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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.


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4 Easy Steps to a Great Marketing Plan




For those of you smug enough to have done your 2016 marketing plan pre Christmas - high five, you can stop reading now.

Still with me?  You're not alone. In my experience, most marketing strategy is reviewed in January, while resolutions are fresh in the mind and energy levels high.  That means that it's also the perfect opportunity to develop your marketing plan.

Here are the four simple steps to departmental greatness.

Step 1 - Ask


What does your business want to achieve this year and how can marketing contribute to meeting those goals?  Your marketing plan should support the company strategy.

Define specifics, (marketing will do XYZ) and then tactics, which are the tools to make XYZ happen (social media, direct mail, campaigns etc). Asking what your business needs from marketing, makes it far easier to choose tactics and show your contribution month on month.  The result might be something like - increase sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography.  With this goal in place you can weigh up the options to decide which marketing activities will have most impact.  These objectives are the bare bones of your marketing plan.

Step 2 - Agree


Make sure everyone in the organisation knows what to expect from marketing by agreeing specifics in advance.  The devil really is in the detail, so make sure you include timelines, budget/resource constraints and a definition of what success looks like (perception setting).

To go back to the example, increasing sales by X% in Y timeframe across Z geography, could mean you need to attract more new customers or make existing customers more profitable.  The timeframe set might coincide with a product launch or quarter earnings release and the geography target should build on work done in previous years, or gain first mover advantage. 

Step 3 - Build


Produce a detailed marketing plan.  A month by month overview of marketing activities will highlight any gaps or clashes with projects from other departments.

Remember to show who each activity is aimed at (existing customer, new lead, internal audience etc) and what you expect the target group to do as a result of each marketing activity.  Setting the scene will help your business feel informed and open communication channels. Without this, sales teams (and others) often develop their own materials, leading to all kinds of mixed messages (aka random acts of marketing). 

Think of your marketing plan as a story.  What do your potential customers need to know about your company, to help them choose your product over all available alternatives? What are the frequently asked questions you need to address?  How will they perceive your brand? Focus on delivering consistent, relevant and personal information to the waiting world.  Build trust first and then sell.

Step 4 - Engage

  • Plan marketing to flow like a conversation between your company and your audience.  
  • Build brand recognition, off and online, by using the same fonts, tone, colours and imagery.  
  • Create messaging and employ tools which meet the needs of your audience. 
  • Consult with sales and customer services before crafting content to ensure best fit. 
  • Spend time creating content that resonates with the groups you're trying to reach.  
  • Show how your product/service solves a problem or provides a benefit.  
  • Think about why customers might use/buy your brand rather than alternatives.  
  • Make it clear what makes your product unique. 
  • Listen for feedback from your customers, fellow employees, bloggers, social media etc.

For new businesses much of the above will involve educated guesswork using one of the many free tools available to better understand your target market.  Established businesses can use the raft of analytics available to fill in any customer information blanks.

A marketing plan is a living document, so expect it to change as you learn more about your market and its needs.  Having something to chart your progress and measure your results against, will give you and your business confidence and purpose.  It also let's you know when to crack open the champagne, so make sure you've got one, or ask me to help you develop one.

Questions?




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Could sharing your business, double your revenue?





Children are taught to share toys and husbands are often encouraged to share their desserts, by people who didn't order them.  It feels good to have something that others want and it’s more fun to play if you’re not alone.

While sharing is not a new thing, it just might be the next big thing. Think of it as a way of getting what you want, without having to part with your hard earned cash all at once.  

Social networks are driving it and mobile devices and the internet sustain it.  Information is the new global currency and we spend it every day.

For our friends across the pond, collaborative consumption, (as it's rapidly becoming known) has sparked a new kind of entrepreneur and with it a host of companies intent on building communities of like minded individuals.  Welcome to crowdsourcing.

Food - eating and growing

Accommodation

Work

Travel

As you can see from the companies above, this model celebrates access rather than ownership of our hearts desire.  It makes sense to use existing local resources.  It promotes sustainability.  It opens new market opportunities to those willing to embrace change.

So, is this brave new sharing economy possible for every business?  I think so, albeit with a little tweaking.  

1.  If you make a physical product, consider renting it as well as selling it?


In other words, could your product become a service?  There are a number of companies moving into this space, particularly in fashion and transportation.  If your customer has to make a significant investment to buy your product, then it's sure to speed the decision process and shorten the sales cycle, if they can get what they want at a fraction of the cost, even if it's not theirs to keep.  

Car manufacturers know that they can either sell a car once or take that same car and sell it multiple times through a rental agreement. Could your customers become subscribers?

2. If you have a community of people, but no product or service, could you build one?


Crowdsourcing brings large groups together to produce a product or complete a project. Wikipedia is a great example of this, being a volume of information compiled by numerous authors.  Reddit and Digg similarly look to the masses for content. Kickstarter is now a well established route to market for many and has repeatedly demonstrated that letting your customers fund your product development, is the very best way to ensure loyalty and engagement. Could the crowd be your supply chain? Deliv think so.

3. If you run a consultancy or deliver services, could you encourage your customers to resell?


Amazon and Ebay now have thriving second markets, which let customers share/sell their used goods to others.  Brands are now joining the fun, such as Patagonia who enhance their brand by ensuring that their products are used and reused. 

Are there opportunities to lend, swap or resell what you're currently doing so that you build a marketplace for your customers, underpinned by your brand? What if you shared staff training costs by opening your doors to your top customers to have their employees join your company sessions?     

With a little thought the possibilities are endless.

I'd love to hear your experiences of sharing and collaboration - good or bad.  Feel free to leave me a comment below.




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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?



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Storytelling - Invented authentic content?


This week, the UK celebrated Bonfire night (also known as Guy Fawkes). It's an excuse to party and set off fireworks in remembrance of a foiled plot to blow up parliament in 1605. Who knew that such a rebellious act, could result in a reason to celebrate? Maybe there were switched on content marketing folks even in ye olden days...

Consumers today still love a good story.  If you can make your audience care about your product, you're half way to the sale. Trouble is, we need to forge that emotional connection faster than most corporates can get their content through management, accounting and legal.

Guy Fawkes was a real person and the gunpowder plot an actual plan, but what if you don't have an event to write about? Could you make one up?  Inventing an authentic piece of content is all the rage.

Movember


National Boss Day


Take your children to work


National Grandparents Day



In each case above, the creators have manufactured a situation, to raise the visibility of their product or cause.  Their next task is to ensure the public engage, by showing them how to get involved while imprinting their message into the mindset at the same time. Think of it like a mass call to action.

As Kickstarter has shown time and again, involving your customers in content creation is the best form of engagement a company can hope for. That sense of personal responsibility drives word of mouth and builds a loyal following.  Rallying behind an event gives us a purpose, makes us part of the crowd and now through the wonder of social media, lets us share our efforts with the wider world, for extra credit. Win, win.

Be warned though, invented content will only work if it's true to your company values and brand.

By all means, capture imagination, but to be believed, your idea has to match the expectations your customers already have about your company. It should reinforce what they assume to be true, rewarding their decision to spend their hard earned money with you, rather than the competition.

Stories in keeping with your company values and your customers understanding of why you do what you do, have a way of ingraining themselves on public perception for generations to come.

Now, stop reading and go create!


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Great advertising must tick these marketing boxes

How many adverts have you been exposed to today?   How many do you remember?

As a marketer, I'm pre programmed to read messaging, ever hopeful of finding a pearl in the sea of mediocrity (a bit dramatic, but you know what I mean).  

This week I was rewarded for not automatically hitting the pause button as soon as the ad break started, by a rather unexpected source of inspiration - Wall's sausages.  Watch below.