This Week’s Guest Lecture…

On Monday, I gave a guest lecture at my local university in Bedfordshire for their event management course, on marketing and communications for events.

This was a great opportunity, and I really enjoyed sharing some simple tips on where to start in incorporating marketing into events planning – an essential part of events management if you want anyone to attend your events! 

I thought it might be useful to include the slides I used here on the blog, as it includes basic advice which are of use to all small businesses, not just those organising events. That includes thinking about why you’re doing what you’re doing, the ‘big 5’ marketing tools at your disposal and when your marketing should end (or not, as the case may be).

If you have any thing you’d like to add to these, do get in touch.

 

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How to make your business different and stand out from the crowd.

No matter what your small business does, it is likely to have a competitor. That competitor could be a huge company, like Google or Coca Cola, or other local, similar competitors. So how do you make your business stand out so that customers will choose you over someone else?

Be different.

You can be different in a number of ways:

  • Show a different level or standard of customer service – make personal relationships with your customers and make them feel valued. If your competitor is a large company, they won’t stand a chance against you when it comes to getting to know customers personally.
  • Have a sense of humour. Make people remember you because your business makes them smile. Innocent are great at doing this.
  • Offer something different in your product or service. What can you do that makes your product or service slightly different to everyone else’s? Are you a specialist in a certain field? Are all of your ingredients or components locally sourced?
  • Think small. Even the smallest idea can make a big difference – maybe putting a dog bowl outside your business if your customers are dog walkers, or hanging art from local artists in your premises or offices. It is these small ideas which will make you stand out and seem accessible to your customers, no matter what your size.

Use what makes you different to set the tone of your marketing. Make sure you highlight what makes your business different to those of your competitors and include it as a theme for everything you do. You’ll become known for having a USP (unique selling point) of being a little different, which will help to establish a loyal following of customers. 

What is content marketing (and do I need to care?)

You may have heard the phrase ‘content marketing’ used on marketing websites and by marketing professionals, and you might have nodded and thought “I’m not 100% sure what this means, but its probably something to do with my website”, right?

The Content Marketing Institute describes content marketing as:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Basically, content marketing is the giving of information not designed to sell (such as product information or offers) but to educate or inform about your industry, field or expertise. It can be done in any form, such as a newsletter, article or blog, for example, and should have the aim of providing useful information to your customers which gives them a sense of loyalty towards your business as you are giving them something they value.

Both businesses and marketing professionals now consider content marketing as a key way of communicating with and engaging customers so as to build loyalty for your brand, and many big businesses are now employing content marketers to focus solely on the information they are developing and distributing to their clients and customers.

So, how does this relate to marketing for your small business? Loyalty is important for all businesses, and customers now look for relationships which give them something back. By building content marketing into your marketing plans, you can give them knowledge and information relevant to your business, which not only provides added value but also cements your reputation as an expert in your field.

A business blog is probably is the most commonly used way of bringing content marketing into your marketing strategy, but you could also look at putting videos, case studies from other customers or Slideshare presentations onto your website for starters. Whatever you do, just remember to make sure that it provides quality information which is relevant and interesting for your customers.

What are other businesses doing for Valentine’s Day?

If you’re still looking for inspiration on how to show your customers that you love them this Valentine’s Day, I’ve pulled together some great articles which might help you to come up with an idea suitable for your business to help you stand out from the crowd.

  • Twitter’s advertising blog gives some examples of what angles businesses are using to promote products on the microblogging site in the run up to the big day, and gives advice on pairing up with other companies in order to tweet to a wider audience.
  • The Smarta blog is full of good advice for small businesses, and they’ve posted some of their favourite examples of Valentine’s Day promotions. My particular favourite listed here is Dr. Pepper’s use of their ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ tagline in setting up a cheeky ‘spin the bottle’ Facebook game.
  • David Haddad has written a post on last minute Valentine’s Day publicity campaigns on Publiseek – perhaps the idea of offering something for couples as a promotion to entice customers could work for your business?
  • Social Media Today has written 10 quick tips on using Valentine’s Day to promote your business on social media – these tips, written by Julia Campbell, are quick and easy to follow so can be put in place with ease to get involved in the spirit of the day!

If you’re a Valentine’s Day cynic, don’t forget that you could run some anti-Valentine’s Day promotion – maybe 10% off for anyone who DOESN’T mention the day on Friday?

This Valentine’s Day, Show Your Customers How Much You Love Them

 

 

It is Valentine’s Day on Friday, so before you rush out to buy flowers and chocolates, why not surprise your customers by showing that you love them too? Here are five suggestions for showing your customers that you love them this Valentine’s:

Valentine's Day Hearts

  1. Send a hand-written letter or personalised email to your existing customers or clients to thank them for their custom over the last year. Simple, but will go a long way to show that you appreciate them – especially if you include a coupon for money off for them to use next time they visit.
  2. Pick up the phone and say thank you for their business. Ask if there is anything further you can do, or whether they have any feedback to help your business improve. People always appreciate the opportunity to give feedback, so show them you’re listening.
  3. If you can, set up a ‘VIP night’ for your customers and invite them to attend. This could be an informative seminar, or an invite to a product trial or exclusive sale. Promote the event on your social media pages and website too, to show non-customers what they’re missing out on by not using your business.
  4. Surprise your customers through listening to them online – so many of us are now using social media, so look at what your customers are publishing. If they are in your salon and tweet they love a nail polish, why not treat them to it? Or if you run a restaurant and see that someone has said on your Facebook page that they go there for your cheesecake, put it on the house next time they visit. You don’t need to do it for every customer, but where you can, this kind of behaviour will go a long way in making you stand out over your competitors and will ensure your customers come back to you time and time again.
  5. If you have employees, show them you appreciate them too. A local CEO told me she used to go into the office early on Valentine’s Day to leave a red rose on everyone’s desk. A token of appreciation, of any size, will help to motivate your staff and in turn, they’ll pass the resulting enthusiasm on to your customers – so this is an indirect way of showing love to your customers, by ensuring a happy workforce!

However you show your appreciation, make sure your act is genuine. Customers are savvier than ever at spotting sales techniques, and whilst we all want to increase our businesses, you’ll get more recognition for acting in their best interests long-term, rather than doing something which intended just to generate sales or enquiries.

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day and don’t forget to share the love!

Facebook Turns Ten: 10 Tips for Using Facebook to Promote Your Small Business

Ten years ago today, the global phenomenon that is Facebook was launched. In celebration of its tenth birthday, here are 10 quick tips for promoting your small business on the social networking site:

1. Research what your audience are doing. When are they online and what do they respond best to? If you can see that the majority of your intended audience are using Facebook after work, at around 6pm, then use that timeframe to post the information you want them to see. Try a few different times and experiment until you get it right.

2. Use the ‘Build Audience‘ function (in the Admin menu on your page) to increase your audience, and invite your email contacts and Facebook friends to like your page.

3. Encourage those who have liked your page and your Facebook friends to share your page. This will then put a link to your page on their profiles and timelines, so their friends will see your page and increase your audience.

4. Whenever you can, post a photo with your status updates showing what you and your business is doing. Evidence has shown that photos obtain better engagement than just text.

5. Try and use videos too! Try using Vine to film quick, 6-second films to give people to quick taste of what your business is up to.

6. If you have a website, make sure you link your Facebook page to it, so that people can cross between your website and Facebook page easily (the same goes for Twitter and Google+).

7. Don’t be afraid to get professional help if you need it. This could be getting someone to set up and run your page full time (but make sure it is someone who knows your business and can give it personality), or employing a company to add plug-ins and additional features to your Facebook page, such as an events calendar or appointment booking feature, for example.

8. Respond and engage with your audience. Ask and answer questions, and keep your content interesting and relevant so that they keep coming back. Don’t forget that every time they ‘like’ one of your status updates, photos and videos, it is shared onto their timelines for their friends to see, which will continue to increase your audience.

9. If your business type allows it, you could try running a competition from your page to boost your audience and get people involved in promoting your page. Offer something for free in return for a ‘like’ or ‘share’, and watch your overall likes grow!

10. To help further increase your audience, and/or drive traffic to your website, you could look into Facebook advertising. You write your ad, set your daily budget and decide on who you want to target (Facebook is able to let you get really detailed as to who you want to target!), then Facebook puts your ad into the advertising column of your targeted users and charges you each time the ad is clicked.

These simple tips will help you to build a community for your business on Facebook, which you can then keep providing information, advice and products in front of to boost your business. It is a valuable tool, and should definitely be part of your marketing strategy.

Happy birthday, Facebook!

When does publicity become bad publicity, and what can you do to stop it?

On Sunday, my local local newspaper ran a little feature poking fun at the wording in a job vacancy. It was harmless, but it got me thinking about the old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity“.

Now that we live in a world where everyone has a voice to discuss issues and experiences, is all publicity good for our businesses or is bad publicity exactly that, harmful to our brand and image?

If your business receives a bad review online or on social media, it is recommended that the best way to deal with it is to respond quickly to lessen it’s overall impact. We don’t just shrug our shoulders and say “at least they’re talking about us”. This suggests that views on publicity have changed – we now all are actively seeking positive promotion from those around us.

So what can you do if your company receives bad publicity?

1. Take expert advice. Don’t make the situation worse by handling it badly.

2. Respond straight away, if not directly then at least by taking advice. Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away.

3. Don’t badmouth the person or outlet (i.e. a newspaper or similar) who has given the bad publicity.  It will only make you look petty.

4. Don’t keep a low profile and hope the situation will blow over. Counteract the bad publicity by generating some good profile – publicise a charitable act or demonstrate where you’ve made positive changes in the business.

Unfortunately,  every news story or social media comment now lasts forever as an online footprint. So make sure you put best practices in place from the outset across your marketing and customer care strategies, and hopefully you will be at less risk of bad publicity for your business.