Making the most of a marketing opportunity

Did you see the amazing scenes in Yorkshire, Cambridge and London this week at the launch of this year’s Tour de France? It is estimated that 6 million people turned out to line the route and many more watched on TV; what a marketing opportunity! The route certainly did a great job of showcasing England’s beautiful scenery and wonderful places which should encourage people to visit.

The problem with events like the Tour de France and the Olympics is that there are strict rules about what you can and can’t do. Some of these are pretty standard in protecting the brand’s intellectual property whilst others are there to protect their relationship with their sponsors. Break the rules and the organisation is likely to come after you even if you are a small business. So it’s important to be creative.

A great campaign

Yellow sheep ensured plenty of media coverage for the Yorkshire Building Society.

Yellow sheep ensured plenty of media coverage for the Yorkshire Building Society.

One campaign which captured the imagination was Yorkshire Building Society’s yellow sheep. A herd of 150 sheep had their fleeces dyed the colour of the race leader’s jersey! A large banner proclaimed, ‘Yorkshire’s getting into the spirit of the tour de France’. Photos were taken and broadcast across social media channels resulting in coverage in the national media and across the web. Congratulations to Soul marketing agency for a very clever idea.

A cafe owner in Langsett near Penistone painted polka dots on the outside walls in homage to the ‘King of the Mountains’ jersey, and he remembered to make sure his business name was displayed prominently too. Other businesses took a similar approach.

Some ideas

The Tour de France has now moved on but there are other opportunities to promote your business. Next up is the Commonwealth Games so let’s think how you could use that to promote your business:

  • Create displays using the colours of the Commonwealth Games, red, green, blue, gold (but don’t attempt to use the logo without specific permission from the organising committee).
  • Use themes that represent the sports included in the Games; so if you help solve people’s problems you could use an image of a hurdle as a starting point for example.
  • A travel agent could feature holidays in the countries competing at the Games
  • A food business could plan menus around the food from those countries
  • A pub or club could design cocktails based around the drinks favoured in the competing countries
  • Dress your staff in a kilt or the national dress of a competing country
  • Hold your own opening or closing ceremony and invite customers, prospects and suppliers.

You get the idea and don’t forget if you do run a topical marketing campaign make sure you publicise it across social media and by sending press releases to relevant journalists.

How have you linked your marketing campaigns to a big event? What will you do to promote your business during the Commonwealth Games or similar big event? I’d love to hear your stories.

Using Linked In for business

Many people see LinkedIn as the social networking site for those in, or wanting, a corporate career, and in many ways it is but it can also be useful for growing businesses.

What to use Linked In for

Linked In is described as the professional networking site so is great for establishing your qualifications and experience for your role.

  • Ensure that your profile is fully completed with details of your skills, qualifications and experience so that any prospects checking you out get an accurate picture
  • Invite clients and former colleagues to write a testimonial to add weight to your claims (In my opinion the endorsements are not worthwhile as I know from experience people will give endorsements without ever using your services) but testimonials take more effort and are therefore seen as credible,
  • Link your blog to your Linked In page so you can demonstrate current expertise and keep your page alive without too much time or effort.
  • Consider setting up a business page to tell prospects more about your business

Get introductions to key targets

I'm only one Linked In connection away from a person I may want an introduction to.

I’m only one Linked In connection away from a person I may want an introduction to.

The concept behind Linked In is that we are never more than six connections from anyone so it’s a great place to find ways to connect with key targets. Search for your target by name or job role and then Linked In will show you how you are connected.

For example, on my bucket list is writing a book so I decided to search for a commissioning editor of business books at McGraw Hill, one of the leading publishers in the category. I found that I only need one connection to get an introduction! So if you have an ideal prospect, someone you want to joint venture with, or someone you want to pitch to, why not search for them on Linked In and see who could introduce you? Just make sure your profile is up to date first.

Do you have any success stories on Linked In? Please share them here.

 

Using Google+ for business

I’ll own up to being somewhat outside my comfort zone in today’s post. Google+ is not the most intuitive of the social media in my experience but I do believe that it is an important one. The big advantage Google Plus has over its competitors is that it is part of Google and is integrated with the search engine and all that means in terms of building your visibility online.

If you are new to Google Plus you will need to set up your account with a personal page and may then add a business page or two if you choose. However many people just operate from their personal pages.

What to use Google Plus for

Google plus is great for sharing your expertise. The trend across all social media is for images to generate more engagement than text and Google plus is no different. If you link your blog posts to Google Plus the system will automatically pick up the photos that you have incorporated into the post giving your page strong visual content as you can see on my page here.

Jamie Oliver has one of the largest Google + followings.

Jamie Oliver has one of the largest Google + followings.

Google Plus should help with your search engine optimisation so make sure you post regularly and ‘on topic’ using your keywords and areas of expertise. Here are some ideas of the kinds of things you can post:

  • invitations to events
  • links to your You Tube videos to build your credibility
  • blog articles that demonstrate your expertise
  • share other people’s articles and posts that will be of interest to your followers
  • images are said to get 87% more shares than text posts so turn tips into images
  • Use Google+ circles to organise the people you are following in to distinct groups by the nature of the relationships you have with them, this will enable you to manage your time on Google + more effectively
  • Join Google+ communities to connect with experts, potential collaborators or for research
  • Use Google hangouts to have one to one or group meetings or conversations with prospects, customers, potential suppliers etc. You can even run webinars through the medium. I think this is one of the best features of the Google infrastructure.

Some good examples of how to use Google Plus for business

If you are new to Google Plus or think that you could use it more effectively here are some examples from leading users:

and of course I would love you to connect with me at

https://plus.google.com/+GlendaShawley/posts

Boost your Google Plus results

As with all social media regular and consistent posts will help build your following. Link your blog to Google plus so that some posts are automated. Again you don’t need to spend hours working at it but if you are just starting out devoting a little time to looking at how best to use the media will help you to get going. Use the links above to see how some of the experts are doing it, you will see that they don’t overdo their posts but they are relevant and they do share ideas from other people.

Here’s a really useful article from someone with lots more expertise on the topic than me https://plus.google.com/+RebekahRadice/posts/GEHTLKe9FPb

I’m off to develop my Google Plus page, will I see you there?

 

Using Facebook for Business

I’m continuing with this month’s social media theme today and this time looking at how some businesses are using Facebook for business. I should start with a health warning! Facebook was not designed for business, it was designed as a social networking site so it really wants businesses to pay for the privilege of using it. Having said that Facebook knows a huge amount about its users so it is possible to target advertising very precisely and to start on a low budget. I haven’t tried it myself yet but plan to do so very soon.

If you are new to Facebook you need to know that there is a difference between your personal account and your business page. On your personal account you connect with ‘friends’ on your business page you connect with your ‘fans’ people who like your page or people who choose to follow you.

What to use Facebook for

Clever Facebook marketing

A clever way to promote more active engagement on Facebook.

Facebook is all about building relationships so be generous, comment on people’s posts, share things that your connections will enjoy, like pages that could be useful or interesting. The more interaction a business page gets the more people will get to see it in their timelines. Here are some ideas:

  • use the events tab to share details of your events and how to get tickets
  • post photos of products or ideas and ask for opinions (asking my contacts their opinions on my profile photos has been my most successful post to date)
  • share hints and tips that your fans and followers might find helpful, these are best posted as an image as more people will share these
  • share tips, events, humour, competitions etc. from other people and add a comment which will help you to build a relationship with the original ‘poster’
  • don’t sell all the time but add in some of your personality or something you know will connect with your followers (a photo of a glass of wine with a caption, ‘Is it time for one of these?’ worked very well for me)
  • run a ‘giveaway’ competition to capture more fans and contacts but make sure you comply with Facebook’s strict rules
  • join in a Fanpage Friday promotion but don’t ‘like’ pages just for the sake of it, connect with people who are likely to be interested in you or with whom you have a genuine interest
  • connect with other businesses similar to your own, it’s great for competitor research and you might be able to help each other. Craft type businesses are often very good at sharing each other’s work and pages.

Some good examples of how to use Facebook effectively for business

If you are new to Facebook or wondering how to use it more effectively for business then take a look at some of these pages for ideas:

and of course I would love you to like my pages:

Boost your Facebook results

As with all things marketing make sure you are posting on a regular basis, again you can automate posts using tools like Hootsuite. If you are short of time sharing other people’s posts takes seconds. As with all social media participation doesn’t have to take long, five minutes whilst you have a cup of tea, an hour or two preparing image based posts in advance and then scheduling them to go out when you want them to (use Hootsuite or Facebook’s own in built scheduler.)

There are numerous Facebook experts sharing hints and tips on their pages and in free webinars, amongst them Amy Porterfield and Mari Smith, so why not take a look at what they have to say? Do you have any tips or favourite Facebook experts whose advice you have found welcome? Do please share in the comments section if you have or share them on one of my Facebook pages.

Do please connect with me on Facebook and I’ll be sure to share your posts and pages.

 

Using Twitter for Business

I’m continuing my social media theme today with a look at Twitter which I believe to be the easiest platform to get to grips with. Used properly Twitter can be a fantastic tool for business and it doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes a day.

If you are new to Twitter you might find this handout useful.

What to use Twitter for.

Think of Twitter as a conversation with friends or people you would like to get to know better. People wouldn’t like you very much if you only ever talked about work or sold to them and they would soon get bored if you only spoke about yourself and what you had for breakfast! The best Twitter users mix up their conversations with questions, endorsements photos, sales pitches, useful information and sharing other people’s news etc. So here are some things you can use Twitter for:

  • drive traffic to a blog, lead page, event or article
  • share product development photos
  • share infographics that could be interesting to your audience
  • share testimonials and customer feedback
  • respond constructively to complaints and negative feedback so you show you are a trustworthy business
  • share tips, ideas, recipes and other people’s articles
  • ask questions or connect with other people at an event via live tweeting
  • build on relationships made at networking and other offline activities
  • find journalists looking for news stories (search #journorequest and click on ‘all’ to make sure you find all requests)
  • do customer or competitor research
  • find suppliers
  • thank customers and suppliers for good service or help
  • share real time information to help your customers e.g. Southern Electric used Twitter to give their customers updates during a power cut, Thames Water used it to let people know what was going on when the water stopped pumping; not great news but better for customers than no news!

Look out for local conversations to build relationships in your own community. Using a hashtag in the search bar will help you to find and participate in conversations. Try #yourtown to find people locally, use #business or #smallbiz to find business conversations. You may find regular conversations on Twitter, for example #EalingHour every Tuesday from 8.00-9.00p.m. connects local residents and businesses; #bizhour is a regular business conversation.

What else do you use Twitter for? Please share your tips in the comments section.

Some good examples of how to use Twitter effectively

Sainsbury's sharing tips, news and connecting with customers

Sainsbury’s sharing tips, news and connecting with customers

If you are new to the platform or wondering if you are making the best use of Twitter for your business take a look at some of the following accounts:

  • @Sainsbury’s
  • @ContactusEaling
  • @TheoPaphitis
  • @Jacqueline_Gold
  • @aquadesigngroup
  • @bodylinestudios
  • @thameswater

 

Boost your Twitter results

Twitter can be managed in just a few minutes a day. Use tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to programme your broadcast messages such as promotions, invitations to events and selling messages. Link your blog to Twitter so that it goes out automatically. that way you can devote your Twitter time to making connections with people. Twitter expert Mark Shaw has some useful tips in this article, I couldn’t put it better myself so read what Mark has to say.

I hope this article will get you using Twitter more strategically to grow your business. Be clear about what you are using Twitter for. Consider having a separate account for business if you are likely to post things in your personal account that you wouldn’t want your customers to read. Make sure you follow up on Twitter conversations, set Twitter up so that you are notified of Tweets to you on your smartphone. That way you will always be able to respond to customers in a timely manner.

Do please connect with me, @Glenda_S on Twitter, and I’ll be sure to share some of your tweets and news. I look forward to seeing you there.

 

 

Don’t be scared of social media.

In the last few weeks I’ve had a number of communications with business leaders who admit to being scared of social media. Apparently this is not uncommon. People are scared that they don’t understand how to participate, that they don’t have the time or money to join in, that they don’t understand the technology or that it will lead to their business gaining a bad reputation. In my view these are excuses that are easy to rectify. Social media is essential for every business operating in the market today whatever its size. It is a low cost form of marketing that we can’t afford to ignore.

Join the party

Think of joining social media as like going to a party where you know some but not all of the attendees, you start by talking to your friends and then get introduced to new people some of whom you get on well with. When you become active on social media the first people you will connect with will be people you know, then you’ll start joining in conversations through them but with people you don’t know and slowly your circle of connections will increase.

What is social mediaIf you found yourself at a party with a room full of strangers the chances are you would hang back and listen to conversations until you felt comfortable enough to join in. That’s a great way to start on social media. Start on one platform, I recommend Twitter, connect with a few people and just watch what they do. What do they post? What kind of conversations do they get involved in? When are they active? When you are comfortable that you understand the medium join in and start conversations.

Social media does not have to be expensive or time consuming

Now I am prepared to admit that social media can be the procrastinator’s best friend. We can all use the excuse that we are working on our marketing when in fact we are just stopping by the coffee machine (metaphorically) for a gossip. Self discipline is required. We can achieve all our social media goals in around 15 minutes a day on average, even less if time is short.

Of course if you’ve got deep pockets you can throw lots of resources at developing and implementing your social media strategy. But most of us don’t have such deep pockets so we need to find a way to make it work for us. We need to decide what we want to get out of our social media engagement and then plan how to achieve that. I’ll be discussing this more in my next post. Whilst you can outsource much of your social media activity I don’t believe we should hand over the whole lot. Social media is about building relationships and I don’t think anyone can do that for us as well as we can do it ourselves.

Social media is useful for managing our business’ reputation

Some people fear that social media will damage their reputation. This is a fear that emanates from media stories about people getting in to trouble for what they have posted.It’s true that it’s important to be careful about what we post.

If you went to a party with some influential people who could put business your way then you would control your drinking to ensure you didn’t let yourself down wouldn’t you? You probably wouldn’t get into an argument about politics either. The same restraint is important on social media. Have some boundaries about what you will talk about. Don’t post when you have had a glass too many or when you are very tired or angry. Always ask yourself, ‘would I say this to this person face to face or if I met them at a party, would I care if I was overheard?’ if the answer is no then don’t post it either.

Just because you are not on social media doesn’t mean that people are not talking about you there. Encourage your customers to give you feedback on social media and deal with any criticisms promptly and fairly, that will allow you to build trust with prospects and make your business appear human. Most people will share their satisfaction with their following and you can always harvest those conversations for other marketing activities.

Social media is an enormous topic so will be my theme for this month. We’ll look at the different platforms and how businesses like yours are using it effectively. Do pop back for new articles every Monday and Thursday and if you could use some help to get started book your free 30 minute consultation here.

What will your prospects think when they see you on social media?

Social media can be a great asset to a business or it can be a disaster zone as some people have discovered. For social media to work we have to have a strategy and we have to stick to it.

We need to ask ourselves what we are doing on each medium. Who uses that network and why are they there? Do we want to connect with potential customers, with suppliers or with journalists for instance? Where do they hang out? What do they want to know and how will they find that information?

Develop your social media strategy.

http://www.pinterest.com/thetrainingpack/

Pinterest is one of the newer players in the market and offers us a very visual way to connect.

Once we know who we want to talk to and what they want to know we can develop our strategy:

  • Which networks should we be using?
  • Should we have a separate account for business or combine with our personal presence?
  • How often should we post?
  • What should we post?
  • When should we post?
  • What should we share or re-tweet?
  • What should we include in our profile?
  • How many pages should we have and what should be on them?
  • What language will we use or what tone of voice will we adopt?

Look at your page as a prospect would.

If someone is visiting your page for the first time what will they think?

  • Will they understand what you do?
  • Will they like you?
  • Will they respect you?
  • Will they trust you?
  • Will they find you credible?
  • Will they see you as someone they want to associate with or to know more about?
  • Will they easily be able to find out the answers to their most important questions? This might be your qualifications, your location, your trading hours, your experience, your personality…
  • How likely will they be to engage with you? Do you give the impression of someone they would like to talk to?

We can’t be all things to all people and if we try we are likely to mean nothing to anybody! Equally we can’t spend all our lives on social media so we need to be selective. Which networks are best for our business? Which networks should we keep for personal use?

Social media is constantly changing. The major players change their practices so that they can make more money. New players come into the market. So users change their habits. They may change their preferred network. They may visit pages less frequently or at different times. They may change what the way they use social media. We therefore need to keep our social media strategy and practices under constant review so that it works for us rather than against us.

It’s time I took a fresh look at my strategy and refreshed some of my pages. Watch this space for some invitations to join me. Why nor post your own invitations in the comment space here?

How to promote your business!

This video has gone viral! It is being shared widely on social media and has so far had close to 6.5 million views on You Tube. As a result they have had media coverage across America. Wow! What a great way to publicise your new business.

The beauty of this video is that it showcases exactly what the business does and they don’t forget to promote the business at the end, complete with a web address. Unfortunately the video has been so successful that the website has crashed. However, there is also a link to Penn’s blog so there is a second opportunity to engage with viewers of the video.

What are the lessons for the small business owner?

  • Make great content to showcase your offer
  • Make it fun or emotional to capture people’s imagination so that they will want to share
  • Be prepared if the media want to interview you
  • Include more than one way for people to get in touch with you
  • Check that any links work so that you can fix any problems as quickly as possible

Of course there is no guarantee that your video will go viral but if you don’t try you then you can’t succeed. I’m off to think about my video marketing plan for 2014, what about you?

Using excitement to sell a new product

The excitement is building in our house, at least it is with the youngest member of the family. No I don’t mean Christmas but the UK release of the PS4 next week. He can’t wait! This got me thinking about the advantages of having a product or service that really excites customers and prospects. It’s something that Apple always achieves, Sony manages when it brings out a new Playstation and EA does it every year when the new version of Fifa is launched. How do they do it?

PlayStation 4 Display at PAX 2013

PlayStation 4 Display at PAX 2013 (Photo credit: camknows)

It helps that these brands have armies of loyal customers eagerly awaiting their next offering but then they take steps to build the excitement. This might involve a cloak and dagger press launch, hints on social media or announcing a release date. Often information is published months in advance of the product coming to market, more news is revealed in snippets in the lead up to the release date. The language is exciting describing features that will appeal to the aficionados. Sometimes pre-launch copies are made available to the press or to prospects via retailers, this will get the conversation going on social media and in the press and will contribute to the growing excitement. All this leads high volumes of pre-orders and to queues around the block when the product is finally launched and . So what can the small business owner learn from this?

  • understand what customers love about your product or service and, even more importantly, what they would like to see improved
  • in developing your new item keep what customers love and fix their gripes
  • start publicising new products or services well in advance of their release date and focusing on the things that will improve your customers’ experience
  • hold a press preview and make it exciting
  • give some of your most loyal customers and best advocates a sneek preview and invite them to share on social media
  • consider restricting volumes available on release date to incentivise people to order early

So will you launch a new product or service in 2014? Do you have plans in place? If not you might find our Planning for 2014 workout useful. See thetrainingpack.eventbrite.co.uk for more information

Four customer service questions every business owner needs to answer.

I’ve been on a conference this week where one of the topics was customer service. The discussion got me thinking about some of the key questions every business needs to address.

What obstacles do we put in the way of customers?

One of the key messages that came from the conference was the need to see our businesses from the customer’s perspective. How easy is it for them to do business with us? What is their experience at every touch point?

We see the bosses of large companies go ‘Back to the floor’ and become the ‘Undercover Boss’ for TV programmes. The idea is that they get to see what is really happening in their business. Those of us running small businesses may think we know, but do we really? How many calls do we miss? How long do prospects have to wait for a quotation or a follow up? How long does the website take to load? Do all the links work?

When did you last review the touch points in your business? Is it time for you to step into your customers shoes and see your business from their perspective?

Do we know more than our customers?

We live in the Information Age when the majority of our customers research their alternatives thoroughly before reaching a purchasing decision. Typically they will search the web, they might take a look at comparison sites if there are any and they look at rating sites such as Trip Adviser. They may then talk to a number of competing firms before they reach their decision.

By the time the prospect gets to talk to us they are very well informed and if we’re not careful they may be better informed than we are. That’s why it is really important to know our products and services inside out, to seek feedback from existing customers and to understand how we compare to the competition. If we can’t add value to the conversation then why should anyone buy from us?

What do you do to ensure that you and your staff know more than your customers so that you can add value?

Does our customer care extend beyond the sale?

I’m sure we all appreciate the importance of looking after the customer on their way to making a purchase but what happens once they have paid the bill? I know I have been delighted in the past to receive a thank you letter from a director of a company where I have made a purchase. That gives a great impression but does it really go far enough? How might I have felt if the company contacted me six months later to check that all was well with my purchase?

Nikki King Managing Director Isuzu

Nikki King Managing Director Isuzu

One of the speakers this week was Nikki King, MD of Isuzu trucks in the UK. Nikki writes a personal letter to the customer following their purchase thanking them for buying and giving her home phone number should there be any problems. Her customer advisers then ring each customer every three months to check that all is well. These calls feed into a ‘problem’ report and the top six items on the list become priorities for fixing. This focus on customer care ensures that 78% of Isuzu customers buy again against an industry average of 18%.

How many of your customers buy again? Would more follow up increase your repeat business?

What happens with customer complaints?

How do your customers complain? Do they complain? If they have a complaint do they make it in person or do they post comments on a feedback page or on social media? Do you have a system for dealing with those? Apparently 70% of complaints made on social media go unanswered, this hardly enhances a business’ reputation.

Figures often quoted suggest that a complaining customer will tell 12 others and those 12 will each tell 5. I wonder if those figures are still true. If customers are using social media to complain then the reach of that complaint becomes even greater and failure to deal with those complaints will really be costing business.

I would like to see if these figures are still accurate. Could you help by taking a couple of minutes to complete my quick survey? Thank you.