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Piracy. An irrational fear?

I've lost count of the number of times I see small businesses hide their best work behind member only logins and forms which would take an entire lunch hour to complete. Why the secrecy? In a word - piracy. The fear that once out there 'people' can freely distribute the information, sharing it with their friends, quoting it in their presentations and potentially never crediting their source. That's all possible, but even if it happens, is it really such a bad thing?

I always encourage businesses to give some information away. I know that might make you stop reading, but stay with me. When I find some useful free stuff on a website, my perception is always 'well, if they could give that away, they obviously have a lot more to say on the subject'. Giving, adds credibility to you and your ideas.  It puts you in the position of thought leader, encouraging your readership to find out more. This blog is about proving my marketing worth and hopefully at least some entries will succeed.

It's the lamp element. Help others to see something new. Share your thoughts, your ideas, your predictions, while your business is still small enough to reap the benefits of the publicity, even if that doesn't come in the form of direct accreditation http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8841-angry-birds-maker-doesn-t-sweat-piracy?.

So, vow to make at least one great piece of content to give away each month. I've listed some of my favourite 'giver' examples below, to get you started.  Most use pdf's to retain an element of publicity, but all are crafted to be shared and I haven't even touched on the SEO benefits that brings.

1. Hubspot free ebooks and case studies http://www.hubspot.com/
2. MarketingProfs free articles all packed with links for further research http://www.marketingprofs.com/
3. Econsultancy blog, reports and presentations http://econsultancy.com/uk

Happy downloading.

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What makes us choose?

We make hundreds of choices every day.

Some are completely down to us. Snooze button or get up now? Car or bus? Start that big project or give in to the distraction of email and just one more caffeine break?

Others involve third parties, helping us to make up our minds, through marketing and brands. Buy coke rather than Pepsi. Nike versus Reebok. 

Marketing gives products and services an irrational value. It adds personality, helping you to decide that product X will meet your needs better than any available alternative. In the end, you make the choice, but it's heavily influenced by how marketing has shaped your perception along the way and the brand promises i.e. what you've been led to expect from a product/service, that you've bought into.

As you encourage your customers to choose, your marketing should evoke specific reasons to help customers justify their decisions.

1. Why would customers buy your products over the competition?

Its worth revisiting why existing customers made their purchase - ask them, either personally or via a service like surveymonkey http://www.surveymonkey.com/. Try to narrow this down to specific words. Perhaps the great customer service builds trust, or it could be the prestige attached to being able to afford a particular service or be in the same league as others held in esteem.

2. What one attribute could your company/product/service be known for?

Volvo cars are associated with safety. Virgin is a brand that does things differently and is therefore regarded as innovative. An internal poll might give some fascinating insights, but be sure to ask suppliers, distributors and anyone else involved with your company, as well as your customers, for the most balanced view. It's fine to mean different things to different groups, but you should find there's an overarching trait that everyone agrees on. 

3. Build your marketing around your findings

Sounds like a no brainer, but so easy to overlook.  Since Volvo have established 'safety' in the minds of their buyers, their marketing plays to the FUD principle (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).  Example http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=8ZDv-hB2NHk.  It's important to note that they lead with a solution to customer safety fears rather than building on the fear, which would result in negative connotations for the brand.  

Emotional triggers are powerful things so use them wisely.
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Burns night communications

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm."

It's the first verse of Robert Burns 'Address to a Haggis' and unless you're Scottish, it might as well be written in martian.

Do you speak to your target audience in a language they understand?

I've been reviewing a number of small business websites recently and there's a lot of over hyped business speak out there. Everyone is 'results focused', 'world leading' and 'delivering exceptional value' in the 'fast paced environment'. Some are 'engaged in intersecting the world of traditional media with social media'. Which means what exactly?

Think about how you would describe your product/service if you were having a conversation, then look at the language used to do the same job on your website, powerpoint presentation and sales materials. Have you flipped into business speak just because it's in print?

In our modern world you can write as you would speak. Craft communications to be understood by your target audience and don't be afraid to let a little personality shine through.

Enjoy your haggis!



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Marketing is like playing 'snap'

You know the game. You turn over cards until two pictures match and then everyone yells snap. The more turns that go by without a match, the higher the level of anticipation and the louder the eventual shout.

Small businesses often approach marketing like a game of snap. They produce some content and then throw it out there - in print, online, maybe a bit of telemarketing. No real strategy in place. Then the waiting game begins, until a lead is found and everyone can claim success (yell snap).

Marketing is not a game of chance. At it's simplest, it's about communicating your message to those who want to hear it, to help them choose your offering over the competition.

It takes time to produce great content, so you owe it to yourself and your customers to get that communication right.

Group 1 - Total strangers to your brand

Let's think of them as future customers. All marketing that you do to this group is going to be interruptive, since they've never heard of you before. We all hate junk mail so whatever you say has to be compelling in 5 seconds or less. Imagine you're at a tradeshow. What could you do/say to stand out?

Group 2 - Previous interactions and existing Customers

They've heard of you/your brand before and may have even purchased something. The marketing that this group needs should move them along the sales cycle. Educate them. Expand your content to build on what they already know. Challenge their assumptions. This group needs engagement. Show them why they should care and you'll see results.

Group 3 - Repeat customers

Your biggest supporters. Repeat customers are marketing tools in their own right. They can tell you what they like/don't like (product development) and build your brand through word of mouth (PR). This group have invested time and money to keep you in business and the content they receive should reflect this. You need to validate their decision to stick with you. Can you offer them sneak peaks, exclusive news, invite them to participate in a way that acknowledges their status? Social media makes this easier than you'd think.

So, when you've produced a great white paper, webcast, press release, blog entry etc. think about how it can be reworked to meet the needs of each group. Then think about how each group will want to receive those messages - smart phone, ipad, social media, direct mail, youtube video etc. Its a sure fire way to get lots more snaps ; )
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