How much marketing is too much marketing?

Direct Marketing Overload
Marketing has 2 distinct ‘flavours‘: Passive and Direct Passive Marketing: You set out your stall and wait for people to visit. For example:

  • Website
  • Networking
  • Exhibitions
  • Advertising
  • PR

Passive marketing typically involves significant up-front investment. To maximise the return from this, it makes sense to actively communicate with your marketplace to let them know about you and invite them to visit/engage. This process is Active Marketing. Direct Marketing: Actively approaching your target customers & prospects

  • Email Marketing
  • Direct Mail
  • Telemarketing
  • Field Sales

A quick digression: In this post, I am focussed on marketing rather sales. Let’s just clarify my distinction between the two.

Marketing is about communicating with customers and prospects to make sure they know you and understand what you offer – to build confidence in your ability to deliver. When they have a need they are more likely to approach you as a potential supplier. Fundamentally it is building your brand.

Sales is about developing interested people (Leads/Opportunities) into active (and hopefully satisfied) customers, generating profitable revenue for your business.

The distinction between Direct Marketing and Sales can be blurred.  In the rush for sales revenue, small business owners can try to jump the marketing process and aim straight for doing the deal. Certainly, this approach can generate some quick wins but it is difficult (and costly) to sustain. It is the marketing/brand-building process that develops sustained, positive engagement between your business and your market. Your contacts know who you are. They know what you offer. They have confidence in your ability to deliver. This is the basis for sustained success and growth. Sure, short-term sales revenue is important to pay the bills, but never forget building for the future. How much should you do?

Business basics

Some business marketing ‘mantras‘…

  • No publicity is bad publicity
  • At least 7 contacts before a sale
  • Any opportunity to market is good.
  • Repetition sells.

All of these ideas suggest that you can’t communicate with your market too often, there is no such thing as too much marketing. However, in the modern world of mass communication, I suggest this idea is rubbish! You can definitely communicate too often. It is now so easy for potential customers to say NO MORE! When they do it is vital that you respect their wish. You should aim to stop them saying it in the first place.

My own standpoint

There are 2 groups of people I typically unsubscribe from:

  1. Companies where there is no fit with my wants/needs/aspirations
  2. Companies who bombard me – even if I am interested in what they talk about.

The first group is fine. There is no fit so there is no point in the communication. (Actually, it is possible there actually is a fit but the messages I have received didn’t demonstrate this to me.) The second group is a shame all around. There is a fit. I am a potential customer. I just felt overwhelmed by the amount of contact. They were thinking of their own needs ahead of mine! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because marketing communication is cheap (or free) you can do as much as you like. Don’t take your customers for granted.

How much is too much?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question. It really does depend on your business and your market. What is important is that you never forget that there is a limit for your business. Don’t try to push your customers beyond this. Aim to keep your marketing balanced. Here are my Top Tips for balanced marketing

  1. Use E-newsletters as a platform for your marketing

    1. Focus content on Quality rather than Quantity
    2. Typically 4-6 times a year is plenty – you can always add an extra one if you have something particular to say
    3. Engage with and inform your contacts, don’t just sell
    4. A regular (but not too frequent!) e-newsletter allows you to plan ahead as a baseline for your marketing.
  2. Be contact-focussed

    1. Your customers & prospects don’t necessarily want to hear just what you want to tell them.
    2. Style your messages to get your point across – but in a way that contacts will be interested in and engaged with.
    3. Be respectful. Every time someone reads your messages, they are giving you their time. Never forget this!
    4. Did I mention: Quality ahead of quantity!
  3. Mix your media

    1. Don’t just rely on one communication tool
    2. Using a combination of e-mail, telephone, mail, face to face (even radio/tv if it suits your business)
    3. Don’t feel you need to use every tool. 2 or 3 can make for a great balance
  4. Be consistent and joined-up

    1. Whatever tools you use, make sure you have consistent messages focusing on your proposition
    2. Make sure your communication is joined-up across everything you do. Confusing your customers is a great way to put them off.
  5. Keep at it

    1. As well as doing too much marketing, it is easy to do too little – or none at all!
    2. Too often, marketing is the thing that slips when you are busy
    3. Don’t try to do too much. I talked above about overwhelming your contacts. Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself either!

Overall: Develop a marketing communications plan and work it. 

Engaging marketing doesn’t have to be difficult – but it often is if you try to make it up as you go along. This is when it is easy to let your marketing focus drift. You will regret it in the long run!

Want to talk? Get in touch…

Content Marketing in the real world

Whilst it may not be the buzz word it was a couple of years ago, is content marketing still a valuable marketing tool in the real world? There is no question that sustained, considered content marketing may be very effective but it is also hard work. Consistently delivering high quality, engaging and relevant content takes planning and application.

Having published over 600 articles over the past 10 years, we understand the challenges so perhaps it isn’t surprising to find that although people start off their content marketing journey with the best of intentions, after a few weeks, or months, the distractions grow and the commitment wanes; yet the basic truth continues:

Sustained Content Marketing is a great approach to cost-effective engagement with customers and prospects

Too often (like so many marketing services) content marketing is pitched as an easy win. I recently saw a brief from a marketing services company that included the phrase:

‘A blog section is really important. It will help (if regular content is added) to improve search ranking

Those 5 words, added in brackets – seemingly as a afterthought, are actually the essence of the statement. Adding a blog is easy. It is delivering well thought out and crafted content month after month that requires planning and persistence. If that delivery fails, the core of the marketing communication fails with it. Also is the sentiment right? Should content be focused on search ranking or should it be about engaging with your market? – As it happens, engaging content can boost search ranking as a spin off benefit anyway! Check out this post to find out more

Let’s take a look at the real world of the SME business

So what is the situation in the real world? We took an audience of local SME business – people attending a recent B2B networking group so presumably aware of the value of marketing themselves and engaging with other businesses – and researched this sample to look at their online presence. Specifically we searched for their websites and looked at how (if at all!) content marketing was implemented. The results make interesting reading….

  1. Business has a website – 94%
  2. Site has News/Blog – 56%
    • and of the 56%….
  3. News posted within the past 2 months – 80%
  4. News posted in the past month – 42%
  5. Consistent content posted for over 12 months – 10%

These figures tell a story that is extremely common across SME marketing. Marketing gets started but it isn’t sustained. Even to start with, people aren’t posting particularly regularly and within a year, the above figures suggest that 90% of News/Blogs aren’t being updated. The danger is that a company website which looks smart, modern and up to date when it is launched, quickly starts to tell a different story. If you see a website with a news section and the most recent news article is several months old, what sort of impression does it make with you? It is only when new, engaging and relevant content is regularly added that your website as a platform to communicate with your market to ‘tell your story’ and spread the word that content marketing can truly deliver. So we have a dilemma. Ask most SME business owners whether they think sustained, proactive content marketing is the right approach and they will answer Yes; yet in reality, marketing that is actually done is short term. Businesses are regularly moving from one marketing approach to the next.

So is there a solution?

I believe there is – and the answer is considered commitment. This means making sure that you have a plan you believe in and commit the resources to make it happen. But in saying this, I must stress the importance of not over committing. If you try to spend too much time or commit too much budget, keeping your content marketing running will be difficult, if not impossible. Things will slip and the short-termism will be back. By keeping your commitment more modest (even ‘easy’) it is much more likely your content marketing will sustain and succeed.

Content Optimisation

I didn’t feel I could finish a post without mentioning Search optimisation, as there is no doubt that content marketing should be at the heart of any search strategy. Within WordPress, optimising content for search is fairly straight forward thanks to the Yoast plugin. It’s free, and adds a set of tools to allow you to optimise a post for a given keyword. It is very simple to use and uses a traffic light system to indicate how well optimised the page is, plus a set of recommendations on how to improve it. implementing the recommendations will improve the search optimisation. Take a look here at a case where Yoast was used in the real world for one of our clients. If you want to find out more about effective content marketing, do get in touch

What is a Brand?

It is easy to say “A brand is more than just colours and a logo”. But in reality what else makes up a good brand? In truth, it is all about the customer experience. Customers must be happy with what they get out of any dealings with you and be happy in what you stand for. Building this relationship requires a sustained process, it is not achieved overnight.

Promises

Brands are often more than just products and services. They are promises to consumers. What might a consumer gain from dealing with your you? Remember that first impressions count and will stay with a consumer. Make sure they are good. Trust is a key element in building a brand – Your marketing makes promises to customers – for a successful brand, your operations need to deliver on these promises.

Interaction – It’s not all about you

Businesses do not build their own brand alone. How they interact with their consumers plays a big part too. The way a consumer views a brand will define how successful it is. What your opinion on your brand is, is less important. The only thing that matters how your consumers perceive it. Much of the work in building a brand is about developing a relationship of trust with your customers Without this, it is highly likely the brand fail.

Key stages in Building a Brand

Pre sale – Strangers – Customer (Trust & Understanding) Sale –  Creating the customer (From trust to commercial relationship) Post sale Customer – Fan (Delivering on promises, converting trust into action)

Strangers to Customers

From the beginning, a company has to transform individuals from strangers to their brand, into customers of it. This can be done by developing a trust and understanding between both parties. If an individual likes what they see after being exposed to the brand, the will begin to explore more and develop that trust. The brands best aspects should be conveyed to the customer, such as the quality of the products, how happy they’ll be or how good the after service is.

Creating the customer

After building a customers trust that a brand is worthwhile and sound, the next step is for a commercial relationship to be developed. This is the point where a customer has first realisation and experiences a company’s product or service and ultimately, where their expectations are met (or not!) If a customer is still happy at this point, their view of the brand is likely to remain good. They will progress into the next stage and hopefully become a repeat customer.

Assessing your brand

It is always important to take stock of anything in your business, especially your brand. You should be reviewing  the messages you are putting out accurately reflect your brand, and are resonating effectively with customers Check what others say and think of your brands and business. More importantly – take notice. If the same issues keep cropping up, address them. Simply, never stray from communicating your message and reviewing its impact.

To conclude

A brand is not just a sum of its physical parts (logo, tag line, mascot etc). To get an accurate picture, you need to take a step away and look at the bigger picture. Your position in the market, the tone and way you speak to your customers and your history, as well as your actions. Get these things right and your brand will stand out. And there is no doubt that a successful brand will add significant value to your business.

Number 1 on Google within 24 hours – NO, NOT one of THOSE ads!

Number 1 on GoogleMarketing is not a 1-trick pony

There are many business owners who live in the misapprehension:

If I can get to Number 1 on Google my business will succeed

This is a nice idea that quietly sidelines a number of important questions, such as:

  1. Do people really search for the term(s) where I rank #1?
  2. Are the people who search part of my target audience?
  3. Are searchers actually looking for the products/services I can supply?
  4. Does my website tell the right messages when people visit?

Many of you will know my mantra: Marketing is a process NOT an event. The ideas above demonstrate this. There are many elements you need to consider as part of a marketing process, and most of these or not ‘fit & forget’. They need regular work. If you do achieve high ranking on search engines, your position can slip. You need to keep your website updated. This means regular, new, relevant, engaging content. Furthermore, a business should market across a range of channels, using a range of tools. You should not rely on just one approach. Over-reliance on Google Search catches out many businesses every time Google updates their algorithms.  This post from searchenginejournal.com makes interesting reading 

Number 1 on Google within 24 hours

Right, I have had my say about not relying on any single marketing tool. Yet, at the same time, you should aim to get the best results from each marketing tool you choose. Let’s look at an example that happened recently for a client using Google Ads as part of their marketing mix. As with many BSA clients, their business is niche, targeting specific services to specific target markets. This sometimes presents a problem when picking target keywords for a campaign. If you select a fairly general keyword which gets lots of searches, it can need a high bid to get your Ad to appear on page 1 of rankings. Worse, most of the people searching won’t be looking for your niche product/service. As a result, you end up with the double-whammy of paying high click-fees for poor quality traffic. Obvious, I hear you say, don’t use general keywords. Instead, just target very specific terms that relate exactly to your offering. Arguably, SME businesses should (almost) never use general keywords. Better to target for highly relevant keywords/phrases. They will typically drive better quality traffic at lower click cost. Often this can be a successful strategy, one that we recommend and is used by several clients but sometimes even this falls short.  A client of BSA currently uses Google Ads as one of their marketing tools. However, some of their services are very niche. This can present a problem.

SEO and YOAST to the rescue

If a keyword or phrase is so specific that not many people actually search for it, Google may decide that even though it is an eligible word/phrase, the search frequency is low to the point that they don’t feel it is worth displaying ads! This may be even though those few people who are searching are EXACTLY the potential customers you are looking for. This is exactly the problem faced by our client – and on the Google Ads platform, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. This problem meant we needed to think laterally. If the search term is so specific that very few people searched for it then maybe not many people optimised natural search for the term on their website either? Readers will know that we are great fans of WordPress and the Search Optimisation tools available with the Yoast plugin which proved its worth here too. On the client’s (WordPress) website we went to the relevant service page, checked Yoast was installed and fired it up. Setting our preferred (and v specific) search phrase, Yoast made several recommendations as to how we could optimise the page content. We followed the recommendations and adapted a couple of others until we were happy we had the balance of content that read well and a ‘Green Light’ from Yoast (Yoast users will know what I mean!) The final step was to publish our updated page and then wait for the Google Algorithm to do its thing.

The outcome

Past experience is that it can be at least a few days if not a week or more before changes get picked up by Google but this time it was quicker (perhaps because it was such a niche term?). The day after we posted the new content, our client’s website is ranking #1 for the search phrase we used. It is possible to get a #1 ranking on Google within 24 hours and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Now we just need to try to keep it there – but that is another story. Like I said, a process NOT an event.

Real world marketing. Missing the mark.

Real world Marketing Hitting the mark
I have written before about the contrast between pure marketing (brand building) and sales promotion (generating leads). However, although it is important to recognise this distinction, the reality for most SME businesses is a mixture. Most of their marketing communication involves both. When talking to your market, there is often at least an element of lead generation. So, if lead generation is a factor in a good deal of SME marketing, in conjunction with brand building, how do you get the balance right and avoid missing the mark? This may sound like a strange question but recently I have come across a number of cases where people have got it wrong. I’d like to focus on two quite different cases which miss the mark in two very different ways (identifying details have been changed to protect the originators!).

Who is this marketing stuff for anyway?

My first case involves a family-run professional services business. They had recently established e-newsletter process to keep in touch with clients (all good so far!). The time arrived for their next e-newsletter but they had no content calendar and no plan as to what to write about. With no considered marketing content, the team naively fall into a common trap. It is easier to talk about ourselves. Often the main result of internally focussed messages is content which doesn’t centre on the audience and their needs/interests. Consequently, this type of content struggles to engage with them. This isn’t great but you can get away with it every now and again. There is even the argument that, for a family business where key personalities are an important part of the business ‘package’, some personal insight can be a good thing. However, writing to your customers about the great (and expensive!) holiday the family has just taken doesn’t send a good message. Yes, they really did this! Moral: When planning marketing messages, put yourself in the shoes of your intended recipients. How might your message come over to them? If you struggle with this, you could even ask a few of your closest customers for their thoughts before you send to everyone. Once it is out there, it’s too late!

Too good to be true? It probably is

In my first example, the focus was undoubtedly brand building – or not! Their lack of planning meant no time for consideration of how the message would be received. The result was a message that backfired, negatively impacting on the company brand. In my second example, the goal is clearly lead generation. This time, maybe too much focus was put on achieving the goal – perhaps at the expense of clarity? Is a short-term gain enough, even if there is a longer-term cost? I was looking to replace my mobile phone and came across an offer – backed by both the phone manufacturer and major UK retailers. The offer was a ‘Reward’ of £100 (note: NOT ‘up to’ £100) on top of the Trade-in value of my old phone. This looked good so I bought my new phone. To trade in my old phone, I went on their website and found the Trade-in value – £115. This was without any reward so naturally, I expected an offer of £215. In fact, when I claimed the deal, the offer was ….£160. So what happened to the other £55? The answer: Terms & Conditions. Under these, the maximum offer was restricted. Effectively the real Reward could be reduced as some of it was used as a contribution to the full trade-in value. Maybe not a big deal but it is not what they appeared to offer. OK, they got the lead – and got the deal, but my view of the brands (both phone and retailer) have been hit and will affect future buying decisions. If you have to rely on terms and conditions to qualify or restrict an offer you are apparently making, is that ever going to leave a good impression? I suggest not. Effective marketing should always be based on openness and integrity.

How effective is your Marketing?

Targeting your marketing & measuring effectiveness through Google Analytics is key to modern marketing. So I thought it would be worth a post looking in more detail at Events in Google Analytics. Wilst I am not planning to write a detailed tutorial on how to set up event tracking (you can find that here), I want to look at the power of tracking events as part of your marketing strategy.

What are events

In google analytics, an event is any action that a visitor may take on your website. For example:

  • Filling in and submitting a web form
  • Viewing a video
  • clicking a link
  • downloading a pdf
  • Placing something in their cart

The list is endless and as such, tracking events can be a very powerful tool in your marketing kit-bag.

Where do you find them

Event Statistics can be found in Google Analytics under Behaviour -> Events in the Google Analytics menu. This section will be blank until you set up some event tracking tags. This is done using the Google Tag Manager. You will find details on how to set it up here on setting this up here.

How can you use Events

Being able to track when people perform specific actions on your site, you can easily monitor the effectiveness of your marketing activities. Lets look at a couple of Examples: You are running an ad campaign on Google, with the objective of directly generating enquiries through a form on your website. By setting up a google analytics event to capture when someone completes & submit the form, you will be able to track these trough Google Analytics, and see exactly how much each enquiry is costing you. You Have a video on your site, you are thinking of investing in more, but want to know if people are watching it. With video it is possible to capture detailed stats through event tracking, like are people playing the video, and if so, how much of the video are they watching. Monitoring this over time, you will be able to see if the video on your site is of interest to people, and thus is it worth creating more content. You are getting people to your eCommerce site, but not getting orders You can set up an event to trigger at various stages of the buying process for example to see if people are putting things in their cart. That way, you can start to diagnose where the stumbling blocks are.

The World is your Oyster

Hopefully you can start to see that when trying to measure the effectiveness of your marketing, Events are very powerful. If you wanting to dig deeper into the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, then I suggest you check them out in more detail. If you can see how events might be useful, but would like some help incorporating them into your marketing, we would be happy to help.    

What if website visits had a direct cost

Google quietly made an announcement earlier in the year that could potentially have significant consequences for the future of how businesses market themselves via the web. Earlier in the year they changed their policies around Google maps. Rather than offering unrestricted access to the service, you are now required to include an API key, the creation of which requires a Google cloud account with a valid credit card attached. Whilst they currently do not charge for the type of static location maps that most people use on their sites to show their office location, they are now in a position to change this at the “flick of a switch”. this brings up an interesting question

“What if every time someone viewed your website,you were charged a fee?”

For the purposes of this post, I am going to focus of “free” traffic that currently comes from the likes of email, search traffic, social media etc. In these areas, it is easy to have the “more visits the merrier” mentality. This is fine, when the visits are not costing anything, but not so sustainable if they are.

The Answer is Targeting

The answer to this issue is targeting. In my opinion all good marketing should be targeted to focus on the people most likely to be interested in your offering, so this move by Google simply re-enforces the need for good marketing practices

Email

This issue should actually have minimal impact on the way companies approach email, as these should already be highly targeted. In the age of GDPR and e-privacy legislation, the days of find a massive list, send it to everyone and hope some of it sticks are long gone. The idea that every click might cost you simply re-enforces the need for a highly targeted approach.

social Media and Search Traffic

I have lumped these together as both are about creating content that, once found, will encourage people to visit your website. At its worst, “click bait” focuses on drawing people and maximising the chance that they will click through to your website, without much thought about how likely they are to buy. The thinking being that “most won’t but some will”. Again, in our opinion, this is already bad practice. Content on search engines and social media, should be focused on attracting the right people, and encouraging only those who are likely to buy to click through to your site. Content Marketing should be a seamless, open process where at every step people find what they are expecting, maximising the chance that they will make the enquiry or purchase at the end of it. Again, the fact that this traffic may have a cost should simply re-enforce this thinking.

Conversion Tacking Is key

Ultimately, the objective of your marketing efforts is to build your brand, generate leads, and ultimately new sales. So tracking where these leads come from and which sources generate the best leads is key. Thankfully, through the use of event tracking in Google analytics this is fairly straight forward process. But that is another Post entirely As content providers like Google look to monetise their investments, the age of free web services may be coming to end, but from a marketing perspective all this should be doing is forcing you to be more efficient. If the content adds value, then paying for it should not be an issue. You just have to think more closely about how you target your marketing.

Stick to your Knitting

We have been talking quite a lot about the importance of consistent marketing and the value of having a joined-up planning approach. Much of this focus has been on marketing planning to develop sustained, coherent communication and engagement with a well-defined target audience. Having a clear marketing strategy that you monitor and adapt is a vital element of a successful business. This is all very well but a couple of conversations recently have set me thinking about an often-ignored aspect of a joined-up approach: your own offering. One of the beauties of running your own business is the opportunity to make decisions and put plans into action quickly. Big business suffers from a great deal of inertia; change is painful and slow. A small business can adapt to new opportunities much more quickly and easily. However, this flexibility has a downside. If you regularly change your offering with new ideas, products and services, it can be difficult for your customers to keep up. Before I go on, I would like to clarify one point. I am talking here primarily about B2B (Business to Business) businesses with a significant service element in what you deliver. In these businesses, you may get an opportunity for some work with a new customer which, while you believe you might be able to deliver a decent service, their need isn’t core to what you are about. In my experience, this type of job too often has a sting in the tail! Even though you might see a non-core opportunity as a chance for a quick win, maybe the best course of action is to decline and ‘stick to your knitting’

The old ones are the best

10 minutes with my friend Google showed me hat the phrase ‘stick to your knitting’ has origins as a business message well over 100 years ago. It has certainly stood the test of time and is as valid today as ever. In fact, with the always-on, instant access to the ideas of today’s digital business world,  perhaps it is even more valid in the 21st century?

Stick to your Knitting – Focus on your strengths

Having a  clear understanding of what you offer in your business makes it easier to define the target market you are interested in. Furthermore, this leads to a clear ‘fit’ between your proposition and your clients making your messages stronger and easy for prospects to relate to. If you try to be everything to everybody, this can come over to potential customers as woolly and imprecise – not a great encouragement to buy! By focusing on your strengths and looking for clients who can really benefit from your core skills is a great recipe for sustained success. Taking on non-core work reduces the time you have to do what you are best at. Even worse, there is a greater risk that outcomes will not be as positive as anticipated so you might end up with a dissatisfied client. Not good!

Don’t be afraid to say No, thank you!

A few years ago, we found ourselves in exactly the situation I am suggesting you try to avoid! We were taking on non-core work which, to be honest, we sometimes struggled to deliver on!. I would like to think that we went the extra mile to make sure our clients were satisfied but it was hard work and frustrating. It definitely didn’t help the bottom line! This was back in 2014. Now, 4 years later, there is no question that sticking to our knitting was the right move. You can read more about our experience in this article.

Sticking to your knitting does not mean stagnation

Just because you focus on your strengths doesn’t mean the end of new opportunities. They will still arise. Often the starting point is a well-established relationship with an existing client. You know and respect one another and you work well together. From this base, your client asks you to look at something a bit different. They know they are asking you to step out of your comfort zone and they are willing to work with you to make a success of the new opportunity. It is a joint learning curve without the pressures of over-promising and the risk of under-delivering. Even better, if the new work goes well, your experience can mean you end up with a new string to your bow. Your core has expanded and you now have additional services that you can confidently offer to your market, and maybe even a wider audience. Saying no to a new opportunity can be challenging but sticking to your knitting can bring real rewards.