Content is King – still

Content is king - stillIt is 20 years since Bill Gates wrote his essay Content is King looking at the value of online content for revenue generation, particularly in a Business to Consumer (B2C) environment. You can read the original essay here – reproduced by Dan McLeod on LinkedIn in 2015 Over the past 2 decades his prediction has proved true in some ways but less so in others. Many websites are still struggling to find a model where they can directly charge people for accessing content but there is an ever growing number of sites which use attractive content to attract readerships numbering into 6 and 7 figures which can then be monetised through advertising. This approach has proved very successful for some (admittedly not very many) B2C websites but with most Business to Business (B2B) sites attracting much smaller audiences, equivalent opportunities are more limited.

Why is content is king for Business to Business (B2B)?

The essence of effective B2B marketing is building a community of contacts who know your business and can benefit from your products and services. Most important, this community must have confidence in your business and what you offer. This confidence maximises the likelihood that they will come to you when they have a need and also protects from the influence of competitors Good content is the key resource you need to build awareness, understanding and, most important, confidence in your community of contacts.

Use your website

Modern websites are readily updateable and dynamic. You should be using this capability to regularly add new, relevant and interesting content to your website. This content doesn’t need to always be about your business, you can talk more widely about your sector and market place. By publishing ‘sector’ content as well as ‘company’ content you can grow your sector credentials, establishing you as an expert in your field. This is a great way to grow confidence in your audience.

Keep your website at the heart of your marketing

I have talked before about the importance of being proud of your website. It is just as important that you a ‘precious’ about your site too. Your site is your single most powerful online tool to communicate with your ‘community’ and wider market. You should aim to integrate all of your carefully crafted content into you site so that it is there for visitors. I am also a great fan of reusing content where possible. I have worked hard to create it to I want to make the most of it! Publish content from your website on Social Media, ensuring there are links back to your site. Your goal should always be to encourage readers back to your site. This is where they can read your wider story and get a more complete picture of who you are, what your business is and how it can be of benefit to them.

Review your site

As well as regularly publishing new content – ideally at least 2-3 times a month or so – don’t forget to take a step back every now and again to look at your site and wider web presence as a whole. Take a look at the content and context. Even better, get friends, family, work colleagues or clients to take a look and give you feedback. This ‘free market research’ can be immensely valuable and give real insight into how others see your business through its online presence. Try to take time to do this sort of review at least 2 or 3 times each year. It is likely that much of your regular new content will be added as blog articles or social media posts. This is great but don’t forget the rest of your web content. I recommend you spend a bit of time focussed on your website every few months. You don’t necessarily need to change things if they don’t need changing. The aim is to ensure your site and wider web content properly reflect your business.

Help is at hand

Regularly and consistently creating new relevant and interesting content is one of the biggest marketing challenges facing many SME companies – and a key reason why a marketing process for a business fails. BSA Marketing have tackled and addressed this issue and have been creating quality content for both ourselves and our clients for over 10 years, not only producing the material but also ensuring it is consistently and effectively used as part of a sustained marketing process. For more ideas on how to create and use your own content, take a look at www.bsamarketing.com – or email me: davidw@bsamarketing.com Happy creating!

Marketing Collateral – Are you engaging or just telling?

engaging_collateralMarketing collateral comes in a bewildering array these days from print to digital to personal – yes, those conversations at your local networking group are just as much about marketing as is your brochure or website. Whatever your collateral, published or verbal, it can be tempting to focus on what you want to tell people. It is harder to think about what they might want to hear, to engage with them! Actually these two can be the same thing from different perspectives. Thinking from the recipients point of view makes it more likely that your message will be engaging with them rather than just talking at them. You have probably experienced it, and some may even have done it – the one-way networking conversation. You are talked at and if you don’t bite, they move on. OK, this approach can work if you are in search of ‘right place, right time‘, but it is incredibly wasteful. If you engage with people while you are networking, listening as well as talking, you will create a better impression and even if there is no opportunity to progress just now, you create a platform for the future. Similarly with brochures and websites, content that puts your products and services in a context of how someone can benefit from doing business with you, and demonstrating your ability to deliver on your offer, is more powerful than simply listing what you offer.

It's the old story of focusing on benefits rather than features.

Key steps to engaging marketing collateral

Be aware of the balance – are you focusing on their interest? Putting your proposition/products/services in the context of your market place can be very effective. It is a good way to demonstrate benefits and also give you an opportunity to show your understanding and expertise; powerful marketing messages! Showing your continuing engagement with your marketplace also demonstrates your commitment. Clients want someone to rely on. They want to be sure you will be around to support them as they work with you. With this in mind, ask yourself a question:

Do you stick with you?

Do you stick with you? – A process not an event

We live in the world of ‘now’. Is your collateral up to date or out of date? Print can be a particular problem here. Most brochures are expected to have a life of at least a few years but images of cars, IT, phones etc can be giveaways of older collateral as technology moves forward so rapidly with newer models introduced every year – never mind your business evolving and changing your portfolio of products and services. A website should be easier to keep updated but many companies don’t! Often a website is seen as a ‘fit and forget’ like a brochure, but a good site should be dynamic with new content added on a regular basis. As ‘blogs’ and ‘news’ become core elements of a website, the problem is exacerbated as this content normally includes a publication date by default.

An example of the problem:

We just got a new twitter follower on (@bsamarketing). It is a creative agency – I took a look at their website  – smart. I took a look at their blog: regular posts from March 2016 (launch of new website?) to May 2016, then nothing. What does this tell me about their commitment? Not great I’m afraid. I may be wrong but that’s the evidence.

There is the option to hide out of dateness by removing date references, but regularly adding new content, blog articles, case studies etc. and embracing the fact that they are dated is a real positive – and a demonstration of your commitment.

Prove your capabilities

It is one thing to say you can do something but quite another to actually do it. Including case studies and testimonials in your marketing collateral can be a great way of allowing others (your customers!) to tell your market what a great job you do. Simply talking the talk isn’t enough you need to walk the walk and demonstrate your competence. Long term business relationships are built on mutual trust and confidence. If your marketing collateral really engages, it is a great way starting this process.

A practical start

Why not ask one or two customers for an objective critique of your website or other marketing collateral. As an alternative, even family members not involved in the business can give some interesting insight. Both approaches can identify opportunities to refine and improve what you say and the way you say it. When it comes to networking and ‘verbal’ collateral, next time you are networking try to listen to what you are saying when talking to someone and compare it with what you hear from others. Do they take a different approach or say anything that you might be able to use – or maybe it just shows you what an engaging networker you are already! If you’d like to make your marketing work by being more engaging, do get in touch

Missed opportunity – A cautionary tale

cautionary_taleWe have written a few posts recently discussing how some SME businesses focus almost exclusively on the short term when planning marketing – often confusing marketing and brand communication with lead generation and sales development. When it comes down to it, if you are only going to focus on either marketing/communication or lead generation/sales then it really should be the latter. A business can survive without dedicated, focused marketing but sales and profitable revenue generation is a must!

Marketing is a catalyst.

A business with an effective marketing process will better understand its customers and markets who will, in turn, have a better understanding of the company, it’s proposition and the value benefit it can deliver. In short effective marketing makes lead generation and sales easier. However if you fall into the trap of thinking you are marketing when actually you are selling can be dangerous and lead to missed opportunity – potentially with terminal results.

A Case Study

Some time ago, a friend of mine set up an e-commerce retail business. The business was initially an expansion of a hobby where he stored goods in his garage and visited craft fairs as a sales outlet. The business was low turnover but with virtually no overheads. It was profitable. He then took the business online and the growth (albeit modest) continued. As those of you who run retail businesses will be only too aware, it can be relatively easy to grow turnover but with inventory costs taking up the majority of the revenue, delivering sustainable profit can be more challenging. It is easy to let overhead creep up and eat into margin. This is what happened in this case. As the business turnover grew online, the garage wasn’t big enough so they moved into a small warehouse unit – with rent and rates! This step-change in overhead needed a quick boost in turnover and Google Adwords was an obvious choice – and it worked! Pay-per-click had an almost immediate impact generating turnover to meet the increased overhead. Revenues soared through £100,000 and on towards £300,000 – all was looking positive. Adwords became the key to growth.

Misdirected Focus

Rapid growth brought its own issues with more and more stock to manage and customer orders to fulfil. The process of maximising orders through Pay-per-click meant the management got sucked into dealing with the short term. The problems that were looming over the horizon were just not on the radar.

Reality Sets In

Retail e-commerce is a cash positive business model. Customers pay up front while suppliers are paid on credit terms of 30 days – or more. While turnover is growing, this puts short term cash in the bank which can hide a critical factor. There is no profit! As the initial burst of growth started to level off, reality set in. Turnover was still strong but cashflow suffered. The business started to run out of cash. What was going on? Products were being sold at good margin and staff and premises costs were under control. The issue was Adwords. Company focus was on driving turnover through Adwords which meant that the majority of orders received by the company incurred additional cost of the Adwords fees. The margin was going to Google! However, there was a critical factor that was being ignored.

Missed Opportunity

Clearly a business that isn’t making a profit isn’t sustainable but as the turnover rose, a potentially valuable asset was being created. Driving sales through Adwords meant that most orders were from new customers. By the time the reality was setting in, there was a database of around 18000 live, paying customers – and nothing was being done with it! Open any marketing primer and you will read that it is easier to get sales from an existing customer who knows you than someone who doesn’t. In our case here this huge opportunity was being almost completely ignored. If there had been a consistent process of communication and relationship building (i.e. Marketing) with these existing customers using lower cost media such as e-mail and social media, profitable repeat business could have been developed where the margin stayed with the company. The problem was that marketing is a medium to long term process and by the time they realised, it was too late. A potentially strong and effective business closed down. I believe a lack of longer term marketing planning was a significant factor in this demise.

The Moral of the Story

Any business that only plans and operates in the short term will only ever have short term certainty. While short term security is clearly critical, it is only by taking time to also plan and act for the medium and longer term that a business can grow stronger and through this growing strength, make success ever more sustainable. This might be easy to say but the fact is that longer term marketing planning is easy to forget or ignore. BSA’s focus is working with our clients to make sure that marketing doesn’t get forgotten and that plans are agreed, and, most important, implemented. We strive to make sure your marketing works for you. Is your marketing working? If not, give us a call.