Jumping on the Bandwagon

The news changes minute by minute, but some stories stick around for longer. The hype surrounding Pokemon Go, Brangelina’s break up and the move of the Great British Bake Off to Channel 4 are all recent examples of ‘light’ stories (i.e. not major catastrophes or tragedies) which have captured the public interest for longer than the average news story.

So, should a small business jump on news bandwagons to obtain a little publicity for themselves? Many do, sometimes more successfully than others, and small businesses can too, providing they take consideration of the following three ‘rules’ for success:

  1. It must be quick: to jump on a bandwagon effectively, your leap must be almost immediate. Leave it more than 24-36 hours and you will have missed the boat, and then risk looking foolish and making comment on something that others have already lost interest in.
  1. It must be light-hearted – nobody likes to see a cruel advert or comment about a news story, and a little wit goes a long way for encouraging engagement, especially on social media.
  1. It must be relevant – your business should have a link to the news story you are commenting on to give your publicity context and make sense to the viewer. Without it, you may risk appearing as though you are simply using the news for publicity’s sake, which could turn potential and existing customers off. The key here is to keep your message simple, so that the relevance isn’t lost to the viewer.

A good example of all three of these points working well for publicity is Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA’s recent “Brad is Single” advert in a newspaper, promoting cheap flights to Los Angeles in reference to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s recent marriage break up. Simple, relevant, timely (it appeared soon after the separation was announced) and light-hearted, I have seen it shared several times on social media already, maximising its audience to those who may not usually consider Norwegian for flights and promoting its services in a positive manner.

For small businesses, this style of marketing is probably best achieved via social media or email marketing due to its immediacy in reaching the intended audience. Providing the three rules above are followed, there is no reason why small businesses cannot make use of news stories to give them an angle for short-term marketing and can help to make a marketing message memorable. So go ahead and jump on that bandwagon!

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Marketing in the time of Brexit

No one really knows what the next few weeks and months are going to be like, since the outcome of the UK’s EU referendum. It is likely that there will be some economic instability, and so many small businesses are likely to be nervous about spending money.

Unfortunately, most business owners think that cutting their marketing spend is the best thing to do when being careful about their outgoings. However, this is the wrong move – without your marketing, where will your customers come from to continue bringing in profit? The correct course of action is to make your marketing smarter, and therefore more cost effective.

Here are 5 tips to help improve your marketing activity in leaner times:

  1. Do a marketing audit.

What activities are you doing now, and what is working? Focus on those activities giving you the best returns and cut those which are performing poorly. Ignore those who lean on you to take particular risks and get rid of activities which you might always have done out of loyalty or repetition, but that aren’t bringing you new work or customers.

  1. Develop a digital strategy.

Other than your time, using social media is free and can bring great returns when used correctly. Maximise use of the platforms your customers are using, put out great content and interact with users to get the best results.

  1. Make the most of your existing customer relationships.

Ever heard of the rule that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers? Identify who your strongest customers are, talk to them, find out how you can help them and deliver beyond expectation. Not only will you keep their business, they’ll recommend you to others.

  1. Work with others.

You don’t have to go it alone – if you’re looking to host an event, seminar or conference, speak to similar businesses (obviously, not direct competitors) and see if they’d like to join you. Half the cost, double the target audience.

  1. Make use of the media.

Speak to your local newspaper and other publications (such as community or parish magazines, for example) and see if you can contribute press releases and/or editorial. Write about stories relevant to your business or news items surrounding your business and its place in the community. Something lighthearted yet topical would help to deflect from current post-referendum doom and gloom!

So before you cut your budget, see if these steps can help you to instead make your marketing more effective.

Taking the fearless approach to your marketing

Recently, I keep reading about ‘fearless marketing’, where individuals and brands take more risks and try out ideas which are less ordinary. The story of Peter Bronsman is well worth a read in this area, and there are various brands claiming to be taking fear-free approaches to their promotional campaigns.

 

However, when your marketing budget is small and needs to return definite results, how can you try something deemed risky? You either take the plunge and try it out anyway, or stick to the safer path and chance not being seen above the crowd.

To take the fearless approach, there are three things to consider:

  1. The first is whether the idea you have will connect with customers. Do you know who your customers are and what they want? If your idea links in with their needs, then you reduce the risk, whilst giving them something new to engage with – again, cutting above your competitors.
  1. Is it likely that customers will find your idea too ‘off the wall’, offensive or irrelevant? If your idea falls under any of these headings, it stops being innovative and instead becomes a sure fire way of turning your customers off… and you may not get them back.
  1. Remember that you don’t need to go huge. Whilst jumping out of a plane with your company logo tattooed on your chest might seem like a good idea at the time, it is fleeting, and fearless marketing could be as simple as looking at different ways of reaching your existing audience – where do they go, what do they do? You don’t even need to spend a lot of money, just put yourself in their shoes and consider what might make you take notice if you were them. You might surprise yourself.

Taking some time out to really consider your audience is a good bet in any small business owners’ book, and doing it regularly will help you to take a fearless path through knowing your audience and how to engage with them.

Five Tips To Make 2016 ‘Your Year’

How has growth been for your business in 2015? Even if you’ve done well, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is always room for improvement, and that you’re hoping for further growth in the coming months.

hands-night-festival-new-year-s-eve web

If this is the case, here are five quick tips to help gain new clients and continue expanding your business in 2016:

  1. Work to a plan

If you’ve never used a Marketing Plan before to help direct your business’ marketing activity, 2016 is the year to start. Look at the factors affecting you from external sources (such as your competitors, local and national trends, etc), your business’ strengths and weaknesses, and the marketing actions which have been successful (or unsuccessful) for you this year, and turn them into a plan to help you to achieve your goals.

  1. Try something new

Maybe you’ve always promoted your business via networking. Or having a stand at business exhibitions. Or by advertising in the local newspaper. If these bring in new customers to your business, great – but add to it, and try something new. Sponsor a local junior sports team, take some customers out to dinner, or invite a target out to coffee. Take a chance and see if taking a different approach pays off.

  1. Get Online

You don’t have to be away from your desk to effectively promote yourself. Whilst putting a name to a face and maintaining relations is important, you can raise profile initially using social media. You don’t have to be on every social media channel – choose the one or two most relevant to your business. If you produce products which are very visual (such as cakes, art, clothing, etc), then Instagram and Facebook will probably be most effective. For professional services or less ‘pretty’ products, try Twitter or LinkedIn. Have a love of live streaming? Get on Periscope. And so on… there’s a channel for every audience.

  1. Offer a ‘mini’ version of your product or service

Your potential customers may not be ready to part with their hard-earned cash to buy your product or service, whatever it may be. So try offering them a smaller or stripped down version – and see if it helps to tempt them into future investment with you.

  1. Be consistent

Marketing your business isn’t straightforward – and as a small business, it is easy to feel that as you have so much to do, the easiest thing to drop is your marketing. It pays off to be consistent – it is no good waiting until you have no new work coming in to start trying to find it, and dropping your marketing again when busy. You can manage your marketing much easier if it comes in steady waves than in huge peaks and troughs. A consistent approach to promoting your business will help you to raise profile in the long term, and it is likely that you’ll end up spending more if you make grand gestures on irregular occasions.

Cutting through the noise at Christmas

Let’s face it, Christmas is a noisy time for marketing – particularly for retail or food-based business (such as restaurants, cafés, bars, etc). Everybody wants to cut through the noise and be the business that stands out during the festive period, but the noise is so deafening that few make an impact.

You’ve got two options – either go all out and grab attention with a big budget and something to grab the public’s eye (see John Lewis, Sainsburys, etc) or do something a little different. I read with interest today with café-chain Pret A Manger has announced that instead of spending money on marketing activities this Christmas, it is instead donating its marketing spend to five charities – meaning its charitable donation per sandwich goes up from 5p per sandwich bought to 50p. In doing so, it has generated publicity in itself – just by doing something different (yet worthwhile).

Supporting charities appears to be the key message this festive season, and rightly so. In donating and supporting others, Christmas cheer is spread and helps the public to help others whilst going about their usual routines.

christmas-xmas-santa-claus-advent

This can also work for small businesses. Three quick ways to cut above the local Christmas marketing noise, with little or no marketing budget needed:

  • Tie in with a local charity – for example, a cafe bar could donate unsold produce to the local YMCA or Foodbank. Completely newsworthy, whilst incurring no (or little) additional cost to the business.
  • Use social media to target your Christmas audience with focused updates, tweets, images, etc. Tell a story or support a cause, update often and with a clear aim in mind.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your customers… what do they want / do / support / need at Christmas time. Where will they be and how can you capture their attention about all others? Spending some time thinking as a customer (instead of how you think your customer acts) can make a huge difference to the success of your marketing, and help you to ‘think outside the box’ (to coin a cliché).

And if you haven’t already started your Christmas marketing, now is the time to do so!

People power and social media campaigns

I just read a pretty amazing statistic… do you know how many people covered their profile picture on Facebook with a rainbow flag after the US Supreme Court ruled favourably on gay marriage back in June?

26 million!

Can you believe that? I find it pretty amazing. Of course, the photo editing tool that Facebook launched in order to do it means that there was almost zero effort required to do it, and of course it had no bearing on the ruling itself. But 26 million people standing up and saying they support something is undeniably impressive.

Rainbow filter, Facebook
Rainbow filter, Facebook

Other recent social media campaigns include the outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion, last year’s ice bucket challenge, and (my hero) Stephen Sutton’s bucket list. Prior to social media, the main way to galvanise a huge number of people in a short amount of time was through major fundraising efforts (at huge initial cost, using mainstream mediums) such as Comic Relief and Children in Need. Now, all that is needed is a social media account, an injection of passion, and the content or a topic that will stand out.

So to those 26 million people who changed their profile pictures, well done. Maybe, just maybe, you helped to show that social attitudes are changing, and we’re becoming more willing to be counted in what we agree (or disagree) with.

Stop! Time for a Marketing Review

Stop what you’re doing. We are now more than halfway through 2015, and have you stopped to consider your progress?

  • Is your business achieving what you want it to so far this year?
  • Has the business changed, meaning you need a new plan?
  • Have you fallen short of your objectives so far? If so, how can you rectify this?
  • Have you exceeded your own expectations for the business, and if so, where will you go from here to ensure continued success?

Things change. If you now need to alter or divert from your original marketing plan for 2015, now is the time to do it. Don’t leave it for the rest of the year, thinking that you’ll just start afresh in 2016 – you can get back on track, or make new tracks. The start of a new year may be a good kick-start, but you can make changes at anytime you think appropriate.

landscape-mountains-nature-man

Likewise, if your business is exceeding its targets, now is a good time to review what has gone right and adapt your plan to ensure that it continues throughout the remainder of the year.

Reviewing your marketing and marketing plan is important as it allows you the opportunity to stop or change what may not be working, or try a different approach. In the short term, this can save money, whilst also helping to lead to long-term gains.