The Power of Dashboards

Marketing data is everywhere these days and allows deep insight into the workings of your marketing campaigns. With this plethora of data comes the issue of information overload. It is often difficult to see the wood for the trees.

In my view there are two key issues:

  1. Data Overload – there are so many metrics available, how do you focus on the important ones?
  2. Data fragmentation – each platform will have its own set of analytics making it difficult to see a joined-up view of all metrics.

It is these two issues that I explore in this post; looking at how a marketing dashboard can go a long way to addressing them.

Seeing the Wood, Clearing the Trees

The first thing that a dashboard will do is to allow you to pick out the key analytics, and display them in an easy to read format.

Most people will be aware of Google Analytics. Whilst being a fantastic platform for getting an insight into how people are interacting with your website Google’s data is not that easy to read. The sheer variety of statistics available makes getting a clear picture of you marketing’s effectiveness challenging.

For example, Google Analytics will tell you how many visitors you are getting, and where they are coming from. However, having your website visitor numbers broken down by source and charted month by month, makes it much easier to see what’s going on.

Furthermore, by pulling data into a dashboard, you isolate it from all the other metrics making it much easier to read.

And you are not just limited to charts. You can display data in many different formats, for example, tables, maps, and my favourite; the gauge.

Say for instance you are running a pay per click campaign. You could set up a gauge showing how much each conversion (enquiry for example) is costing you in advertising. Making it very easy to see if you are on target and that your advertising is being cost effective.

 

Bringing it all together

The other issue is the wide variety of platforms and the fact they all have their own analytics systems. Whilst you can see some external data in Google Analytics, this is limited to the number of visits to your site. Whilst key data, I believe you need to be “joined-up”. To achieve this you are going to need stats from the other platforms and having to switch from Google, to LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter…. to get the information can become tiresome.

Here again, dashboards are great as they allow you to use the APIs supplied by the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook to bring their data into a central dashboard. What’s more, the dashboard systems usually have connections set up with the main platforms. So usually all you need to access the data is your login to the relevant platform.

Another great use of guauges is to monitor activity on social media platforms. Say for example you have a target of posting 5 tweets a week or 2 LinkedIn posts per month. You can set up a guauge to monitor the number of posts on a platform in a given period. That way it is possible to check, at a glance, whether you are on target.

Data at your fingertips

Metrics and analysis are incredibly valuable. But remembering what you looked at last time, and how you access the data, means that reviewing marketing metrics often gets forgotten. Usually reviewed only when you have time, or when there is an issue.

There is a bit of work to do in setting up a dashboard. But once done, the data is easily available whenever you need it.  It will also be in exactly the same format as last time you looked.

The system we use – Klipfolio also allows you to permanently display your dashboards on big wall screens, so the data is there for you without even having to go and look for it.

If you would like to explore the power of dashboards, we would love to hear from you. So please feel free to get in touch

 

 

The Danger of Digital

This may seem like a strange title for a marketing blog post. These days, marketing is driven by digital platforms. However, it is the very dominance of digital media that makes them both a fantastic opportunity and a danger.

The Danger of Focusing on Tools

One of the greatest benefits that the digital era has brought to marketing is cost reduction. There is a huge range of communication tools with very accessible pricing structures. Often they can be free if you are prepared to learn and do the work yourself.  But unless you have the budgets to use a big agency with broad marketing & technical knowledge, there is a problem. Digital marketing tools (SEO, Social media, PPC etc) are usually sold by technical experts in the tools. They know which buttons to press but marketing expertise comes in second. They are more focused on driving the use of the tool rather than using it in the context of your marketing objectives.

With the focus on the use of the tools, measurement shifts to justifying their use rather than ensuring that they are meeting your business & marketing objectives. Furthermore, the responsibility for fitting the tools into your wider business and marketing plans falls to you. You may be well-positioned to do this. After all, you know your own your business better than anyone. However, unless you are comfortable with the concept of marketing (as opposed to selling), there are potential pitfalls here too. There is the danger that the focus shifts from driving your business goals to simply justifying the tool(s) being used. These are NOT the same.

The Danger of Delegation

While many digital marketing resources are simple to access and use yourself, their very nature makes it easy to delegate management to someone else. As a result, there are always plenty of service providers queuing up to help you. However, because most of these will be focused on helping you to use the tools, it is easy to lose track of why you are using them.

Many SME business owners see marketing as an activity that “gets in the way” of the day-to-day; Something which can easily be put to one side when things get busy. Whilst delegating in these circumstances may seem attractive, it can lead to inefficient use of resources. The people to whom you delegate, whilst experts in the tools that are using, may not fully understand your business objectives, and how the tools can best be used to meet these.

The Danger of Metrics

Another great thing about marketing with digital tools is the level of data available to measure your activities. However, this can lead to probably the biggest danger of digital marketing. It can be seen simply as a short term sales promotion tool, simply targeted to “deliver leads”.

The prevalence of metrics means that it can be very easy to test something new. As soon as the metrics indicate that it is not the “Marketing Magic Wand” that you had hoped it would be, it gets written off as not working. In reality, marketing needs to be viewed in the long term. Good marketing is strategic and delivers a framework which makes short-term, tactical sales promotion activities more effective. As such it is more difficult to measure directly. Whilst digital metrics are essential to the process, they need to be viewed in the context of the long-term rather than short-term objectives.

Mitigating the Danger – Have a Plan

The best way to address the danger of digital is to have a plan. Your plan should set out your business and marketing objectives and how you plan to meaningfully measure progress. This information helps to inform your decisions regarding which tools to use and how to use them. Furthermore, your plan will assist when working with partners in managing these tools. It will allow you to ensure that their activities remain aligned with your business objective.

The plan need not be complex, but it does need to be written down and regularly reviewed. You will find a few posts to help you start planning on our blog.

Another way to make sure that digital tools work for you is to find a partner who understands the tools, but who also has a deep understanding of marketing. A partner who takes the time to understand your business, and your objectives. A partner who can work with you to develop a strategy that uses the available tools effectively to support you in meeting your business development goals.

If you would like to talk to us about how we may be able to help with your marketing – Get in touch.

 

The Value of Content

Whilst most of our readers will not necessarily be looking to generate direct revenue from their content,  the importance of recognising the value of your content is still highly relevant.

It is this concept of valuing your content that I would like to explore in this blog post.

A word about my hobbies

To illustrate my point, I would like to talk a little bit about a couple of my hobbies, namely photography and playing bass guitar. Both of which I am looking to improve.

Do a Google or Youtube search on either of these topics and you will find the internet awash with “Free” resources. to help you on your way.

I started out teaching myself using these free resources available. Whilst this was great up to a point, it quickly became both frustrating and limiting. I therefore decided to put my hand in my pocket, selecting two paid resources to support my learning:

Bass guitar – www.scottsbasslessons.com

Photography – www.52frames.com

The first based on the paywall model, and the latter on the patreon model. Both these models allow for a level of free content, that can then be augmented by paid content as you get into it.

Because both of these organisations are getting commercial gain from their content, they are able to put significant sustained resource into generating it. The result being that the quality and overall value of the content steps up significantly compared to the free content available.

And the point is?

So what’s my point? As I have already acknowledged that neither of these models will necessarily work in the niche markets where most of our readers find themselves.

My point is that good content should deliver enough value to allow you to commit significant & sustained resource into generating it,  Good content has a significant cost of production, and so must deliver a return.

That return can come in two key forms:

  1. Financial Return – People are actually willing to pay for it
  2. Marketing Return – The content delivers real marketing benefit to you as an organisation as it re-enforces your message and attracts people who are in your target market, motivating them to buy from you.

Whilst financial return is the easiest to measure, it it the second (marketing return) on which I want to focus as this is where I believe most of our readers interests lie.

Assessing the Marketing Return

When you put together a marketing plan, you will no doubt allocate resources based on the value you expect the plan to deliver to your organisation. Some of this resource will be financial (paying other people to do stuff) and some will be the “cost” of using internal resources to drive the activity. In either case, there will be a cost, and you need to be sure that this is justified by the value that the content delivers.

A word of warning

Whilst sustainability in marketing is important, It is not the end of the story. Whilst using content to say “Hi its me again” has value, you have to recognise that people will read it, so if the best part of the piece is the subject line, you are not doing yourselves any favours!

Content needs to deliver value at all levels.

You are the expert

Remember, the basis of your marketing is that you are an expert in your field. Your content should therefore reflect that. As a result, the content should give the reader the benefit of your expertise thus delivering value. But remember not to “give away the family silver”. You are not providing this content as a public service. You are doing it to encourage people to contact you, and you should not forget that when creating & publishing content. Whilst interesting, the content should not remove the need for people to get in touch with you should they need your products or services.

The pay off

As mentioned above, your content should all be about increasing the likelihood that your readers will take notice and get in touch. Whilst  often subtle, there needs to be a connection between free content and your paid offering.

How not to do it

A good example of how not to do it is the website wpbeginner.com. Whilst they offer some useful content, that demonstrates their skills & knowledge around WordPress, I don’t believe that the content draws you in to purchasing their paid offerings (WordPress plugins). In fact, whilst I often end up on this site after doing a technical WordPress related search, it was only whilst researching this post that I actually realised what their paid offering is. And whilst I have used their plugins, I do not think there free content really re-enforces the quality & value of these plugins.

I do however suspect that much of their content is focused on the first business model (delivering an audience) rather than on promoting their plugins, so maybe I am being a little harsh and It would be interesting to know where their revenue comes from in reality.

A better example.

52 Frames on the other hand, constantly drops subtle promotion for its paid offerings with the free content, and occasionally makes the paid content available to everyone so they can see what they are missing. The free content is in the form of albums of community submitted photos on which members of the community are encouraged to comment & critique. However within the first few rows of the album, there are always elements promoting the Patreon scheme & content. Subtle, but it draws you in.

In conclusion

So if you are including content in your marketing mix here are 2 things to consider:

  1. You content needs to deliver value to your audience, and re-enforce your expertise in your field. So it need to be high quality
  2. Producing this content will have a cost in either time or money, so you need to fully understand and commit to the value that this content is adding to your marketing.

There is no doubt that, when done well Content marketing really works, but it has to be done both to a high standard, and sustained manner, so when developing a strategy, be sure that you understand the cost of production and the value it delivers.

If this has got you thinking about your content Strategy, and you would like some expert input – feel free to get in touch. We are always happy to chat.

 

What if…..

We are regularly posting about the dangers of relying on a single resources (Facebook, SEO etc) for your marketing. But there is a brainstorming game doing the rounds at the moment – “What if elements of your business model became illegal”. That made me think about this subject again.

The aim of the game is to think about how to develop your model in a rapidly changing environment. Whilst this may be extreme, The idea of asking “What if something changed and had a significant impact on my business?” is sound. And it’s not just about things being shut down or made illegal, its about recognising that businesses need to evolve to survive.

Look at the recent Thomas Cook collapse. This was blamed in part on their inability to recognise that their marketplace was changing. People had many more options, and booking a traditional package holiday was becoming less attractive.

But lets focus on Marketing

Lots of people rely on Facebook for marketing, or on Ebay and Amazon for e-commerce. Its unlikely that these will shut down overnight, but their environment is constantly shifting.

Adicted to…
Likes

Much marketing measurement is focused on engagement, and often the level of likes and shares is one driver for others amplifying your message, but there is now a move to remove this metric. Facebook have already trailed this on Instagram and are now considering rolling it out to the main Facebook platform.

If Facebook (or any other social media platform) no longer published Likes & Shares Metrics how would this affect the way you encourage people to share your marketing messages?

Amazon

Amazon recently changed its strategy in relation to First Party Sellers. The shift meant that many sellers who where First Party Sellers were notified that they were being shifted to Third Party Seller status, and would no longer receive wholsale orders from Amazon.

Whilst this would not mean loosing access to Amazon as a Channel, it could potentially have an impact on your ability to handle demand, and the way you relate to and fulfil customer orders.

The fact is that as a marketer you have no control over decisions made by these platforms. On this basis, considering what you might do if the ground shifts is not a bad idea.

Ask What if… when the pressure is off

It can also, strangely, be quite fun to think about these things when the pressure is off, and potentially make life much less stressful when things come out of left field to affect your business:

So what sort of questions could I be asking? “What if….:

  1. I could no longer Market on Facebook?
  2. My Google ad bids increased by 50%
  3. I could no longer send marketing emails to my current list (This one basically became a reality for many consumer focusing businesses on 25th May last year with the implementation of the GDPR regulations)
  4. Delivery costs doubled – would I still be competitive
  5. Google changed its algorithms and all my search listing disappeared

The aim is to look at your business model, and think what could have a serious impact on this, and what you would do in response.

All the examples I have used above are overnight changes. However more likely is that things will change gradually. This can be even more dangerous, as you may not notice the changes until its too late!

Maybe if Thomas Cook had done this 10 years ago asking the question “What if the internet changes the way people buy holidays?” we would not have the CAA needing to repatriate 150,000 British holiday makers!

Another name for this process is Scenario Planning. A tool used by big organisations to model and build strategic plans for the future. But even in smaller businesses, the tool can be a useful part of the long term planning process.

Balancing Agility & Process

If you start a new business, ultimately the goal is probably to turn a profit. This requires growth in turnover, whilst at the same time controlling costs.

The best way to maximise profitability is to run a lean business model driven by efficient processes. But in reality, this tends not to deliver growth.

The Balancing Act

In small businesses, success comes from innovation and agility. You can have an idea on Monday and be on the way to implementing it by the end of the week. Whilst big organisations have more resources and can outspend you, the same process would take months or even years for them.

This agility leads to great competitive advantage and through that, to growth. So for small businesses, agility is often the key to growth. But there is a cost. Being agile means that your efficiency will suffer and ultimately it will restrict the ability to scale your business model. So agility on its own is not a recipe for long term success.

To be efficient, you need to install processes to manage your business. These will bring down costs and improve profitability, but rigid process can stifle significant growth.

The value of process is another post entirely. Here, I want to focus on how to balance agility and process to deliver manageable, sustained profitable growth.

Planning for the future

The key is long term planning and the acceptance that the development profile of a business is not going to be linear.

Growth at the cost of profitability

In the early days, the priority will be growth, and the focus should be on agility. The aim is to work with the market to hone your offering to deliver maximum impact. This is likely to involve being willing to quickly change the way you do things in light of your developing a better understanding of the market.

But even here, the aim is not an unplanned free for all. In an earlier post, I talked about the planning philosophy of “Do stuff and iterate“.

Yes, I do see the irony. To be agile, you need a structure to manage things. The issue is where the focus lies. The process should create an environment where development and growth are planned, but where the process supports and drives activity rather than controlling and stifling it. Without this structure, the danger is that activity will be either erratic and ineffective, or worse still will not happen at all as the day to day takes over.

Show me the money

The approach above should allow an organisation to identify and quickly transform to meet the needs of the market, and through this agility, to grow. However, it is likely that this will be at a price; and that price will be profitability.

So at some point, the focus needs to shift to building processes that put structure into the organisation, making it more efficient and thus more profitable. Whilst this step in the planning cycle is likely to stifle growth, it is a necessary step, but one that does not need to be open-ended.

Time to repeat

Focus on process should bring costs under control, and improve the manageability of the organisation. This will then allow scope to “give the organisation its head”, focusing again on growth. And thus the cycle repeats.

The result is a classic saw-tooth growth curve which in the long term delivers both growth and profitability.

The key to this process is planning. To manage it effectively, you need to understand where in the cycle your organisation is and manage your way forward accordingly. The irony continues. Even when focused on agility rather than processes, you need a process to manage your agility! The trick is:

Make sure the process works for you and not you for the process.

Joined-up Marketing – The Social Angle

Everyone who reads our blog regularly will know that we are all about joined-up marketing.  It is about using all the appropriate tools available to communicate your story and proposition to your target market in a consistent way that increases the likelihood that when they have a need for your products or services, they will contact you.

In other words, joined-up marketing is about generating business leads.

When you are using email marketing joined-up with your website, the process is quite straightforward. You generate the content (i.e. write a story/produce a graphic or video that helps tell your story), post it on your website and then send an email newsletter to your contacts to get the message out there.

Even in isolation, this process is pretty effective at building your profile within your target market, but it is really a tool for engaging with those people who already know you, and who actively want to receive your information. But what about those who don’t know you? In the age of data privacy, using email to target the wider market is a challenge and not good business practice, but we live in the age of social so, there are other options for targeting these people.

Your target customers will often be using social media, so this is the obvious place to engage with them

The process of bringing the social angle into your joined-up marketing involves 3 steps:

  1. Select your social media platforms
  2. Set up your profiles
  3. Get Social….

Selecting your social media platforms

There are new platforms being launched all the time so it is impossible (and unwise!) to try to give a comprehensive list. This said, the 4 platforms that have made the most impact on SME marketing are:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

I am going to focus on the three most important to the significant majority of our Business to Business clients this is Twitter and LinkedIn, though for anyone operating in more consumer markets, Facebook is also key.

Set up your profiles

I am not planning to go into details of the technicalities here as there is plenty of good stuff already out there:

From a joined-up marketing perspective, the key considerations are:

  • Profile/account name – Make sure these are consistent, and fit closely with your company name. For example our  Twitter name is @bsamarketing and LinkedIn address is /company/bsa-marketing. Even if you are not planning to use a social media channel right now, it might be worth setting up accounts, simply to secure the most appropriate name.
  • Look and feel of your account home page – The look and feel of any social media presence should fit with the design of your website & emails. Where possible use the same logos, fonts, colour palette etc.
  • Message – most importantly make sure that the message you are portraying through your social media presence, is totally consistent with your broader marketing message

Getting Social

Once everything is set up, it’s time to get social and launch into the world of social media, building connections & followers, and using these networks to support the communication of your message; as always, in a joined-up and sustainable way.

Don’t Dismiss Advertising

Marketing your business through Social Media has changed quite a lot over the past few years, and whilst it used to be possible to get great results from organic postings, although this is still a key element of marketing on social platforms, great content is in longer the only thing to consider.

Realistically, to be effective today, you need to consider adding advertising to the mix (Especially when looking at Facebook), but the data available ensures that marketing can be highly targeted, and the stats and analytics available allow careful monitoring of activity and results ensuring that advertising spend is used effectively.

We will be looking at this subject in more detail in future posts, but if you can’t wait and would like to explore the potential of joined-up social for your business straight away, please get in touch with us

Is PR dead, or ready for the 21st Century?

Is PR dead?

If you mean long lunches shmoozing with editors and journalists then I think the answer is yes! But has the pendulum swung too far into the world of SEO, Pay Per Click and Social Media? I read an article on the CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) website asking if Marketers are focusing too much on digital? My answer:

Good marketers are using digital to deliver real marketing benefit - and that includes PR.

PR may have changed significantly over my years as a marketer, but it certainly isn’t dead and anyone who thinks it is might be missing an opportunity.

PR in the 21st Century

At its core, PR is still about getting your message out into the established media and maximising the number of people who see it. As ever, this involves engaging with the publishers who control that media, to convince them that your content has value and is worth including in their publication. What has changed is the number of publishers and the ways you can engage with them. In our experience there are 6 things to consider when working on PR for your business:

  1. Pick your media carefully. Anyone with a Smartphone can start an online publication, but that doesn’t mean it will get read! Do your research and focus your PR onto media (print or online) that has reputation and readership across your target audience.
  2. Build a reputation for good content. You aren’t going to get everything published, but if you use your own blog to publish good, well written and relevant content, you can build a reputation for good writing. Publishers are more likely to take good, relevant writing seriously
  3. Use social media to engage with publishers – Publishers use social media. They need  quality content and social media is a great way to find stories and content worth publishing. Make sure you identify and target content publishers as part of your social media strategy.
  4. Don’t just push your own content – Look to engage with journalists and bloggers. Comment on their content. If your opinions and ideas resonate with them they are likely to remember you when they see your content.
  5. Make your content easy to use –  This particularly relates to using email to communicate with printed press. Make sure you give them all they need to publish your content (easy to use text, high-resolution images, byline information etc.). Generally trade journals have few staff. If you give them content they recognise as interesting to their readers, and make it easy for them to publish, they are more likely to use it.
  6. Don’t dismiss paid options and advertising – Although you should avoid publishers who will use anything from people willing to pay, we should accept that bloggers and publishers are running businesses and need to make a living! If you like a blog/journal, and believe that your target market will read it, then the idea of supporting them financially through sponsorship or advertising may well be worth considering.

'Low Hanging Fruit' – Tempting but dangerous

The danger of too much focus on low hanging fruit ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ can offer a quick-win for a business but is it wise to ignore the wider picture?

Method Marketing?

Our philosophy is to practice what we preach. We believe taking this approach gives us a hands-on understanding of the issues we address with our clients. We like to think of this as ‘method marketing’ Over the last few months we have been involved with a specialist consultant as part of the Growth Accelerator programme. The programme looks to deliver economic benefits to the UK through helping good, potentially high growth companies to develop in a managed & sustainable way. Very quickly it has become clear that one of the key drivers of growth is sustained, joined-up marketing.

It’s not all about short-term

As an SME, it is all too easy to be focused on the short term. We often find clients talking to us about wanting to “get the quick win” or “pick the low hanging fruit (or other similar cliches!). Although identifying and exploiting these should always be a part of a joined-up marketing strategy, all too often they become the only goal! This tends to result in marketing being short term and disjointed.

Think to the future

The Growth Accelerator process encourages business owners to stop looking at performance over the next 6-12 months, and rather think about how to deliver performance over the next 3 years and beyond! In our own case, we are starting to take a longer term view of our marketing. Rather than  concentrating on what we need to do to drive the business over the next 3-6 months (which is mainly a ‘done-deal’ anyway!), we are moving to think about what processes we should be putting in place to deliver even more client-value in the longer term, and then how can we communicate this value offering to our market in a sustainable and joined-up way over the coming years.

Be realistic

Inevitably, the short term is still important. As an SME, you shouldn’t lose sight of the short term needs of the business, but surprisingly (or maybe not?), taking a more long-term, joined-up approach to our business development, is benefiting the short term opportunities too! The quick win and low hanging fruit are there to be had/picked, but we are starting to learn, that maybe we don’t need to spend all our marketing effort looking for them!  

Free Protx Integration for UK Business Forum Members

BSA Marketing have recently been accepted as a Protx Partner. Protx is one of the UK’s leading e-commerce payment gateway providers. The system is inexpensive, and very easy to integrate with the CRE loaded e-commerce Platform. To launch this, and to support ukbusinessforums.co.uk (a great place to get help on a wide range of business matters), if you are a member of the forum, and you apply for your protx account through us, we will integrate the gateway into your CRE or OsCommerce e-commerce system for free (Normally £75+VAT). Find out more about Protx (now SagePay) or Apply for an account here. If you are not a forum member, you can find out how to join here

Follow us on Linked In

bsa_linkedinWe have just re-launched BSA Marketing on Linked In, and will now be updating our company page with our blog posts. So if you use Linked In, why not follow BSA Marketing, and you will be sure to never miss any of our posts. Whilst you are there, if you have used our services, we would be delighted if you could Endorse/Recommend the ones you have found useful! Finally, if this inspires you to enhance your own company page on Linked in, you will find some useful tips here.