Categories

STOP IT - 5 Ways Small Businesses Sabotage Themselves


Attention small business owners 

You know that terror that seems to consume you, that fear that the world is out to steal your customers, lower your revenue and destroy your hopes of retiring to the mediterranean?

Well, you can stop worrying about it, because the great news is, your worst fear has finally been identified.

It's you!

Now, before you roll your eyes and bemoan the waste of 10 seconds of your life, let me explain ...


1. You think that growing your business is about keeping everything secret and making your customers pay for everything



Sound familiar?  Small businesses start with a bright idea and a passionate founder.  In my experience the age of the entrepreneur plays a big part in determining what happens next.

According to the FT, record numbers of over 50's in the UK are starting their own business.  Often it's their first experience of life as the boss and they approach their new challenge with a mindset shaped by years in corporates, smothered by layers of bureaucracy.

Today, customers expect companies to be generous.  We search the web for information, read reviews, look for star ratings and generally form our opinions about brands based on third party endorsements and discussions.  Businesses can no longer be faceless entities, they need to have personalities.  People still buy from people, but now we can do it virtually so perception counts more than ever.  Do you want to spend your money with the mean, hard to deal with company, or the benevolent and helpful one?

Think about what you could give away to gain visibility and ultimately more customers. It doesn't have to have a physical value - kindness, time and effort all count  Just as free samples draw the crowds at the farmers market, downloads, tester kits and trial sessions give customers a chance to experience your brand without risk and hopefully keep them coming back for more.


2. Your marketing is stuck in a time warp



- It's all about you
- You never contribute of even mention third parties
- There's no need for a marketing plan
- You equate professionalism with business speak

You know who you are.  Once upon a time, all a company needed was a website.  This gave them a one way system, to tell the world all the fascinating product features that would have them lining up to buy. Fast forward a few years and a website is the least you should have, customers are self educating and only third party endorsements will persuade us to part with our cash.

The best ideas need visibility and an audience if they're to spread. Your story is not about you anymore.  It's about your customers - their wants, their needs, their values. This brave new world means that companies need to think in terms of the problems that they solve, answering frequently asked questions, showing how they compare with the competition and demonstrating beyond any doubt, that your product is the only one worth buying.

Despite multiple examples to the contrary, marketing should not be regarded as another name for sales prevention.


3. You've got a Facebook page/Twitter account [insert any social platform here] but you don't know why or how to use it.



This is you, if your Facebook page is only liked by your mum and your Twitter icon is an egg.  I exaggerate a little, but we've all seen those social media pages with all the signs of a well intentioned new years resolution - one post and minimal details.  Encouraging? I think not. Would you leave your shop window empty?

Social media provides a set of new tools to do old jobs.  In the past you might have kept a journal, now you blog.  You used to call friends to share news, now you post a Facebook update.  It's all just human to human interaction, so stop worrying and start engaging.

Consumers use social media to make conversation and connections, to follow trends and to find information. What does your company provide in response?


4. You never measure or monitor your results - what is analytics anyway?



Guilty as charged?  Then how do you even know who your customers are?

Having any form of online presence (website, Facebook page etc.) means that you can now collect and use data to understand what's working and what's not. This is commonly known as analytics and every social platform provides them.

Spending money on your business and not measuring the return on that investment is madness, especially since it's now so easy to access. You may not consider yourself to be a data dude, but spend twenty minutes a week looking at the graphs, charts and numbers available and you'll be amazed by your new found knowledge.

These are really helpful articles to get you started.

Facebook Insights
Google Analytics (websites)
Twitter Analytics 
Pinterest Analytics
Google+ Analytics


5. You always undervalue what you've created



If you've recognised your business in any of the points above, there's a good chance that you're not as confident in your abilities as you should be.

Smaller companies are often scared to grow.  They apologise for their size and lack of knowledge rather than doing anything about it.  They expect customers to overlook bad design, lack of attention to detail or poor customer service, because they're a new business, or a freelancer or a family firm. Endless excuses mean that great products are overlooked and undervalued, so nobody wins.

Remember the passion that caused you to start or join your company and think about all those things which make you buy particular brands over others.  Tiffany jewellery is just as famous for the little blue box as it is for the diamonds inside.  Make sure your customers appreciate what you've produced and stop selling yourself short.


Time to take action?



I work with businesses of all shapes and sizes and love helping them understand and use marketing to grow.  You can leave me a comment here or ask me your burning marketing questions on Twitter @VLindsay.


Comments



Marketing tips from unlikely sources - Father Christmas


It’s that time of year again.

That slightly manic, tinsel filled, calorie-fest that has us clapping with glee or longing for hibernation. Either way, it’s hard to escape the signs of Christmas – decorated trees, twinkling lights and the universally jolly figure of Santa Claus.

Who knew that timeless, present bringing character, was actually a black belt marketer ...



St. Nicolas? Father Christmas? Santa Claus? – think local, act global


No matter what he's called, he's globally recognized.  Across much of the planet you'll find a variation on the theme of Father Christmas, with a story to match, usually something country specific and always relevant to the present givers and getters.

  • Your brand needs to be consistent in fonts, imagery, colour and tone if your customers are going to notice and more importantly recognise and remember you 
  • Create a story for them.  Make it simple and easy to share 
  • Be in tune with your local market.  What do they want and need?


Ho Ho Ho


Father Christmas the brand, stands for something. Ask any child who Santa Claus is and they’ll immediately talk of gifts and happiness and good things (although the odd few may be terrified).

  • Do people have an emotional connection to your brand?  
  • Which images spring to mind when they think about your company?
  • Does your business have a personality which appeals to the audience it's trying to attract?


Santa Claus is everywhere


He’s on Christmas cards, you can visit him in stores and he can even send you a personalised video from the north pole.  Decades may pass, but Father Christmas has evolved to stay relevant to each new generation and makes sure you can find him wherever you look, throughout December and worryingly beyond.  He rocks omnichannel!

  • Make sure your customers can find you wherever they currently look for information (across social media, in print and in person)
  • Partner with other brands and influencers to increase your reach 
  • Be involved with relevant third parties, to show your understanding of the market and the choices your customers face


He only visits once a year


I swear I heard sleigh bells every Christmas eve, when I was a child. Anticipation is a big part of any experience and having to wait all year to see if you get what’s on your list, is quite a build up.

In this age of instant everything, making your customers wait is no bad thing, as long as you deliver something of value (in their terms) at the end of it.

  • Have you mapped your buyers journey from information gathering to sale?
  • Do you know how long your typical sales cycle is?
  • Does every part of your sales process, reinforce your brands reputation (for better or worse)?


He’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice


Santa Claus knows his customers and doesn’t treat them all the same way.

  • With free analytics there are no excuses for not knowing your audience 
  • Use social media to eavesdrop on topics, conversations and ideas
  • We all want personal service and having a real customer relationship always pays dividends


Santa delivers on his promises


Year after year those wonderful Elfs hit the mark in fulfilling requests. Santa always delivers - supplying what was asked for, on time and to schedule.  It’s why his brand is trusted and his followers are loyal.  It probably also helps that Santa’s main audience is unlikely to call north pole customer service if things go wrong.

The magic that changes buyers into loyal customers, happens when they experience your product.

  • Does it live up to expectations?  
  • Do you make buyers feel so great about spending their money with you that they immediately join your marketing team in spreading the word to friends and family?  
  • Delight your customers, exceed their expectations, not just once a year, but every time and watch your fan base grow


Best kept secret


There are various accounts of how this Christmas figure came into being, but ultimately he was created to capture imagination and unite an audience in the big conspiracy.

Surely there is no greater form of customer engagement than participation.  The success of projects like Kickstarter reinforce our need to feel involved and our love of supporting ideas that resonate with our own ideal world.

  • How do you make customers feel like they belong to your brand?
  • What could you do to keep your company in the customers mind, after the initial sale?
  • Humans love best kept secrets and find it difficult to keep them - tap into these traits 

Merry Christmas!


P.S. The festive dachshund of joy is my dog Walnut paying homage. Hat models own.


Comments



Attract customers with personality not information





Valentines day looms again in all its heart shaped madness.

According to a recent survey by the Retail and Marketing Association, 53% of American women would end their relationship if they didn't get something on Valentines Day.  Who are these people?! Would they really be so shallow as to dump their partners for not conforming to this marketing ruse?

Could it be that we're all getting so jaded by marketing overload, that we long for something to break the routine? The unexpected.  The marvellous. The extraordinary.

Perhaps it comes down to the element of surprise, after all, even those who argue that they hate surprises, would be hard pushed not to feel touched when they discover there's no charge for their coffee, or their company has catered lunch rather than leaving them to starve through their midday meeting.

Simple acts of kindness make great stories.  We share them.  They shape our brand perception. They make an emotional connection with us that remains long after the event.  Like the sweets that accompany the restaurant bill, every little unexpected joy makes us like your company more, turning us from happy customers into loyal fans.

It doesn't have to be hearts and flowers this month, but what could you be doing to surprise and delight?




Comments (2)



13 ways to convince your customer and make the sale


Marketing makes things have a value - often perceived and generally irrational.

It's about persuading people that the things you do, make and sell, really are worth their money, time and thought. Simple, huh?

The reality of producing content which connects with your customers, let alone convinces them that you can meet their needs, is often the biggest stumbling block for marketing people. So, let's get those creative juices flowing, with a few tried and tested ideas for effective content writing.


1. Make your copy answer ‘what's in it for me?’ (me, being your ideal customer)

We know that content has to deliver value, but ultimately it's your customer who decides whether your offering is valuable or not.  It's no longer about you, it's about them.

2. Give people a reason to choose you

In other words, make me care and do it fast.  Content alone is not the magic bullet. Answer questions, solve problems, make them feel cool about themselves and their decision to buy from you - anything that helps justify the spend.  These days we suffer from unlimited choice. Make sure you've earned attention.

3. Answer your readers objections upfront

Sales training is all about objection handling.  Take away the reasons a customer might say no and they'll ultimately say yes.  If only it were that simple and yet, there is a logic here.  If you were to visit your website for the first time, would it be clear what you're offering, how it would help and how much better your world would be once you'd parted with your cash? No?  Then change it.

4. Take away the risk, by including testimonials, referrals and other social proof 

Humans are pack animals.  We like the safety of the herd and even if the recommendation is from Mrs X in an unknown town, companies like Amazon and Ebay have taught us that feedback from strangers is generally more trustworthy than company spin.  In a world of scams, peace of mind is often needed to take the last step.

5. Add authenticity, by telling a true story well

Customers want entertainment, inspiration, education, anything but information.  Forget about listing product features and instead help your customers to care about your offering by making them feel something about your brand.  Tell them why you started your business, what your ethics are, what's your mission? Be real.

6. Help readers justify the purchase to themselves

In a world of hyper aware customers, you need to expect that most of the selling is done ahead of ever hitting your landing page.  Respect the fact that your customers have done their homework. Show them that you know you're not the only solution, by building a strong case for your brand over alternatives and they'll respond to your honesty.

7. Show empathy. Show you understand their pain and how to ease it

To boost your communications you need to be a peer, a good listener, an instant fixer or whatever your customer expects your brand to be.  Craft your copy accordingly.   Companies can no longer be faceless corporations.  We want them to have feelings and personalities and even the dullest companies are out there shaping perceptions (just look at Glaxosmithkline on Pinterest)

8. Build on truths

Start with established facts or widely held beliefs and show how you improve or resolve or eliminate these situations e.g. You know that frustrating moment when you're late for a meeting and realise you've lost your keys - never again with product X ...  We all know the benefits of recycling, but do you know how much you can save by using Y ...

9. Build a community with content that establishes your knowledge and expertise

There's an unwritten 80/20 rule in social media - showcase others, share third party links, collate the best articles for your readers and every once in a while talk about yourself.  Asking users to submit photographs, answer questions, take part in quizzes and the like, is a sure way to generate content and engage with those who are most likely to talk about and buy your product.

10. Paint a picture of their world after they've bought from you

The best public speakers share a big vision with their listeners.  They encourage their audience to go on a journey, helping them to see the benefits in terms of what matters to them.  Visualising what might be and sharing an experience, makes customers feel part of something beyond their everyday life.  The thrill of shopping is mostly emotional.  Help your customers to see a new reality, (with your product) and watch them reach for their wallets.

11. Outline the problems you help your reader avoid

Apathy is an often overlooked competitor.  Most of us don't actually need what we're being sold.  It's up to companies to create reasons to buy and a big motivator to risk averse humans is the ability to address problems even before they occur.  Why else would the insurance industry still exist?

12. List out three things they need to know in order to say yes

Imagine you were selling your product to your neighbour.  What questions would they ask? What would they need to hear, see, experience in order to buy.  The buyers journey is often invisible from inside the company, but asking potential users, either in person or online, provides insights that can make a real difference to your success.

13. Make your point in as many different ways as you can - statistics, images, case studies, links to other articles etc. Reiteration makes your case stronger

To get eyeballs, you need to be personal and relevant, but unless your marketing is one to one, it's hard to decide what personal and relevant looks like.  Marketing in facts, figures and pictures, gives you the best chance to resonate with your audience and makes each piece of content work harder. Create once then repurpose - your audience will thank you.


Writing for the needs of people first, forces you to simplify your ideas, remember

- what do you want readers to do?
- why should they do it?
- how should they do it?
- why should they make the decision right now?

Then all you have to worry about is optimising for search engines, but that's a whole other blog post.


Comments



Want more customers? Tools to make you more visual (in 10 minutes or less)


As the days get darker and our attention spans get shorter, more and more Marketers are relying on pictures to tell their stories.

Above it a photo of my lunch (blame it on no nutrition Friday), and although the packaging all looks very normal, it's the last lines, which made me share it. Somebody, somewhere has taken the time to add a bit of humour to the mundane, which in turn has prompted me to share the image. See how it works? A simple visual in an unexpected place was all it took to convey the personality of this fudge maker.

Today there are some great tools available to help you share your brand in words and pictures. Here are some of my favourites.


Canva

I have no tech or design skills which has made Canva my new best friend. The free version is packed with easy to follow tutorials, tips and tricks, to make you a legend in your lunch-hour. Upload your own photos or pay a minimal fee and browse the library of images available. You'll also find layout ideas and guidance on font families to make sure your message reaches your audience, loud and clear.


Flipboard


Equally easy to use, Flipboard lets you create a social magazine in moments. Curate interesting articles relevant to your audience and publish them online to provide instant value. Ipad, iphone and Android users can then view these links as a page turning book, full of glossy images, making it easy for readers to seek out and digest the articles that appeal to them. And since Flipboard users can save their favourites as they go along, there's no end to the long tail appeal.

Pinterest


If you're not using Pinterest yet - where have you been since 2009? Probably the most obvious visual communication tool, it's a feast for the eyes, letting you create virtual pinboards of images taken from anywhere on the internet. Each pin retains the link to its source so you can do more research on your own and image creators get the recognition they deserve. More and more retailers are using Pinterest to showcase their offerings and differentiate themselves from the competition and now that you can purchase directly from pins (at least if you live in the US), this tool can only grow in popularity.

Instagram


With more users than Twitter, Instagram has become the new visual hangout for individuals and businesses alike. The hashtags associated with your photos make your content more searchable and shareable than any other platform and the opportunities to connect and be noticed are huge. Instagram have recently introduced advertising to the mix and while the jury is still out on this one, there's no doubt that Instagram is currently the hottest place for your company to be found.


Visual.ly


Here it's all about infographics and data visualization (word clouds), to help you create something visually pleasing from the cold hard facts. Infogr.am is another infographic maker worth considering in this space. Rather than wrestle with an excel spreadsheet or a three page definition of what something means, make a picture - your readers will thank you by sharing your insights.


Quozio


Turn your quotes into works of art, via this simple but clever little tool. Inside you'll find a variety of templates, fonts and colour ways to help you express yourself. Just type in your words and see them take on a whole new look. Great for jazzing up your presentations.


PicMonkey


Easy photo editing to make you look like a Photoshop genius. From little touch up to transformations, unique visual content can be yours in no time. There are lots of similar photo manipulation tools out there, but PicMonkey and BeFunky are good, intuitive starting points. Try both and see which feels most natural to you, then go, create.


Unsplash


In the spirit of the collaborative economy, Unsplash provides regularly updated, free to download photos for every occasion. So much more interesting than standard stock imagery, it can instantly change the look and feel of your content, especially if you use it in conjunction with one of the photo manipulation tools.


With so many free or relatively cheap routes open to us, even those lacking in artistic flair can get themselves seen. Which tools would you recommend?



Comments



Trust - The Foundation of Great Marketing


T
Tune in.
Who cares about your business?

Be specific about your niche.
Prioritise 3-5 groups who really need you.
Find out who or what influences these groups today (hint - search via social media)
Look at what your competitors are doing - your customers have choices ...


R
Reassure.
Do your customers know your brand?

Be consistent in imagery, colours and typefaces.
Choose a tone which resonates with the groups you'd like to attract.
Make sure you're recognisable both off and online.
Optimise your marketing for search.
Make your content shareworthy.


U
Understand.
Why do/would customers buy from you?

What do your audiences want and need?
Which problems do you help them to solve?
What does your customer consider to be valuable?
Remember, it's not about you, it's about them.


S
Stand for something.
What makes you different?

What one trait do you want your business to be known for?
Does your message resonate with the groups you're selling to?
Does your product/service/store live up to your brand claims?
Give your brand a personality.
People buy from people.


T
Timeline.
Plan to make an impact.

Know what you're trying to achieve.
Build a content calendar to check progress.
Always be transparent and responsive.
Educate, collaborate, entertain and inform.
Think of it as a conversation rather than speed dating.


Comments



5 Ways to Make your Customers Care, Share and Buy

Once upon a time .....

This line either brings your shoulders down from your ears as you prepare for the story, or makes your hackles rise, as you mentally urge the teller to skip to the end.  Either way, you want to know what comes next.

Storytelling is as old as mankind itself and yet a seemingly dying art, in our rush to adopt all things digital.

Smart marketers know that customers who are emotionally connected to brands, provide valuable feedback to the business, tell their friends and spend more money, than those who are not.  It therefore makes sense, to craft your marketing outreach, so that you take customers on a journey - building knowledge of your brand, not through facts, but through inspirational, educational or entertaining stories.

Done well, your brand marketing can take an audience from apathy to empathy.  Don't believe me? Watch this clever Chrysler video, aired during the Super Bowl (for maximum audience and impact).




Let's look at how this works, so that you can apply these elements to your own brand building content.

1. Context - orientate your customer


The opening 30 seconds set the scene, so that even those who've never visited Detroit can have their assumptions about the place confirmed. There's a full 20 seconds of reinforcing the stereotype before a fleeting glimpse of a cars rear view mirror, (the first hint of what this commercial is really about). What could you do to build trust, before you start selling your product?

The rugged, care worn voiceover man, reinforces the imagery and immediately asks for engagement “What does this city know about luxury?”  You're already waiting to hear more, even though you're not sure what this ad is about yet.  Anticipation is increasing.  Remember that marketing will have most impact when your customers are waiting to receive it.

2. Show and tell


By 40 seconds we've seen the product (Chrysler badge on the front of the car), but it's fleeting, almost subliminal, and surrounded by pictures which evoke the spirit of hard work and determination.  Could these be Chrysler's brand values?  Showcasing what your brand stands for, in pictures rather than words, has never been easier.

There's an American flag to make sure everyone feels included, the soundtrack builds with a baseline guitar.  Detroit, (the hero), is shown to be strong and full of resolve, having survived the recent economic blows (the villain).  The audience is drawn in, relating to the cities hardships from their own experiences. Voiceover man reinforces this “That's who we are. That's our story ....”  Be Authentic.  Reinforcing your customers problems, thoughts and assumptions, is a great way to draw them in and lets you pitch your product as the solution they need.

3. Make sure you've got a hero - ideally the underdog


A minute in and we're told “when it comes to luxury, it's as much about where it's from as who it's for”, challenging all the bad news stories about Detroit and helping you to root for the underdog. You want to know more. Your interest is peaked and you're enjoying the journey with the driver of the car, beginning to see yourself as that character, bringing your own knowledge to this crafted vision. How could you help your customer to imagine themselves using your product?

The imagery is of determination, ordinary people, challenging themselves.  The voiceover acknowledges that while all the attention is given to the best know American cities, it's our hero that represents the vast majority of the population and we should share that pride. Chrysler the brand is firmly pitched as the hero's assistant - Robin to Batman.  Be customer rather than company centric so your marketing supports what your customers value in their terms.

4. Include the element of surprise


One minute 20 seconds in and we recognize the driver - home grown talent, Eminem, reminding the viewer of Detroits glory days as Motown. The soundtrack builds to a climax, not just of instruments, but of human voices, via a choir, reinforcing the personal nature of this product.  We now know this is a car ad, but that's almost forgotten because we're so entrenched in what will happen next.  What could you do to make your product part of a bigger picture or wider community?

5. Give them a happy ending


Final 30 seconds - cue Fox theatre, far removed from the industrial landscape we've all come to associate with this Michigan state. Eminem turns to camera and addresses us, telling us that it's about the city and not the product.

In our minds Chrysler now stands for guts, courage and resolve and we want to be associated with that.  By now, American hearts are swelled with pride at their resilience as a nation and customers are already giving consideration to Chrysler as their next purchase.

In 2 minutes, Chrysler have told us a story which leaves us feeling like they're the good guys. They've given their brand human traits and we feel warm to them because they connect with how we see the world. Do your customers share an emotional connection with your brand?



As with every youtube video, the comments section is the most telling. This stream is overwhelmingly positive, showing just how well the story has been told.  One viewer summarised this ad in just one sentence - makes me wish I was from Detroit.

What's the story behind your brand?  How will you tell it?  It doesn't take a high budget video to communicate, but you will need to use your imagination.




Comments



Who's going to buy this? Three questions between you and the sale.






I work with companies big and small and one problem remains the same regardless of size, industry or product.  How do you get people to buy what you've produced?

If I had a time machine, I'd whisk company Directors, back to the point their business idea first took hold.  That lightbulb moment, ‘wouldn't it be great if there was a ... insert fabulous business idea here.’

The next question should be, who would be willing and able (both attributes are needed), to buy this bright new thing, but 9 times out of 10 the concept of a customer is overlooked, in favour of rushing to secure the patent and produce the prototype.

No matter how old your business is, taking time to think like a buyer will have a huge impact on how you market your product and most importantly, how you find people who need it, value it or can at least justify the purchase to themselves (most of us).

Start with a blank piece of paper.

Think about your ideal customer.

Draw a stick figure and give them a name - whatever it takes to remember you are selling to a real person.

Now answer, in as much detail as possible

1. What will your customer be thinking and feeling to show they need your offering?



Let's take the latest technology as an example.  None of us really needs wearable tech, but now it's here, we're all trying to find ways to indulge.

  • If only I didn't have to carry this bulky smartphone around
  • I keep forgetting where I've put it
  • Wouldn't it be great to be able to monitor my health levels anytime, anywhere
  • Just think of the kudos I'd get to be the first in the office sporting an Apple watch
  • I need a new way of accessing the internet



2. What are they doing and saying, which shows they're looking for a solution?




Following the wearables example

  • Which smartwatch is best for cyclists/travellers/joggers etc.?
  • I'm reading the influencers in this field and using Google to study reviews, video demonstrations
  • I'm going to TechWorld next week to draw up a shortlist 



3. What do they see and hear about your product when they type it into Google, pick up the newspaper, search Youtube etc?




When was the last time you audited what the world knows about your product?  Beyond Google search, you should type your company and product name into the search functions on Twitter, Google+, Slideshare, Vimeo, Youtube and LinkedIn.  Additionally, you could check socialmention and socialradar.

By getting into the mind of your customer, you'll quickly see the information they need to help them part with their cash. The more specific you can be, the better.

Your marketing needs to answer your customers' questions. Show that you understand their problems and give them a glimpse of a happier future all because they spend their money on your brand. 

Answering the big three questions above, gives you a framework for your marketing and will help you focus your efforts on content which delivers value in your customers terms.

Going back to basics is a great antidote to producing bland marketing content.  After all, the customers perception is your reality.



Comments



What's the difference between how and why people search?

This Saturday my house will play host to my eldest child's birthday party.  What was I thinking?

As a result, I've been rather preoccupied researching the joys of pop cakes, which are basically the lollipop equivalent of a cupcake.

Such is the crossover life of a freelance marketer, that I couldn't help learning a bit more about how we make online choices in the process.

                                          (Photo by SAM_1574 herocakepops on flickr)

Here's how my search went.

1. Google ‘pop cake’



This was a pretty general search, designed to help me know what's out there, as well as whether this natty little confection is one word or two.  I'm at the start of my quest for uber mother status.

Such broad topic search is done early in the buying cycle.  It's top of the sales funnel stuff, returning a wide range of results while Google tries to decide my intent.


2. Google ‘POP bakery’



I've used this company before, so know the brand and can be quite specific in looking for it by name.

We search for brands as we get closer to making the purchase. Brands are familiar, comforting and perceived experts in their field.  We know what we like and trust what our friends suggest.  I'm now honing in for ideas from the professionals.

Pop bakery really are masters of the cake sphere.



3. Google ‘how to make pop cakes’



Inspired by what I've seen, I decide to make my own.  My search has turned to solving a particular problem, which is, I have no idea how to make pop cakes and need to be a domestic goddess by Saturday.  I'm on the hunt for a solution and my keywords have now grown to a phrase.  Google rejoices as being able to return authoritative links on the craft.



4. Google ‘pop cake bakery Edinburgh’



Now that I know I'll never have the patience, nor design prowess to make such stick based wonders, I admit defeat and go with a location specific search.  This tells me that pop cakes are known as cake pops in Edinburgh, a keyword I would never have used. At this stage Google gave up trying to make suggestions on related searches.


The moral of this story ...



We marketers generally dive straight into selecting our keywords, without considering the various stages of search and selection we all go through before making a purchase.  Search in reality is more ongoing discovery than instant fact finding.

Making sure your chosen keywords cover general, brand, solution and location searches, brings you one step closer to appearing on that elusive first page of returned results.

Break out the pop cakes!



Comments



23 Ways To Make Your Small Business Bigger



1. Know your customers.

2. Define your goals.

3. Know your market. Make a list of reasons your customers need the product/service that you offer and what the alternatives are if they don't buy from you.


8. Be generous and aim for loyal rather than satisfied customers.

12. Have a Twitter account. Add periscope too.

15. Add any social media contact details to your website, email signature, voicemail message, business cards etc. The more visible they are, the more people you'll potentially reach.

16. Ask your friends to like/follow/repin until you draw your target audience.

20. Google your business name and know how you rank as well as who you compete with.

21. Set a Google alert for articles and blogs featuring your business name and any associated search terms. This will let you contribute to discussions and engage with audiences you don't yet know.

23. Invest in design - first impressions count.


Comments



5 Easy Steps to Content Worth Sharing





What is content worth sharing?

We all know it when we see it, but being asked to produce it seems an impossible task.

Isn't it all subjective anyway?

What makes me laugh might not strike the same chord with you, but with over 3.5 million views and almost 7,000 thumbs up, it's clear that Cheerios have done something right, with their ad above.

While there may not be a mathematical formula for creating content worth sharing, memorable pieces seem to contain at least one of these five elements.


1.  Where possible, include original data



This works best for written content, like white papers, emails and blog posts.

We all love to quote statistics and if you've been able to create some from your own customer data, then that's something worth shouting about. If not, find the most credible source to illustrate your point and refer to it, always remembering to give credit to that author and a link back to the original piece.


2.  Link it to already newsworthy topics



Recognize that at certain times of year, our world gets filled with love hearts, sporting fixtures, music festivals, witches, snowmen, etc and build on what your customer is already thinking about.

You can be more subtle by using locally or internationally trending topics, to help you join conversations already happening and so gain even more exposure.


3.  Provide a fresh perspective, new idea or in-depth analysis



In the advert above, Cheerios could have easily told us the nutritional facts to convince us of the difference it's new cereal could make to our lives, but you have to agree that making their advert a celebration of fatherhood first and then mentioning they have a product to sell, has much more impact.

Whenever you produce a piece of content, ask “so what?” While we all crave new, none of us really wants information.  Inspire, challenge, entertain or even enrage your customers and they'll reward you with attention and engagement.


4.  Appeal to the eyes with charts, illustrations, video etc.



Back to our Dad above to clarify this point.  His monologue coupled with the familiar family scenes helps us see ourselves and make an emotional connection with the character - hey, he's just like me, I should forward this to my wife ...

There are are host of video applications to help even the most creatively challenged, (I count myself here), produce something appealing. Donna Moritz has produced a great round up here.


5.  Leave an impression



Even if you don't have the Cheerios advertising budget, the content you produce can attract people to your brand as long as it leaves them with a positive feeling.

As a marketer you need to build a connection with your audience which helps them know you understand their problem and have the solution.  Content that paints a picture of how fantastic the world will be after they've made their purchase, helps endear customers to your brand and ideally leaves them wanting more.

Couple this lasting impression with a clear outline of the next steps they should take e.g. download this, register for that etc. and you'll be well on your way to making something of value to your audience.  Additionally, make it as easy as possible for them to share their new find with friends and family - even if they're not on social media (is there anyone left who isn't?!).


All companies are now content publishers who happen to produce something else as well, so think like the Editor of your favourite magazine and you're half way there.

What's the best piece of content you've seen?



Comments



33 ways to get likes and engage visitors on your company Facebook page (works across other platforms too)



So, you've got a company Facebook page. Tick. Now what can you do to get Likes and engage people outside of your immediate friends and family ...

Well, it's all about engagement.

Each post must be relevant to your product or industry and to the audience you're trying to reach. Inform, advise, entertain, but don't be bland.  Make them care and do it fast.

The following tried and tested suggestions should get your creative juices flowing and if you really want to see those numbers climbing, make sure you add an attention grabbing photograph or video.
  1. Post updates at least once a day.  The most successful company pages post up to ten times each day using a mix of images, inspiring posts, questions and links to other resources.  Don't be afraid to show some personality. People buy from people.
  2. Give sneak peaks of future plans and ask for further suggestions 
  3. Make personal recommendations and ask for your readers favourite/most loved/best X 
  4. Ask visitors to ‘like’ a picture and/or submit their own 
  5. Set a weekly trivia question related to your product or industry (remember to post the answer)
  6. Run polls to solicit opinion and start discussions
  7. Celebrate milestones and rally your audience to reach them e.g. help us get 200 likes by June
  8. Use images to tell a story/highlight a situation, inviting feedback 
  9. Have a weekly discussion topic 
  10. Answer an FAQ each day 
  11. Be seasonal and timely. Comment on relevant stories in the news, festivals etc. 
  12. Share posts from others and third party content 
  13. Ask multiple choice questions or those where a yes/no answer will suffice 
  14. Educate your users in how to share and endorse your page e.g. Hit the like button and comment yes if you agree or click like if you enjoyed this video 
  15. Expand each conversation by responding to responses 
  16. Post top tips and challenges e.g. try this and tell us what happens
  17. Provide lists e.g. top 10 (insert something to inspire/educate/entertain your audience)
  18. Ask your audience to provide one word descriptions for something
  19. Align your company page with similar complimentary organisations by liking their pages and tagging them in your status updates 
  20. Run competitions.  There doesn't have to be a prize.  Sometimes a mention on the company page is enough reward and it's likely to be shared as the winner tells their friends
  21. Use your other social media accounts to highlight your Facebook page and directly ask people to like it.  This works best if you encourage them to do it within a time limit, but make sure there's a good enough reason to pump up the urgency
  22. Post photos and invite visitors to guess where/what/who they are
  23. Visualise data by turning it into charts or an infographic so it becomes information worth sharing
  24. Highlight stories of day to day happenings to help visitors feel they know you/your employees
  25. Excite and surprise fans whenever possible to keep them talking about and sharing your brand
  26. Share expertise, with an ask the expert day
  27. Admit where you've made mistakes and publicly apologise
  28. Make sure each post is authentic so you attract a like minded community
  29. Invite feedback on new product ideas
  30. Ask fans why they liked your page
  31. Put your fans in charge of naming something
  32. Invite fans to suggest a caption for a photograph
  33. Include links to your website and any other web presence you might have
Crank up that newsfeed.

I'd love to know what works best for you?



Comments



Are you working with the Adams family or the Brady Bunch?


I've had a bit of a revelation at work this week.  It seems that social media is driven by nepotism. Doh!

Though we tend to think about the various social media platforms as individuals, we should actually be viewing them as families.  Dig just below the surface and they are all interrelated, which means that social media optimisation (SMO), the term used for all the activities you do to ensure visibility of your brand, is now more important than ever.

Knowing how the platforms link, lets you decide where to focus your efforts and the content to produce to increase engagement and build your reputation.  In other words, consider how each social media tool encourages sharing and whether they are trusted by the audiences you're trying to reach, before you rush to create a Facebook page or a Youtube channel.

Choose tactics that play to your strengths as a company and attract your customers, but remember that imagery, video and high quality content need to be part of your plan no matter which platform you use. They may be different families, but they're all run by humans.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list it's worth remembering that

Google owns Google+ and Youtube

Yahoo owns Tumblr and Flickr

LinkedIn owns Slideshare, Pulse and Bizo

Facebook owns Instagram and Whatsup

Twitter owns Vine and Periscope

Just as families favour their own, the biggest social media sites aim to maximise visibility across their channels, so make sure you create content in the most shareworthy format for each group.  Hubspot recently did a great blog piece if you need inspiration.

Which do you favour?





Comments



Marketing tips from unlikely sources - Hairdressers

dog, afro, hairdressers, marketing

This post in one in a series, where I take a break from my usual rantings, to consider the marketing lessons which lurk right under our noses.

Other random observations can be found here - dog breeders, cinemas, children and even Father Christmas - enjoy.

******************************************************************************

Hairdressers in various forms have been around for centuries, perfecting a customer service model which most online brands could benefit from replicating.  Bear with me and all will be made clear.


1. It's not about you



Steven Covey famously said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  In other words, I don't really care about your business, I want to know what's in it for me.  Hairdressers get this.  You show up, take the chair and the first thing the stylist typically asks is 'what are we doing today?' Instantly you (the customer) are in the driving seat, talking about your wants and needs, not listening to what the salon has to sell.

Once you've told them what prompted your visit they'll begin to make suggestions, which either stretch your comfort zone (how about a restyle) or reassure you that they can solve your problem (your frizz will be returned to glory in no time).  Stylists know what they're capable of, but they want their customers to feel in control of the process. They make it personal.  Do you?


2. Think beyond your main product



Sure you'll get your haircut, but to keep that feel good factor high, what about a drink, free wifi, a glossy magazine and possibly even a head massage. Hairdressers want their customers to be continually reassured that they've made the right choice and these little extras all help with our self talk (yes I am worth it, maybe I should also get a manicure, they care about me and I like this experience, so I should book my next session now.)

Customers may set out to address a specific problem, through that oh so important keyword search, but ultimately we're easily distracted by things we find along the way.  What about a free ebook, sign up to the newsletter, buy your ticket now?  Customers decide what's valuable to them and it's probably not your main service that keeps them coming back for more.


3. Build a relationship



Hairdressers often find themselves as confidants.  Their loyal clientele share the minutia of everyday life, revelling in an honesty which can only come from looking your worst in a mirror filled room. Over time, we take advice on not just hair related matters, but on what to watch and read, the restaurants to book, holidays to take - you get the idea.

It's that all important trust factor, which turns passing trade into repeat customers.  It makes you the 'go to'.  It keeps you top of mind, so you're the first person to be recommended.  Seth Godin wrote a whole book around the concept of permission marketing which is well worth a read.

Do you manage your customers to the point of sale and then skip into the sunset, or do you have a relationship which creates a loyal following?  Social media has made it easier than ever to engage with customers - ignore it at your peril.


4. Inspire your customers



Hairdressers change their hair on a regular basis.  Between visits my stylist goes from short to long, blonde to pink and throws in a perm, just to show what's possible.  While I suspect myself and 99% of her customers get 'the usual' every time they visit, it doesn't mean we don't appreciate the variety.

Sometimes we just want to know that someone is keeping on top of the latest trends so we don't have to.  Could you curate third party posts or produce a regular top 10 list of what's hot for your industry? Also think about how your brand is currently perceived and what you could be doing to show you're at the cutting edge (every pun intended).


5. Have some check out extra's



Running low on shampoo?  Have you tried this fabulous new ...?  Wallet in hand to pay for the main event, it's very easy to add a little extra to the bill.  In our minds we prolong the joy by taking something tangible home and we trust the recommendations of those who've just brought our tired locks back to life.  Hairdressers use our feel good high, to raise their revenues, while we interpret it as extra attention to our needs.

When your customers check out, do you send them a boring old thank you page, or do you return a list of further reading links, downloads, surprise discounts etc.  The last impression is often as important as the first, especially when you want customers to bookmark your site.  Make it memorable.



Hairdressers build experiences, (Osadia take this to new limits).  The most successful ones entertain, inform and inspire in equal measure. Let's stop sharing information and create businesses which touch our customers and keep them coming back for more.


Don't know how?  Ask me.


Comments



Is your brand wearing pyjamas?



Today, my children went to school in their pyjamas - not because I got fed up asking them to get dressed, but to raise money for charity and mess with the minds of the public we passed en route.

This morning our school felt like a different place.  Same pupils, teaching and support staff, but the change of usual attire (i.e. everyone wearing pyjamas instead of uniform), seemed to cause a mass mind shift.  The generic sea of navy blue children, had given way to multi-coloured, man made fibres and an air of levity.  Nightwear it seems, is a great leveller.

As a marketer I often find brands which appear to be wearing pyjamas. They don't care which typeface they use or whether the colours on their flyer match those on their website. They write in capitals to get our attention and underline words which aren't hyperlinks. They don't bother with a spell checker or a copywriter and have no follow up plan on the rare occasion that someone should respond. Zzzzzzzzzz.

We all know how much first impressions count.  While some people do their best work in a onesie, the majority of us don the garb that best matches our chosen career, seeing it as a vital element in shaping how people perceive us.

Mark Twain once said, ‘Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.’

Your brand may not be naked, but pyjama wearing is every bit as unnerving for your customers.



Comments



Why do you need Social Media? [Video evidence]

First there was economics, then freakonomics and now socialnomics, a term coined to show the impact of social media on our everyday lifes. Feel left behind yet?