Partnership for Performance-Case Study

Where clients and suppliers can work in partnership, there is the opportunity to grow a relationship built on confidence and understanding which allows more flexibility. This is the type of relationship that we thrive on. It is based, not particularly on commercial transactions (although being paid for what we do is important!) but more on having a clear understanding of what we are working to achieve with our client and then focussing on realising on these objectives. In this way, our emphasis is squarely on delivering real benefit – as this case study demonstrates.

Covid-19 Lockdown – An opportunity for evolution

Background

Longmark Tax Conferences have been organising and running professional conferences for specialist tax lawyers and accountants around the UK for nearly 15 years. They have built an enviable reputation for delivering high-quality speakers (predominantly barristers and QCs working in dedicated tax practices) presenting on a varied and relevant range of topics.

We were already marketing ith the conference programme for Spring and Summer 2020 already. The Coronavirus Lockdown came as a significant blow.  Consequently, the Longmark management team took the difficult decision to postpone all conferences from the 2020 programme. Recognising that there was likely to be no quick resolution to the pandemic, the decision was taken to explore the possibility of offering a webcast.

Content for the event was not a problem. Longmark has strong relationships with a number of highly knowledgeable technical speakers. As a result, a presenter and topic for the webcast had already been agreed.

Having run conferences for many years, Longmark is well-known amongst legal and accountancy practices across the UK. They have a valuable contact database so, in principle, marketing the webcast should not be an issue. However, there were some challenges….

The problem

Longmark has a well-established process in place for delivering regular conferences. Typical the lead time for this process to run is 3-4 months from setting the conference date, venue, speakers and content to the conference itself.  The established marketing approach included brochure design and print and direct mail.

For the planned webcast, we had only 6 weeks from initial discussions until the date of the webcast. We knew that we needed at least 4 weeks to market the event. There was no time to use print & direct mail. All marketing would be on-line by email.

Furthermore, we had no established webcast delivery infrastructure

To deliver the programme cost-effectively, it was essential that we automate booking, payment processing and delegate access to the webcast. These all needed to be handled online.  We had no systems established for any of these.

What we did have was a strong working relationship established over many years. As a result, we all had the confidence that we could, and would, deliver.

The solution

Webcast delivery

An undoubted feature of the pandemic has been the rises and rise of Zoom video conferencing. Despite an exponential increase in users placing significant demands, the Zoom infrastructure has proved itself up to the task. We agreed that Zoom would be a reliable platform for the webcast delivery, however, it was felt that the webcast offering from Zoom did not meet our needs. Through a partnership with an online webcast specialist, we were able to develop a way of delivering the webcast reliably to the Longmark website. From here we would be able to manage regulated access to the webcast. It was important to ensure that only paid-up delegates were able to watch the webcast.

Joining it all together

BSA combines technical competence with a thorough understanding of marketing and practical business processes

We have been working with Longmark for 10 years. Over this time, we have built a good working relationship with a solid understanding of their processes – and the technology used to deliver these processes. We already host the Longmark website and manage much of the booking administration for the regular conference programme.

Thanks to our existing partnership and knowledge-base, we were able to focus immediately on the webcast challenges. Additionally, using our combination of technical and practical business competences we were able to develop a technical specification for the online booking, payment processing and delegate management systems and how these might be quickly and effectively implemented to allow the marketing for the webcast to go ahead quickly.

We built, tested and launched the online booking and delegate management systems within 2 weeks. Furthermore, within hours of the launch, we received the first bookings.

BSA promoted the webcast through an e-mail marketing programme supported by social media – primarily LinkedIn

The outcome

The systems we had set up ran effectively. BSA’s end-to-end involvement in the technical, marketing and admin processes meant that the inevitable tweaks that were required as the new processes became established were developed and implemented seamlessly to ensure that the marketing and delegate3 registration processes could continue unimpeded.

By the time of the broadcast, we had over 230 registered delegates. The event went out without a hitch and the feedback rated the overall experience at over 95%.

Undoubtedly, the fact that there was an effective partnership between Longmark, the speaker, the broadcast manager and BSA was key to bringing this event in on-plan. It really was thsi partnership that delivered the performance

The long-term benefits

Undoubtedly, the webcast was a success, even as a stand-alone. However, delivering the webcast has also driven longer-term benefits:

Although we expect physical conferences to return as soon as is realistic, this project has shown that webcasts are deliverable and practical for Longmark. Online presentations may offer an additional option for the Longmark business going forward,

The technical systems and processes are now in place. Running future webcasts will be straightforward.

Physical conferences can benefit from the automated booking and registration systems set up by BSA. The new systems can streamline the delegate administration for future conferences. This will prove significantly more cost-effective, reducing event administration costs into the future.

Let Mike Longman of Longmark have the final word….

We have worked closely with BSA Marketing since 2010. During that time they have gained a deep understanding
of our business aims and processes. BSA has become an integrated part of our marketing function. We discussed
our plans with David and the need for us to re-engineer the back end of our website and facilitate online
bookings/payments and host the broadcasting of the online lectures. 

We set the BSA team a tight deadline to devise, test and implement the new system and they went above and beyond to not
only meet the deadline but also offer much needed hands-on support with our delegate queries as our first live webcast took place.

The webcast was a great success, and it was reassuring to have BSA partnering with us on this new venture. 

We couldn’t have done it without them.

Contact us to discuss how a partnership with BSA can help your performance

The Power of Partnership

It’s is often stated that in business, you should look to surround yourself with people who have knowledge and talents in areas where you might not be so well versed. This is a great philosophy, and one that people running small businesses would be well advised follow.

We all have a skillset, and the combined skillset of those you employ creates the skillset for the business. Using the above philosophy internally should create a strong offering. But what about those times when you are asked to do things peripheral to that core offering?  Whether you are bringing in experts like accounting, marketing or legal to help you run your business, or , accessing complementary skills that allow you to offer broader services to your clients, partnerships become a powerful tool.

But I can do that!

Sometimes an opportunity arises that requires a skill that is not central to your offering. When it does, thinking “I can do that” and looking to fulfil your clients request directly is tempting. However that can be a dangerous approach. It’s dangerous because it is likely to:

  1. Lead to your delivering a sub optimal solution to your client
  2. Create additional stress and take a disproportionate level of resource to deliver

Combine these, and whilst generating extra income, you risk negatively impacting both your reputation and your profitability.

Focus on what you are good at

I am sure I have said this before, but I make no apology for repeating myself. You should focus on your core strengths and not aim to be all things to everyone. That way you can avoid the issues outlined above.

But in focusing on your strengths, you are likely to expose gaps in your offering. Reducing your ability to offer a joined up approach for your clients. This is where partnerships are powerful. By identifying other individuals or organisations who’s core strengths plug theses gaps, you can provide a full service to clients without getting bogged down in areas where you are not so strong.

Partnerships can deliver revenue too

Its true, moving to the use of partners rather than direct delivery for these peripheral services, can impact revenues as some of the revenue that you would have earned is now going to your partners. However, it is also likely that their clients will have need for services which are at your core, and peripheral to theirs. I these instances, it would make sense for them to pass these over to you. Whilst this should never be the main reason for working with a partner (That should be their ability to deliver for your clients). It is a great bonus when it happens. And its surprising how often it does.

Three Steps to Good Partnerships

I would just like to finish with 3 steps that will point you in the right direction to working with partners

  1. Identify your core strengths and more importantly, the things you are asked for that are outside of this.
  2. On the back of this identify areas where partnerships could be valuable
  3. Create a process to find and develop relationships with others who are better than you in these areas

If you are into networking, this last step can really breath life into networking sessions, as it moves the focus away from Sales – Who in the room can I sell to? and onto building relationships – Who in the room could I work with to enhance my business offering and help me deliver benefit to my clients?

But that’s another post!

 

 

Just do it! – The value of (effective) implementation

The COVID pandemic has turned the economy upside down. As in any period of major upheaval, some businesses  (Zoom and Amazon spring to mind!) that do very well, while others (most small businesses and certainly those operating in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors) have seen turnover fall off a cliff. For both Zoom and Amazon, they were fortunate. Their existing business models happen to be well suited to delivering services to people and markets in lockdown.

What is more interesting is the way that some businesses, faced with a huge decline, or even effective closure, of their existing business models, have used their capabilities, resources and market knowledge to adapt to the new economic environment. Additionally, given the speed with which lockdown was imposed, it has tended to me SME businesses who have the potential to be most agile, who have reacted most quickly,  and are starting to see the benefit.

Agility with a short or long term view?

Many business owners recognise the need for change. Facing the reality of the pandemic, they are coming up with new ideas. Furthermore, they have acted. They have implemented their new ideas.

This said, I have seen businesses adapt in 2 distinct ways:

  1. Switch to a model simply to stay viable.
  2. Use lockdown as the incentive to develop a business which works in the short term but can have real benefit long into the future.

People in the first group are really just hanging on, waiting for things to return to ‘normal’. The problem is that no-one knows how long this might be. Certainly, all the indicators are looking encouraging at the moment but even so, the easing of the lockdown comes with warnings of the importance of continuing to maintain social distancing and quarantine for those who can’t. All this, and a spike in COVID cases could see lockdown being reimposed overnight.

I suspect that elements of lockdown will be with us for some time yet. It could be a long wait for normality.

Moving your business into the future

For other businesses, the lockdown has been a catalyst for real change. By embracing the challenges of the current climate and using them to ‘think differently’ some business owners are evolving their businesses in ways that mean they will never look back. Implementing changes effectively and sustainably can be made easier by working with reliable partners. We are proud to have supported numerous clients moving their businesses forward into the future. Let’s have a look at a few:-

1. The Retailer

Our client runs a retail business. Part of the business is a farm shop which means they were allowed to remain open during lockdown. However, in practice, business turnover dropped dramatically and footfall to eth shop was not sufficient. The business had a website which included a modest e-commerce facility but this was always an add-on to the main retail business. Up to the start of lockdown, online orders were running at only 1 or 2 per day. Look what happened in March….

From a ‘norm’ of 30-40 orders per month in January & February, order levels rocketed to 400 in March and nearly 600 per month since then. June is on track to sustain this jump inactivity.

The 10-fold increase in on-line orders created significant logistical challenges across the business. By providing effective website hosting and technical support, we were able to ensure that the website absorbed the huge growth in traffic and continued to perform effectively.

We are now looking forward to developing and implementing new marketing programmes over the coming months to continue the benefit to the business of a new online customer base.

2. The Conference Organiser

As an organiser of specialist technical conferences around the UK attracting up to 150 professional delegates, our client faced particular challenges to their business. Events arranged for the Spring had to be postponed. Also, it is looking increasingly likely that it will be impractical to host any further regional events before next year. Faced with potentially zero income for 2020, the owners decided to take their business online. Following initial discussions in mid-May, we set 25th June as the date for the first live webcast. We are working closely with our client and within 4 weeks we have delivered:

  • A complete online delegate booking & payment management system
  • Secure management of delegate registration
  • Secure, controlled access to the webcast feed
  • Ongoing technical support for the registration booking & payment system
  • Ongoing marketing management and support for the event

All of the above is seamlessly integrated into the existing website. This is a real testament to the power and flexibility of WordPress.

Proof of the pudding

From the initial marketing launch of the event, there are now over 180 delegates registered, including people attending from as far away as Australia! While our support has helped deliver effective systems facilitating the event, we mustn’t forget that the key is top quality content. The webcast is being delivered by a highly respected leader in his field, our input is to make the online management system straightforward and effective so that it almost appears invisible. Read more about invisible technology here.

Into the future

The switch to online webcasts is undoubtedly a direct outcome of the lockdown. However, there are significant differences between a webcast and a ‘live’ event where there are valuable networking opportunities as well as the technical presentations. The plan is to restart the regional events as soon as practical but webcasts are likely to offer an additional service (and revenue!) channel into the future.

A couple of others….

The engineering service

Our client wanted to take his service offering into Europe. He saw the relative quiet of lockdown as the ideal opportunity to work with us. As a result, we have updated his website to deliver full multi-lingual capability and translated the site into German as a first step into Europe. The plan is to add more languages in due course. This staged approach allows planned expansion in a managed way.

B2B E-commerce

Our client has developed a range of high-quality workbenches and CNC tool storage systems designed for engineering businesses and specialist hobbyists. We have worked with them to build and launch a full e-commerce website from the ground up.

Just do it! The value of effective implementation

The above are just some examples of how we work closely with clients to make things happen. Our goal is to help clients make their businesses better and easier.

We work with our clients to understand their business ideas and objectives. We then design, implement and deliver effective marketing and technical solutions to meet these objectives. Our services are the means, not the end.

We help make implementation happen. It is making it happen that gets results.

Please get in touch to discuss how we can help make sure your business development happens

The best technology is effectively invisible

Technology is everywhere! During the past few weeks, it has been the main way that we have been able to stay in contact with one another, yet I’d like to think that actually, the best technology is effectively invisible.

This isn’t to say that we can’t see it, more that we don’t notice it. It is effective. It just works.

Even so, people do normally ‘notice’ technology in the first instance. Top technology companies have turned ‘unboxing’ into an art form. The look and touch of the latest iPhone are carefully designed to make us feel good! This is all very well but ultimately it is what you can do with the phone that matters. A handset is just a tool that allows you to communicate, surf, photograph, or whatever?  The look and feel may be important to start with but, at the end of the day, you just want it to work. It is what you do that matters.

The same is true when it comes to the technology you use in marketing your business. It may be nice to have all the bells and whistles but what really matters is that your customers and prospects, who engage with you, are fully focussed on your marketing message rather than the technology you use to deliver it. You want the technology to be so good that people don’t notice it!

UX is the key – but stay focussed on your goals

User eXperience (UX) is a significant and growing field in the world of marketing. However, like so many aspects of technology in marketing, it is being sold as a design solution rather than a practical solution. Talk of the psychology of colours and the positioning of key elements on forms and web-pages can lead to an expensive bill but (IMHO) is of limited practical value for the majority of SME businesses and websites.

Use your own experience of your business, customers and markets. You know what you want to offer and what people are looking for. Make sure you deliver in a straightforward way. This sentiment applies equally to your marketing.

For most of us, we should be focussing on a clear message with well laid out, straightforward navigation to our web content – and no dead ends! You can test this yourself, or ask friends & colleagues to take a look.  There will always be someone who can offer another tweak or refinement but ask yourself if these make any significant improvement. Incremental/marginal gains in UX can be expensively unnecessary.  Don’t try to make your marketing technology perfect. It never will be! What is important is that it works seamlessly.

Website Speed – Fast enough is fast enough

Some people are fixated by website speed tests. Whatever speed-score their website delivers, they want it to be faster. It becomes irrelevant whether the real-world performance of the website delivers a good and positive experience for their site visitors. It becomes all about making the numbers better – even if this delivers no real value or benefit. Are marginal gains in site speed really worth it if?

If I had to pick, I would say that speed isn’t everything – fixation on speed tests isn’t as important as UX – fast enough is fast enough. A slightly slower, well flowing site is better than a fast site with poor logic/navigation that frustrates visitors or leads them to dead ends.

Focus on effective functionality

If users can find a way to break your website, they will!  Better that you break it first. If you have tried to break your new web system, and failed, you can be confident that it is OK to launch on your market.

Even if you have failed to find the flaws in functionality and flow of your website, those flaws will still be there – and the chances are someone will find them, even if they are extremes!

Unless you are anticipating very high traffic on your site from the start (in which case it should be worth investing in some careful and comprehensive testing and a phased roll-out of a new site), I recommend that you make sure that you are ready to handle the process failures and bugs manually in the first instance.

This process has benefit for most businesses:

    1. It is more cost-effective
    2. No need to second guess every single possibility (and programme in solutions from the start that will rarely, if ever, be used)
    3. If you have a good, flexible system, you can always add functionality

Accepting that you will need to keep a close eye on your new system for a while and be ready to jump in and sort any problems that visitors experience, quickly.

I reckon that good system that is live and working for you and your business is more use than waiting until you have perfection before launch. Even if some visitors do experience the odd glitch, helping them quickly with backup and support can send a strong and positive message about your business

…and finally

My tips for effective marketing technology for your business…

  1. Never forget that marketing technology and websites are the means, not the end to achieving your marketing and business objectives.
  2. Start the process then evolve with experience. With development platforms such as WordPress, it is easy to add functionality based on real-world experience.
  3. You can start with a simple system and, over time, evolve it into a sophisticated, yet practical, web-application to help drive your business.
  4. The best technology for your business is invisible to your customers. It just works. It is your business that they see and remember.
  5. Get support from someone who understands both business process and technology. Someone who can support you in achieving your business goals, not just someone who does what you tell them.

Get in touch if you would like to chat.

Are Webcasts a good marketing tool?

During the Lockdown, web meetings, and webinars have definitely come of age, and the number of people selling them as the next big marketing thing has also increased!

Talk to any of these people and they will tell you that they are a must have in your marketing kit bag. But are they?

The simple answer is, as with any marketing tool, “It Depends”. It depends on whether your marketing message would be enhanced by the webinar format and whether your market is likely to engage with the webinars.

Content is King

First lets look at content. The question here is do you have expertise, or access to expertise that people in your market would value. If you do then providing access to this expertise could be a great marketing tool, or in some cases a potential revenue earner via paid webcasts.

Most of the marketing strategies that we use with clients assume that they are experts in their fields, and the marketing is largely about communicating this expertise to the marketplace. So in our world, and in that of many businesses working in niche markets, this means that you can deliver value through your marketing messages. As such webinars may be relevant.

For many niche businesses, this “Expert in your Field” concept should be appropriate, and as such the the webcast as a marketing tool could well have merit. For other businesses, its about asking the question “what value would a webcast add to my marketing?”

What about your audience

So you have material that suits the webcast format. The next question is “What about your market? will they engage with a webcast?” I think that in most cases, if the content is interesting and relevant, then yes they will. The real question is will they believe you when you tell them you have something valuable to say!

I was speaking to a client last week, and this topic came up. He recounted a story about a webinar (yes this was a webinar) which on the face of it seemed valuable, but in fact it turned out simply to be a sales pitch for a paid course. The experience has led him to be wary of the marketing hype surrounding the format. The reality is that this is an issue. The use of webinars as a sales tool in this way has devalued them in many peoples eyes. One reason we talk about “webcasts” rather than “webinars” as this puts the focus on the content. Delivering great content, and getting a reputation for doing so has to be part of your strategy in this area.

Protect your Brand

The final thing I would like to cover is how the use of webcasts sits with your brand image & values.

There are many aspect to delivering a webcast:

  • The webcast itself, including technology, branding, and the quality/production values for the feed delivered
  • The sign up process, and how you manage access to the webcast
  • The interaction with attendees during the Webcast including how you handle things like Q&A and Chat
  • The lists goes on

All of these things will impact how the webcast reflects your brand, and all need to be considered. It might be a very easy solution to simply use a tool like Zoom for the whole process, but is that right for your brand?

To give an example; In a recent project for a client, we chose not to use Zoom to deliver the webcast as it was felt that the reported security issues for the system might reflect badly on them, and prevent some people from being able to take part. Whilst security may, in reality, not be much of an issue anymore for Zoom, the perception is there. This coupled with other factors around branding and the signup process led to us not using Zoom. As a result we used a number of technologies & platforms to deliver the webcast rather than a single platform end to end. Whilst more complex, the result was totally in line with their high quality brand. Something that could not necessarily be said of Zoom.

I am not saying that you should never use an out of the box solution. (In some cases it would be highly appropriate). What I am saying is that when selecting how to deliver your webcast, making sure it accurately reflects your brand should be a key factor.

So Are Webcasts a good marketing tool?

Consider all the factors above. If on balance they add value to your marketing, and can be done cost effectively in a way that fits your brand, then yes they are a good tool.

If on the other hand, the conclusion in that they don’t add significant value, or are not a cost effective part of the mix, then maybe they should be avoided. But at least you will have an answer for those trying to sell the concept!

 

Marketing comms: A process, not event

Over recent weeks we have been talking about Business Philosophy,  a potentially esoteric subject yet, as with most things in business, philosophy only takes us so far. Clearly defining your Business Philosophy can be useful to help clarify what a business stands for and what you are trying to achieve but it stops short of setting out the practical steps of how you plan to achieve your goal.

Driving your Business Philosophy needs action. Navel-gazing isn’t enough!

Marketing communications is key to letting your prospects and markets know about your business. It is not something you do once, it is ongoing.

Getting your consistent marketing message out as widely as possible is a process, not an event,

The problem with a process is that someone needs to set it up and getting running in the first place. If you run your own business, that person is most likely you!

However, as is evident in the current pandemic situation, the default position for most people is to look for direction from others.

It is easy to sit back and pick holes in the decisions of others and explain, after the event, how they could have done it differently. Yet the simple fact is that, as a starting point, somebody has to decide to do something – and then make it happen!

If it is your business, and your marketing, you have to start the process.

There should be time for subsequent review and refinement. This is the process. But you must start somewhere!

In summary, developing any process has 5 steps:

  1. Know what you are trying to achieve
  2. Know where you are starting from
  3. Understand factors that can influence your process
  4. Plan and implement your process
  5. Stick at it!

Let’s take this summary and apply it to marcomms….

The Marketing Communications Process

    1. Know what you are trying to achieve – What do you want to communicate, to whom and what outcome are you hoping for?

      • Take time to clearly define and understand your business proposition – As we have discussed before, it is easy to skirt around this and launch straight into ‘doing something‘.
      • Action without a plan puts focus on being busy rather than focusing on achieving results – a risky approach.
      • If you truly understand your business proposition, it makes planning easier as you have a framework to apply.
      • Who do you want to communicate with?
    2. Know where you are starting from – What do you have to work with?

      • What resources (typically time and/or money) do you have available to invest in your process – be realistic!
      • Do you have knowledge/experience of previous marketing activity that you can learn from?
      • What do you want to say?
    3. Understand factors that can influence your process

      • Your Business Philosophy is a key element here. Your philosophy will constrain the options you have available. You should only do what is right for you and your business.
      • How does your target audience communicate?  Knowing your market will help define the most suitable communication channels.
      • Will your message engage, inform and resonate with your target audience?
      • Will people be motivated to act on your message to help you achieve your goal?
    4. Plan and implement your process

      • Select your communication channels and set out a plan for relevant messages over time – Build a content calendar
      • I recommend using your website as your core message platform then use 2 or 3 channels (email/social media etc.) to spread the word.
      • Don’t forget offline. In this digital world, mail, telephone and face to face can all be powerful options
      • Build messages that reflect your philosophy and goals that are designed to resonate with your target audience
      • Do it and stick at it
    5. Stick at it!

      • Objectively review and analyse progress, and refine the process as you proceed.
      • Be realistic.
      • Avoid knee-jerk reactions
      • Be ready to give your process time.

Finally, in a single sentence…

The right message through the right channels to the right audience, consistently = success!

Do Don’t Say

To run a sustainable business requires motivation. The best way to motivate yourself is to create a close connection between your life philosophy (what gets you up in the morning), and what you are trying to achieve from a business perspective. A topic that David explores in more depth this week.

In some cases, this is difficult to do directly, in which case your business motivation may be a “means to an end”.  Success in your business dealings allows you to further your wider life objectives. But the ideal is to ensure that your life objectives and your business objectives are aligned. It is this scenario that I would like to explore in this post.

The idea of marrying your philosophy for life with your business objectives is something we explored recently when we looked at Simon Sinek’sThe power of why“. Here he explores the idea that using the reason you do what you do as part of your marketing message can be very powerful.

Now, I want to dig deeper into this approach. How to build your philosophical ideas into your marketing, without preaching. The key is to use actions rather than just words to deliver your message.

The truth is…..?

It is said that the words “The truth is” are often followed by a statement that probably isn’t the whole truth.

In the same way, telling customers that your offering is:

  • Great Value
  • High Quality
  • The Best…

May not ring true. Clients should be able to see it for themselves in the product/service and their dealings with your organisation.

Your philosophy should be communicated by what you do, not what you say. In other words, you should be telling people how you can add value for them. Let them make up their own mind if you offer good value, quality etc.

When looking at brands in the past, I have always highlighted the importance of demonstrating your brand values in everything that you do, and in every interaction you have with clients, not just in your marketing communication.

This is just as true when considering your philosophy. Demonstrating your thinking and what drives you in everything you do and in every interaction you have with your market is a far more powerful way of communicating your values than trying to talk people into agreement. If you have to give chapter and verse, then that’s preaching and people will switch off. To be effective, your philosophy should be clear from your actions.

If your product is high quality, then everything you do, and all interactions with your market should be equally high quality. If your philosophy is to go the extra mile, to make sure you deliver for your clients, then this thinking should be central to all you do and say.

Nothing is new

This idea is not new. Back in the 12th century, Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words”. In fact, this is a paraphrase. His actual words were

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

A sound approach when looking to communicate your philosophy and your brand. It is one that certainly worked for St Francis!

Your business philosophy? Does it drive your business?

Building and running a business is challenging and can be hard work, but it can also be very rewarding.

We all do things for a reason. Running a business is no different. Here are 3 questions:

  1. Why do you run your business?
  2. What is your business philosophy?
  3. Does your business philosophy connect with your customers?

Of course, a business philosophy should aim for personal success and fulfilment, and providing for you and your family. However, it is important to balance your own wishes with a desire to deliver real value to your customers and clients. Furthermore, getting this balance right can be the key to long-term success where everyone wins. Too much focus on either your own needs or those of your customers upsets the balance and the business risks failure.

An honest and well-balanced business philosophy can also be a great marketing asset.

What is your business philosophy?  Do you tell people?

My BSA philosophy

To explore this idea further, I think it is only fair to look at my own philosophy for BSA in terms of the 3 questions I pose above

1. Why do I run BSA?

To be honest, running BSA was unexpectedly thrust upon me back in 1986 following the sudden death of my father. I never took the decision to start a business. I literally woke up one day to find myself in charge!

The following few years were stressful I didn’t have a plan. I had a team to motivate and expenses to cover – not to mention a mortgage! In the end, I did the only thing I felt I could, I put my head down and got on with it! Although I was only too aware of the bills and wages that needed paying, my philosophy from the very start was that the best way to meet my own needs and obligations was to deliver the very best we could for our customers.

2. What is my business philosophy?

34 years later, we are still here so I guess we have been doing something right!

At its heart, my business philosophy is all about partnership.  In my experience, simply supplying a service to a client at arm’s length works well as a one-off but is less effective when we are trying to build a longer-term relationship. Our aim is to engage with our clients to deliver real benefit – to improve your business. We can only do this if we properly understand a client’s own philosophy and objectives.

I am proud that we have been working with most of our clients for many years. A client relationship can be based on no more than proactively and intelligently hosting a website. With other clients, we are actively developing and implementing ongoing marketing communication programmes, including exploring, developing and advising on new ideas and opportunities.

We bring together our own experience and skillset to work in partnership with the knowledge and capabilities of our client.  Getting the partnership right means the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. My business philosophy is focussed on getting the partnership right.

We want to really help our clients, both in planning AND implementation. It is important that we help to make things happen, all as part of a bigger picture to drive and improve your business.

It is not about turnover. If a partnership is right, it is right, however modest or great it may be.

3. Does the BSA business philosophy connect with our customers?

In short, I hope so!

We recently did some customer research and, while the results highlighted some novel and valuable opinions, the core response does fit with my philosophy. Our clients see BSA as experts who effectively integrate this knowledge with the expertise of our clients to work together to deliver a better outcome for us both.

However, this led to another consideration: do we tell our prospective customers about our philosophy? I’m afraid to say that when we took a critical eye to our core marketing message on our website – we came up short. We had fallen into the classic marketing trap of discussing features rather than benefits!

I am a fan of the saying that ‘Every Day is a Schoolday’. No matter how much you know, there is always the opportunity to learn

Needless to say, we took the opportunity to make some changes.

Hopefully, our philosophy is becoming more apparent.

So what is your business philosophy?

So, what is your business philosophy? Does it effectively drive your business?

Might a partnership with BSA bring something to your party?

Let’s chat and see…

Content – The elephant in the social media room (still)

Although the essence of marketing is communicating with your target markets, so many SME businesses focus on HOW they want to communicate rather than WHAT they want to communicate. Back in 2016, I wrote this article. While we all embrace the lockdown(!) as an opportunity to work on our business rather than just in our business, I felt now is a good time to revisit the content elephant.

Actually, if you truly know what message/content you wish to communicate to effectively promote your products/services, then deciding HOW to communicate it is relatively straightforward. Undoubtedly you will be constrained by the resources you can afford to commit to marketing. TV advertising is not for everyone!. However, there is an ever-expanding range of online tools (including Websites, Social Media,  Click Advertising, Banner Advertising etc.) that can be accessed and effectively used at low cost, or even for free in some cases if you are prepared to put a bit of effort into learning what to do from the plethora of online tutorials and advice. The challenge is not so much HOW you communicate as WHAT you communicate.

Some people (often the truly successful entrepreneurs) have an innate skill for content.
They are lucky. They have a natural talent and can just do it.

Content creation in the real world

The problem for the rest of us is that when you turn to consider what it is that you want to say, coming up with relevant content can be challenging for many businesses. I think the issue is that deciding on content is a creative risk. There is no-one can tell you what you want to say. You have to think for yourself and there is a strong desire to try to get it right  – there is a focus on trying to be perfect when you can’t! I would go further, I believe that there is no perfect.

Consequently, instead of biting the bullet and diving into content creation, accepting that it won’t be perfect, it is enticing to avoid the issue and get sidetracked into the HOW.

Let’s learn all about LinkedIn/Twitter/Google Ads etc. – because if we learn this we will be better at producing perfect content.

Tapping into this sentiment, many businesses have grown up offering training and focusing on the HOW. OK, some of these businesses (the better ones!) will include tools and ideas to help with content creation but when it comes down to ‘defining the magic words and pictures’ for your own business, it is down to you.

I believe that most people who take up the training fail to benefit significantly because once they have learnt the skills HOW to communicate, they realise they still need to commit to deciding WHAT they want to say.

What about creative agencies and graphic designers?

Of course, there are also many creative agencies who have skills working in both words and pictures who can help with content creation but they often present a number of challenges:

  • They don’t know your business (at least to start with)
  • You have to give them a brief – so you are still having to set out your own core message
  • They can’t read your mind. What they come up with might not fit with your own thinking
  • Creative development can take time
  • Agencies are selling time so they (particularly the good ones!) can get expensive

Building a relationship with a good creative who understands your business can be valuable but this process normally requires significant investment in time and money.

Focusing on Content – a solution

If you aren’t in a position to invest (considerable) budgets on content creation, it is back to you, I’m afraid, even if you believe you don’t have a natural talent for content.

The answer is simple, even if not particularly appealing. Just do it! Don’t get sidetracked to the HOW. Accept that you need to focus on the WHAT.

OK, you need to focus on your message, but actually, your message does not need to be perfect. Remember that different people receive messages differently so even if you think your content is perfect, others may not agree! What’s important is that you are honest and truly believe what you are saying about the benefit and value you deliver to your customers.

An honest, relevant message with less than perfect delivery can still be powerful and effective.

If you are proud of your message and really believe it then if your delivery isn’t perfect it probably doesn’t really matter.

Like it on not, luck plays a part in marketing

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the key to guaranteed marketing success is to be really skilful at using marketing tools. This is not true.

There are countless examples (possibly most commercial social media!) where people with significant technical expertise communicate messages with the aim of going viral. However, the content withers and dies never to see the light of day because it doesn’t engage.

Equally, Social Media is awash with examples of stories that inadvertently went viral because they happened to really connect with their audience. These stories can start as no more than communication between a few people or posts on a local forum, but they end up with a life of their own and become unstoppable – often with unanticipated consequences – but that is another story.

4 Tips for effective content

Finally, here are 5 tips to get you started addressing the ‘Content elephant’

  1. Take time to ask yourself what it is that you do? Not the mechanics but the benefit you deliver to you customers and clients – maybe you could ask them?
  2. Focus on generating content you truly believe in. Content that truly reflects your business proposition
  3. Test your content. Get critiques from people you trust. Listen to them and be ready to adapt.
  4. Don’t try to be perfect. Perfect does not exist!
  5. Don’t ignore the content elephant. Get your content in place then look at your delivery – NOT the other way around.

If you would like to chat, please get in touch

3 ways marketing is like buying premium bonds

Recently Captain Tom’s 100 lap challenge has got me thinking about the whole question of marketing and social media marketing in particular. It made me realise, there are a lot of parallels between marketing and buying premium bonds. To illustrate this, and in tribute to Captain Tom’s efforts, I would like to take you through my 3 ways in which Social Media Marketing is like investing in the premium bonds

1. You have to be in it to win

Firstly, you have to be in it to win and how much you invest does matter. With premium bonds, investing £100 is a bit of a waste of time. On average, premium bonds deliver a return of around 1.4%. But the minimum prize is £25, so with a £100 investment, odds you will win nothing. In fact, only 1 in 20 people with a £100 investment will win anything. To be in with a better chance of getting your return, you need to make a minimum investment. Exactly what that is is not really relevant for this analogy, but if you want to know more, you might find this interesting – Premium Bonds – Are they worth it?.

Similarly, unless you are willing to invest time in social media marketing, you are unlikely to get significant returns. Social media is all about ongoing & continued engagement with your marketplace, and this needs continued investment in time and energy to deliver. Unless you are willing to commit this, you are probably wasting your time.

2. It’s not all about the big prize

Yes, if you invest in premium bonds, then you might win the jackpot, but you probably won’t. There is currently a 1 in 1 in 43,215,118,377 chance of any premium bond winning big. So even if you invest enough to stand a good chance of getting your 1.4% return, you probably won’t win a million, but that is not why most people buy them. The 1.4% that you are likely to get makes them a worthwhile investment. The fact that you might hit the jackpot is just a bonus!

It’s the same with social media. You probably won’t hit the jackpot like Captain Tom (Global coverage of his story, a number 1 single – and £28,310,754 pledged-at the last count). But I am sure that is not why he did it. He originally wanted to raise £1000 and would have been very happy if he had hit that target. The fact that it went viral, spread globally and raised such a large sum is a bonus. The fact is that even if your own post does not go viral, you can still get consistent, good returns from social media marketing.

What’s more, where social media is concerned, going viral has consequences other than marketing returns. For Captain Tom, it was having to deal with 40,000 birthday cards from wellwishers – but that’s another post!

3. You can always move your investment

With premium bonds, whilst you are invested, your capital is tied up. The only return you will get is from that investment. But if at any time a better opportunity comes along, you can move your investment – withdrawing your funds and using them elsewhere. At that point, any benefits you were getting from your premium bonds investment will stop, but hopefully, you will get new benefits elsewhere.

It’s the same with social media. Whilst you are investing your time and other resources in social media, you can not use them elsewhere. But if at any time a new, better opportunity comes along, you are free to switch your resource to the new activity. At this point you the benefit you get from investing it in social media will diminish, but new opportunities will arise from your new activity.

That’s why part of your process should always be monitoring and reviewing the returns on your activity. Keeping your eye out for new/better opportunities for marketing your business. Just because you are doing something now, does not necessarily mean you should keep doing it or that it’s the only thing you should be doing.

It’s actually not just social media!

As I mentioned at the top of the post. My premium bonds analogy is not just about social media marketing. It actually holds true for marketing as a whole.

  1. Good marketing is about managed, sustainable results, based on a planned investment of resources
  2. If you get the big win, that can be great, but also can give its own challenges, but in fact, you do marketing for the managed, sustainable results rather than just hoping for the big win
  3. Monitoring and analysis of your activities should be central to your planning. You should always be asking – Could I be doing other things to better market my business?

Finally, remember that like investments, marketing is about having a balanced portfolio. It’s not just about one activity, it is about having a balanced marketing mix that develops your brand and effectively tells your marketing story.