Tag Archives: competitive advantage

Act like the business you want to be.

Big tree little treeI’m lucky in that, despite working mainly with SMEs, I am able to keep in touch with new marketing concepts and big ideas in the corporate world through my connections with Cranfield School of Management. The challenge is to translate the theory and new thinking into practical actions that smaller businesses can really benefit from.

I’ve noticed that those business’s that really embrace new ideas and are keen to try different approaches tend to progress more quickly towards their goals. By contrast, those that use lack of time or money as an excuse for not breaking the mould tend to move more slowly.

Granted, it’s not always easy to decide to throw your marketing budget, however limited, at new marketing techniques and it often feels safer to stick to tried and tested methods even when they don’t work particularly well. Far from being defeated though, some businesses simply thrive on finding creative solutions to stretch their budgets. What seems to set these companies apart is their willingness to think, and act,  like big businesses. They are by no means reckless, more they are prepared to make tough choices and decisions to get to where they want to be.

The others? Well, they may be happy to plod along doing OK whilst never quite reaching their potential, but they will never be the big businesses of the future.

Image: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

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Why you should use infographics

InfographicInfographics  are my new marketing best friends! They are appealing and useful on so many levels.

I see infographics used most frequently in the content marketing arena  and they do work particularly well in the place of wordy blog posts. They are very versatile though and I have used then to great effect in awards submissions, proposal documents and strategy presentations; in fact in any situation where you need to convey key information quickly and clearly.

Here’s why I love them:

  • they can convey information in a user-friendly manner; appealing particularly to people with a visual learning style
  • they can provide focus and clarity  to complex subjects
  • they can convey lots of information in a relatively small space
  • they are memorable
  • they can bring  potentially boring or mundane subjects to life
  • they are easy to share.

Here’s a nice example of a seasonal infographic that inspired my post today.

How could you use infographics in your business?

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

Is sponsorship a viable marketing option for small businesses?

I was with a client last week brainstorming low-cost marketing ideas when I stumbled across the fact that they had a long-standing sponsorship arrangement with a local golf club. I use the term ‘sponsorship’ loosely; it actually consisted of a rather faded board with a logo on it somewhere around the course. Clearly there was potential to make much more of the arrangement and, by the end of the discussion, we had come up with an exciting plan to really leverage the deal.

Like any other tactical marketing activity, the use of sponsorship must fit into, and work with, your overall strategy. It must, of course, be relevant; there is probably no point sponsoring a basketball team  if your target market is mum’s with pre-school aged children for example.

Another key element to a good sponsorship arrangement is the opportunity for ‘activation’. Simply put, activation refers to how you  use the elements of your sponsorship deal beyond simply slapping a logo on a sports kit or putting up a billboard at a venue.  It is imperative that you put time and money into developing an activation plan to get the best out of your sponsorship opportunity.

There are no end of creative ways to activate your sponsorship deal; here are just a few to think about:

  • PR – make sure that you take advantage of every opportunity to  create a positive association between your brand and the team/individual or event that you are sponsoring. Include online media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs as well as the more traditional methods.
  • Sales promotions – can you offer free samples or special offers to supporters and participants via a database, e-newsletter or fanzine?
  • Hospitality – reward loyal customers, staff or potential new customers with VIP tickets to events.
  • Signage/logo placement – create positive awareness and reinforcement of your brand among your target market.
  • Marketing campaigns – develop marketing campaigns around your sponsorship to gain maximum value.

When most people think about sponsorship they imagine big brands and even bigger bucks. I believe that, with a great deal of focus and a good measure of creativity and commitment, small businesses can implement sponsorship arrangements that can be highly effective in building awareness.

Image: www.freedigitalphotos.net

Why entering awards is good for business

I went to a FSB Business Awards ‘meet the judges’ event on behalf of a client a few months ago …and ended up entering the awards myself! Why?

The benefits of actually winning an award are pretty obvious, and I have to admit that my eyes were definitely on the prize, as I visualised  myself at a glittering ceremony with the champagne flowing! However, as I began  to put my submission together, I realised the  inherent value of simply going through the entry process. 

To enter a business award you will probably be asked in-depth questions about your business plan, customers, products, marketing methods and financial success; giving you the opportunity to cast a critical eye over your own plans. How often do you give yourself ‘permission’ to spend time simply thinking about your business?

In my view, even if you don’t make it to the shortlist, entering an award is time well spent. If however, your business is chosen as a finalist, here are some of the benefits you will enjoy given a little effort and a good publicity plan:

  • Having your business reviewed by an independent panel of judges adds credibility which in turn helps to cement relationships with existing customers and build alliances with new ones
  • Being a finalist gives your business a point of difference
  • You can use the award to raise awareness of your business with your target market
  • Being a finalist is great for staff morale as well as your own motivation.

Competitions like the FSB Business Awards are obviously designed to give small business a platform on which to promote themselves, so why not make the most of them?

PS. I’m delighted that I’ve been shortlisted in two categories and, if nothing else, have an excuse to buy a new outfit for the Gala Dinner next month!

The spirit of Christmas marketing

My Christmas shopping this year has been characterised by the daily knock of the postman bringing a steady stream of brown parcels. 90% of them have something in common; the name emblazoned on the side of the box. To me it says good value and great service – you know who I’m talking about, my beloved Amazon.

As if I needed another reason to love the familiar Amazon brown boxes, one has come along this week in the shape of a parcel from…well lets just say…another company. It was a large box, totally incapable of being hidden, with a rather helpful picture and the name of the product on the outside. ‘Have I spoilt the surprise?’ asked the courier – too right you have!

I know that it’s entirely practical to have the product description on the outside of the box plus it makes great marketing sense to have your brand visible to potential customers at every available moment. I also appreciate that it would add considerable cost for additional packaging to disguise the product within. In fact, operationally, I can’t think of one good reason why you would not want a product picture and desciption on the outside of the box. From a customer service perspective though, I can think of many.

Understanding everything about your customer, including how and why they purchase your products, is a crucial part of your marketing. It’s hard to cover every eventuality, but if you can stand out from the crowd by thinking through the detail of your processes and making them as customer friendly as possible, you will surely find a loyal base of repeat customers who love to buy from you.

Creating the right logo

I’ve spent an interesting couple of days working with a client on their new logo this week. As a lover of marketing planning and process the more creative side of marketing can prove a bit of a challenge. All that subjectivity makes me nervous. Choosing yellow for your corporate colour just because you once owned a pair of fluorescent leg warmers as a child has never, in my view, been a very satisfactory form of decision-making.

Luckily, this particular client is also high on objectivity, so we got along just fine.

When developing a new logo here are a couple of points to think about:

  • Is it versatile? Check what your logo will look like at a very small size, on a business card for example, as well as across all the media you intend to use it on (websites, Facebook, promotional items etc). Also check what it looks like in black and white; not everyone has a colour printer so you aren’t always in control of how your logo is seen.
  • Is it recognisable and memorable? Even small companies who aren’t planning a heavy-weight brand promotion need a logo that their clients will recognise.
  • Is it appropriate? This is where you put yourself in your clients shoes. Fonts, colours and imagery all have meaning and associations; make sure they are the right ones for your client base and your product.
  • Will it endure?  Avoid the need for frequent redesign exercises by choosing styles that are not too ‘fashionable’.
  • Keep it simple. Often the most versatile, recognisable and enduring logos are the most simple.
  • Love your logo! Assuming you are planning to be in business for sometime, it is important to be proud of your own logo. If subjectivity slips in at this point then so be it – we are only human after all!

customer response times: how long is too long?

I made to a call to a company the other day and encountered a voicemail message telling me that the caller would return my call within 3 hours. I went away satisfied, able to get on with my work and confident that I would get a call back and didn’t need to make a mental note to call again.

In the same week I had an ‘out of office’ response to an email informing me that the recipient was working part-time this week as it was half-term and so may take a little longer than usual to get back to me. Too much information? I don’t think so. Again, I felt happy to be kept informed.

In contrast I ended up in an anonymous ‘phone queue the other day and, though I was probably only on hold for a minute, by the time I’d been blasted with ‘I’m in the mood for dancing’ I was in the mood for murder!

Unless you are operating in a truly time critical environment it seems to me that the best way to keep customers happy is to keep them informed. Think about what is an appropriate time scale to return a call or email in your particular business scenario, tell your customers when they can expect to hear from you and most important of all…stick to your promise.

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?