Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting General

Why you shouldn’t suspend your marketing during the Coronavirus pandemic

marketingSMEs have had to close, suspend or reduce their activities due to the Coronavirus pandemic and most are looking for ways to minimise their cash out flow however despite the temptation they should be wary of cutting their marketing budgets.
But if your business disappears from the market and in doing so is no longer top of mind for your customers and clients will you be able to regain your position or will others who continued marketing replace you?
Withdrawing from the market may suggest you have gone out of business, as indeed will be the case for many as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
While it is understandable that SMEs in dire financial straits will want to preserve cash by cutting back on expenditure, some newly-published research from Opinium, released on March 26 has found that people do still want to hear from businesses of many kinds.
The research revealed that “a very large majority of people in the UK would like to hear either the same amount, or even more, from brands” across a range of categories including the essentials such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, supermarkets, food and drink and household goods but also from healthcare to fashion and beauty to entertainment.
Of course, many of you have reacted quickly, communicating your actions and in many cases pivoted your business model as a response to the crisis.
One example is a small bakery that has closed its shop and set up an outside market stall so customers don’t need to go inside and a drive-by collection service for other customers who order by phone and don’t want to get out of their car. Another bakery does deliveries to hospitals and essential worker sites.
There are examples of SMEs in the hospitality and restaurant businesses that have been forced to close their doors to the public and have responded in different ways, in the case of some hotels, by offering accommodation to such people as health care workers or the homeless and restaurants that have quickly established food takeaway and delivery services as well as special deals for key workers such as those in the NHS.
Some in fitness, health and beauty have moved online to offer their services remotely to help people in lockdown stay not only fit and healthy but also to be able to look after their appearance.
Of course, all of these will be remembered positively when the crisis comes to an end and it is likely that their business will recover more quickly that those that shut down. Plus, if your business has a website you need to protect its place in the search engine rankings with regular blog posts and ongoing marketing activity.
Perhaps more surprisingly the research found that many people want “brands to talk about something other than the pandemic”.
“This desire for something different is symptomatic of a consumer who is struggling to find their place in a drastically different world”, it says. So, any marketing that can convey some sense of normality is good for your business.
Opinium also asked people what were their preferred forms of marketing communication and top of the list came TV advertising (31%) and e-mails (40%).
While the desire to cut the marketing budget may be understandable when margins are tight, clearly it is far from the right thing to do if you want your business to return after the crisis.

Business Development & Marketing General

How should SMEs adapt their Social Media marketing after the recent data scandal?

social media marketingThe harvesting by Cambridge Analytica (CA) of the personal details of an estimated 87 million Facebook users is rightly being investigated by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
It has been alleged that CA, which has since gone out of business, used the data to help their customers to try to influence the outcome of elections and referenda in many parts of the world, notably during the US presidential campaign and also during the UK’s 2016 referendum on leaving the EU.
Whether these attempts were successful remains to be seen, but the episode does raise questions about individuals’ rights on Social Media, especially in the light of the imminent introduction of new Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
While individuals ultimately have the responsibility for deciding who can see their interactions on social media, and therefore, if they don’t act could be argued to be fair game, it is likely that GDPR will at least force social media platforms to be more careful to whom they permit data access.

What difference does all this make to promotional activities on Social Media?

The first question is whether Facebook, Twitter and other social media users will be less active on these platforms.
So far, it seems not. Research by Reuters/Ipsos in the US has found that a quarter of Facebook users in the survey said they used it less or had left it but another quarter said they used it even more. The other half said their use had not changed.
As yet, there have been no similar surveys on the other side of the Atlantic and the situation is only likely to become a little clearer when Facebook reveals its next quarterly profits.
Facebook, particularly, but also other platforms, derives most of its revenue from advertising on its pages. This has been claimed to be particularly useful to small businesses, especially those that operate within defined local areas.
But it is questionable whether using it to generate sales directly is quite so effective as is claimed. Indeed, Facebook users have recently had to choose whether Facebook can collect and use personal data to serve targeted ads where the opt-out means users will see general ones; there was no opt-out from seeing ads.
Businesses can also use Social Media effectively to raise their brand’s profile, enhance their reputation and drive visitors to their websites and so far, there appears to be no reason why they should not continue to do so. However, like Google AdWords that are served to online searches the social media platforms are restricting visibility in favour of paid-for access to eyeballs.
Nevertheless, despite the influence peddled by CA and restrictions imposed by GDPR, businesses should still recognise that Social Media is becoming a key ingredient of the promotion mix.
As a consequence, businesses need to be very careful about collecting and analysing the personal data of customers, especially with regard to consent.

Business Development & Marketing General

How not to do email marketing

avoid email marketing being seen as spamTrying to catch people’s attention is not easy when their email inbox is flooded with emails they feel they have not asked for and have no time to read.
So, any business planning an email marketing campaign that wants to attract readers’ attention, whether it is passive to stay ‘top of mind’, or active and get them to sign up to offers, make further inquiries or buy an item, needs its communications to be engaging, relevant to the recipient and succinct.
Of course, an accurate profile of the ideal recipient, whether influencer or customer should have been researched and the goal of the piece of marketing clearly defined. So, writing the e-mail’s content should be relatively straightforward, shouldn’t it?
Indeed, irrespective of how great the content is, getting recipients to open emails to read great content is a challenge.
There are plenty of pitfalls to avoid if you don’t want your communication to be marked as spam or be listed as ‘unsubscribe’.

What to avoid when writing content for an email marketing campaign

A business’ credibility can be easily wrecked by an email containing spelling errors, typographical errors or broken links. The advice is to proof read thoroughly and preferably using someone who has not been involved in the writing.
Do not use deceptive subject lines that imply the sender and recipient have been in an ongoing conversation when they clearly have not been. Equally, do not send emails with no-reply to sender addresses. It is a disincentive to those who might be willing to engage further.
Whatever the purpose of the email, make sure it offers something of value in a way that interests the reader – hence the importance of a detailed customer profile.
This should be the first message before explaining how the sender business can satisfy that requirement, and even then, keep any information about the company as short as possible.
The subject header is key to getting the recipient to open the email. Once opened the recipient shouldn’t feel they have been duped into opening it, instead they should feel pleased they did.
Too many calls to action can feel like bullying or badgering and can be off-putting.
If the email is to contain images they should not take too long to load onscreen.  At the same time, do not rely solely on an image for the email.  Image-only emails are often seen as spam.
And finally, you have just eight seconds at most to get the reader engaged and interested so KISS (Keep it Simple and Short) is the way to go.

Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Blogging for your business

blogging for businessSmall business owners often ask why they need a blog on their website, especially when their business is in a specific niche and the majority of its customers or clients are long term or come via recommendation.
We would argue that there is no room for complacency in any business. It is unlikely that there is a business anywhere in the world that has absolutely no competition. This means that even when business turnover and profits are performing in line with the business plan, the business should be paying attention to its customers, its marketing and promotion.
A blog can be a useful way of keeping the business website at the top of the search engine rankings, such as Google.  Search engines rate websites on the basis of them being updated regularly and the relevance of content. No longer to they promote business websites that are effectively an online brochure listing products or services which do not change regularly.
A blog/news section can deal with this effectively, provided it is updated regularly. It will also help keep the business focused on its content marketing strategy. Blogging needs a schedule to continuously deliver relevant and meaningful content.
Blogging is a very cost-effective investment since blogs remain on a website and over time become long-term assets.

What is a blog and what is its purpose?

A blog is a short article that can either be used to announce a new development, an award the business has won, to explain more about products or services or to give customers additional and related information that might be of interest.
Blogging for your business helps to build brand awareness, keeping the business name in the public eye.  It can be used to promote your expertise, products and services.
A blog creates a place to talk about new products or services, comment on timely news topics or market trends relevant to the business and to give a business “personality”.

How do I find the time?

There is no doubt that the need to produce a regular blog can be relentless.  Having started and begun to build awareness and expectation among readers it has to be kept going.
It can be challenging and many people are not confident about their ability to write effectively and engagingly.
This is easily solved by working in collaboration with a marketing content writer.  The business owner knows about their business but often having the perspective of an outsider can generate more and better ideas.
However, this can only work well if the business owner is committed to regular “brainstorming” meetings or calls and equally to reading through and approving drafts before they are uploaded as a blog.
Regular blogging for your business is like other marketing initiatives; it is a way of demonstrating your commitment to clients which is necessary if you are to retain them.

Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Are businessmen missing out by not engaging with Facebook?

facebook demographic insightsThere is no doubt that digital marketing, marketing online, social media marketing, whatever name you give it, is now firmly established as an essential ingredient in a business’ marketing mix.
Among the well-known social media platforms Facebook continues to dominate both globally and nationally with over 1.6 billion active monthly users.
The relative stats report Twitter having 320 million active users and LinkedIn having 420 million users.
But while regular surveys, from Pew Research, and even the UK’s Ofcom have over the years consistently shown that more women than men use and interact with Facebook regularly, the platform has successfully moved itself from being primarily about social interaction to being increasingly a place that businesses ignore at their peril.
The age group most active on Facebook is 25-34 year olds (26% of users) yet, again, women by far outnumber men when it comes to interactions, not only with friends and family but also on business pages.
In its most recent analysis of reasons for interacting with companies on Facebook cites the two top reasons from a chart compiled by Statistica as “to receive offers/competitions” (69%)and “to keep up to date with the latest news about them” (68%).

So why do so few men in the most active demographic interact?

While there is no hard evidence, there could be a number of explanations.  They could range from “no time” to a misperception that Facebook is primarily for social use.
Yet for the CEO or senior management of a SME, especially one whose primary sphere of operation is local or regional, Facebook can be a rich source of information about potential customers and clients.
Among the standard features on a business page are the opportunities for customers to post reviews as well as comments, both providing valuable sources of information for the business as well as helping to promote the brand.
Page Insights enable a business to find information about their customers’ profiles such as when they are most active, what posts they have been most attracted to engage with either by liking or commenting.
This information will enable a business’ marketing team with the knowledge to interpret the statistics to refine its digital marketing to better target its ideal customers.
But if a business is not primarily aimed at women in preference to men, all the statistical information available is likely to be somewhat skewed if there is a gender imbalance in viewers’ interaction.
Of course, that might imply that marketing should be adjusted to include information that will appeal to both genders, but it also suggests that perhaps men visiting a page should be more prepared to get involved and give feedback.

Business Development & Marketing Finance General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery

What data is available for businesses from Facebook?

We continue our look at social media and the importance of checking on how it is performing for your business and now turn our attention to Facebook.
While originally Facebook was set up for online social use it has increasingly become a marketing platform for businesses and in particular online retail.
When looking at the results of any business marketing carried out on a Facebook business page it is important to keep in mind your customer profile and location.

How to find Facebook analytical information

Facebook SS1You must be logged in to see the information and you need to be on the business page.
Facebook analytics are called “insights” and they can be accessed by clicking on the link in the white menu bar at the top of the business page. All the information is given in visual and numerical form making it easy to follow what has been happening on the page.
The first option is an Overview, which covers the last seven days, although this can be re-set to show the last 28 days.
facebook posts performanceThe Overview will show the reach, which is the number of people to whom your posts have been distributed.  It also shows the performance of the five most recent posts on the page, giving the reach and interaction (the number of people who have engaged with each post) for each.
If you have added pages to watch, perhaps of your competitors, the Overview will show the total page likes, number of posts and engagements and the percentage change, either positive or negative for each watched page.
The Overview gives a snapshot of performance over the chosen period.
Having gained an impression it is possible to look in more depth at the reach, page views, actions on page, posts, people (by age and gender) and if the business page has been set up as a local business the local analytics provide more in-depth information about hourly, weekly and overall behaviour of people following the business page who are within 50 miles of the business.
It also gives information about the age and gender of the people who have visited your page and what time of day they did so.

Using the information

It is worth remembering that insights are a snapshot of behaviour for seven or 28 days back from the day on which you are looking and therefore to pick up any trends it will be necessary to revisit insights regularly.  How to use the information to adjust marketing activity will be the subject of a future blog.