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.


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!


Can my small business use Snapchat for promotions?

I spotted a great feature recently by David Moth on Econsultancy on eight brands currently using Snapchat as part of their social media marketing strategies. For anyone not aware, Snapchat is an image based social media platform, where users can send images and overlaid text for short periods of time before they disappear. For marketers, the idea is that it appeals to the increasingly short attention span held by consumers.

The examples are excellent, and well worth a read. Find the feature here.

Snapchat -

So should small businesses include Snapchat in their social media marketing strategies? Absolutely, providing that their audience matches up with Snapchat’s core users and they have the means to undertake a strategy effectively.

Who are Snapchat’s core users?

Research by the Global Web Index and published by We Are Social, showed that over half of Snapchat’s users are aged 16-24, showing the prominence of the platform among a younger audience. This means that businesses with audiences of teens and young adults are likely to do well using Snapchat as a medium, as much of this age group are now moving to faster means of consumption in their social media, and turning their backs on ‘older’ platforms such as Facebook.

How would I use Snapchat?

You will need to set up an account, and choose a username. The best way to then obtain followers will be to appeal to your existing audiences to ask them to follow your brand on Snapchat – use email marketing and add the information to your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

It is also extremely important to consider what you want to achieve – do you want to offer a sneak preview of a product or service? Or maybe you want to offer a short-term special offer to your Snapchat audience, to push them into making a purchase? You need to be clear in your offering, and use simple to read text and images. Don’t forget that your audience have a short time to read your message before it disappears, so you need it to be instantly understandable, rather than ambiguous (unless of course, this is what your aim is!).

Your ‘snaps’ can be viewed once by your followers, for up to 10 seconds. They then are deleted and disappear. If you want your snap to be seen for a little longer (for example, in order for an offer to be effective), you can set them to be re-viewed an unlimited number of times using the ‘My Story’ setting.

Finally, in order to ensure that your audience reacts to your snaps, make sure you include a call to action. What do you want them to do? Do you want them to take up an offer within 48 hours, or visit your website? Whatever you want them to do, make it clear and make it easy for them to carry out.

Snapchat is a growing form of communication, and is one of the lesser used platforms for business at present. Small businesses can (and should, where appropriate) make the most of this opportunity with strong, well-focused campaigns, and take advantage of the direct contact the platform provides to audiences.

The Clash Between New Marketing Approaches and Privacy

Technology continues to develop and evolve at a rapid rate, with new marketing approaches such as location-based marketing taking centre-stage in many major brands’ marketing plans for 2015 and beyond.

Location-based marketing uses the GPS feature in smartphones, now owned and used by over 50% of the UK (, 2013), to send the user offers and discounts based on their location or proximity to a business. For example, a restaurant may send a lunch offer when a smartphone gets within half a mile of the building, or hotels may target users at airports with room discounts.

O'Loughlin Marketing

For businesses, the advantage to this form of marketing is that it targets customers at the time when they may be most likely to make a purchase, and encourages them to engage with the business by clicking on links straight through to the offer or website. It removes the time period between receiving an offer and taking it up, which increases the likelihood of the sale being completed.

However, this brings up a privacy concern for many people with smartphones, as the thought of receiving messages at any time they are near a business directly onto their phones is potentially intrusive and therefore unnerving. Of course, this also clashes with the desire to receive money-saving offers and discounts!

Location-based marketing is not just available to large organisations and brands, and can be used by small businesses as a way of increasing sales and attracting potential customers. Small businesses who are interested in using this approach should consider the following:

  • Consider your audience and send appropriate content which appeals to them and is relevant to what you want to achieve (i.e. sales, offers, etc).
  • Ensure that your targeted recipients have opted in to receiving marketing communications, and ensure you provide a clear route for opting out.
  • Use available location-based marketing platforms to target your audience, such as Foursquare or Facebook’s new local awareness feature to set up localised campaigns.
  • Start small, and test your messages to get them right.
  • Try to make your messages personal, so that the audience feels that they are written just for them. An offer which is perceived as tailor-made for the recipient is more likely to be successful than something which reads like a generalised advert.

The way in which businesses can overcome consumer fear of receiving unwanted messages and encourage consumers to opt in to receiving marketing messages is to provide clear information on what they are likely to receive, and when they may be likely to receive it, so that they can make an educated choice about whether they are happy to receive such communications. It is clear that the nature of these campaigns will be more successful with a younger audience, who are more likely to embrace new technologies and intrusive marketing campaigns as they are generally more readily used to such methods, having grown up with the development of such technologies.

For those who wish to avoid location-based marketing, a number of apps exist which block mobile tracking and shield smartphones, ensuring greater privacy. However, for many the pay-off of receiving usable offers and discounts will make the intrusion worthwhile and their privacy an acceptable sacrifice. In time, this pay-off is likely to lead to location-based marketing becoming more prevalent in marketing campaigns as it becomes more keenly accepted by consumers.

Businesses should be aware that not all recipients will be happy to receive their messages, and so business owners may also wish to inform their staff of campaigns, and how to respond if complaints or queries are received. This will help to protect your brand if someone does take offence to receiving your marketing messages.

If you have tried location-based marketing, or are planning to, please get in touch and let me know how you get on.

What did you think of your order?

Over the past couple of months, I have been purchasing a number of items from one particular shop and have started to receive emails from them asking me to review each of those items for their website.

It isn’t the first time I’ve received such emails, and it appears to be something which is becoming more common as major retailers recognise and try to capitalise on word of mouth advertising. Basically, they want to use my comments to encourage other consumers to buy the products – almost as if I’m stood next to the potential customer telling them they should.

It is a long-established form of marketing and one which has always been useful and successful for both consumers and sellers. It is also now far more usual for us, as consumers, to use such marketing online – for example, you check your hotel on Trip Advisor before booking, or the product reviews on Amazon before purchasing, almost as second nature in all transactions.

As a small business, you may not be able to put client testimonials on your website, but if you have a Facebook or Twitter, you can encourage your customers to leave your business comments and reviews there. Don’t be afraid to ask key customers to send you a review, especially if they are leaving your business satisfied.

Using your existing customers to verify how good your business, products and services are is an easy way to encourage other people to use your business and to ensure ongoing promotion at little or no cost, and shouldn’t be overlooked as part of your overall marketing activities.

The Marketing Marathon

In the spirit of the London Marathon, which took place yesterday, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the ongoing nature of your marketing needs for your business.

You will have heard many people say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint!” This is certainly true of the long-term promotion of your business. Your aim should be to achieve a smooth and consistent approach to marketing, so that your company name and profile remains at a regular level, rather than blasting information every now and again which will not be as effective in the long run.

Nowadays, there are lots of channels which can help you to achieve a consistent marketing approach, with social media being right up there as one of the main opportunities for your business to be seen by and engage with potential and current customers. You might also want to look for other regular opportunities which promote your company to customers, such as a magazine or newspaper column or blog, or sponsorship of a local sports team. Whatever you do, just remember to keep it regular and that measured and targeted activities will always be more effective than putting everything into one single promotion.