Don’t stop Marketing for the summer

Have you stopped marketing over the summer?

  1. Everyone’s away for the summer.
  2. Nobody makes any decisions over the summer
  3. There’s no point in doing any marketing over the summer

Every year I hear the same old reasons for not doing any marketing over the summer. Let’s have a look at this in more detail and see whether there is any benefit in not doing any marketing over the summer…

There are 39 million people of working age in the UK (removing those under 18, in education and of pensionable age). There are 5.5 million businesses in the UK, of all sizes. Let’s keep the maths simple and assume one decision maker per company, so 5.5 million decision makers.

The school holidays are six weeks long (give or take a day or two). Most people try and spread their holidays through the year, so will have two in the summer and the rest another time.

If 5.5 million people have two weeks off in the summer, there are still 4 weeks where they are at work.

During this period, they will have problems they need solving. Their IT and telephones will have problems. Some companies have their year end at the end of June, July or August, so will need accounts doing. Many companies will refurbish their offices “whilst everyone is on holiday(!)” and some may even look to change their marketing consultant…

The whole country is not like Vauxhall’s Luton plant where everyone is off for the last two weeks in August. The UK isn’t Paris, that does apparently empty during August (leaves more room for the tourists)

Now let’s think about when people “return” in September. All of a sudden they are looking for help with all the issues they didn’t resolve over the summer. Who are they going to use?

  1. Their usual supplier, even if they haven’t been doing that good a job (wouldn’t be an issue if they had been)?
  2. The company they’ve never heard of who first contacts them on September 1st ?
  3. The company who has been communicating with them for the last few weeks or months, perhaps sharing useful information and case studies, showing they understand that prospect?

By maintaining your marketing activity throughout the year, you are doing X things:

  1. Developing and maintaining brand awareness, so that prospects recognise your company name when you pick up the phone.
  2. Demonstrating you can deliver consistently. If you can deliver a regular stream of marketing activity, it’s likely you can deliver consistently throughout the business.
  3. Showing your target audience that they are important to you and that you want their business.
  4. Keeping your company in the backs of their minds, so when they do decide to look to the market for a supplier of what you sell, you are highly likely to be one of those they talk to.

Every day we are exposed to 1,000’s of messages and there is only so much room in our heads for all those messages. Some we will automatically filter out, simply because they are never going to be relevant. Others will be pushed out, simply because we run out of storage space. If you aren’t replacing and reinforcing your messages in the minds of your target audience, you run the risk of them forgetting about you just at the time they decide they need what you sell. If your competitors have been making lots of noise over the summer, guess who they will be talking to.

How marketing data can help you close more sales

marketing data helps you sell more

You want more leads from your marketing so that you can generate more sales.

I know it’s an obvious statement, but let me challenge it for a moment.

What if you could close more of the leads you get?  Would that be just as good?

Your marketing is planned and implemented with the sole aim of generating more leads for your business. Now some will say that it is also there to develop and maintain brand awareness (usually those focused on social media), but brand awareness is there to ensure that people know who you are and what you do – so they can buy from you when the right time arises.

The question is: when is the right time?

Answer: when the data tells you it is the right time.

Let me explain.

As a B2B business (most SME Needs’ clients are B2B), you are luckier than most B2C clients.  You get a little bit more data to help you know about your clients. Let’s look at the data that is available to you and then we’ll combine it to help you close more sales.

IP Addresses

Google defines an IP address as: “a unique string of numbers separated by full stops that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over a network.” When you are working in the B2B space, far more of the traffic to your website will come from fixed IP addresses, because many businesses have a fixed IP, rather than a dynamic one. (click here for an explanation of the difference between dynamic and fixed IPs) That means it is registered to them and so you can find out what company your visitor came from.

Email data

Your email marketing will tell you what the people on your mailing lists are doing. It will tell you who is reading (opening) your emails. It will tell you who is engaging with the Calls to Action you put in your emails. Over time, it will tell you who is engaged and who isn’t.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics won’t help you sell more (at least not directly), but it will tell you which pages on your website are working and which aren’t. It will tell you how many people are returning to your website (as a %age of total audience) and how they got there. It will even tell you how far down your pages they read.

Web Analytics

Web analytics takes things a step further and shows you what happens in individual visits and starts adding other data to those visits. Many platforms will add the IP address (see above) so you know what companies are visiting your website. If you know who your Ideal Client is, you’ve got a good chance of being able to close in on the visitor.

Web analytics will show you the path an individual visitor took through your website. Email data will show you the page they clicked through to, but not what happened then; web analytics will.

This data can show you WHO is visiting your website, what they are looking at and when they are returning. Would that be useful?

What shall I talk about?

Many sales calls go something like this:

  • Tell me about your issue.
  • These are all the things we do, so you can work out which are going to be useful to you
  • When can I come to your office and repeat what I’ve just told you?

Would this be better?

  • Tell me about your issue
  • This product/service is just what you need, as it will help with your issue
  • When can I come to your office and help you understand more about how this will help resolve your issue?

Imagine a scenario where you knew what products or services they were interested in. If you knew what they’d been looking at on your website, you know they’ve already starting thinking that service/product can help. All you’ve got to do is continue extolling the benefits and the results achievable from it. Guess what: web analytics can tell you what that person is looking at and how frequently.

When should I talk to them?

One of the most critical aspects of sales is knowing when to talk to your prospects. So if you know when someone has visited your website, you know when they are thinking about your business and your products or services. Web analytics can tell you when they return, with most platforms having functionality that will email you when someone returns to your website.

At this point, we don’t recommend you call them immediately, as that would be a little too big-brother-ish. But there’s nothing stopping you calling them later:

You: Just following up on our last conversation

Them: That’s great timing. I was looking at your website yesterday

You: Were you? What were you looking for?

Them: Just checking your [insert your product name]

You: How about we have a coffee and talk more about [insert your product name] and how it can help you.

Following up when you know they are interested in you and thinking about you dramatically increases the chances of you moving them further through your pipeline and to closing them as a new client.

If you would like to see how this works, click here.

 

Nobody buys from people they’ve never heard of, or do they?

Back in the “olden days” when you would never get fired for buying IBM, companies spent a huge amount of money generating the brand awareness and brand trust that meant they would be considered as “an IBM brand”. Today, things have changed somewhat and people will buy from brands they’ve never heard of. There is, however, a big proviso in that purchase.

There has to be a very low level of perceived risk. Let’s look at some examples to explain what I mean.

Tertiary Brands

Back in the 90’s, the supermarkets started introducing what they called tertiary brands. These were the precursors to the value ranges that most of the supermarkets went on to develop. The tertiary brands were cheap versions of either branded or own-brand products. They would be very cheap and so, even if they didn’t taste particularly nice, you, as a consumer, hadn’t lost much. In the minds of the buyers of these products, there was a perceived monetary loss, but only a small one and so many people bought these products. They, no doubt, believed that the supermarkets wouldn’t sell anything that was that bad.

The Nokia 3310

nokia 3310With the Nokia 3310 making a comeback, it reminds of the days when that phone was de rigeur. Even in the days before Facebook and Instagram, you really weren’t cool if you had a Sony Ericsson phone. However, many people (including yours truly) bought something without the Nokia badge on it and risked what our friends would say. Personally, I rarely run with the crowd and so that was my main reason for not buying a 3310.

Amazon

Amazon now enables 1000’s of brands that few have ever heard of to offer their products to the marketplace. There are very few products that you cannot find on Amazon.  In the same vein, Ebay allows us to buy from people we’ve never heard of, never mine brands.  £millions are spent every day on both new and secondhand products where we have no clue whether they are going to be any good, or even work.  Luckily for us, the peer reviews fellow purchasers provide allow us to reduce the risk in our minds before pressing “Add to Basket”.

So what do all of these have in common?

They met a need in the market at the time, either now or in the past.

Do you meet a need?

When a decision maker is considering purchasing from you for the first time, your marketing has to do the following:

  1. Show that you help them resolve a need
  2. Reduce the level of perceived risk to an acceptable level.

Reducing perceived risk

In a B2B market, price is a factor, but rarely the sole factor. The old adage still fits: “There is good, quick and cheap.  You can have any two, but not all three”.

Price is going to help, but to me the key factor is proof.  Show your target audience the evidence you have that shows you can deliver on their needs.

We’ll start looking at the different types of evidence next week..

I hope this helps

Likes don’t pay the bills – a targeting case study

social media likesSocial media is a wonderful thing. Used well, it will drive brand awareness, maintain connections with your stakeholders and generate leads. But used poorly, it can chew up your time for very little return.

As you will see every 4th week, going forward from here, we will be using a case study to demonstrate what our blogs have been discussing for the previous three weeks.

An e-commerce company I have worked with has been using social media as part of its marketing mix for several years now. They would run competitions monthly to engage their followers and encourage them to interact and increase the reach of their brand. It seemed to be working too. The number of Likes continued to increase.

However, there was a problem. Our research showed that their typical buyer was a middle-aged man. This man lived in a suburban or rural location with a fairly big house and garden.  With an average unit sales value of around £300, the buyers needed to be fairly affluent.

When we ran the same research within their social media audience, the results were somewhat different. Middle aged women in urban locations were entering the competitions to win prizes that they would rarely use.

The audience they were attracting on social media was not there to get to know the brand, to flow through to their website and buy from them. They were simply there to win the prizes.

So what does this say about their social media?

They are attracting the wrong people!

But they have 1000’s of Likes and Follows I hear you say. The problem is that they aren’t getting what they really want: sales.

There is little point in spending time and money running social media campaigns that attract the wrong people.

The solution:

  • Post content that will attract their target audience.
  • Perhaps run Q&A sessions around what they sell to help people use their purchases more effectively.
  • Encourage customers to follow them on social media and post comments/images of their purchases in action.

What they need is their customers’ peers to engage on social media, so that they are tempted into buying. I’m not saying this is easy, but it’s got to be better than wasting money giving away stuff that isn’t encouraging others to buy.

I hope this helps

 

5 steps to better engagement

Every business has a range of issues they need to solve, problems they need solutions to and desires they would love to fulfill.

If I want to sell you my marketing services, I have to show you that I understand those needs, issues and desires that relate to your stakeholder communication, to your growth plans and to your worries about maintaining a consistent level of marketing activity.

You have to do the same for your target audience.

The good thing is that you almost certainly have all of the knowledge you need to do that. If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are concerned you aren’t doing it.  Let’s see if I can help.

What does your target audience look like?

My previous blogs on Ideal Client and Target audience will help you describe your target audience, but I’m willing to state that it looks a lot like the most frequent type of client you have worked with over the last few years.

What were their problems?

When you look back at your clients’ needs, what were they?  There is almost certainly a number of similar issues that occurred across your client base.  Unless they are in a very fast moving sector, the chances are that the problems faced by your target audience are similar to those faced by your clients now. Even if the fast moving sectors, I am sure you can identify what has changed and therefore how what you do is changing, or can change.

How did their problems show in their business?

Cause and symptoms are not always the same but you will be able to describe how your clients’ issues were manifesting themselves in their business. This will help your prospects to qualify themselves as someone you can help.

Let me give you an example:

We were asked to review a company’s Adwords campaign after they told me that it was working. It wasn’t delivering any leads.

When we looked more closely, the issue wasn’t the Adwords campaign. That was working tremendously well.  The problem was actually their website: with a 94% bounce rate! In this case we recommended they turn off Adwords for a period of time and then fix the website. We saved them over £2000 per month.  The symptom here was a lack of leads, but the cause wasn’t a poor Adwords campaign; it was a poor website.

You will have lots of stories just like this that you can use in your marketing to show your target audience that you understand them.

What does a successful resolution look like?

Your customers are, I hope, a happy bunch. You’ve been delivering a great solution to them for years. So you know what success looks like. Are you asking your target audience whether they want to achieve similar results? Chances are they are. Are you challenging them to picture success in their minds? Success you know you can deliver and you have the evidence to prove it.

All the knowledge you need you already have. It is simply a case of getting it out of your head and into your marketing.

I hope this helps

From Ideal Client to Target Audience

Moving from Ideal Client to Target Audience

Last week’s blog defined an Ideal Client and the fact that having a solid definition of who (it is always a who) is your Ideal Client helps you to focus your marketing and be more effective. Now let’s look at what happens when you market to this highly focused group.

Let’s define your target audience as HR Directors of UK companies in Information Technology.

Let’s imagine your service helps HR Directors to assess the skills and attitude of developers via an online portal. Although there are lots of developers out there, finding one with the right mix of skills is not easy. Your reason for targeting companies with HR Directors is purely size.  These companies probably recruit developers regularly as they look to grow their development team or simply replace those that leave.
LinkedInAccording to LinkedIn, there are currently 532 in the UK-based HR Directors of IT companies.

You have developed a series of key messages that talk of how you can help these HR Directors. You have a convincing set of evidence which proves you can walk the walk. Your marketing programme aims directly at these 532 (or more) HR Directors of UK-based IT companies.

Let’s now look at who else your key messages are likely to resonate with:

 

UK HR Directors

Depending upon just how your application is written, I am sure that every other HR Director in the country also worries about recruiting the right people with the right skills and attitude.

Maybe you’ve done some work for companies who aren’t in the IT sector and could use that evidence to talk to other HR Directors if they get in touch.

There are 4,066 HR Directors in the UK.

UK HR Managers

Companies that don’t put enough credence into the HR role may only have a HR Manager, or they may be a little smaller than your Ideal Client. They still have issues in recruiting good staff and your application may be able to help them.

There are 58,932 HR Managers in the UK

So far we haven’t even left the UK and the marketing programme you develop to focus on just 532 people may resonate with a further 63,000 people.

Your outbound marketing will be aimed specifically at your core audience, but the supporting content marketing and inbound activity is highly likely to generate 78 enquiries from within this audience of 63,000.

Would you turn them away?

Richard Branson is not your Ideal Client. Who is?

Richard Branson is not your Ideal ClientIf you could have anyone in the world buy your product or services, who would it be?

If I asked this question to 100 people, chances are 30%+ would say Richard Branson (or another very rich person). Another 30-40% would say “as many people as possible”. 10-15% would say “I don’t know really”, with just a small percentage of people being able to give a good description of an ideal client. They may even name someone.

Let’s address the Richard Branson issue first:

  • Richard Branson is the figurehead for the Virgin group of companies but spends most of his time on not for profit activities.
  • He has management teams within every company to buy new products and services and so is highly unlikely to be the decision maker.
  • I don’t believe he is the sort of person who will tell his senior team that they “have to buy” something. He may introduce you.

Richard, if you do read this, I’d love your opinion!

Anyway, back to your Ideal Client.

Your network is a good source of opportunities and leads for your business. Do you think that if you gave them a good description (or even a name) of your Ideal Client, it would help them to find more, or better, leads for you?

Next week’s blog will talk more about how you move from Ideal Client to Target Audience, but let me touch on it just a little now.

Having an Ideal Client doesn’t mean that they are the only people you want to sell to. If you want to talk to, for example, HR Directors of large SMEs in London, I bet they face very similar issues to HR Directors of large SMEs in Birmingham or Brighton. I bet these people within small Enterprise level businesses also have the same issues. Would you turn them away? Didn’t think so..

 Your Ideal Client is:

  1. The decision maker within the type of company you want to sell into.
  2. This company will have a real need for what you sell, and
  3. You will be able to clearly show them how you provide a solution to a problem within their business.
  4. This company will be in your geographic area (whatever that may be).
  5. They are likely to be in an industry sector where you have a great deal of experience, unless you are entering a new market.

Having an Ideal Client enables you to focus. It means you can identify their pains/needs/issues/wants and develop the messages you need to communicate how your solution can help them. It helps you to engage with the people most likely to buy from you.

Just in case you’re wondering, this is mine:

The Owner/Managing Director of a technology business that is committed to growth and who doesn’t have a senior Marketing Manager/Director in the business. They will be based within 20 miles of my office in Croydon and have been trading for at least three years.

Having said this, I have clients in Manchester. I have clients who sell holidays and coaching and have worked with retailers of gardening equipment and veterinary services. Just because my marketing is focused on my Ideal Client, it doesn’t mean it will not resonate with others and encourage them to get in touch.

 

I hope this helps.

You’ve sold something, what next?

Congratulations, your marketing has grabbed the attention of your target audience. It’s got them interested by showing them you understand them and you can help. You’ve engaged them through evidence and used stories during the sales process to demonstrate you can deliver on your promises. Throughout the process you’ve worked to manage the levels of perceived risk in their minds and your ideal client has signed on the dotted line. Now what do you do?

Sell some more

How can you use your latest sale to generate more? What are your options?

Gain a bigger share of their spend

When they signed on the dotted line, I doubt they signed for every service you can provide them. Although it is unlikely they will sign for another service straight away, you can work on demonstrating firstly that they made the right decision to use your services. After that you have the opportunity to discuss how the rest of your portfolio can also help them.
Follow the process again:

Generate awareness – do they even know what else they can get from you?

  • Educate them on two things:
  • How they will benefit from using more of what you provide.
  • How they will suffer if they don’t.

Prove to them that you have helped others, particularly their peers, with similar issues to theirs

Once they start talking to you, tell them the stories they need to hear

Give them the right deal

Remember that the level of risk in their minds will be far lower this time because they’ve already bought from you.

Ask them to spread the word

Once they have experienced how good your services are, ask them to tell their network. You’ve shown you can deliver and that their reputation is safe in your hands. They will know other people who have similar issues to their’s.
They may be proactive in providing referrals, but the chances are you will need to ask them. I know it’s always a worry (because they might say now) but if you time the question right (just after you deliver a great result), the chances are high they will do what you ask.

Use the Evidence

The 3rd stage above uses evidence to help your target audience make the right decision. You need to generate a regular flow of evidence that will help future prospects to buy from you. The sale you’ve just made can become the latest evidence.

Keep Talking to them

Just because someone has bought from you doesn’t mean they will continue to buy from you. Whether that is a repeat purchase or something else, there are others who they can buy from.
A recent project of mine identified that my client was only generating a 5% repeat purchase rate. They were good at generating that first sale, but then didn’t talk to them anymore. We implemented a programme of email communication to both educate buyers on how to get the best from their purchase and to inform them of what else they can buy. Simply by setting up a programme of continual communication, the repeat purchase rate increased to over 10% in less than 6 months – for a product range you are unlikely to replace for at least 5 years.

Sales in a B2B environment are not something that happen every day so making the best use of the sales you do make is key if you are to really grow the business.

I hope this helps.

Lessons from a Brighton Bar

Demand generation lessons

The beachfront at Brighton is rarely a quiet place. Even in the winter, you will see a number of brave/foolhardy/daft* souls walking on the beach, the promenade and the pier.

This weekend was always going to be a busy one, with plenty of sunshine and the Brighton Marathon, but my wife and I took the kids anyway. Whether we’d remembered about the marathon or not is besides the point.  It was when we went looking for some lunch that I noticed a great lesson in demand generation.  Let me explain.

The bar in the picture is the Brighton Music Hall.  As we arrived, it looked very busy, with few tables available. What I hadn’t seen at that time was the stack of picnic benches to one side.  By not having all of their tables out, the crowd is concentrated together and makes it look busier than perhaps it really was.

The clever piece was the way they managed the addition of tables. As they saw that the turnover of guests seemed to slow, they added another row of tables that were quickly filled by new guests walking off the promenade. After all, there are few people who don’t measure the quality of an unknown restaurant by the crowd of diners.

I was looking at another company earlier today – a completely different business – who also managed their demand well. They did it by saying, on their website, that they are completely booked for April & May, but they are still happy to talk.  Again, by suggesting they are really busy, they portray themselves as providing a sought-after service.

The lessons here:

  • Keep a good eye on your customers
  • Make them think you are popular – meaning more will want you
  • Keep talking to them. Keep them informed, even when you are really busy

 

 

 

*delete as appropriate

I want to talk to…

In the UK there are 689,890 companies[1], 190,978 of them meet the EU definition of an SME and so, theoretically, they could be my target market, bearing in mind my company name.

In reality the vast majority of them I will not be able to help. This is why you will rarely hear the word “anyone” uttered when I’m networking or asking clients for referrals. Why is it, therefore, that so many business owners believe they can sell their services to anyone?

The problem with anyone is that it is simply too wide a scope and what happens is that you end up with no-one being referred to you.

A chiropractor said to me, at a networking event recently, I can help anyone with a spine. Whilst this may be true, it doesn’t help me help them. I’m not going to mention them to everyone I know with a spine.

I need, and so will all your clients and connections, a little more to go on. Have you seen the latest eHarmony advert where they show a man on a couch with a camel? The advert goes on to say they were matched because of two matching criteria, but eHarmony uses more to ensure a good match.

You should use the same approach when asking for referrals. After all if 438 couples get married every day after being matched on eHarmony, they must be getting something right.

Whilst I am not suggesting you have 29 levels of compatibility with your clients, you must make it easier for people to refer you. Give them more information: industry sector, geography, company size, job title and, most definitely, reasons why.

The good thing about getting this pinned down is it also helps you work out what marketing to do, but I’ll talk about that next time!

 

[1] LinkedIn; as of 13/1/15