The value of software tools to make your business life easier

In the face of the day to day challenges of getting your ‘business-brain’ back into gear after the Christmas and New Year hiatus.  I thought it might be interesting to look at some ideas that can help make your business life easier.

Regular readers will know of my admiration of Peter Drucker and his pithy quotes encapsulating so many truisms of business. Possibly my favourite is this:

 "The two most valuable functions of a business: Innovation & Marketing. 
These are the only two functions that contribute to profit.
All others are costs."

Given that a key objective is (normally!) to sustain and develop your business, I think Drucker’s quote gives some insight into ways it may be a little easier to do this. If it is the marketing and innovation functions that are the primary drivers to sustaining and growing your business, then maybe this is where you should focus? If you can reduce the demands of the rest of your business, maybe this can make things easier?

Cost: more than just money

When we think of cost, it is only natural that we think of cash, yet money is not the only consideration.

Businesses are based on 2 fundamental resources. money and TIME. I come across many businesses where the owner concentrates on saving money with no thought to the potential time cost.

The danger of this approach is that any financial savings are swallowed up by the time cost of having to work less efficiently. Savings are only real if you reduce the combined demands for money and time.

Technology – we just want it to work!

Over the past 20 years or so, technology has hugely changed the way we run our businesses. The internet and new software applications have brought opportunities that were inconceivable in the 1980s and ’90s. But these opportunities can come with an Achilles heel – particularly if you focus too much on saving money.

A common marketing approach with many web-based apps is the ‘Free Version’.  You get to use the software at no cost. This may be fine to start with but the more you use it – and the more you come to rely on it, the greater the problem.

Most ‘Free’ software has limited functionality at some level. If you find you use an application regularly but run up against the ‘Free’ limitations, you can end up spending more and more time trying to work around the restriction. Any benefit you gained in the first place gets wasted by your distraction in trying to keep it free. The problem is exacerbated when it comes to technical support. Understandably, Free software has little or no technical support – maybe a few online blog posts but rarely more. If you have technical problems with your free software you can find yourself completely stuck with no place to turn.

When it comes down to it, the best software tools are the ones we don’t really notice. We just want them to work!

Business needs investment

Whatever you may think, you cannot run your business for nothing. Every business, however small, needs some level of investment.  Rather than fixating on keeping software free, sometimes, moving to the paid-for version is a sensible move. This said, I would always advise using apps that have a wide user base and extensive, positive reviews. If you are committing to some software, you want it to stick around and be developed.

Often the cost is only modest – less than a sandwich a week. You will remove restrictions meaning you can use the software as much as you need to for the benefit of your business rather than spending time struggling to stay within arbitrary limits. You will normally also open the door to professional technical support. Fixing issues becomes s0omebody else’s problem while you concentrate on your business.

A word on Open Source software

There is some fantastically successful open source software out there, developed by a community of coders for altruistic rather than commercial motives. Surely this is ideal if you are looking for a free solution? In theory, yes, but in practice, most really successful open source software has been commercialised, at least to an extent. Also, by its very nature, open-source tends to be the realm of techies. If you want to use it you need to know what you are talking about. Not ideal for the average small business.

Focus on what is important

By embracing good, professional software tools, you can get on with the regular tasks in your business more quickly and easily. You are safe in the knowledge that when things break (they inevitably do!) it is in the interests of the developers to make sure they are fixed quickly while you carry on with your own business.

By streamlining routine tasks, investing in effective systems to free up your time, you gain the freedom to get on with the innovation and marketing that are the things to really drive your business forward.

You know what is important in your business. You also know which are the time-consuming tasks that distract you from focusing on the important tasks. Maybe a modest investment can help you redress the balance? Perhaps it is worth taking a look?

Get your business off to a great start in 2020

Happy New Year!

Along with Easter and the Summer, New Year is one of the three times each year when most people take some time off then come back to work inspired to take their business forward.

However, despite best intentions, it is very easy to find things quickly slipping back into the same old routines as day-to-day demands start to impinge.

Here are my top tips for progress and success in 2020:

1. Have a plan

Regular readers will know that planning is one of my recurring themes. It’s also one of the recurring themes in our podcasts (hear more at https://podcast.bsamarketing.com) but planning is vital. If you don’t have a plan and just make things up as you go along, you are not in control of your business. I’m not saying you won’t succeed but if you do, it will be luck.

Planning doesn’t need to be complicated. There are lots of business planning tools online but here is my suggestion of key questions to ask yourself:
• Where are we now?
• Where do we want to get to?
• How are we going to get there?

I’m thinking strategy here; should you be doing more of the same or are there changes that need to be made? What is the best way of using what you have to move your business and to make the changes?

Also, remember that your plans should be developed in the context of your business vision. This is the big picture, the WHY you are in business (do you actually know?!). Your business vision is about the long term rather than short term finite targets.

2. Take Action

Making plans and setting objectives is all very well but a bit of a waste of time if you don’t actually do something about it!

I suggest you take you planning ideas and then ask yourself what specific actions you can take towards achieving your objectives. This is about what are you going to do TODAY, TOMORROW, THIS WEEK, not what you might do over the next month or 2!

You already know that running a business requires discipline and drive. Having an action plan puts focus on actually doing stuff towards achieving your goals. It’s a cliché but you do need to find time to work ON your business rather than IN your business.

3. Focus on specifics

One problem with planning is balancing short term actions with the ‘big picture’ vision where objectives look great on paper but it can prove difficult to take realistic steps to achieve them.

Having a meaningful action plan is so important so let’s have a look at 5 specific areas of your business where you can make a big impact:

1. Keeping in touch: Review everyone you have done business with / had enquiries from over the last year – are you still in contact?

Keeping in touch with contacts is my top tip. Email and social media make it easy and inexpensive (or free!) to keep in touch and building relationships with contacts who know you and can give you more work is the best way to grow business.

2. Focus on Good Customers: Sort your customers in order of billed revenue – now sort in order of the effort you put in – Do they match? Should you be looking to lose some of your ‘hard work’ clients?

Recognising that not every customer is a good customer was a big lesson for me.

If you are confident in your processes to bring on new business, it can be easier to let some customers go if they don’t really fit your vision. Even if you aren’t so confident, losing one or two smaller clients who take up a disproportionate amount of your time can free up a surprising number of hours to focus on building more ‘good’ clients

3. Build on your success: List your 3 big successes from 2019 – what can you learn and apply in 2020.

Sometimes, good things happen and you don’t even notice! Have a think about your high points from the past year. How did they happen? Was there something you can take into 2020 and repeat or build on the success?

4. Learn from mistakes: Recognise your key disappointment from 2019 – what can you learn and apply in 2020.

Hopefully this will be harder because you’ve had more success than disappointment, but sometimes you can learn more from a negative than a positive. By staying confident and recognising the lesson learnt you can avoid repeating the experience.

5. New ideas: Are there products or services that you could add to your business in 2020? Do customers ask you for things you don’t offer at the moment?

Good businesses constantly review and refresh their offering in line with market demands.

As well as coming up with your own ideas, or using suggestions from customers, check out what your competitors are up to. Market research can be a powerful ally.

And finally…

Running your own business can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Many SME business owners spend up to 70% of their waking hours focussed on their business, so don’t forget to try to enjoy yourself!

Whatever you do, I hope you have a productive and prosperous 2020.

Marketing is an Infinite Game

Over the Christmas break, I have been reading “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. The main message is that business should focus on long-term objectives driven by the vision of the organisation. In reality, this is a vision that is never finally realised. It will develop and move forward as time passes. In practice, most business leaders are driven by meeting finite goals or targets. Whilst these are normally easy to measure, they are often not helpful. They may even be harmful to the organisation in the longer term.

Great businesses are driven by a vision, and one aspect of a true vision is that it should be open-ended rather than achievable in its entirety. The aim of the business should be to continually move towards their vision. “Success” at any point, if this must be measured, should primarily consider “Are we happy where we are and happy we are moving in the right direction?

Marketing, with its objectives to own and communicate the company vision, must too be open-ended.  Success in marketing terms should be confirmation that people are buying into and getting behind the vision of the company. This can be demonstrated in many ways; by purchasing products/services or being advocates/champions for the brand, for example.

Is much marketing too finite?

If we believe the idea of an open-ended vision, we must ask why marketing is so often focused exclusively on finite goals?

Part of the issue, I believe, lies in the way marketing services are bought and sold.

In most cases, the sales pitch of companies offering marketing services and support is all about delivering finite solutions, targeted at achieving distinctly measurable goals: Social media likes, advertising clicks and conversions, SEO rankings, etc. All of these, whist important tools in delivering the overall marketing objectives, are just that; tools. They are important elements, but when they become focused solely on delivering finite objectives and winnable goals, the wider vision can be quickly lost!

Keeping things infinite

The antidote, I think, is to take a step back from the day to day when considering your marketing. Switch to focus on your overall vision; the “Just Cause” as Mr Sinek puts it. What is the thing that makes you get out of bed and go to work each morning? With this mindset, you may well find your motivation  is completely different. Now the goal is not to win by hitting targets, but to keep playing, moving towards you “infinite” vision. In this context the marketing objective will change.

The short term finite objectives (Social media likes, advertising clicks and conversions, SEO rankings etc.) and even bigger business objectives like driving turnover and profit, are no longer the ultimate objectives that must be met at all costs or abandoned. They are now simply necessary steps that keep you in business, and support the broader objective that is to allow you to continue towards your vision.

Staying in the game

One criticism of this way of thinking is that businesses must be viable in both the short and long term. Without embracing short-term goals, there is a risk that a business will fail.

Clearly, this is absolutely true and can not be ignored. If you run out of resources, your business will fail. However, rather than taking short-term goals as the final objective, they need to be seen for what they really are; a necessity to sustain the resources to stay in business, and allow the company to continually move forward towards its vision.

Short term marketing objectives too, should not be seen as the ultimate goal, but rather stepping stones on a path. Furthermore, if meeting these short term marketing goals does not support the wider vision of the organisation, then maybe their motivation needs to be questioned? What are you actually trying to achieve in your business?

If you think about it logically, we spend our lives striving to stay in the game. To suggest that we can ‘win’ and have completion is missing the point. There is always something more – at least until we die! Furthermore, to be a real visionary, you should recognise that even when you reach the end of your life, the game continues….

Want to read more?

If you would like to read more about business as an Infinite Game, you will find Simon Sinek’s book here on amazon.

He also has some great talks on YouTube

Love your clients & they will love you back

Given this week’s focus on relationships and the importance of finding a good fit between yourselves and your clients, I thought it would be worth revisiting this post that we did last year.

Many people think that marketing is all about finding opportunities to sell your products & services. The focus is on generating leads and managing them through the pipeline. In reality, this is sales. The heart of marketing is much more about understanding & building a relationship with your market, and giving them a reason to love your brand.

Step 1 – Understand what makes your customers happy

It may sound obvious, but marketing is first and foremost an outward-looking discipline. Anyone involved in marketing should spend significant time talking to customers. Talk online through social media, surveys etc, or face to face visiting exhibitions, networking or spending time with salespeople. Knowing what makes your customers tick, what makes them happy and most importantly what difficulties they have both with your company and competitors should be at the core of your activities as a marketer. Delivering value should be your number one priority, and the only way you can do this is understanding what your clients value.

Step 2 – Tailor your offering to Meet/Exceed their expectations

Only when you truly know your market, and how to add value should your focus turn inward to the services & products you offer and how you interact with your marketplace to deliver these. Even here your primary objective must be to tailor what you do to the benefit of your clients. If your clients don’t value something, then why do it. If they value it, they will be willing to pay for it, so do it. Apple’s customers value the quality & slick design of their products, and Steve Jobs famously said:

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

Now the bottom line is important to every business, and you ignore it at your peril, but whilst using the plywood would definitely improve the bottom line. If your clients value craftsmanship, then not using the plywood is the right thing to do, as it will help you to exceed expectations. Ultimately if they value it, they will pay for it.

 Love your clients & they will love you back

Step 3 – Work continually to develop the level of value you deliver to your clients

This process is iterative, and once you start on the journey, you need to keep going. As you deliver to your clients, their expectations will rise. As a result, you will need to be getting continuous feedback from your marketplace. You are back to step one. Embedding this process into your day to day management practices means that you will continually enhance your brand.  Stay in line with and ideally ahead of expectations. Your clients will love you for it.

The key to a long-lasting relationship

This is all well and good, but when considering all of the above, it is important to keep your own company’s objectives and goals in mind. As David discusses in his post this week, it’s important to find a good fit, between what your clients need, and what you are best suited to delivering. That way you will find it much easier to deliver for your clients without creating a headache for yourself.

Know your markets – Serve their needs

In this week’s podcast, we touched on the importance of knowing your markets. Looking back in our archive, I realised that we have never really done a post on the subject. Something I thought that needed addressing. So here goes.

One Market Many Segments

It’s a well known marketing fact that to be successful you need to know and understand your markets. But your markets are rarely simple. It is likely that you will be supplying multiple groups, each with different needs.

When looking at categorising or segmenting your markets. There are two key questions to ask:

  1. What benefits does the target of the communication gain from my product or service
  2. What message style will best engage with the group

For any group of customers, if the answers to these two questions match, then they will probably fall into the same segment.

At this point, I think an example is in order.

Segmentation and Slõ Drinks

One of our clients – Slõ Drinks, uses segmentation very effectively. Slõ supply a drink additive, that allows people living with Dysphagia (Difficulty swallowing) to make their preferred drinks safer to swallow.

If you would like to hear more about them, Check out this weeks podcast where we talk Marketing with Slõ Drinks MD Mathew Done.

Broadly, Slõ split their marketing into 2 segments:

  1. Health Professionals
  2. End Users

Whilst the core message is the same for both groups “Slõ Drinks make drinks safer to drink for those with dysphagia” The way this is communicated needs to be subtly different for the two groups as the benefits they see are slightly different.

Segmenting your messaging

Understanding that you are supplying multiple markets naturally leads into the idea that your message needs to be segmented too. In Slõ Drink’s case, the messaging looks different for each of the two groups, each message focusiing on the needs of the recipient, and how Slõ Drinks can deliver benefit.

Health Professionals: Slõ drinks provide a fantastic cost effective solution for your patients, which is soundly backed up by scientific testing. So you know if you recommend Slõ Drinks, it is a good decision both clinically and financially.

End Users: Slõ Drinks offers a safe and tested way to make living with dysphagia less intrusive. With Slõ Drinks, you can get on with enjoying life knowing that you are managing your dysphagia.

For both the core message “We make drinks safer to drink for those with dysphagia” is consistent. It’s just the angle that is shifted to match the perceived priorities of each group.

All part of the same story

When looking at this subject, its easy to end up with a highly fragmented approach to marketing. To avoid this, the objective is to be consistent in the central messaging, but then tailor this communication to the needs of individual groups. This is the key to successful segmentation.

As we discuss in the podcast, at its core marketing needs to be consistent. But it also needs to be highly relevant to those reading the message, especially given how much we can know about our customers (but that’s a whole other post). The key to achieving this is market segmentation.

Getting your messaging right for each of the segments you are targeting is key. If you would like to talk to the experts about how best to do this, we would love to talk to you.

 

 

 

Do you believe in your business?

Why do we do what we do?

I don’t know about you but I kind of fell into running my own business. I didn’t make some bold decision one day to set up BSA Marketing, I grew into it.

If I am honest, I really didn’t know what I was doing to start with. I had been working with my father and then, following his sudden death, I found myself holding the reins, and the debts, and the responsibility to our staff. I was almost too busy every day to stop and ask myself what I was doing and why! This went on for about 3 years and I really believe that if I had carried on down this path, the business wouldn’t have survived – and it nearly didn’t.

That was 30 years ago and recently I have been thinking about back then and how things evolved. From being on the brink of bankruptcy, how did BSA survive? What changed?

Believe in your business

I am convinced that there was one decision I made, above all the others, that put me on the track to success. I must stop trying to run my father’s business and start to run my own business. This meant moving away from just doing what we did and shifting to think about what we were delivering to our clients. Do I really believe in it?

This shift is fundamental to the essence of running a business. If you aren’t 100% committed to your own proposition, it is hard to build a sustainable company.

Marketing is a real belle-weather of this commitment. Marketing is about communicating your proposition and brand values, rather than just selling your products/services. You do marketing because you really believe that what you offer is beneficial. If you are committed to your business, you want to tell people about it. You know that they will appreciate the outcome of doing business with you. At a fundamental level, you aren’t trying to sell your products or services because you don’t need to. You know that if your customer understands your proposition they will want to buy from you!

This may sound a bit arrogant but actually, you are laying your business on the line. Deliver on your proposition, and your customers will come back for more. Fail to deliver and your customers will go elsewhere in future. Your business will fail.

Listen to your market

While belief in what you are doing might be core to building a strong business, blind faith is a step too far. If marketing is about communicating your proposition to your target market, part of this process is generating a response – and it is important to listen to that response. A common theme amongst successful business owners is the time it takes to create a successful company. In the words of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos:

Overnight success took 10 years

It is while you are growing your business through the early years that your belief in what you are doing is particularly important. You must have the confidence to stick to your guns. However, you must also be ready to listen to your market. It is customer feedback that helps you refine and improve your proposition, but if there is ever uncertainty about what your market is saying, you should always be ready to stand by your own intuition. Use the feedback you get but don’t be dictated by it.

Stick at it – with a plan

If your overnight success is going to take 10 years to come good, you need to be ready to stick at it! Confident persistence in following your belief is at the heart of most successful businesses. The biggest risk you face is running out of cash and this is why having a clear plan is so important. While you can’t predict the future, a plan helps you manage what the future throws at you. Your plan is also the statement of your belief in your business. You aren’t just making it up as you go along. Your plan is your framework against which you can make new decisions as you are presented with new opportunities – or challenges!

In my experience, it is a real privilege to run your own business. It can be hard work and challenging but the opportunities it presents can be difficult to achieve in any other way. However, unless you truly believe in your business, you are unlikely to see what it can offer to you.

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

 

 

Joined-up marketing with PIMMS – A practical approach

In most SME businesses, marketing is either focused on planning or doing.

Rarely is it focused on both. Why is this?

I think it is because the marketing services offered to SME business owners are either focused on planning (i.e. consultants) or doing (i.e. design, web, search, pr, social, direct, e-mail etc.)

SME marketing is rarely truly joined-up marketing, focused on both…. But it should be!

Good marketing is joined-up marketing!

PIMMS is the BSA planning model which not only helps you plan your marketing but also creates a coherent, joined-up marketing process for making things happen – sustainably. Let’s take a look at the key elements of PIMMS – Plan, Implement, Monitor, Manage, Sustain

PLAN

Your Goals

Planning is not about having a plan! It is about thinking through your goals and defining the processes you want to operate in your business to help you achieve your goals.

These processes must be practical and logical. Things you can and will do.

It is particularly important that you write down your decisions. If you don’t, it is easy to use the benefit of hindsight to massage your memory!

If you quietly forget the actual decisions you took and choices you made, it is impossible to reflect on them and consistently adapt to reflect the reality you find.

Never forget, it is impossible to foretell the future. Planning is about defining your best guess based on the information you have and using this to decide what actions you will take to help you achieve your goals. As you move forward, you are always learning. Used properly, your new knowledge can help you make better decisions.

Goals

Why are you in business? How do you want your business to operate? What do you want to achieve, for yourself, your family, your employees, the wider world?

Your goals are the endgame of the PIMMS process. Once you have defined them, you can then set out the path you choose to take to achieve them.

Remember to make sure your goals are SMART – SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed

Your Proposition

A famous quote from Peter Drucker:

“The purpose of a business is to create a customer”

To achieve this, you need to give your customer a reason to do business with you. This is your proposition.

Remember, customers don’t trade with you out of the goodness of their hearts, they do so because they get value from you.  You might solve a problem for them, or make them feel better? Maybe both?

By defining (and writing down!) your proposition, you crystalise it. This allows you to objectively test it in the real world.

Never mind what you think, do you really solve problems and/or make people feel better?

Unless you are lucky, you will also have competitors. Other businesses who are trying to solve the same problems, deliver the same benefits as you. How can you differentiate your business to show how you deliver benefit more effectively?

Try not to think in terms of what you do. Instead, put yourself in eth position of your customer. What do they receive from you? Your perception of what you do and your customer’s perception may be quite different.

Remember what Peter Drucker says; the business goal is to create a customer.

It is the customer’s perception of your proposition that is most important.

Your Target Market

Creating a customer is central to your business. Where are you going to find your customer?

Having a clear idea as to who is likely to be your customer makes it easier to find them and to make sure you are targeting your marketing in the right direction.

In practice, defining a target market can prove challenging as there is a flip side. By specifying who is your target market, you are, by default, also defining who isn’t!

By excluding some people or businesses, you are saying here is a group of people who could (at least in theory) do business with me. However, I am consciously not planning to market to them as I believe they do not represent a significant opportunity to create the sort of customer I am looking for!

What if you are wrong? Actually it doesn’t matter. You know enough about your business that you shouldn’t completely miss your target audience, and anyway, if you do miss some opportunities, you can target them later.

Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event

Also, remember that your target market will always split between ‘People who know you’ and ‘People who don’t know you’. A good customer will trust you and that means they will know you. Building trust can take time.

It can be helpful to accept that creating a customer is a process. To this end, building a database of ‘People who know you’ and using this as a CRM* tool to grow relationships can be a great way to create customers.

IMPLEMENT

Knocking on doors

Sooner or later, if you are going to create a customer, you have to communicate with your market. OK, maybe not actually knocking on doors  (though why not?) but you have to get out there and take your proposition to your market.

Deciding what to say and how to say it can be overwhelming. There are so many different options – and so many people trying to tell you how their way is the best!

The key is to make a clear, written action plan that you are comfortable with – and then make sure the actions happen.

Remember….

Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event

It doesn’t matter if your action plan isn’t perfect. What does matter is that you get out and do something. By having a written action plan it is much easier to manage your joined-up marketing process and when it comes to reviewing how things are going, a written plan is extremely valuable.

Here are some ideas you may find helpful.

  • Different approaches will be more suited to different types of customer. If you are offering personal/professional services, a more individual/one-to-one approach makes sense.
  • Have different approaches depending on whether it is someone who knows you, or not.
  • Don’t do too much
  • It is better to use one or two communication tools well than to try to do everything

MONITOR

Measuring the Process

By measuring response to your marketing communication, you can see what is working and what isn’t.

Remember though that it isn’t just about signing up customers straight away.   Good customers may take their time to decide to work with you. In fact, a customer who takes their time in the first place can often be a more loyal and long-term source of business. It is worth the wait.

Most digital marketing communication tools such as e-mail, search, social etc. have extensive analytics tools allowing you to measure how people are engaging with your marketing.

Using these tools can help you find opportunities to build conversations on a one to one basis.

MANAGE

Refining the Process

A joined-up marketing process does not just happen. It needs to be driven. This can be challenging because marketing is also the easy thing not to do.

Doing no marketing has no impact today or tomorrow. Not responding to customers or dealing with enquiries does!

It can be difficult to allocate regular time to managing your marketing, particularly if you don’t have a marketing process. You find yourself working from scratch – and this takes up more time. Another reason why it can be easy not to even start!

Having a planned process that delivers meaningful measurement of how things are going makes it much more likely that you will put time to marketing. Even a 10-20 minute weekly review of an established process can point to opportunities that drive real progress.

SUSTAIN

Stick at it

I have said it several times:

Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event

Don’t expect instant success. You might get it, and if you do, count yourself lucky. However, normally you need to work at it.

As someone once said, ‘…the harder I work the luckier I get…’

Actually, when it comes to joined-up marketing, I think it is important not to have to work too hard. If you do, you are more likely to stop.

It is worth making the time in the short-term to build your plan and getting your marketing process up and running. This will pay dividends later. A good process is much easier to manage!

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Where does marketing fit in your business?

Regular readers will know I am a fan of Peter Drucker. As the master of modern business consultancy, he has the advantage that previously there had been few, if any, quotable business quotes so he could simply say what he thought without having to put his words in the perspective of those who went before. He didn’t have to come up with a new angle on something. He just said it as he saw it – and I reckon he was one bright guy.

Consequently, Peter Drucker is immensely quotable on core aspects of business and marketing. He gets right to the nub of things and gives real food for thought.

Take this one:

 "The purpose of a business is to create a customer."

He goes on…

"Marketing is the whole business seen from the customer's point of view.

Taking these 2 together, I actually think it is wrong to ask the question: Where does marketing fit in your business?

The reality is that marketing IS your business!

Is it that simple?

Hang on a minute!, I hear you cry, my business is to provide this service or that product, and part of my business is to market and sell my service/product.

From your position, inside your business, it may certainly feel like this. You know how busy you are with all the tasks you do to keep your business thriving.

However, just take a minute and think about the first of Drucker’s quotes:  The purpose of a business is to create a customer. This makes sense. Without customers, your business is nothing but cost – in both time and money. It is the margin generated through profitable customer revenue that is the fuel to drive everything in your business. Whether you are a sole trader working alone, or a big corporation, this same basic rule applies. If you don’t have sufficient revenue from your customers, you run out of money and your business fails.

So, if we accept that a customer (or customers!) is the most fundamental requirement and purpose of your business, it makes sense that how your (potential) customers view your business is critical to your success. The process of getting your business messages out and therefore managing how your customers view your business is….Marketing!

So when it comes down to it, marketing is not a function of your business. Marketing doesn’t fit into your business. It is your whole business – as seen from the customer’s point of view. Ultimately, it is the customer’s point of view that is essential!

Some food for thought….

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.