Category Archives: Marketing Communications

I’ve started so I’ll finish

I have been undertaking some research on behalf of a client this week and am amazed by the number of websites showing out of date blogs. The most recent blog posts on about 60% of the sites I researched were over 3 months old.

I know that there are no definitive ‘rules’ on blogging frequency but I’ve never heard anyone advocate blogging once a quarter!

What did this make me feel about the companies I was researching? They were lazy, busy or just plain disorganised? It certainly didn’t make me want to rush out and do business with them.

Social media seems like an easy marketing option, especially for small businesses, not least because there is little direct cost involved. This is not a good enough reason to set up a Facebook page, sign up for a Twitter account or start a blog though. Social media, like any other marketing activity, needs to be built into your marketing plan. It’s not a quick fix and takes time and effort.

If you want to include social media into your marketing mix it is essential that you understand why, how and when you will use it;  including how it will integrate with your other marketing activity. Don’t be too ambitious, we all have limited time, and plan for contingencies such as busy work periods. Be realistic about what you can achieve and enlist help if you need to. Above all plan your activity and finish what you have started.

Well executed direct mail can still work

I don’t know about you but I still receive mountains of paper through my letter box each day. Virtually all of it is unsolicited and most is irrelevant, confusing or just plain dull. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to pick up a door drop that avoided all of the usual pitfalls. It was from a local pet shop and here is why I think it actually worked:

Good design – it was immediately obvious what the leaflet was about. Yes, it had lots of really simple and obvious (you might even say cheesy) images but that’s what you need when you only have a few seconds to catch someone’s attention.

Relevant – since 1 in 2 households own a pet the leaflet had a 50:50 chance of hitting the right target! Plus, I live within a mile of the pet shop so I am pretty likely to fall into their target audience.

Clear call to action – the headline actually told me what to do. ‘Pop in and see us’. All the other contact information (website, email, ‘phone) was contained in the leaflet, but it is totally clear what they really want the reader to do.

Great offer – the leaflet contained a discount voucher. In fact there were actually four offers encouraging return visits to the pet shop.

Extra marketing value – the discount voucher allowed the pet shop to gather invaluable customer information (name, email, type of pet) which could be used for future marketing campaigns.

By following a few simple guidelines there is no reason why all marketing communications shouldn’t do a great job for you.

Information overload: get your marketing message right

I often get asked how long a sales letter, email, newsletter, or in fact any type of marketing communication should be. And, as soon as I start to say… ‘well, that depends’… I see a flicker of  ‘ oh why isn’t anything straight forward?’ flash into view.

You will know for yourself that you will read any amount of information on a subject you are really passionate about. The same is true if the information is relevant to you at a particular time; I will read endless travel destination reviews when I am looking to book a holiday, but not at any other time in the year.

The starting point is to know your target audience and identify the point at which they will be most interested in receiving information about the product or service that you are selling. It will also depend upon the relationship you have with your client. Generally speaking, the warmer the relationship, the more time and attention your client will be willing to give you and your marketing.

Remember though, this doesn’t give you carte blanche to bore your clients to death with the wonders of your glorious new technologically advanced elastic band! So, however exciting you think your product is, see it from your customer’s point of view and go easy on the marketing copy.

Good marketing scuppered by missing detail

Thinking about a brainstorm meeting I was due to have with a new client, I decided I needed a good, old-fashioned flip chart. Something simple, something portable that looked vaguely professional. A quick google search uncovered a handful of supplier websites and I’d soon selected the product I wanted. So far so good.

Before making my purchase there was just one detail I needed to check…the size of the flip chart. I clicked a tab entitled ‘product information’ to find… well… not a lot really. The distinct lack of detail stopped me in my tracks. I was ready, credit card in hand, to complete the purchase but one crucial detail was missing.

Mildly irritated, I picked up the phone to the customer services team; at least the number was easy to find on their website. The call was answered promptly and I felt sure I was on my way to finalising my purchase. Not so. The operator could not find the information and promised to call  back. Which, inevitably, she didn’t.

What a waste of some really quite good marketing. Google ads taking them right to the top of the rankings, an easy to navigate and clear website plus a responsive call centre…but without the right basic product information for me, the customer, all utterly fruitless.

Look at your customer journey from end to end, including all the small stuff. It could just mean the difference between as successful marketing campaign and one that falls at the final hurdle.

Tell your customers what they want to hear

Everything about this gorgeous packaging tells me exactly what I’m going to find inside; luxurious, high quality milk chocolate! From the colour and glossy finish, to the gold embossed wording and  product photograph, it is beautifully and cleverly designed.

Just one thing puzzles me though. Why, in the prime position on this lovely wrapper, does it shout 31% Cacao? Granted there are rules surrounding product packaging, but surely placing some random fact about one of the ingredients top right is not wholly necessary?

I love chocolate. I like the taste. I like some brands better than others…but I couldn’t tell you the ‘percentage cocoa content’ of any of them. Perhaps I’m in the minority and customer research shows that cocoa content in a crucial factor when it comes to choice of chocolate? I think not though. 

In any form of marketing communication, be it a business to business proposal or a consumer advertisement, think about what information is relevant to your customers. Turn your product features (what your product is ) into benefits (what your product does for your customers). It is an age-old concept and a well-worn path for those of us with a sales background – but it works.

So here is your challenge. Come up with a benefit statement for each of your product or service features. Use your benefits in your marketing communications rather than a list of facts that will, at best, be ignored and could even confuse potential customers.

What are your customers really buying from you?

Back to school and it seemed like one of the top outings this summer was a trip to London including, almost without exception, a visit to Hamleys. It may be every child’s dream to visit  the world’s largest toy store, but I had no idea that Hamleys was quite such an established part of the tourist trail. Their Regents Street store boasts a massive 5 million visitors per year.

I took a look at Hamleys website as I was intrigued to see how the company  positions itself. I was surprised to see that the main focus is still on selling toys. Yes, they have a ‘What’s On’ section which shows all the events they are running in store, but it wasn’t particularly prominent. It seems to me that if  your USP is your in-store experience why not tell potential customers about it?

The same principle applies to any business be they selling to consumers or in the B2B arena . Time spent understanding exactly what your customers are buying from you and why is extremely valuable. It will help you find your USP, position yourself in the market and will help you generate more relevant marketing messages.

We are all guilty of getting too close to our own products and forgetting to see things from a customer’s point of view. So why not step away from your computer and spend some time thinking about what your customers are really buying from you?

Great marketing copy is good for business

Is it a trait of small business owners or something to do with British reserve? Recently I seem to have come across many examples of businesses simply selling themselves short.

Of course, I still see countless examples of overblown marketing copy hyping the next must-have product which sends me reaching for the delete key. Equally though, there are plenty of great businesses, brilliant products and wonderful services that could benefit from a few well placed superlatives in their web copy or adverts.

 I was recently asked to write an advertorial piece for a client who was, if I say so myself, delighted with the outcome. I know this particular client, and their products, very well and so had no difficulty in articulating how good they are. The client in question felt uncomfortable  ‘blowing their own trumpet’ but was quite happy for me to do it for them.

So why is it so hard to get the balance right? Try putting yourself in your customers shoes and think about what they would say about your product or service. Better still, get you customers to do the job for you. Genuine customers testimonials ( and yes, we can all see through them when they aren’t genuine) are worth their weight in gold. Don’t worry if they don’t say exactly what you would have said, this makes them all the more compelling, and they are likely to be written in the language that your prospective customers will understand.

So go on, ask a few customers what they think of your product or service and have a go at injecting some life into your marketing copy.