Content Is Still King

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Whether for the web, social media, internal or external communication,  well-crafted content remains the key factor in differentiating your message from the competition. Content Marketing (CM) is a strategic approach that focuses on creating and delivering valuable, relevant, and consistent messages to attract and retain your customer or audience. CM works best when it is aligned with your business’ mission, vision and overall marketing strategy.  Before launching a CM initiative, consider these factors:

What do we want to accomplish through CM?

• Which company goals will this support?

• How does this fit into your overall marketing strategy?

Who is the target audience for our CM?

• Do you have a detailed picture of each audience group? What they do, where they go, why they purchase your service or product.

• What do you want your audiences to do after reading our content?

• Which tools – web, social media, blogs, etc. – can best reach your target audiences?

What is your brand’s unique story?

• How can you differentiate your products and services from the competition?

• What is your value proposition?

• Why does that matter to your audiences?

How will we manage your CM?

• Who will develop the plan and the content?

• How much and how often will you publish content?

• How will you evaluate our CM?

One additional important factor: content marketing is not a one-off effort. Be sure you are committed to creating engaging content and delivering it to your customers on a consistent basis.

 

 

 

Positioning for 2020

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A recent Future of Jobs report from the World Economic Forum, shows the Top Ten Skills employers will be demanding in 2020 are shifting from the most critical skill demanded in 2015.

Complex problem solving remains #1 with critical thinking and creativity now rounding out the top three positions. This same set of skills can help businesses evaluate other crucial decisions. If you are considering working with a new marketing firm, you may want to learn about their approach to solving your problems – that’s what marketing is about. Do they offer the typical needs assessment – a check list of standard advertising and marketing items. Or do they insist on spending time to understand your business, the problems it faces and your target customer before offering solutions?

Problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. Your marketing firm, and every advisor you work with, should bring all the top ten skills to the table.

 

 

Ready or Not, Here I Come

I love business. I love small business owners. I love working with them. I love seeing them succeed.  I love the way smaller businesses try new things, challenge the status quo, work hard for every buck. But I hate it when they make stupid mistakes that make it impossible, and I mean impossible, to buy their product.

At 10 a.m. one day I wanted coffee, so I went to a coffee shop…an independently owned boutique coffee shop in a not so convenient location (actually, a very inconvenient location). But I really wanted to support these owners, so I made the effort, and by effort I mean I had to find an on street parking space, walk a block, cross the street, go in to a store, ‘round the back and up the staircase to find the shop. Not exactly an impulse location. But I gladly did all that to buy from independent owners who had invested so much of themselves in their business.

I ordered two large decaf cappuccinos. The gal working didn’t know how to make them. Nope, couldn’t make the priciest drink on the menu, couldn’t make a coffee drink at a coffee shop. Not her fault really because, as she explained, she hadn’t gotten to decaf cappuccino in her training. And where was her trainer, the shop owner? Not there, of course. So I said wouldn’t it be the same as a regular cappuccino only with decaf coffee? Didn’t matter, she hadn’t learned how to make any type of cappuccino. Okay, cancel the fancy drinks.  How about 2 decafs, black, to go.  No, they didn’t have any decaf coffee ready…could I wait 15 minutes? Well, amazingly enough, I could not wait so they lost my business that day. Not a big deal, less than ten bucks in sales.

The question is, will I return? Maybe, maybe not…would you? The moral of this story: Don’t open the doors unless you are serious about doing business.

Marketing Your Great Customer Service

aidaBack in the day, a short 8 or so years ago, the traditional marketing model practiced by agencies was called The AIDA Model: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. Clean, simple, a clear-cut path to your customer. Sounds a bit Mad Men-ish! “If they know about it, they’ll want it and sales will skyrocket!”  All that has changed, and with few exceptions, the big game changer has been the internet.

 

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Today it doesn’t matter whether you sell directly to customers online or use your website as a support tool for your brick and mortar business, the typical customer for just about all goods and services goes through a very different shopping/decision making cycle.  Online research dominates.

Consider your own methods of discovery. Does a commercial or print ad make you aware of and interested in an item enough to drive you to commit to a purchase? More likely, ads support a decision you are in the process of making or help create name or brand recognition. Don’t get me wrong, they still hold an important place in a multi-channel marketing plan as one element in a well-planned campaign.

Most customers go online to research products and services, compare pricing, read reviews and find locations. You “Google” things, places, services and check out websites and online reviews. How can your business stand out in the the mass of websites? (If offering the lowest price is the only tool you are using, you may want to rethink that. Sooner or later, someone will beat your price and then you have nothing.)

Think about offering great customer service, both in-person and online. A well-developed strategy to be the best at what you do can’t be beat, ever. And let’s face it, most companies don’t even play in that arena.

Then build a marketing campaign focused around the quality service you offer.  Online, in-person, using any media you choose – you’ll stand out every time.

Building a Marketing Strategy: Eight Steps to Developing Your Plan

Many owners and leaders of small and mid-size businesses decide on the marketing tactic they want to pursue as a reaction to a specific incident. Rather than taking the time to develop a Marketing Plan specific to their company objectives, they use quick fix solutions to address broader issues. Does this sound like you?

  • Your new business needs a logo. Get a logo.
  • Sales are down. Run an ad.
  • New store or office opening. Send out a direct mail piece.
  • Holidays are coming. Send holiday greeting cards.

While all of those tactics may be good ideas, they aren’t part of a cohesive plan to grow and develop your customer base and maximize their contribution to your business results. By themselves they may be mildly effective and yield short-term results, but no single tactic will sustain your brand.

A better way to do grow your business is to develop an integrated brand development and marketing plan. Not as intimidating as it sounds, a full brand and marketing strategy is a road map that keeps you on track and focused on goals, budget and results. Here are the eight steps we use to build a marketing strategy.

What are your goals and objectives? List all quantifiable goals such as sales increases, customer survey results and P&L standards as well as softer objectives like skills training for employees and community service.

 Develop your message . Your company goals and objective should lead you to your message. The what, why, where, when that is important to customers. Because this is the key to branding your business you may want to bring a marketing expert in to work with your team on the focus points and how to craft a succinct, viable message that will affect a positive response from your audience.

 Determine your Marketing budget. It is so important that you have an idea of what you can afford before you begin planning a strategy. Many companies budget based on what they spent last year, but that isn’t always valid. Some businesses use a percent of sales as the benchmark, researching their industry standards as a reference. Whichever method you use, be sure to consider factors like new product launches and expansion plans when setting your budget.

 Which customer group impacts each goal? Look at both internal and external customers to better understand where your marketing needs are greatest and identify target customer groups. Plan to use every customer interaction to your advantage. Begin to attach volume numbers to each goal.

How can you reach your target customers? Take time to analyze your target customers’ habits to better understand how they may best receive information. There are always multiple ways to reach them based on your budget. Review all selling methods used by your company as well as throughout your industry. Direct selling and indirect selling will require different support mechanisms to grow sales.

 Analyze your options.  Multi-channel marketing is nearly limitless. Even businesses on a strict budget can diversify their approach to capture a broader audience. A marketing professional should be able to provide options, costs, projected return and will work with you to validate results.

Quantify your results.  Put numbers to every project and evaluate success against your goals and objectives. Not all of your marketing efforts will be on target, but as you progress through your plans you will begin to better understand customer preferences and how to more effectively drive results.

Course correct…and keep going! Do not stop marketing efforts because of a failed project. Tear it apart, analyze why it failed and move on. One of the most damaging mistakes small and mid-size companies make is to stop advertising or marketing when business is tough. That is when you need marketing clarity and focus the most. Revise your budget based on performance and demand creative, cost effective solutions from your marketing team. Stay in the game—you can’t win if you don’t play! The amount of effort you and your team put into building and supporting a marketing strategy is always reflected in your company performance.

Take the time to create a brand message worth sending and put it out there as often as you can. Marketing should be a vibrant and exciting part of the company strategic plan, part of the face and the voice of any organization. Make every impression a good one.