Quality Images – more valuable & practical than video

Lots of marketers push the value of video as marketing collateral – this is great idea in theory but there are issues: Producing a decent video requires a whole range of skills to develop:  

  • The overall concept/idea
  • A storyboard
  • Scripting
  • Filming/Acting/Presentation
  • Editing

This means that producing a quality video requires a fair budget. You can’t do much for less than £2-£3000. Once you publish your video, it starts to go stale. A video demands more attention than a photo. Consequently, its repeat watchability is less than a good still image.

Quality Images – A better solutions

Modern websites are VERY visual – particularly the home page where images (coupled with a few explanatory words) can be a great way to give people the overview of your business proposition. It is VERY difficult, if not impossible, to develop a modern, appealing website without good images. You can use photos, or graphics, or a mixture, but you need something visual In my experience, a lack of decent images is the biggest issue when it comes to developing a new website. I always recommend that when building a new website, you should include a photography/image plan in your ideas. Unless you have a big budget, don’t feel you must include video too.

A good investment

While a professional video can cost upwards of £2-£3000 – for which you get one video (or maybe 2), commissioning a professional photographer can produce 10’s if not 100+ photographs in a single day’s work at substantially lower cost (OK, if you ask them to do a lot of editing/retouching this does cost more.) As with any investment, make a plan. If you can give your photographer some idea of what you want, you will get better results. This can be particularly important with websites where you may want images that work as a ‘letterbox’ shape for banners/sliders or a series of images that all need to be the same size and work as a group. eg illustrating services or product categories. It is better to plan your website structure and define what images you need rather than working the other way around. You don’t want to finish your photography session only to find you need a critical shot you don’t have! Professional images on the homepage and at key points in your site creates a platform where you can easily add more ‘functional’ photos that you can take yourself. When taking photos, have some fun. Here are some tips:

  1. Make sure you have plenty of light
  2. Clean/plain backgrounds make your subject stand out and make it easier to delete the background if you wish
  3. Make sure your subject is in focus – obvious but important!
  4. Think about composition (e.g. do you need space in your photo to overlay words?)
  5. Use a camera you are comfortable with. You plus your Smartphone can produce better results than You plus a high-end DSLR you don’t fully understand. Modern digital cameras, even on phones can produce remarkably usable results
  6. Take lots of variations on a subject. Try different positions/angles. When you review your results, one or two will probably stand out
  7. If you are using a smartphone hold it horizontally
  8. Play around with the settings on your camera if you wish but you can always rely on ‘Auto’!

Go on, have a go. You can always delete the rubbish and who knows – you may surprise yourself!

Marketing Collateral – It’s a process

Any post talking about marketing collateral needs to start with a definition.

What do we actually mean by “Marketing Collateral”?

We talk a lot about the importance of content on a website, and in effect marketing collateral is anything that significantly re-enforces your marketing message. In terms of web marketing,  examples include:

  • Case Studies
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Testimonials
  • Blog Posts
  • Info-graphics

All of these should work together to consistently communicate your business proposition and re-enforce your brand. However, good collateral takes time to put together, and so requires planning.

The benefits of a content calendar

Picture the scene – You have a newsletter due out in 2 weeks, and you start thinking about content. The subject of the newsletter is your ability to solve your clients’ problems, and a case study for a recent job is perfect to illustrate your message. Even if you have the perfect case study in mind, good case studies need researching & writing, and then ideally need to be approved by the client. This is an absolute necessity if you plan to use your client’s name in the copy. Realistically, this process is likely to take more than 2 weeks, so will probably delay the sending out of the newsletter. In this circumstance, a content calendar which maps out the subject matter of newsletters over the next 3-6 months would have identified the need for this case study in advance, creating space to prepare the content in plenty of time for the newsletter.

Not all collateral is created equal

The other thing to bear in mind is that the creation of some marketing collateral is more involved than others. Once you have the idea, you can put together a blog post in a matter of hours. Thus solid written content should always form the bedrock of your content strategy. Testimonials too are pretty straightforward. Here it’s about having your eye out for all positive comments made by customers. When these appear, it’s usually a quick email requesting permission to use it, and you have yourself a testimonial. At the other end of the scale, things like videos & infographics can take much more planning & preparation. It’s therefore important that you have a strategy to create a mix of marketing collateral that keeps the process interesting & cost effective.

Collateral is a process

The fact is creating marketing collateral is a process and one that should be a core part of your marketing activity & day to day management processes. Creating a culture where people are constantly on the lookout for material that will re-enforce your brand message means that the ideas for content should keep flowing. Embedding this into core management processes means that ideas translate efficiently into reality.

When did GDPR become all about email marketing?

First of all, let me state for the record. I think that on the whole GDPR is a good idea. Putting control back in the hands of the data owner (what the regulation is all about) is a good thing. However, a recent article in the Guardian:

Most GDPR emails unnecessary and some illegal, say experts

Got me thinking about the way it is being promoted, and the fact that the focus seems to be on email address lists rather than the broader and more subtle personal information that is gathered, held and used by many organisations. Uses that have significantly greater privacy implications than who has my email address & how they use it. Over the last couple of months, I have received a torrent of emails asking me me to re-subscribe to lists. Whilst the intentions of these people is admirable (if misguided – according to the Guardian).  I, like most people, am lazy, and as a resuch have not responded to any of them (A recent statistic suggested that resubscription rates are on average, <10%), even though many of them are companies I have bought from or registered with in the past. The upshot of this is that all of these people will stop sending me information, even though many of their emails, I would consider “of interest”. Let’s face it, I would have unsubscribed if I really didn’t want their stuff. Furthermore as a consumer, they have needed my consent to email me for a number of years (under the excising e-privacy laws) anyway! But what about all the people, who have got my email address from who knows where, and are already not complying with the e-privacy laws. Those people not-unsurprisingly have not asked me to re-subscribe and will continue to send me emails. So one result of GDPR is that the proportion of these less interesting emails in my inbox will increase. But what about the new teeth That GDPR has given the ICO? Won’t that mean they can shut down these people with massive fines? In principal, yes it does. but in reality, tthe ICO have had sanctions including the ability to levy fines up to £500,000 since 2003 under the existing PECR, a regulation that already requires consent for email marketing to private individuals With this in mind,  I would hope that they will be using their resources to work with/go after people who are really abusing personal information, gathering it in a more covert way, and using it to target you in ways that you would not expect, ways that create real privacy issues. Lets face it, GDPR, was never really about stopping unsolicited email, it was about putting in place a framework of regulation to address issues like social media data harvesting/mining, to force companies to be open an honest about what data they collect & and how they use it, and at its heart, to put the control back into the hands of us the data owners. In reality technology has pretty much dealt with the issue of unsolicited email. I use exchange/Office 365, and I now unwanted Marketing emails/spam are not an issue for me as Microsoft’s systems handle them admirably. Google’s Gmail system is equally good at managing the issue. So why has GDPR become all about re-subscribing to marketing lists? In my opinion, who has my email address, and who uses it to market to me is the least of the privacy issues on the net at the moment! For me, it just means I will stop getting emails that i might have found interesting. Oh well I guess that just the price of being lazy! I will finish by stressing that this is just my opinion, and I guess time will tell what the real impact of GDPR will be. Let’s hope going forward the focus will be of solving the very real privacy issues associated with the ways we use technology in 2018 and beyond. .

Prospecting – find the fit

There is a big disconnect in a lot of SME prospecting and marketing, particularly in B2B businesses offering niche and/or technical products and services, an area where BSA focuses our attention. Many of these companies will start with a mass-marketing objective to ‘spread the word‘ as widely as possible using digital channels, yet the businesses are based around solid cohorts of long-term, loyal, repeat-business clients. They (You?) deliver great products/services and build relationships with people who grow to trust you. These customers/clients typically have an ongoing requirement for what you do and they keep coming back.

A real business goal

Rather than flooding the market, the real goal may be to consistently add regularly new customers. 10-20 new clients in a year can represent significant growth. This particularly true if you typically work closely with a modest number of active clients. In this sort of business, the development goal should be about building quality clients delivering repeat business. One-offs are OK but there is a danger they distract from the core business. Given the specific nature of your company, it is also normally pretty easy to tell whether a potential prospect may have a ‘fit’ with what you offer, or not. Here I am NOT suggesting that you can tell whether a given company will have a current interest you and your business. Rather, I am saying you can answer a more important question:

Is it likely that this company buys (or has a meaningful potential to buy) the products/services we supply?

I propose that this should be the starting point for effective marketing of a niche business. If the answer to the question is ‘No‘, then move on. If the answer is ‘Yes‘ then, in principle, it makes sense to engage with the business. Interestingly, at this stage, whether or not the company has a current interest in you is less important. Building your ‘brand’ amongst these companies where you have a ‘fit’ is a great way to grow a really solid, sustainable business. You get the opportunity to engage with your market and help them really understand how good you are and appreciate the value and benefit you deliver.

…an example…

A BSA client from the process engineering sector recently visited a major exhibition. They don't do mass marketing but have a consistent and targeted approach to prospecting and business development.   The team that visited were wearing branded jackets and the main comment that came back from them was the (pleasant) surprise as to how many other visitors recognised them. The company has a strong brand position built through steady, targeted prospecting - and doing a really great job!  Perhaps not surprising then that the company has grown to 100 staff, and doubled turnover in the past 5 years.

Make every prospect count

Don’t just throw mud and hope some sticks. Try to be different, more engaging. Put some time into researching and understanding a prospect. You are aiming to build a valuable and long-term relationship with them so a bit of effort up front is worth it. By having a better understanding of the potential ‘fit’ with a particular company You will be able to bring them into your conversation rather than just talking at them about how great you are. Don’t get me wrong, the quick-wins are out there but, to some extent, finding them straight away is partly down to luck, being in the right place at the right time. Luck is OK but not very reliable! By focussing effort into fewer, but more highly selected prospects, you can build a meaningful channel for dialogue. Building relationships with these companies makes it more likely that when they have a need, it is you they will think of.

You are putting yourself in the right place at the right time!

Prospecting is a process

This approach may not have the short-term impact (or cost!) of a mass campaign but is much more sustainable. Many years ago I met a man who had just set up in business. He had been sold on the idea of a mass-mailing campaign, spending his money mailing 10,000 businesses. The response was 5 replies and no business. He had no resources left. He was stuck. I don’t know what became of him but I have never forgotten him. Business development prospecting is a process, not an event. Here are my top tips:

  1. Have a real belief in what you do
  2. Build a prospecting process that engages you with relevant target companies.
  3. Talk with your prospects, not at them
  4. Demonstrate your capabilities to businesses where they are relevant
  5. Build awareness, confidence and trust
  6. Plan for the long-term

If you deliver real value and can communicate this ability to relevant prospects who understand the real benefit you can bring to them, they will buy! Not all of them, and not all the time, but they will buy. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss further

Social Media – More than Just building followers

Social Media is a great tool for getting your message out there. Whilst there are many SM platforms available, here I want to focus on two – LinkedIn and Twitter. Increasingly, these are being used by SMEs as part of their brand development and sales outreach strategies. When looking at building a strategy, one of the first questions we would ask is: What is your objective? The easy answer to this question where both Twitter and LinkedIn are concerned, is “I want to get loads of followers”. But a bit like “I need to be at the top of Google”, this objective is a little short-sighted. Follow the “number of followers objective”,  and being “successful” on These social platform is pretty easy! You just have to Google “Gain Twitter/LinkedIn followers/Contacts” and you will find plenty of people happy to help you reach that goal. But quite obviously this would be wasted effort. Gaining followers should only be part of your objective. In my view the real objective should be

“I want to engage with my marketplace, build a relationship with relevant contacts, and demonstrate that I add value”. 

On this basis, number of followers is only one measurement. Equally important should be quality of those followers and the level of engagement I have with them.

For the rest of this post, I am going to focus on the first of these – Quality of Followers.

From a marketing perspective, the quality of your follower base should be judged on the following:

  1. Are they relevant to my business?
  2. Do they have something valuable to add to the discussion?

Are they Relevant?

If a contact is relevant, then normally this relevance should be 2 way, and as such, the ‘they follow me and I feel it is worth following them back’ (or visa versa) rule should apply. On LinkedIn, accepting connections should be because there is a potential mutual benefit to the connection, not simply because they invited you to connect.

Followers/Following on Twitter

On Twitter, managing the follower/following ratio is an art, which when you get it right will deliver a really valuable account, and a great tool for promoting your brand. There will be people who follow you who are totally not relevant (People playing the  ‘I want hundreds or thousands of followers and hope most people will follow me’ game), and there will be people you follow who legitimately will not follow you back (National press, and the BBC, to name two) In general, if your follower base is relevant the follower/following ratio should tend towards 1:1. At this point it is worthwhile saying a little more about this key statistic; the ratio of Followers to Following. Sufficient to say:

  • A ratio of 1:1 (Followers=Following) is a good start, and shows that people respect your views and you are playing the game
  • A ratio of >1:1 (Followers>Following) This generally suggests that you have something to say that people  find valuable, and so should be seen as a positive position. That said, if the ratio moves significantly away from 1 (assuming you are not a major celeb) it could suggest that you are not engaging with your audience, and that those following you are not relevant enough or you to follow them back. A very high ratio  could also be seen as a little arrogant (They should follow me, but are not worthy of following)
  • A ratio of <1:1 (Followers<Following) This generally suggests you are trying too hard to get followers and people are not relevant and/or not seeing the value in your input, and so should be seen as a negative position.

As a rule of thumb, a ratio of between 1 and 2 is a good benchmark to use for your own account, and when choosing who to follow

Although I am not going to go into this in detail as there is already plenty out there on the subject (This post for example).

Do they have something valuable to add to the discussion?

So, in assessing the relevance of your followers, you are happy that they are relevant to your market and have a healthy Follower/Following ratio. The final point to consider is are they saying anything of value, or indeed anything at all (Almost 50% of Twitter’s 1 billion users have never sent a tweet!) Do they engage with their Twitter audience? Are they tweeting/retweeting, and is their input in turn being retweeted? Having great follower statistics is pointless unless they are communicating. 2 questions to ask about your follower activity:

  1. Is their content interesting?
  2. Is their content relevant?

And if the answer to these are “Yes” then a follow-up: Is their content consistent & sustained? If the answer is again yes, they are definitely worth following and are a great follower to have on your books. Following these “rules” should put you on the path to a healthy follower base. But this is only useful if you are engaging with them in a valuable and relevant way, but that is Part 2!

Connections on LinkedIn

Looking to LinkedIn, the process of managing your connections is much more managed. As connections need to be mutually accepted by both parties. Think of it as a business network, when issuing or reviewing connection invites think – is this person someone I would talk to at a networking event. If yes, than a connection is probably relevant. Many of my Linked In connections are just this. When I meet someone at a networking meeting, rather than exchanging cards, that will be put in a pocket & forgotten, I will take a card, and suggest we connect on LinkedIn. Once connected, these people will receive the content I post on the platform, and I will see theirs. Helping us to stay connected. As a result I have around 500 connections on LinkedIn many of whom I have met. Like Twitter, on LinkedIn its about Quality not Quantity when it comes to followers.