Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting General

Have you reviewed your marketing strategy?

time for a marketing strategy reviewConditions and circumstances in business constantly change so it is necessary to regularly review all your various activities and certainly do so at least once a year.
The New Year is an ideal time to do this, and in particular to revisit your marketing strategy, especially in the light of the confusion and uncertainty that has surrounded the business climate during the ongoing indecision about the way forward on leaving the EU.
There is some evidence that SMEs have been holding off on investment decisions and in searching for new business in the light of this and there is also the temptation to hold back on marketing expenditure.
However, the general advice is that you should not scale back on marketing during an economic downturn or when there is uncertainty. The argument is that even if your business is a well-known name if it disappears from view existing and potential customers may conclude that you have gone out of business.
If anything, this might be a good time to beef up your marketing strategy, thus sending out the signal that you have confidence in your business and its future.

One size does not fit all in marketing strategy

Marketers are always keen to encourage clients into engaging activities in whatever the newest tactic is but this can be a waste of money as well as diluting your message if all your competitors are jumping on the same bandwagon.
Retaining existing customers should be a key component of any strategy, not just finding new ones especially when there is a lot of change in your market. Indeed a downturn can be a huge opportunity if your competitors are not focussed on retaining their customers.
Marketing is not just about promotion and selling but also involves having products and services that customers want, distributing them in a way that makes it easy for them to find and buy, and setting a price they are happy to pay that leaves you with sufficient profit to justify the effort.
If you set up your marketing strategy having first identified your ideal customers and created profiles for them as well as identifying where they are most likely to be active, you will already have a key element of your marketing strategy in place.
You should also have a clear idea, if you regularly check the metrics, (results of activity) where your efforts have gained the most traction, whether this is visits to your website and how long visitors stay there, or whether it is the interaction you have gained on social media platforms, or the viewings and engagement of email marketing.
Equally, you should have an idea of what promotion activity works best, such as adverts, articles, leaflets, blogs, videos, or emails as examples.
Often businesses believe that they must take up the latest promotion idea, whether it is appropriate to them or not, as was the case with videos, resulting in a plethora of frankly dull “talking heads” that eventually turn off viewers.
The best marketing strategy has clear goals, whether to get your business name recognised, to sell products and services, build a trustworthy reputation or to position yourself as an expert in your field.
How you achieve this will depend on your type of business, whether B2B or B2C, the platforms you engage on and how well-produced your promotion materials are.
Most importantly all marketing should put the customer and their concerns first and create a rapport that convinces them that you do truly understand their needs.

Business Development & Marketing General

How should SMEs approach their marketing post-GDPR?

guerilla marketing post-GDPRMany SMEs issued emails to the contacts on their lists asking them whether they still wished to receive their marketing post-GDPR.
It has been suggested that many of these businesses were already GDPR compliant and such action may not have been necessary. The estimated the opt-in rate in response to requests has been approximately 10%, drastically cutting business contact lists if those who haven’t opted-in are removed.
However, rather than see this outcome as a disaster or as signalling the death of e-mail and digital marketing, it could be argued that it is a timely reminder that your marketing activity needs to be reviewed. I would argue that it should be regularly monitored, scrutinised and refreshed.
After all, as one small business recently told me, having a lengthy list of customers going back ten years or more is not in itself valuable if a proportion of them have neither communicated nor bought anything for years!
The beefing up of privacy regulations, therefore, can be seen as a prompt to review your marketing goals, tactics and strategies post-GDPR and there are a number of things you should do in response.
Obviously, you should have clear policies on privacy and these should be easily available for your customers to read on websites or as hard copy, as well as being mentioned on website contact forms and pages.
You should also review which of your staff have access to online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on, that the business uses, ensure that they know exactly what they can and can’t say in line with both GDPR and company policy. They should also be aware that they may face disciplinary proceedings if they do anything that could damage the company’s reputation and most importantly they should be given adequate training to do it correctly.

Innovative and targeted marketing post-GDPR

But the change also means you may need to be more detailed and specific about the post-GDPR marketing in several other ways.
Firstly, you should look again at and refine the data you hold for your customers.  To effectively target the right potential customers or clients, data is key to the effective and economical use of marketing initiatives, but you should not hold inappropriate or unnecessary personal information.
If you monitor customer behaviour as a means of identifying key characteristics, as many e-commerce businesses do, you should ensure it is done in a way that is compliant with privacy regulations and does not constitute “spying” such as profiling or analysing without permission.
Secondly, as ever, the marketing goals post-GDPR need to be tightly defined and their effectiveness monitored whether they are about raising the business’ profile, encouraging trust or name recognition or for a specific initiative.
This means that any marketing activity, from emails to social media messages needs to be carefully and perhaps more tightly written.
It may also be worth exploring new marketing forms such as nudge marketing and guerrilla marketing.
Nudge marketing, first defined by Richard Thaler, is a technique for encouraging people to make decisions that are in their interests (as well as those of your business). A good example was the UK Government drive to encourage people to save for a pension. It introduced auto enrolment, which was compulsory on employers.
Employees had to actively opt-out and make their own provision if they did not want to be in the employer’s scheme.  The result was that the numbers of those saving for pensions increased significantly.
Guerrilla marketing uses low-cost and unconventional tactics, such as a flash mob, using stencil graffiti, stickers, or, as in one successful mobile phone campaign 2002, using actors who appeared to be just part of the general crowd and asked strangers to take a photo of them. During the interaction, the actors would rave about their cool new phone.  The point is to create a buzz, to be memorable and to get people talking in a way that spreads organically.
It may be that in the process of refreshing or redefining your marketing plan post-GDPR you will also find that some traditional forms of marketing, such as an actual letter to named customers advising them of a new initiative or offer that is time-limited, will also see a revival.
You should be mindful that marketing strategy and techniques never stand still and are constantly evolving and are only limited by the imagination.
As for how to deal with those who haven’t opted-in, it may be worth going through the list in detail to see if you have a ‘legitimate reason’ for keeping certain contacts. There is a huge difference between those on your database who made enquiries or were customers and those who were ‘scraped’ from a list. For B2B businesses you might consider that business emails are OK while personal ones should be removed. You might also send a more tailored email before simply deleting them.
Lawyers most likely will advise you to remove everyone who hasn’t opted in but this is understandable given that the new regulations haven’t been tested in court and they are right to be cautious. Whatever you do, you should log your decision and the reasoning behind it.
Happy marketing

Business Development & Marketing General

There’s no “one size fits all” marketing strategy

It is fair to say that marketing in all its forms should be an ongoing activity for SMEs in both good and bad times.
This should be regarded as a universally-applicable rule and arguably the only other such rule about marketing is that there should be a clear marketing strategy and a plan that establishes discipline over expenditure and monitoring results.
Beyond that, however, so many businesses fall at the first hurdle, which is collecting the information on which to base a strategy and plan.
Identifying ideal customers to target is the first step. For an existing business they may be easier to identify but for a new business it is essential to define the customers to target in any marketing campaign. Who are they? What is their buying behaviour?
Where are you most likely to find them, particularly online? How are you going to approach them? Why will they buy from you?
All this should be obvious but it is surprising how many businesses buy advertising or embark on getting a website or setting up a business page on social media without doing so.
Then there is the question of what you want from your marketing. Is it about getting your company’s name and business known (brand recognition), about maintaining a good relationship with existing customers or about generating leads to new potential customers?
Marketing can be pro-active or reactive and different campaigns are needed for each objective to get the best return on the investment from a marketing budget.
There are so many “marketing gurus” around that this research is essential to help you to decide which of them is knowledgeable and which best avoided.

Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting General Turnaround

Self Employed? You need to think like a Business


The government has been playing up a rise in disposable income, culled from figures compiled by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), but there is one fact that has been conveniently ignored.

This is that the ONS pay figures do not include earnings by the self-employed.

According to the research organisation the Resolution Foundation, the numbers of self-employed have increased by 26 per cent between 2002 and 2013 while their median reported income had dropped by 28% (approximately £4,000) between 2001 and 2010.

The TUC estimates that  540,000 of the approximately 1 million jobs created since 2008 have been through self-employment.

These are the people who supply the “outsourced” services – from plumbing to IT to Marketing to Consulting – that SMEs rely on.  They are also themselves SMEs as far as HMRC is concerned, where they are classified as sole traders.

No matter what their skills, arguably these are micro businesses with potential to grow, and as the economic recovery continues, they will hopefully be able to benefit.

But like any business, even a one-person micro business needs to set goals, have a business plan, understand finance, and have a marketing strategy for advertising and promoting themselves to generate business leads. 

Furthermore they need a passion and determination to succeed.  Being self-employed can be a lonely existence but need not be with the support of mentors, local networking and business organisations, industry groups or business advisors, any and all of whom can make a huge difference.