Don’t let summer slow your business

Don’t let summer sink your business
At a time when many of us are thinking about holidays and time off work, it can be easy to forget that not everyone takes time off at the same time – indeed not everyone takes time off! The world of business carries on right through July and August – albeit sometimes at a slightly more sedentary pace! Taken together, July and August represent 16% of the year. If this time is written off as ‘nothing happens in the summer’, opportunities can be missed. In fact, if you extend this philosophy to include the other key holiday periods of Christmas and Easter, you can find yourself writing off up to a quarter of the year! Not good for business. Business goes on throughout the year – but it is important to get time off if you need it! So how do you ‘square the circle’ of making sure you stay ‘open for business’ through the summer even if you take time off?

Staying open for business - In a word:planning!

Here are my top tips for having a stress-free summer break:

1. Make sure your customers know you’re away!

The out of office auto-reply email is pretty ubiquitous these days, and also (in my opinion) pretty useless! Does it really help a customer who wants to get in touch to receive an email by return telling her that you will be away from the office for 2 weeks?! At best this may cause mild frustration. At worst it may mean your customer looks elsewhere. If you can let your regular customers know, in good time, that you are going to be away then any urgent issues can be dealt with before you go. Obviously if you speak to clients regularly, you can tell them but, as a backup, something I have done for several years is to add a few words (giving dates of my absence) to a special e-mail signature that I switch on for a couple of weeks before I go away. This way, every email I send is letting people know when I won’t be around. If possible, when you are actually away, you should brief a colleague on any outstanding issues and give their contact details in your ‘Out of office’ message. Clearly this isn’t easy if you work by yourself but maybe it is OK (if it is possible) to be available for clients while you are away. I look at it like this: If there really is a major problem, I’d rather know about it and do what I could while on holiday Better a minor inconvenience that I can deal with than carry on in blissful ignorance only to find major turmoil when I get back to work. Often merely acknowledging a client’s contact while you are away, and explaining that you will deal with it on your return can turn what might be a minor frustration for them into a real demonstration of good customer service!

2. Plan your marketing ahead – make time for yourself

A key to keeping your business moving is to keep up with your marketing communication. With all the web-tools that are available today, this can be easier than you might think. If you have an email newsletter content calendar you should know well ahead of time what content and articles you plan to publish when. By getting organised you can write articles and prepare e-newsletters days, or even weeks ahead and then use online scheduling to publish/send your messages – even if you are asleep on eth other side of the world! This said, you need to be ready to respond. If your marketing regularly gets a lot of engagement, you may need to take a few minutes out of your holiday day to respond. As a general rule, automated responses might seem like a good idea but normally come over as stale – I would avoid them. This is particularly true with social media, particularly Twitter & Facebook. There are many tools where you can set up future tweets and posts. If you do choose to use them, be careful. However, as I talk about below, give yourself a break!

3. Time to be more light hearted

Summer can also be used as an opportunity to do something a bit different. It’s the perfect time to push lighter topics. For example:

  • Anecdotal/light-hearted news articles
  • Quizzes
  • Videos & Cartoons
  • Info-graphics

The lighter content will give readers a break from the usual, corporate stuff. Again, if you plan ahead, you can keep your audience engage while you are doing your thing in the sun.

4. Give yourself a break!

Planning for the summer is important. However, accept that you may not have enough resources to do your usual “full” content marketing. Formally acknowledging summer is a good thing to do. For example, at BSA, we slow down our content marketing throughout August. This is often much better than worrying that you’re not publishing enough content. Consider how you can go about firstly planning for summer and then how to roll our your plans throughout summer. Plan your content in advance. For all those heavy pieces of content, try to create some alternatives for people to read. It will give your company a different dimension when it comes to content marketing.

5. Do Something!

If all else fails, try to do something to keep your marketing and business ticking along over the summer. There is nothing worse than getting to 1 September having lost all momentum and needing to really work to get the business machine back up and running. If you can keep your marketing ticking along you will hit September safe in the knowledge that you have maintained a great marketing platform to springboard your business into the Autumn.  

The Role of Video

The Role of Video

Vlogging is a blog in the form of video. With an estimated 3.2 Billion people using the Internet, the world wide web is perfect for promoting yourself. But what gives you the extra boost using vlogging? Typically, these are hosted on free services such as YouTube, Vimeo or on your own website. Generally, your video will be publicly visible with the options for viewers to give your video a rating, comment or share your video. This allows you to gain feedback from the viewers of your Vlog. Retaining the positives and improving the negatives. This allows you to gain feedback from the viewers of your Vlog. You can build on the positives and work on the negatives. Videos have a much higher chance of going viral than written blogs. Search engines love video content and your vlog will help your content to rank higher. Many people find video more engaging than writing. They prefer to watch rather than read. People are tending to search for video tutorials and information. The fact you can engage more rather than reading product descriptions and reviews. The likelihood of getting your video shared, embedded or downloaded are higher as it is simple to do.

TED Talks

Whilst not technically a Vlog, from a business/management perspective, probably one of the most interesting video resources on the web is TED.com. TED (Technology Entertainment & Design) Talks started in 1984 and is a not for profit organisation dedicated to spreading Ideas Its remit now expands way beyond technology entertainment & design. The core of the TED website are the TED Talks videos, all less than 18 minutes long, and generally presented by excellent speakers, they are both entertaining and inspirational. I suggest you take a look. So, as we approach the summer holidays, I will leave you with some ideas for TED talks you might like to check out whilst relaxing by the pool.

And to finish on a more general note:

Forget Marketing – Use UnMarketing

I have written a fair bit recently about how, for many SMEs, marketing is anything but marketing! It may be ‘sales promotion‘ (lead generation) or ‘digital’  (pretty much anything where there seems to be someone offering you their ‘blow-your-socks-off‘ service), but what they are doing isn’t marketing which (IMHO) is the process of:

'Effective and consistent engagement with a market to build awareness and trust'

Clearly, there is no ‘one size fits all‘ solution. It is about having an effective mix, yet the problem seems to be that in the excitement of getting a ‘now’ sales lead or seeing your website at the top of Google, real, consistent, sustained marketing communication and engagement risks getting left behind.

Let’s get UnMarketing

This is the background to me spotting ‘Unmarketing’ – written by Scott Stratten and Alison Stratten – on a recent trip through Los Angeles airport (name drop!) As is often the case with an ‘airport’ book, I liked the title! Having read the book – I’m glad I did. OK, it’s a bit North American (Canadian to be exact) in style (sorry Scott/Alison) but it is refreshing to read about real marketing. The book is easy to read and very wide ranging. I found some parts more relevant to BSA Marketing than others but the overall message is clear. Stop trying to sell to people and start engaging with them – if they know, like and trust you they are more likely to do business with you. The essence of the book sits well with my philosophy of ‘Just Do It’ and through its 61 (satisfyingly concise) chapters Scott and Alison explore a broad spectrum of ideas, including practical ‘How to do it’ advice. This is the 2nd edition of the book. It was published a couple of months ago so is right up to date.

Practical Information

It gives a practical review of key aspects of marketing including:

  • Idea Creation
  • Viral Marketing and Video,
  • Authenticity, Transparency and Immediacy
  • Ethics and Affiliates
  • Social Media Platforming
  • UnPodcasting
  • Word of Mouth
  • Customer Service
  • Consumer Advocacy
  • Leadership.

Most important, the book is written with the interests of the marketer/ business owner in mind. Scott and Alison talk about how you use UnMarketing to unlearn the old ways and consistently attract and engage the right customers. Don’t keep pushing out your message and praying that it sticks somewhere. Potential and current customers want to be listened to, validated, and have a platform to be heard- and yes, digital is a powerful tool to help achieve this. As with so many things, reading it isn’t going to help unless you do something. Good marketing is about what YOU do with YOUR business but it is great to see someone with such a wide international audience promoting solid business fundamentals (even if they did come up with a catchy name for it!) rather than looking at the latest band waggon to jump on. Whether you’re just getting started, or you already have an established business, UnMarketing has a lot to offer and will certainly give you some food for thought. As well as at LAX, UnMarketing is available online in different formats including digital, hard copy and audiobook. If you click the image above or here you will go to Amazon where you can see a preview. If you’d like to look at UnMarketing for your business, give me a call

The Role of Digital

There is no denying the fact that digital has changed the face of marketing. Sometimes however we are too quick to jump for our keyboards before considering the wider marketing issues. If you would like to read more about this, you might find these posts interesting:

But the fact remains that, for SMEs, digital tools are the key to success when it comes to implementation of marketing ideas, So how do we make the most of these without ending up with the tail wagging the dog?

The Role of Digital

Whilst digital delivers many other benefits, There are 4 key things that make it so valuable to SMEs

  1. Digital can significantly reduce the cost of delivering messages to your marketplace
  2. Digital significantly improves the level of feedback available form marketing campaigns
  3. Digital increases the availability of demographic info to allow more accurate targeting of messages
  4. Digital significantly simplifies the management of customer information

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

Cost of Delivery

Digital Marketing has effectively removed the cost of delivering your marketing message. Websites social media and email have effectively reduced the marginal cost of delivery to ZERO. Whilst this is great, the danger is that this low cost of delivery reduces the thought put into into the content and quality of the message. Potentially this results in us becoming “busy fools”; working hard on marketing campaigns which, in reality, are having little effect in terms of building your business.

Improved Feedback

Whenever you send an email, publish and article on your blog or post on social media, you will immediately get feedback on how your audience views your post. Do they like it/find it interesting? Do they have something to say about it? Feedback now much more nuanced that the old do they buy, or not? Feedback allows you to tune your output to your audience and to ensure that every piece of marketing you put out is moving you towards your ultimate business and marketing goals. Furthermore, the low cost of delivery allows you to experiment with ideas and messages to see what works, and what doesn’t.

Improved Customer Information

While feedback is immediately useful in assessing the effectiveness of marketing messages, the fact that it also allows you to build up more accurate information on who your (potential) customers are, and what makes them tick, help you to better target your marketing as time goes on. Segmenting your market will assist in ensuring that your messages are as relevant as possible to their recipients. This approach also avoids the danger of trying to be all things to all people.

Simplified Information Management

The capture and analysis of data are central to effective digital marketing. Having good processes to handle data important. This said, don’t get fooled into thinking you must have a complex and expensive CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Tool. The important things is to have a system that you understand, and use! Whilst a dedicated CRM system may be appropriate, any system (even a simple spreadsheet) that allows you to you keep track of customer and prospect information, interactions and planned actions with them will be a useful tool.

The important thing about any CRM is that you understand and use it

If this has got you thinking that you would like to make more effective use of Digital marketing, we would love to talk to you