you can check them out.

A new sales concept: Marketing!

If selling is about getting someone to make a buying decision now and this is becoming ever more challenging as people have access to more and more information they can research, maybe the focus shouldn’t be on selling to people but rather building relationships so that customers have the confidence to buy from you when they are ready. Even better, if you have a good relationship with someone, they are likely to be much more willing to listen to you about new products and services – hopefully because you are informing them rather than selling to them.

So how do you build relationships?

More specifically, how do you take the first step? This is where networking can be effective. OK, making new contacts at a typical networking session can be a bit random. There might be 50-60 people at a networking meet though you probably only have conversations with 5 or 6 at most. But if you find a networking group where the membership ‘fits’ with your target market it is likely that you will be meeting people worth keeping in touch with (as potential suppliers as well as potential customers – remember, it works both ways!). Networking is not a quick fix! Good relationships take time to develop. You should be prepared to visit a networking group regularly for at least 6 months. This is another reason why you need to find a network of people where there is a ‘fit’ with you and your business. There is a focus in many networking groups (particularly the commercial ones!) that it’s not the people you meet but the people they know. While this approach has merit, surely it’s better fish in a pond that contains some fish you want to catch! You may only get good opportunities to network every month or so, and each time there is no guarantee that you will meet the same people to start to grow your relationships. Effective networking should be joined-up with your other marketing. Add new contacts to your database. You then have the opportunity to keep in touch and keep engaged. LinkedIn and e-mail newsletters can also be a great tools here. Don’t just rely on the networking sessions. Keep in touch. Meet one-to-one. By getting to know people – and giving them a chance to get to know you – you can build relationships based on confidence, trust and mutual benefit which are key to building long term business opportunity. …and who knows, almost certainly I will want to buy a new phone system sooner or later so if I ever meet Kelly through networking and get confident in her phone system expertise,maybe I might just give her a call?

Dynamic Websites – No longer just an option

UPDATEDA static brochure website just doesn’t cut it any more. Your site needs to reflect your business as it is today. Not as it was when your web designer published it! Whenever I visit a business to business website, there are always 3 things I look for:

  1. What is the copyright date?
  2. When was the last blog/news post?
  3.  How active is the Social Media Feed?
  1. should be this year.
  2. should be within the last month (or two)
  3. should be in the last day or two

Yet the vast majority of websites fail these tests – they simply aren’t dynamic. They aren’t kept up to date. In 2016 a website should be like a garden. Yes, it needs to be carefully planned in line with the latest design trends, and the structure should make it easy and enjoyable for visitors. But once the garden is open to the public it needs to be continually tended and developed to keep it looking good, and attracting people to come back again and again. The key to achieving this in a website is to develop a site that is easy to update, and flexible when it comes to adding new features and functionality, and for this, in our opinion, WordPress does a great job.

Effective Content Management

If it is difficult to update your website, you probably won’t do it. Having an effective content management system is pretty much essential these days. Going back to WordPress for a moment, one of the things that makes it a great platform for marketing comes form the fact that it started life as a blogging platform. Core functionality is designed to continually add content in the form of blog posts and news feeds. This means that rather than have to continually rewrite the core content of your site, you can keep it fresh by regularly adding news stories & blog posts that re-enforce your offering and your position in the market.

The Social Media Connection

Don’t feel you need to constantly come up with unique content. Monitor social media (whether you use it actively or not) and track what others in and around your sector are talking about. Making comment and having opinion on the thoughts of others can be a great way of developing new content for your site and really demonstrates your ability to ‘keep your finger on the pulse

A word on SEO

Read blogs about content marketing, and many will advocate that the prime reason for having one is to drive SEO in the belief that Google loves new content, so produce good content, and you will get listed on Google. Whilst I agree with the idea of producing great content, I disagree that SEO should be your prime focus. You should write content with your readers in mind, not search engines. Your content should be focused on interesting your readers,  reinforcing your position in the marketplace, and demonstrating your expertise. Do this, and as this interesting article on E-consultancy put it

“The SEO will take care of itself”

Is your website at the heart of your marketing? It should be!

Is your website at the heart of your marketing?
Is your website at the heart of your marketing?
Marketing needs content – and content can be hard work to produce! In my experience, lack of content it is the single biggest reason why website projects die before completion. I have even heard of clients paying for websites that never actually get published due to a lack of content! I have written previously about website development often having too much focus on design and the look of a site. I believe at least as much focus should be on good content, and once a site is published, the focus on regular, new content marches on…. It is certainly true that good content is the heart of an effective website, but once you have created your content, there are great opportunities to leverage your hard work! The internet, and the wider world, offer numerous options to publish your content:

  • Social Media
  • Guest Blogs
  • Magazines, both  on & off-line

Social media, external blogs, magazines etc.Just like you, they all need quality content and if you are producing relevant articles, there are often opportunities to get your work published by others meaning your work is seen by a wider audience. But there is an issue; these external media are all transient. Pretty quickly, your content gets overtaken by new stuff and disappears into the depths of the archives. This is why, IMHO, it is inefficient to write your content purely to be published on a platform where you don’t have influence over the flow of new content. Don’t waste your work – always use it first to build your own, managed archive on your website. Your content is then all available for your visitors for as long as you choose. It is also a great resource when talking to prospective clients. You can link them to relevant articles, case studies etc. reinforcing your credentials and demonstrating how you can help them.

An added bonus

New content also keeps your site fresh and up to date meaning it reflects your business as it is now, not just how it was when you launched your site. Even better, search engines love new content! Many of you will know I am not a fan of too much focus on ‘classical’ search engine optimisation but there is no question that regularly adding well written, relevant content to your site can have a significant positive impact on search rankings.

No need to wait for people to find your content

Just because you publish great content on your website doesn’t mean people will see it! Let people know what you are up to and invite them to your site. E-newsletters are a great option to engage with your existing contacts. By linking to content on your website you can keep your e-newsletters short and easy to scan. When a reader links through to content on your website, they also have opportunity to take a look around and get to know you better. A limitation of e-newsletters is that you can only send them to the people you know. This is where Social Media, Guest Blogs etc come into the picture. Your can reach out beyond your own contacts and engage with a wider audience – though you should always try to find an audience where there is a ‘fit’ with your business. Simply trying to spread the word to as many people as possible starts to sound like spam!

Top Tips…

Here are my top tips for keeping your website at the heart of your marketing

  1. Be proud of your website. Make sure it tells your story. Want people to visit and browse
  2. Regularly write/create new content and always add it to your website
  3. Make sure all your content is properly categorised. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.
  4. Build a network of relevant external publishers and keep delivering quality content to spread your word even wider
  5. As always – stick at it!

To finish off, here is a great post from professional services marketing specialist Ian Brodie which adds another angle by suggesting that published content can also be effectively integrated with ‘performed’ content such as seminars and presentations.

Why WordPress?

Anyone who has had a conversation about websites with us at BSA will know we are big advocates of WordPress. Of course, there are many other platforms and approaches to building websites, such as raw coding or point and click web-based applications (e.g. Wix). Over the years, we have explored a whole host of them, so why all the fuss about WordPress? In a word:

Functionality.

For both the developer and the end user, the functionality when using WordPress is great. Websites are designed from the ground up and also allow them to be updated, added to and evolved (a very important factor- which you can read about here.) Further to this is the extensive developer base, which is regularly updating the platform and often extending flexible functionality. This results in a tool that is more than just a website builder. It gives you something that can really add value to your business.

The attractions:

  • A website that flexible and easy to add to.
  • Full control over the layout and design
  • Effective Search Engine Optimisation (Google & WordPress work well together)
  • Easy to add new content.
  • WordPress is constantly being updated & developed to keep up with the latest web technologies
  • A website that is dynamic which can change & develop with your business

Whether you want a brand new website or simply wish to improve an existing website, WordPress can help. Over the last few years, BSA have delivered some great WordPress websites for our clients. To view a showcase of websites we have helped bring to the internet, click here. For more information on how BSA can help you build a WordPress website or develop an existing website, click here. Finally, here are some rather impressive WordPress statistics.

Guest Post – is your Shop Window letting you down? By Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie is a specialist in marketing professional services who focuses on practical, down-to-earth advice. He sent me this particular article last week and I felt it really struck a chord with our philosophy of making sure you are proud of you website.

Thank you Ian for allowing us to reproduce it here….


I get emails every now and then from professionals frustrated that they’re not getting the clients they feel they deserve. Their less talented competitors seem to have all the luck and be in the right place at the right time.

When I look at what they’ve been doing with their marketing though, it turns out it’s almost never down to luck.

Usually their website looks nice – but it has no content on it that would let anyone know what an expert they are in their field.

Do they do many presentations or run seminars showcasing their expertise? Nope – they go to networking events and tell people how great they are rather than demonstrating it.

Articles, a book, a podcast, email marketing? Nope.

In essence they’re expecting their potential clients to have psychic powers – to magically know how good they are without ever proving it.

It’s a bit like having a retail store with nothing in the shop window.

Can you imagine a clothing store without the latest fashions showing in the window? A technology store without any gadgets on display? A bakers without mouthwatering cakes, tarts and breads on show?

Smart retailers know they can’t just tell people what’s inside the store or rely on them knowing. They have to show their best stuff in the window to entice customers in. And then they have to give them a chance to “try before they buy”.

Fashion outlets let you try on the clothes. Tech stores let you play with the gadgets. Bakers always have a little sample tray so you can see that their stuff tastes as good as it looks.

You’ve got to do the same in your business.

You’ve got to have a shop window that showcases what you can do. And you’ve got to have some way that potential clients can “try before they buy”.

That could be a blog or videos on your website. A regular series of presentations or webinars you run. Articles in magazines your clients read.

Hiring a professional to help with a critical issue in their business or life is a huge decision or most people. If you don’t have a decent shop window it’s no surprise they turn to someone else.


For more about Ian’s work visit ianbrodie.com

Are your marketing emails being delivered

deliverabilityWe have always recommended that you use a highly targeted approach when using email as a web marketing tool. Thus, the importance of getting as many emails through to recipients mailboxes, and avoiding them ending up in the junk folder cannot be understated. Whilst historically, content filters, using key words and design features to identify likely spam emails, more recently the reputation of the sender (based on IP address of the mail server and the senders domain) alongside sender certification & authentication are being much more widely used in making decisions as to which messages to consign to the junk folder. In addition, many larger ISPs use list quality measured by things like bounce rate and recipient engagement metrics (are people actually engaging with messages from a given domain rather than simply deleting it) as an additional tool in their fight against spam. But what does this mean in the real world.

We have identified 3 key issues affect deliverability in the real world

  1. Your sending infrastructure (which mail server you use to send your marketing emails) is increasingly a key deliverability factor. Thus using a dedicated email marketing service (where mail servers are known to legitimately send bulk emails) rather than sending mailings via your ISPs general mail servers will improve deliverability.
  2. The quality of your list, ensuring that the list is continually cleansed to remove bounces, malformed emails etc is increasingly important. It is therefore vital that your emailing system easily & reliably records information like bounced or invalid email addresses, and that filters can be set to remove these addresses from mailings.
  3. It is VITAL (and a legal requirement) that you have a robust subscription management system, and that recipients who unsubscribe from your emails are permanently removed from your lists. However any good email marketing tool will have this functionality build in as standard.

Here are a couple of useful tools we have found

Inbox monitoring

On an individual basis this is virtually impossible to assess whether emails actually get through to their intended destination, but in-box monitoring goes a long way to measuring the effectiveness of your campaign in this respect.

With in-box monitoring, we add email addresses supplied by the relevant providers to your list and monitor which of these are delivered to the in-box. We can then use this information to assess the proportion of your campaign that is actually delivered to recipients in-boxes. It can also be used to identify deliverability issues that were not picked up by spam testing. BSA regularly use inbox monitoring using a tool called mailmonitorapp on our campaigns, as well as checking emails against key spam filter rules prior to sending, and monitoring blacklists for delivery IPS and campaign domains. As a result we regularly achieve inbox delivery  in excess of 90% and close to 100% on key B2B platforms like exchange and Office 365.

List Screening

Screening a list for bad emails is also an important factor in e-mail deliverability. Whilst good systems will automatically screen out emails identified as bounced, it is also possible to screen lists for known bad emails. One good, and inexpensive tool for doing this is kickbox.io

SPF Testing

This one is a little more technical, but I include it for you geeks out there who like to get technical! SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is a system that uses a DNS record to authenticate mailservers to send mail for a given domain. An SPF pass tells the receiving email that the sending server is allowed to send mail for the sending domain in the email and thus is less likely to be spam. Increasingly big mail handlers like gmail, exchange and Office 365 use this test to help confirm whether an email is legitimate. Testing the SPF is fairly straight forward, but you will need 2 pieces of information (The address you are sending the mail from, and the IP address of the sending server). Once you have these, head along to www.dnsstuff.com and plug them into the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) tool. If you get an SPF fail, you will need to speak to your email marketing provider to get this issue addressed, but doing so is usually pretty straight forward. The good news is that as spam filtering systems become more sophisticated, as long as you use a professional approach it may actually become easier and more acceptable to send legitimate marketing messages. If you would like to discuss how to improve the deliverability of your email campaigns please feel free to contact us, we are always happy to talk.

5 Email Marketing Trends in 2016

Email will always be a marketeers staple. This doesn’t mean that it never evolves or changes. Trends On the contrary, people want to see different things landing in their inbox in 2016. Gone should be the outdated templates & lack of interactivity. In will come an even more modern approach for people to embrace. Below are 5 things that will be apparent throughout email marketing in 2016.

More opens on mobile & tablet

At the back end of 2015, the number of emails opened on mobiles & tablets hit an all time high. In the fourth quarter, 66% of email opens were on one of these platforms, 58% of which were on Apple devices. It is predicted that this gap will continue to grow.

The fact that mobiles and tablets are now substantially outnumbering desktops means they have to be given focus. Whilst the idea of gearing an email to look okay on a mobile or tablet has been around for a good while, this is often a “because you have to” thing.

Email Marketing & Social media will continue to compliment each other

Both platforms compliment each other and this will not change in 2016. Whilst social media is seen as quite transient at times, this can be countered with emails. Messages being pushed through social media can reach the next level in emails, by being more focused and landing right in a target’s inbox. This works in the other direction too. Social media is a great way of extending an emails reach. Simply by adding share buttons to emails and articles within them, a story that was in an inbox one minute, can be on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn the next.

Interactive Emails will become common place

Emails that require the user to interact and do something deliver higher engagement. Too often, emails are purely text based, require nothing but reading and so the reader gets bored. Whilst text based content should always be the majority, interactive features should crop up now and again. By getting the reader involved, they are more likely to engage your emails in future. It doesn’t even have to be anything complicated. Simple additions such as animated imagery or graphics work, as well as the usual videos, surveys etc.

The call for originality in email templates will increase

As more and more people look to increase their focus on email marketing, more and more templates come to the fore. These days, a template will often be modern and clean looking with an emphasis away from dark colours and filled backgrounds. However, there are still these sorts of templates about. Like websites, your emails should be regularly improved and this includes the template. Branding should be consistent throughout your website, your social media and your emails. Got a new website? Get a new email template.

Personalisation will go up a level

Personalisation was once just putting someone’s name at the top of the email. A simple salutation one went a long way. Gone are those days! Now, users are interested in seeing messages that are tailored to their personal interests and preferences as opposed to just their name. Much like supermarkets send coupons depending on what you buy, content in emails should be delivered depending on what people read. If you are offering products to people, they need to have shown an interest in that particular area, otherwise it’s likely to be a waste of time. More focused personalisation will result in more engagement.

To conclude…

These 5 things will have varying levels of importance and relevance to different people. That’s only normal. What is important, is that you don’t stand still with any aspect of your marketing, especially emails.