‘I know nothing!’

OK, so it’s not strictly true that I know nothing but there is a lot I don’t know. I am not an expert in your business or in what you sell. I don’t understand the acronyms and abbreviations that are your everyday language. I don’t necessarily know what your name stands for. I’m probably not familiar with how the processes you use will help me. So when you are marketing to me don’t assume that I will understand what you are talking about.


I keep hearing an advertisement for computers with AMD. What is AMD? Now if my son sees this he’ll probably be exasperated by his mother’s ignorance but I’m not very interested in technology other than how it can help me to do what I want to do. I ‘googled’ AMD and found it is the name of a company, Advanced Micro Devices, and that it is a competitor of Intel. I think that AMD is the technology you want if graphics and gaming are high on your priorities but I don’t know. If the advertisement had said, ‘AMD for the sharpest images and best gaming experience’ then I would understand.

You might have a franchise for a well known international brand but just because someone has heard of your brand doesn’t mean that they understand what the brand stands for. You need to explain. Perhaps your cosmetics are organic, chemical free and never tested on animals. Perhaps your children’s nursery is based on the philosophy that children learn through exploring. Don’t assume that I know this just because I’ve heard your brand name.

Explain but don’t patronise.

Marketing flier

This flier makes an attempt at explaining what the prospect need to know.

Your prospect needs to understand what’s in it for them and why they should choose you rather than your competitor. You need to be very clear about the answers before you start producing your marketing copy. Here are just a few of the questions you need to answer before you start writing:

  • Who is my target?
  • Why do they need my product or service?
  • How are they affected by the problem I want to solve?
  • Why is my solution more suitable than that of a competitor?

When you understand the answers you should be able to write some matter of fact statements in your marketing to help your target understand without insulting their intelligence. Remember don’t just list the features but promote the benefits to your target market. But that’s a whole new topic so come back later this week for some more tips on getting your marketing right.

Glenda Shawley helps owners of small businesses understand what matters to their customers and then communicate this in a way that turns suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into fans.


If you don’t market to the right audience you won’t get the result you want.

Ealing Means Business

The Training Pack is ready to meet visitors.

I’ve just spent a day at a business to business exhibition in my local Town Hall. What a fantastic opportunity to promote local businesses to their peers. Sadly the opportunity was largely wasted.

The biggest problem was that it was arranged in too much of a rush, under three weeks is way too ambitious. That might have been mitigated with some sustained marketing to the right target market. However the organisers simply mailed their own database which did not have enough local names on it.

Focus on those with most to gain

As with any marketing the target needs to be those who stand to benefit most from the offer, in this case local businesses. Working out who our target market is and how they will benefit from our offer is the first thing we need to do. This will allow us to craft our message so that it it resonates with our prospects.

When the message is clear we need to ensure that it reaches the right target. Sometimes we need help. That’s why so many successful business people work on joint ventures.

Who has access to the target?

When our database isn’t adequate for our needs we need to think how we can access more names. There are many ways to do this:

  • Buy a mailing list being really specific about the data we want
  • Use targeted Google, Facebook or LinkedIn ads
  • Ask people on our mailing list/ in our network to send a message on our behalf
  • Find people with access to our target market and offer them a reward for sending out our message.
  • Use searches and hashtags on social media to find groups and influencers in the target market and then engage with them

In the case of our event the organisers could have contacted the local Chamber of Commerce, the Business Improvement Districts (we have several), the numerous local networking groups and the local media. They did none of this. Neither did they engage on social media or join in our local Twitter hour which would have reached a sizeable number of people in the target market.

The local council could have done so much more too. They could have used their website, their social media, the intranet, their noticeboards and they could have allowed a flag or banner outside the venue.

I hope lessons have been learned and that the event can be repeated next year with a much longer lead time and active involvement from the local business community. I for one will do everything I can to make the event a success.

People can’t buy what they don’t know about.

I’ve been watching Alex Polizzi – the Fixer again! (Don’t groan, it’s packed with good lessons in business.) In this episode Alex was helping a struggling pet shop in Wimbledon. There were all sorts of problems: uninviting windows and shopfront, illogical displays which bore no relation to sales, clutter, staffing issues and a  lack of management. However the one I want to talk about is a lack of marketing. If people don’t know about your business or all of its products and services they can’t buy them.

‘Marketing doesn’t work.’

In the programme we see an exchange between the owner and his partner in which the owner is defending his lack of marketing. In the ensuing argument he says, ‘I’m the one with the degree in marketing.’ Pardon? Did I hear that right? He has a degree in marketing but isn’t marketing his business! He thinks marketing doesn’t work. What did they teach him on that degree? I digress.

Marketing does work! It’s not easy. Not everything we do brings about the returns we want but that’s why we try and test and tweak.

Making your marketing work.

Marketing: getting attention

This postcard has been quite successful because the target market and her problem are clear at a glance.

Your marketing needs to resonate with your target customer. No-one else matters! So here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you start:

  • Who is my target customer?
  • What problem do they have that I can solve?
  • What impact does that problem have on them? What have they got to gain from solving that problem?
  • How do I solve that problem for them? Think of the benefits not just the features
  • How can I convince them that my solution is the right one? Think guarantees, testimonials,evidence etc.
  • What one action do I want them to take? For example, book an appointment, call for more information, download a checklist etc.

Do a sanity check!

When the owner of Creature Company finally got round to producing a flier we see an interested prospect asking for his phone number. It wasn’t on the flier! (No wonder his marketing doesn’t work).

Yesterday, at a networking event, a business owner gave out her flier, someone had to ask her when the event she was promoting would be taking place!

It’s easy to get things wrong. So when you’ve drafted your marketing material put it to one side for a period of time to give yourself the distance which will allow you to spot some mistakes. Then check:

  • You have answered the above questions
  • You have thought of the questions your prospect needs the answer to and have provided the answer or signposted where they can be found (e.g. visit our website)
  • That crucial information is there e.g. date, time and place for an event.
  • That your contact details are obvious. (You will be more trusted if you have a physical address and perhaps a landline number).
  • You have one clear, unambiguous call to action which is appropriate to your target market and their problem.

When you think you’ve got it right show someone else. Ask them if it is clear. Would they know what to do? Do they have any questions you haven’t answered?

Free offer 

Until March 31st 2015 I am offering a free check of one piece of marketing material. Just send it to blog@thetrainingpack.co.uk, no explanations, no questions, just your contact details. I’ll check it out and get back to you within 7 days.

Location, location, location

No this is not an advert for Kirstie and Phil but is prompted by another TV programme, Alex Polizzi, the Fixer. In a recent episode Alex went to help a failing tearoom, amongst its problems was an out of the way location.

As a former retailer the importance of location has been rammed down my throat on many occasions. Location is the most important consideration for most retailers and many restaurants, hotels, sandwich bars etc. A friend of ours found that people would rather queue in one of his shops than walk 100 yards under a railway bridge to access the same offer in his other shop! You have to have a unique product or service or an outstanding reputation to get people to go out of their way to find you.

What makes a good location?

The number one consideration has to be access to your target market.

The right location is vital

Some locations are an easier to sell than others!

Footfall is only part of the equation, that footfall has to be made up of the right people. You might have a high end clothes shop next to a university with thousands of students and staff passing everyday but those students can’t afford your prices and academics are not generally known for their high salaries or sartorial elegance. Your outlet needs to be where your target market goes.

Few businesses thrive in isolation. It might seem counter intuitive to open a restaurant in close proximity to others but it often works. Diners feel they have choice. When a number of businesses are open well into the evening it can generate a vibrant night time culture which can be fun but also makes people feel safer.

Accessibility is also key. If your customers are going to want to drink you need to be accessible by public transport or within walking distance of your target market. If your customers are going to have to carry heavy shopping you need to have parking close by. (Oh to get some local authorities to understand the impact of parking on businesses!)

Impact on the neighbours is another consideration. A night club is unlikely to be welcomed in a residential neighbourhood, neither is a scrap yard! I once looked at a house opposite a dairy, I didn’t buy it because I didn’t want to be woken by milk floats going about their business in the early hours of the morning. On the other hand if residents have to get in their cars to pick up emergency provisions then a convenience store might do very well.

Be wary of a ‘great deal’

Landlords want to rent their properties. If a property is difficult to let then they may offer a great deal to lure an unsuspecting tenant. Be careful! It can be tempting to go for lower overheads but even a low rent is difficult to manage if the turnover is not there. You might find yourself spending considerably more on marketing and special offers than you would in a better location where both rent and turnover would be higher.

Clever marketing may not be enough

If you have a location dependent business no amount of clever marketing is likely to overcome the problems of the wrong location. You will certainly need to have a very special offer delivered in a consistent manner and communicated to your target market often to be in with a chance of success.

Consider your own behaviour. How often do you go out of your way to buy a product or service that is not unique or truly special? Rarely? Never? So why expect your prospects do behave differently?

So if you are considering opening a new business or a new outlet and depend on customers coming through your door then think, location, location, location. You might even commission Kirstie and Phil to find the right location for you! Now how’s that for some free advertising, but that’s another article!

The only place for ‘we we’ is in the toilet!

The only place for 'we'

The only place for ‘we we’

How many websites do you visit that say ‘we do this and we do that and our customers are’? It’s the same with print marketing where businesses tell us ‘we are small and friendly, we’ve been established since 2014’. It’s all about ‘we we’ ‘our’ and ‘us’. Their target is not interested! They are interested in themselves, in their problems and in their own agenda.

If a prospect walked in to your business you would probably say, ‘How can I help you?’ or ‘How are you?’ You wouldn’t start the conversation with ‘we can help you’ would you? So why do so many people do it in their marketing?

Speak to your target

If you want your marketing to be effective your target has to read it and they are much more likely to do that if it addresses their concerns quickly. ‘You’ and ‘your’ are much more important words than ‘we and ‘our’. Your marketing materials should help you to open a conversation with your prospect so why not use a conversational style?

Here are a few tips to help you to avoid the ‘we we’:

  • Think about the problem your prospect is having that the product or service you’re advertising is designed to solve
  • How do they feel about that problem? Is it a major anxiety or a minor irritation?
  • If you were speaking to them about that problem face to face what questions would you ask them? What would they be telling you?
  • Now use that information to craft your marketing message. For example, ‘Is your tax return causing you to lose sleep at night?’ ‘Do you have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear?’
  • Once your target recognises themselves and their problem they will be more willing to listen to how you can solve it for them. However, that is not an excuse to go mad with the ‘we, we’! Keep a balance between ‘we and you’ and ‘our and your’, Ideally you want more of ‘you’ and less of ‘we’

So consign ‘we we’ to the toilet and your marketing is much more likely to succeed.

If all this causes you too much of a headache we can help. Send us a draft piece that you are struggling with and we’ll give you some suggestions to make it work, no charge! Alternatively, if you’d just like to have the job done for you, ask about one of our marketing packages. Email marketing@thetrainingpack.co.uk


You can’t please everyone so don’t even try!

Today’s article is prompted by two conversations in as many minutes. In one case an organisation had upset some of its customers by trying to please everyone. In the other case trying to please a small minority of customers would significantly increase costs and potentially open a can of worms.

In my experience the more we give the more people want. Rarely do people recognise the extra steps we have taken to help them or to meet their specific needs. They take our extra efforts for granted and certainly don’t place a monetary value on those efforts. As a result we gain little and often build resentment and dissatisfaction.

How do we avoid trying to please everyone?

Some of us are driven by our natural instincts to help people; some make decisions because they are struggling to grow their businesses and others just because they want to keep everyone happy. But if there is one lesson I’ve learned it is that you can’t please all of the people all of the time so what should we do?

  • Understand your arget market and don't try to please everyone.

    Understand your target market and don’t try to please everyone.

    Be really clear about our target market and our position within that market . Serve that market well with a really clear offer and don’t confuse that offer by making adjustments to accommodate the occasional potential customer who is not in that target market.

  • Understand our brand values and message and always consider how a decision or action fits with those. If it doesn’t fit don’t do it.
  • Charge for the service we offer. So a tailor made, individual service should attract a premium price and we should not charge a budget price for a premium service. (I’m still working on this one!)
  • Be consistent.
  • Remind ourselves often that it is OK if people don’t like what we do or want to be our customer, they can go elsewhere. If we focus on delivering great value to those who do like us and what we stand for they will recommend us to people who are like them and we will grow our businesses that way.

I’m off to take some of my own advice, will you take it too?

Are you happy with the results you have achieved this year? Do you want to make the next 12 months even better? If so you might be interested in my new Plan for Results membership programme designed to help you develop and then implement a plan to make 2015 a great year for your business. Visit www.planforresults.co.uk and sign up to get your free Goal Setting tools.

Are your policies customer friendly?

Two small businesses have hit the national news this week for the wrong reasons. A hotel in Blackpool charged customers £100 for leaving a negative review on Trip Advisor and a cafe in Gomshall, Surrey put a sign up which nursing mothers interpreted as an instruction to feed their babies in the toilet.

The hotel has now changed its policy which is just as well as what they were doing was almost certainly illegal. However this story has brought far more negative publicity than the review on Trip Advisor ever would. The story has been widely shared on social media and the hotel owners have been forced to admit that there is much scope for improvement. They have not managed this story well and it will cost them business if not the business.

The cafe has managed the story rather better and has let it be known that they are working with mothers’ groups to try to find a solution that suits everyone. However wouldn’t it have been better if they had done that in the beginning?

Consult your customers

Customer service and PR.

Is this going to be customer friendly?

There are times when we develop a policy as a reaction to a situation or an event. Sometimes we design a policy to suit one group of customers and in the process inadvertently alienate another group; so how do we avoid this?

  • Look at every policy from the customer’s point of view, who will be affected? How will this affect them?
  • Seek advice. Consult Trading Standards to ensure your policy is legal. Discuss with groups representing different types of customer e.g. a mothers’ group or a disability association.
  • Have other people look at the wording of your signs or policies. We can all get too close to our own issues or ideas to see all the pitfalls.
  • Take your time. Policies developed on the hoof often come back to bite us!

And if you get your policies wrong and get some negative publicity…

Manage negative publicity

I’ve written about this before but it’s essential that we manage any negative publicity before it impacts our business. This includes responding to bad reviews left by customers. We need to hold our hands up when we’ve got things wrong and tell anyone who wants to hear what we’re doing to put things right.

We need to apologise when a customer is disappointed but we don’t have to admit liability if we think they are being unreasonable or are not genuine. Some people will leave negative reviews in the hope of getting a concession from you. Some review sites don’t even check that the person leaving the review is a genuine customer! Don’t be tempted to get into long explanations or justifications and never, ever vent your anger on a review site.

Be open to negative reviews, they could be telling you something you need to hear. Do you need to make changes? If so tell the reviewer what you’re doing and invite them to give you another try once the changes have been made. An unhappy customer whose problem has been solved usually turns into a business’ best advocate and when they do share the positive publicity as widely as you can.