Tag Archives: marketing message

Why niche marketing works

ID-100201541How many times as marketers and business owners do we struggle to really identify and communicate with our true target audience? Often this is because the audiences we have identified are simply too diverse to make a coherent communications plan viable; so we end up spreading our messages too thinly to be impactful in any one customer segment.

Today I can across a business that has done a brilliant job of finding a niche and making it their own. They are a great example of how, by focusing on a niche, you can make your marketing messages clear and concise and ultimately more successful.

The company in question started life as a printers. At that stage they were probably like many other printers – producing all sorts of items and competing in a largely price-driven, commodity market place, with a diverse customer base. At some stage in the company development though, they decided to focus on printing race numbers for runners competing in events. And, if you look at them today, they not only  print race numbers for many different types of event, but they also provide many peripheral products to their customers –  anything from event signs and barrier tape to nine different types of safety pin to attach the numbers to competitors tops!

By changing from a product-led business, undertaking many different printing services, to a customer-led business, focusing solely on the events market, they have transformed their business model. And, in so doing they are now able to reap the benefits of a totally customer focused marketing approach. Here are some of the advantages to think about:

  • You and your staff can more easily become ‘expert’ in your chosen niche, leading to a better understanding of the issues and problems your customers need to solve
  • Greater empathy with your customer leads to clearer messaging and better communication
  • The clearer your target, the clearer your approach – from identifying key terms for seo  and finding influential partners  to sourcing appropriate trade journals and mailing lists – everything becomes clearer.

It goes without saying that, if you intent to focus exclusively on one niche, then it needs to be capable of sustaining your business now and in the future. The approach though still applies to bigger businesses, where cross functional teams can be focused on different customer segments to reap the same benefits.

If you feel you are spreading your marketing too thinly across a number of different audiences or are struggling to identify your key customer groups, it might be worth thinking about taking a niche approach.

image: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/




How to keep your marketing campaigns relevant

I received a number of totally irrelevant email shots this week which got me wondering why ‘common sense’ seems to be lacking in many marketing campaigns.

The first was a fantastic buy-one-get-one-free offer on dog biscuits – great…if you own a dog that is! I am (slightly) sympathetic to this campaign as I do currently buy pet supplies from the company in question and, statistically speaking, there is a 30% chance I have a dog. Although, looking at it another way, there is a 70% chance I don’t have a dog, so why bother trying to sell me dog food without finding out first?

The second was another discount offer, this time on nursery furniture – brilliant, but 12 years too late. The third was announcing a new range of clothes for toddlers which again, was totally mis-timed. Getting the timing of a marketing campaign right can be tricky, but surely anyone can work out that whilst baby products would have been relevant to me some years ago, they aren’t now.

Companies like Tesco are masters of using transactional data to match up the right offers with the right customers, but many smaller companies simply don’t have access to mountains of data or the ability to act on it. So what can they do?

Here are a couple of common sense ideas that may help make your marketing campaigns more relevant:

  • Map your customers buying process – including the time period over which your products are likely to be relevant to your customers
  • Know your customers – a research programme or engagement through social media may help you get closer to their needs
  • Keep your data clean – it’s worth taking the time and effort to keep your customer data up to date
  • Take calculated risks – use the data that you have to make an educated guess about what additional products your customers might buy (in the pet suppliers example I’m sure the company could have narrowed my pet ownership down to a rabbit, guinea pig or other small pet).

If your marketing campaigns are relevant they are likely to be more successful and produce a better return for you. Better to spend the time planning the right campaign than irritating customers with irrelevant marketing.

Image: www.tomfishburne.com

Speak the language of your customers

I cooked goulash last weekend and the recipe called for chuck steak. Hmm. Now,  I know my sirloin from my rump and fillet, but my knowledge of individual cuts of meat doesn’t stretch much further than that.  Still, I knew that the recipe called for slow cooking over a long period so I went in search of, what I knew as, braising steak.

Unfortunately our local butcher has recently retired so I had to turn to the supermarket shelves. Here I was faced with endless packs of meat all simply bearing the label ‘cubed beef’. They were helpfully under a banner marked ‘casseroles’…so I knew I was in roughly the right place. I tried, through a process of price comparison,  (logically braising steak would be more expensive than stewing steak so I thought) to find what I wanted, but that all fell apart when I realised that the English beef was more expensive than the Irish (or was it the other way around?). The organic beef was the cheapest of all which totally blew my theory out of the water!

I finally plumped for a nice looking pack of lean meat which simply said ‘beef’ but went away feeling disgruntled that the decision had taken so long. I felt somewhat patronised too and wondered if I was just simply out of date with the language of meat.

In my view, the supermarket had gone too far in their effort to simplify the buying process for the consumer; so far in fact, that they had actually made it more complicated…for some of us at least.

It’s not an easy one for us marketers; customers don’t all use the same terminology and language clearly changes over time. What is important is to put yourself in your customers shoes, keep it simple without assuming your customers are all stupid and test your messages to make sure they really make sense to your target audience.

What is the difference between and stew and a casserole by the way?

Image: www.freedigitalphotos.net

Tell it straight: why clear communication is so important

I have had cause to seek ‘help’ from various quarters in the last few weeks and have encountered varied levels of, shall we say, customer service.

It all started with a trip to A&E; nothing too serious thankfully but stressful all the same. Despite the lengthy wait (which we are all programmed to expect), it was a generally good customer experienced due, in no small part, to the interaction with the staff and their ability and willingness to explain the process to me.

Unfortunately the trip to A&E necessitated rearranging summer holiday plans, which is when the communication all started to fall apart. Tens of calls, several emails and one letter later, I am left wondering why I can’t seem to get a straight answer from anyone!

As consumers few of us read the small print until we have to; how often have you simply clicked ‘agree’ to the terms and conditions without a second thought? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not moaning about the terms themselves; but now I do need to refer to them, it would be good if someone could actually explain what they mean. What is a ‘minor’ change to the holiday for example, and how do I get hold of ‘the manager’ who is able to ‘use his discretion’ to issue a credit note.

Small print, terms & conditions, customer agreements, whatever you call them, are a necessary part of running any business. It seems pretty obvious that they should be clear and unambiguous; but they also need to be supported by processes and procedures so that your staff know exactly what to do when it is necessary to use them.

Can social media level the playing field?

I came across a brilliant example of how  a focused social media strategy really can create results that, in the past,  only an enormous marketing budget could have hoped to achieve.

The ‘product’ in question is football…women’s football to be precise. Women’s football, though supported by the FA to some degree, suffers from a lack of recognition despite the numbers of girls and women now involved in the sport. With a modest marketing budget, teams in the Women’s Super League (WSL), are turning to social media to develop their fan base.

The use of Twitter has been a key part of their strategy with each team in the League nominating an ambassador who engages with fans on a regular basis. Team members display their Twitter account name on their kit to further promote engagement.

The results to date have been encouraging, with social media channels attracting around 80,000 followers. The Fifa Women’s World Cup in July 2011 reportedly attracted over 7,000 tweets per second at its peak; making it one of the most tweeted about events. The real measure of success, attendance of WSL matches, is said to be up by 600%. What other media can boast that kind of success on a relatively low-budget?

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!

Greed and fear: should they be used in your marketing message?

I have been struck by news of the growing, so-called,  ‘compensation culture’ in Britain. The debate centres on the current system that allows insurance companies to  benefit from passing on details of customers involved in accidents to solicitors specialising in compensation claims.

Having recently been contacted by such a firm of solicitors I have first hand experience of their marketing tactics. I have swayed between wonder, at the power and subtlety of their marketing message, and discomfort, that I could actually fall for it.

In trying to persuade me to make a claim they are preying on my fear of the unknown, of what unseen damage could have been caused that may have long-term effects. I like to think of myself as a pretty rational person but, such was the power of the language used, I came away questioning my own convictions.

Fear is known to be effective as a marketing message and if used carefully, appropriately and morally, it can be valid –  for public health messages for example. It also has the potential to offend, upset and destroy customer goodwill if used in the wrong context.

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!

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.