Social Distancing Threat or Opportunity?

Keeping your customers and clients and arms length is likely to be here to stay for the foreseeable future. As is providing an environment where your customers stay apart. But should you see this as a threat or an opportunity? And more importantly, how can you adapt your business model to the new trading environment?

Whilst the obvious impact will be felt by the leisure &hospitality industries, where social interaction is central to their offering, it is going to change the environment for most businesses. With this in mind, I would like to look at how the ability to adapt to new scenarios can really deliver opportunities.

Adapt Adapt Adapt..

Adapting to new environments is critical for survival across pretty much every ecosystem. This is no different in the business world. There has undoubtedly been a seismic shift in the trading environment and the successful businesses will be the ones that are able to adapt their models to this new environment. The good news is – We are already seeing this happening:

  • Conferences and events are going virtual
  • Restaurants and pubs are moving to high quality take-away delivery model
  • Craft food & beverage producers are moving from wholesale to online retail models serving local markets

And those are just in our local area, and are all doing OK.

Opportunity or Threat

Assessing opportunities & threats is a classic part of business planning – I am sure most people will be familiar with the SWOT analysis.

Taking this approach to the current situation its easy to focus on the threats, as they tend to be stating you in the face, but in most cases there will be opportunities too.

Take craft F&B who have relied on wholesale markets, those markets may have shut down, but new retail markets have emerged. Conference & event organisers are seeing the demand for online events is growing rapidly. The key is to identify these opportunists and adapt quickly to deliver.

Being Small and independent can be an advantage.

In this rapidly changing environment agility is key. As such small independent businesses who have a short decision making process and who can react quickly to changes will have a distinct advantage over larger business with more complex decision making processes.

Take the current 2m rule. Businesses have had time to develop and adapt their business models to cope with this new regulation, but now they are open. If this changes and for example moves from 2m to 1m then that will deliver opportunities. Big businesses will take time to adapt and communicate these changes through their organisation. Small independent businesses on the other had can quickly adapt and reap the benefits.

Over the coming months this ability to quickly adapt as the situation changes will give smaller businesses a real advantage. The key is to jump on the opportunities as they arise.

Think long term

I just want to finish by encouraging people to think long term. Rather than thinking “How do I adapt and cope until this is all over”, think about how adapting to the the new environment could improve your business into the long term. Some  things you are having to do now, could actually reap benefits to your business long into the future!

 

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…

Reflections on Lockdown

It has been an interesting 3 weeks. On 17th March I was sitting in a hotel in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil. I had been out of contact on an amazing trip to Galapagos since the beginning of March and now, I was trying to get home as the normal world started to unfold around me. I didn’t appreciate the full impact of what was to come. As it transpired, I caught the last scheduled international flight out of Ecuador before everything closed and the tragedy of coronavirus in Ecuador started to hit the news the following day.

I was lucky. I made it back to the UK relatively easily. There are still thousands of travellers trying to get home and I wish them well.

Lockdown Realty

Once home it was back to the office and a return to work – or so I thought! The following day, all restaurants, pubs, clubs, and indoor sport and leisure facilities across the UK were ordered to close, and then on 23 March, the lockdown was imposed.

It'll be OK. I can work from home. It wouldn't be the first time.

When I have worked from home in the past, it has never been for any length of time; the odd half-day or day here and there. We are fortunate that we have good internet connections and VPNs allowing full access to our work systems and data. With our growing use of cloud-based technologies (I talked about our move to Xero accounts a while ago) and our switch to a VOIP telephone system in January, BSA is technically well placed for remote working. It is the emotional and mental challenges in this surreal environment that are having a significant impact.

Am I on holiday?

Having just returned from an actual holiday, my first feeling was that I was still on holiday!  I always find it a challenge to get back into the work routine after being away. Now there was no routine to return to! No office to visit, no working day at the office. Am I still on holiday?

Yet there is work to do! Marketing and staying engaged with your customers and contacts is important, particularly in these strange times. We have clients who are very busy, actively involved in the fight against the pandemic and other clients who are seeing their e-commerce sites which, to date had been a minor supplement to bricks and mortar retail businesses, suddenly becoming the heart of plans to sustain business during the lockdown.

There was clearly no time for holidays! BSA’s experience and practical support are in demand.

Let’s Zoom

Two years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to make more use of remote meetings technology – I really don’t like driving to meetings if I can avoid it! 3 months later, after numerous unsuccessful trials with Skype, I gave up. The technology wasn’t up to the job. I don’t know whether it was the software, the bandwidth, the internet connections, or what, but it got in the way of the meeting. Remote meetings were on the back burner.

Although I had heard of Zoom, up to 3 weeks ago I had never used it. I was still disenchanted about the whole remote meeting thing. But with the lockdown, travelling became virtually impossible and so if I was going to meet with people, it would have to be on-line. Remote meetings were back on the agenda. I tried 4 or 5 different tools and by some margin, the best is Zoom. What a revelation, it just works. I have been involved in meeting with up to a dozen people for up to 2 hours. OK, there has been the odd occasion when the line quality wasn’t brilliant but overall, it looks like remote meeting has come of age – and just in the nick of time!

I am sure that even when the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 slips into history, online meetings are here to stay as a feature of the modern business world.

The new normal

While lockdown persists, I am seeing a sense of common purpose, a new normal. Sure, we are all still in business and it is vital that the economy is not allowed to stall. It remains appropriate to charge for products and services but this is a time for support, not profiteering. Some businesses are booming while others are struggling. A bit of flexibility, support and give & take can hopefully level things out for everyone while we try and make sense of our circumstances.

In fact, perhaps this the basis for good, sustainable business at any time?

Personally, one of the biggest challenges I am finding is to know what day it is! I have always tried to work Monday to Friday then have the weekend off. But do we still have weekends? I am starting to wonder! Does this matter? don’t get me wrong, having time off from work is essential (IMHO!) but does it need to be a working week followed by a weekend?

Working from home makes it easier to be flexible. I am trying to take time every day to get out and explore my local footpaths. this is time I would previously be stuck at my desk but it feels good to swap this for an hour or 2 work on a Saturday or Sunday, if necessary. I am seeing a new flexibility – I can work by hours not days.

This approach may be more challenging for employees – though flexitime has been a ‘thing’ – particularly in larger companies – for many years. Maybe our lockdown experience is showing the way for more flexibility in smaller businesses too.

I am sure that none of the things I am talking about here are new. People work in many different ways but alongside the challenges of lockdown, I am seeing some real positives and opportunities to do things different – and better. I am looking forward to exploring the new future.

I’d be interested to hear your experiences of the lockdown. Feel free to drop me a line – or why not join me on zoom for a chat.

Lockdown. Is there a silver lining for business?

These are strange times.

Everything, including the world of business, has been thrown up into the air. As they land, things have changed – or have they?

Yes, we are being asked to work from home if at all possible and always ‘socially separate’ but the vast majority are healthy, and the measures in place are designed to keep us that way, hopefully avoiding unbearable pressure on the NHS, keeping resources available for those who are in need.

Running a business has challenges all the time, COVID-19 is just another one that happens to be affecting most people all at once. If I have learnt one thing from over 30 years in business it is that challenges encourage adaption and adaption can deliver real benefit.

So how can you adapt to see the real benefit for your business when the dust settles? Here are my thoughts….

1. Don’t panic

Suddenly being told you can’t go out to business and finding clients cancelling or postponing the projects you rely on is a real shock. It is easy to be like a startled rabbit in headlights and just freeze. Perhaps this is a natural reaction but take a deep breath and count to 10. Business is a long term proposition and any successful business should plan for knock-backs. The unexpected can happen at any time. It is good to have a ‘rainy-day’ fund. The rainy day is here but there is no need to panic. Better to plan.

The essence of business is cashflow. So perhaps the first step is to address cashflow concerns. The government has already stated that they want to protect businesses from the impact of Covid-19 and have announced extensive measures to provide direct financial support through a mixture of Grants and Loans. Details are still sketchy but probably the best source of information is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

This page is being updated pretty regularly.

For the self-employed it has just been announced (in the past few minutes!) that support will be broadly in line with that already announced for emplioyees on PAYE. Implemetation will inevitably more complex.

Beyond direct government support, you may also be able to make arrangements with customers and suppliers to ease you own financial path. Banks, lenders, mortgage companies etc. are all offering support.

Naturally, some businesses are more vulnerable than others but as the adage goes: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Don’t panic. Don’t be the rabbit in the headlights. Take control and make a plan (where have I said that before!). Your plan can be your salvation.

2. Work on your business

It is often quoted by SME owners that they are too busy working in their business to work on their business – not any more!

The optimists can see the current situation as a real opportunity. Your business fundamentals haven’t changed. If you had a good business on 1st March, you can still have a good business when the crisis abates. OK nobody knows the full timescales but taking a 3-6month view seems reasonable in the light of the available evidence.

Once you have your plan to ride out the storm, you can look ahead and work to make your business a better business, ready and stronger for when the economy reopens.

3. Tap into your expertise/experience

We all try to  run our business in the best way possible but inevitably you sometimes have great ideas but never find the time to implement them. Now you can!

Also so you may see ways that others operate and think ‘That’s a good idea, I could learn something from this‘. They may be customers, suppliers, competitors, or others. There can often be ways you see others operate that could work in your business and make your business better.

Now you have the time to tap in to this knowledge/expertise and do something about it! Have confidence that your successful business in February is still sound – and now you have time to make it better. The work that isn’t being done now will need to be done later so make sure you are ready for it – and ahead of the pack.

4. Stay engaged with your customers and markets

When things get difficult, inevitably, business owners tend to focus on their own needs but, as I have talked about above, it is great if you can get your head around accepting the short-term situation and return to thinking longer term. Don’t forget the infinite game that we are still playing. Many people may be focused on their own needs but it is still good to talk.

Stay engaged with your contacts. There are lots of ways to do this and technology offers some great opportunities. We look at some in this post.

Remember though that engagement doesn’t mean selling. Many businesses blur the lime between marketing and selling, seeing any communication as sales promotion. I don’t belive that now is the time for the hard sell. It is about us all trying to work together to get through. Better to focus on help and support. Make sure people know where you are if they need you.

Try to be helpful. Many business owners are understandably anxious. A bit of altruism in challenging times can pay real dividends in the long term. We all know we are in business. Our business is our livelihood and we don’t suddenly have to do everything for nothing. It is about mutual support and balance.

5. The way ahead

Things have changed – there is no going back.

The current pandemic was previously only in books and Hollywood – now it is real and affecting everyone.

We should be thankful that it isn’t worse than it is. SARS and Ebola are significantly more deadly even if they proved easier to contain.

We are being forced to think differently. Some things will be harder/slower/more challenging but others will be easier/faster/better. By first addressing the immediate adversities and clarifying your strategy for the coming months (essentially a cash-flow plan) you can then start to look ahead to prepare to your business, ready to make the most of the opportunities when the world re opens to what will be the new normal.

As with any significant change. Some will benefit and some will struggle. A bit of objective thought and planning can help make sure there is a silver lining to this strange, locked-down world for you and your business.

As always, I am happy to talk.

Stay safe and stay positive.

What makes a good client?

When you first start in business perhaps any client is a good client – so long as they pay! While this approach certainly has a focused simplicity, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

I have been asking myself what makes a good client for BSA for more than 30 years. I still don’t have the perfect answer. The problem, I now realise, is that my priorities shift. With every change in outlook, so what constitutes my ‘ideal client‘ changes. Talking with others, it would appear that I am not alone in my quest for client perfection! Maybe some objectivity, based on real-world experience, might be helpful.

Client or Customer?

Do you have clients or customers? The way I look at it is that if your business sells products, you sell to customers while if you are more service-based (even if products are part of your proposition) then you sell to clients.  This is a bit of a simplified view but it holds true for most companies. Consequently, it is helpful in this discussion where I am primarily talking about clients – i.e. where the service you deliver is at least a significant part of what you do. Big retailers wax lyrical about the shopping experience  – look at John Lewis’s latest push to develop ‘experience playgrounds‘ – but, in my book,  this is very different to a typical SME service business where having a good relationship ‘fit’ with your clients is pretty much essential.

The importance of fit

A key lesson I learnt a few years ago is the importance of ‘fit’. Like every other company, we have a way of doing business. As a small SME, this way is substantially driven by the people in the business. Trying to work with clients who don’t relate to this approach is fraught with difficulty. Not necessarily impossible but almost always hard work! Conversely, dealing with clients who do connect with our approach gives a great platform from which to grow a solid, long-term business relationship.

The challenge is that I can’t dictate how others think or feel. I can’t make someone relate to our approach. This means that even if someone shows an initial interest in our services, if the fit isn’t there, there is a chance the interest won’t lead anywhere. I used to see this as a negative but now it is definitely a positive.

Of course, this idea only succeeds when sufficient people do connect! It might be a good thing if some potential clients don’t have the fit – but there must be enough others who do!

It’s not about the money

I said at the start of this piece that maybe any client who pays is a good client but, as BSA has evolved, I am increasingly of the opinion that this is the wrong way to look at relationships with clients.

Actually the important thing is that you have a strong relationship with your client based on mutual benefit and respect.  Clearly, a business is a commercial entity so must have a fee structure that works. However, if your focus is on delivering real benefit, this will mean you are directed at delivering value to your clients. They will then be more than willing to pay for your input.

Focus on delivering benefit and the money will follow.

Nothing is forever…

At BSA, we are proud that most of our clients have worked with us for many years. Some for 10 years or more. It is a strong sign that we are doing something right!  Even so, nothing lasts forever. Circumstances change, personnel move on. Just because you stop working with a client doesn’t mean anything has gone wrong, it is just a natural progression. If a good client relationship is based on a good fit, then if things change for either you or your client, it may be that the fit is no longer so strong and it is time to evolve.  This is part of running your own company. What is important is that if business with a particular client does wind down, it shouldn’t impact on your relationship. Even a past-client can be a great advocate of your business for referral to new prospects.

…but try to keep the door open

Even with the natural ebb and flow of good business relationships, we have found it immensely valuable to keep the door open with past clients. Even if there is only a very small, low-cost service you can continue to deliver after the main work has concluded, this keeps the door open and a flame under the relationship. You still have a basis for keeping in touch. Just as the pendulum can swing away from a good fit, so it can swing back again!

At the end of the day, whether at home or at work, good relationships take time to develop and it is in everyone’s interest if they are respectfully nurtured.

Website Hosting – There’s more to it than you think

Marketing today demands a web presence and in my opinion, that presence needs to include a website.

If you are creating a website you need to consider your hosting. With this in mind, I thought worth putting together a quick guide to choosing the right hosting for your website:

The 4 Tiers of Hosting

Not all hosting offerings are alike, and in most situations a case of “You get What you pay for”. In broad terms I would say there are 4 main tiers in terms of hosting service.

Tier 1 – Free with your domain name

Hosting provided on this basis will be very basic, and I would suggest that you should be very carful before taking this option.

If cost is a real constraint, I would recommend going down the hosted service route and build your site using one of the online site builders. Whilst use of these is a whole different post, a couple of the leading ones are:

  • Wix.com
  • wordpress.com

Whilst these will be limited in terms of functionality, they are inexpensive and take care of all the hosting issues.

Tier 2 – Basic Shared Hosting

This is the base level if you take your website seriously and want to have a level of control over functionality.

Find a good host & it can be great value for money.

The downside here tends to be security & performance. Being a shared system, your site’s performance can be impacted by others on the server. For most basic sites, this should not be an problem. However as a site gets more complex (for example incorporating a web shop or is getting more traffic), performance can be an issue.

The BSA Option

BSA marketing Offer public shared hosting on the 20i platform. We offer full telephone support, as well as WordPress updates & regular site backups as part of our package

BSA Cost – from £15+VAT per month

Tier 3 – Hosting on a Private Shared Server

The next level up is to put your site on a VPS (Virtual Private Server). Whilst this is still a shared platform, all the sites will be managed by your web company giving them total control over their impact on the performance of the server. Because of this the performance levels and security for sites hosted on this platform are significantly better than basic shared hosting.

The BSA Option

BSA run VPS servers for the use of our clients. This is hosted on a totally redundant cloud system delivering high levels of performance and reliability. Being a shared platform, other sites on the server can still impact the speed and security of your site. However because all of the sites are closely managed & monitored by us the risks of this are minimised.

One other issue with running a VPS is that as a stand alone system, you are responsible for the technicalities of running the server. However for our clients, we handle all of this, delivering the benefits of a VPS without the associated technical headaches.

BSA Cost – from £45+VAT per month

Tier 4 – Hosting on a Private Server

The top tier of hosting is to put your site on its own server. This gives you 100% control over the environment. Also, because the server is hosting your site(s) exclusively, the performance of your website is never impacted by others.

If your website is mission critical, and you want total confidence in its performance and security, then this is the way to go.

The BSA Option 

BSA offer private servers, again hosted on a totally redundant cloud system delivering high levels of performance and reliability. However, with only your site on the server you have 100% control over the environment. As such we can set this up exactly to your specification. Because our systems are cloud based, they are highly scaleable, so should your requirements grow, your server can expand to fit, without the need to move to a new server.

Furthermore, on our private server we include advanced features as standard including:

  • Hourly snapshot backups – if there is an issue, we can always recover your site to a state no more than 60 minutes ago
  • Proactive Resource monitoring – We constantly monitor server resources so if there are issues, these should be picked up and addressed before they impact the performance of your site
  • Hardware Firewall – All access to the server other than public access to your website, is locked down to minimise the risk of security breaches, further optimising the performance & stability of your site

BSA Cost – from £160+VAT per month

Hosting The BSA Way

As with everything we do, our objective in delivering hosting solutions is to offer a first class technical solution in the context of your wider marketing & business needs.

Our aim is that you should never have to think about your hosting, safe in the knowledge in that we are. Leaving you to focus on your business.

Furthermore, we aim to ensure that wherever possible, technicalities should never get in the way of your marketing objectives.

Contact us to find out more

What do you want from your marketing?

I recently had a meeting with a new prospective client. As the meeting ended and we agreed to take the next step, he said something interesting:

“You guys seem to know what you are talking about.”

He went on to say that, over the past few weeks he’d had meetings with several ‘Marketing‘ companies who all gave the same impression. When it came down to it:

  • They were pushing their own solution
  • They didn’t really understand his business
  • They were more focused on what they wanted rather than what he wanted

A Step Back

Now, let’s take a step back and look at what might’ve happened.

First, these other companies did manage to arrange a meeting. Something about what they were offering in the first instance did its job. So what went wrong? I suggest that the problem is the same as what is at fault (IMHO) in much SME marketing.

Marketing is too often seen as an event rather than a process.

Many business owners see marketing as a problem that needs a fix. As a result, they believe they need someone with a fix for their problem.
They don’t see marketing as an integral and continuing function of their business.

Many marketing service suppliers tap into this situation by concentrating their promotional efforts in telling potential clients they have a fix for their (perceived) problem.

  • Do you need a new website?
  • Our SEO can get you the best search rankings
  • We can get you to the top of Google today
  • Maximise your ROI
  • A new App for your business?

You know the sort of thing.

On the last one, how many SME businesses really need their own App?!

The Cycle Of Problem and Fix

A client of ours has a view on marketing. He regularly rolls his eyes to me and says:

It’s all just smoke and mirrors…

…and I can see his point. Marketing suppliers who take the approach of offering the fix can actually be quite successful in generating enquiries and interest in their services but too often, particularly with supplier focus on generating enquiries rather than delivering service, the initial promise doesn’t fully live up to expectations.

In the long run, the fix fails to fully solve the problem so it returns and the cycle starts again. The service supplier now needs new enquiries to add new business as the short-term fix ends. Or the client decides they aren’t getting what they are looking for and so choose to look elsewhere. We know – this was the BSA business in the 1990’s!

So what is the answer?

Even though an SME business owner recognises the need for external marketing support, it is too easy to make a critical assumption: that the business owner understands their marketing needs and is simply looking for a solution. Our prospect knows and understands their problem so let’s simply offer a fix.

If the customer really does understand their issue (as is often the case with larger businesses with their own in house marketing team), then fair enough. However, in the SME world, this approach often doesn’t work in the long run.

At BSA Marketing we aim to take a different line. We recognise that you are the expert in your own business and we are the marketing experts. With this combination, you know what you are trying to achieve in your business, but don’t necessarily know the best, workable marketing approach to reach your goal.

We recognise that…

Marketing is a process, not an event 

By practically integrating ongoing marketing activity into your business, together with effective monitoring procedures, and then ultimately taking responsibility to make sure things get done, we create and sustain a measurable, planned process to make effective marketing happen.

The (initial) downside

The BSA approach certainly has a downside. It appears a more complicated way of doing things.

Rather than just offering you the fix you think you want for your problem, we first work with you to understand your business and aspirations so we can give relevant advice and agree with you what you need in a considered plan to take your business marketing forward effectively. We then take the responsibilty to make this plan happen.

This does mean that initial discussions and planning can be challenging, but the extra short-term effort is definitely worth it.

The long term evidence

I mentioned earlier in this article that, back in the 1990’s our business model (centred around B2B telemarketing) meant new clients would initially like what they were hearing and sign up with us. Although we no longer offer telemarketing as a service, I still believe the telephone can be a powerful marketing communication tool ‘when used in the right way and with the right objectives‘. The issue was that we weren’t clear enough about what were the realistic expectations of telemarketing. When a project ended, we always parted on good terms (and clients often came back to us for other work later) but the fact was that the relationship did not sustain as an ongoing process. We needed change.

Drawing on our many years’ experience we began the process of repositioning the BSA proposition in the late 1990s. Over the past 20 years, we have grown a solid portfolio of clients where the most common feature across them is sustained relationships.

We have clients who have been with us for all of those 20 years and most of our clients have been with us for 5 years or more. We don’t believe in long-term contracts. Our relationships with our endure because this is what everyone chooses.

I realise that our approach does not suit everyone but the evidence is that when we start to work with a client, they tend to stick with us.

I guess we must be doing something right. Want to talk? Contact me here

Keeping Track of your Marketing

In his post What do you want from your marketing?’ David discussed the importance of taking a long term, process-focused view of Marketing. Looking at what you are trying to achieve in business, rather than at the more immediate issues marketing issues:

  • Building a new website
  • Getting to the top of Google
  • Sorting out my social media
  • etc

Whilst looking longer-term is a sound approach, it does raise a couple of issues:

  • The approach takes time, and so needs to be managed
  • The ultimate goal is a long-term one, consequently, it can be more difficult to measure the day to day

The answer is planning. Having a process through the year to manage this complexity, and to ensure that you remain on the right track.

Marketing Planning – The BSA Way

As we always try to practice what we preach, I decided to look at how BSA Marketing manages this complexity. Something we do through a planning process that has three elements:

Annual Planning

Once a year, we go away for a working weekend. The aim of this time is to give space to allow ‘Big picture’ thinking. It is this activity that too often gets drowned out by the ongoing business of the day today.

The objectives of our annual planning are:

  • Review our long terms goals (financial & otherwise). Are they still relevant and what progress has been made over the last 12 months?
  • Set long term objectives for the year – Where is the focus to be over the coming 12 months?
  • Create a broad action plan to deliver these objectives.

Out of this session will come a document that describes the direction of travel for the business, and the planned objectives and activities for the next 12 months, and beyond.

Monthly Review

On the back of the annual planning meeting, we meet monthly to review where we are. The objective here is to reflect on the big picture plan and to create and review more immediate action plans that are going to bring the big picture to fruition:

  • Review financial performance, are we on track?
  • Review activities, are these happening as planned, and are they delivering the expected short term results?
  • Is there anything that has arisen that will impact the plans/direction of travel agreed at the start of the year?

It is during these meetings that, as appropriate, we manage/review the marketing activities (website/social media/search marketing) that ultimately drive us towards our long term objectives.

Weekly Reviews

The final piece of the jigsaw is a weekly review meeting focusing on the day to day. Establishing what are the priorities for the coming week. One objective here is to keep the meeting focused and short so that, given its frequency, it does not become a distraction.

It is at this point the planning within BSA meets the activities that we are undertaking for clients, as this element of the planning process is aligned with our weekly client review. In this way, the BSA marketing process is fully embedded into day to day management processes.

A Sustainable Process

Any planning process needs to be sustainable. Only then is it likely to keep going and become a core part of managing a business.

For us, this sustainability comes from having a structured process that punctuates the business year.

Regular weekly and monthly meetings are kept short and focused. Where possible, embedding them into everyday processes. The annual planning is deliberately taken out of the routine, making it an event in itself. Done correctly, the big-picture planning weekend highlights the progress that has been made, allows us to set clear plans for future progress, and is also very enjoyable!