Marketing Automation vs Personalisation

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The question of automation vs personalisation for a company is all about saving time and money whilst increasing efficiency. Whereas the perspective of the customer is about receiving good customer service and feeling valued.  So the question is “What does your business value more? – Costs or Customers?”

Advantages and Disadvantages

I’d pick personalisation over automation every time, but as a business grows they must consider all options on how to communicate effectively with their customers. Here’s some of the advantages and disadvantages of automation and personalisation:

Automation benefits:

  • Cost reduction
  • Saves time
  • Reaches a high volume of customers

Automation negatives:

  • Error prone
  • No human contact
  • No personalisation
  • Just another number

Personalisation benefits:

  • Customer service
  • Individual attention
  • Deliver bespoke products/services
  • Increases chances of repeat business

Personalisation negatives:

  • Time consuming
  • Costly to scale

Automation vs Personalisation is simply the choice between quantity over quality. I always like to place myself in the shoes of the customer – what type of service do they expect? Customers are individuals and expect to be treated accordingly, how special do you feel knowing you’re just another number receiving generic marketing communications?

Small Business vs Big Business

How can big businesses connect with a vast volume of customers without using automation? – More often than not, they simply can’t. Can you imagine the amount of money, time & employees that would be needed for a company with thousands/millions of customers to connect on a 1:2:1 basis? But that’s acceptable, as long as time and money are being saved – the customer is last on the list of priorities.

Small businesses on the other hand don’t have the resources to connect with a high volume of customers, personalisation is necessary.  Let’s take email software as an example, rather than sending 1,000 generic emails with a 1-2% response rate, try studying 10 customers and sending personalised emails with bespoke offerings relating to those individual/business needs. Guaranteed your ROI improves, your responses will increase and you’ll develop a reputation for being a customer-centric business. If more small businesses take the time to connect with each individual customer, rather than applying a mass-market approach, then this can be used as a distinct competitive advantage.

Achieving economies of scale isn’t the holy grail of business, growth must be accomplished over a longer period of time, growing too big too fast can and will destroy many businesses. Focus on what you have now, your strengths, your weaknesses and most importantly your customers. By being a customer-centric business you can personalise almost all Marketing communications which results in customer retention, recommendations and an increase in overall customer value. Perhaps customers of larger companies wouldn’t be so keen to move to competitors if they feel valued – personalisation over automation every time.  🙂

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Building a Brand from Scratch

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Branding is an essential element in any Marketing strategy for any business in any industry. Your brand defines your company by encapsulating who you are, what you offer and what differentiates you from the competition.

Ask anyone to provide you with an example of a successful brand and you’ll hear the likes of Apple, Coca Cola and Microsoft. Branding isn’t monopolised by the big corporations as small businesses can also build a successful brand, here’s some guidance on how to build a brand from scratch.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Be consistent with all your branding efforts or don’t bother building a brand at all. Think about a Franchise like McDonalds or Starbucks, in every store you get the same coffee, same decor, get asked the same questions and you get this consistently. Here are 10 of the most important elements to consider when building your company brand:

1) Keep your LOGO prominent and consistent
2) Use the same LANGUAGE, TONE and level of FORMALITY
3) Keep COLOURS consistent
4) Use the same IMAGES, GRAPHICS & PICTURES in all Branding efforts
5) Use the same LAYOUT, FORMAT & TEXT
6) Display the same WEBSITE, EMAIL ADDRESS & PHONE NUMBERS
7) Keep CUSTOMER SERVICE consistent by having FROMALISED PRE & POST SALES FEEDBACK
8) Ensure ALL CUSTOMERS receive the same level of focus and service, regardless of their size of wallet
9) At all times apply the MISSION, VISION & VALUES of your company
10) Fully INTEGRATE all Social Media Channels with your company website, and vice versa

Lifestyle

When I was 1st taught about Branding I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people buy into the lifestyle of a particular brand. I was a salesman and you sell a product or service – not a lifestyle! However if you understand the lifestyle of your target market then you can relate your brand to the lifestyles they lead.

If you want to understand the lifestyle of your customers then you need to collect, store and utilise data about them – building a database is critical otherwise you’re fumbling around in the dark.

Building a database with names and addresses will reveal nothing about the lifestyle of your customers, you need to understand:

• Opinions
• Trends
• Hobbies & Interests
• Occupations
• Family
• Culture

Build relationships with your customers and gather feedback at every opportunity, ask them what they do in their spare time – Now you understand their lifestyles you can relate your brand to the very people you serve.

Positioning

The positioning of your brand is all about how the consumer perceives your brand in relation to your competitors, the keyword here is PERCEPTION. The brand you create will result in people forming an opinion on your company – the quality of your product/service, the value of your brand and if you’re high, medium or low quality.

Get outside that little world of your company and think like your customer. What makes you similar/different from your competitors? What’s your USP? How is my brand viewed in the minds of my customers? – Just remember it’s the customer’s perception of your brand that’s important not yours.

As with all strategies you must formalise your goals and objectives, create a plan and implement it successfully – Always have a plan.

What do you think a brand means?

Small Business Blogging

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Why Blog?

If you can talk then you can blog, that’s all blogging is – talking with words. Some people may struggle a little with writing a blog, but anyone can do it if you have a passion for your business.

Writing a blog can help differentiate you and your business from your competitors. There are very few original ideas and businesses as competition has intensified in most industries.

The most important question to consider when blogging is “What value does my blog add?” Always start with the customer in mind by asking yourself:

• What questions do my customers ask?
• What problems can I solve?
• Will my blog benefit my customers?
• What does my customer want to read?

So why blog? – To build credibility and trust. Demonstrating your credibility can only be achieved by sharing your knowledge and skills. Once your customers view you as being credible in your industry, you can then nurture customer relationships to build trust.

Of course the end product of blogging is to sell, but you don’t necessarily have to do this directly – focus on communicating, engaging and building a mutually trusting relationship with people.

WordPress – Free Version

Ideal for new bloggers is the free version of WordPress which is easy to use and customise. HTML for non-technical people is confusing, but WordPress makes this easy for you by having simple buttons which do all the work for you. You can alter the font, size, layout and background; add URL links images and other media to your blog to make it more engaging and appealing.

Once you become more experienced and advanced with blogging, you can consider upgrading your WordPress account which is fairly inexpensive.

Branding

WordPress have a good range of themes for your format and layout which can be tailored to match your company Brand. Keep colour schemes, logos, images, text and language consistent with your website and other Marketing material to maintain a consistent Brand image.

Link all your Social Media accounts to your blog, and link your blog to all your Social Media accounts and website. This ensures Brand consistency, but also allows you to direct people back to your website increasing the likelihood of a sale.

SEO

SEO – Another scary word for us non-technically minded people, but again WordPress make this easy for you. Add the appropriate tags (keywords) and categories to your blog so people can easily find your material. Make sure you use keywords in your blog and the headline, if you don’t know what keywords to use just ask your customers. Ask them what they would type into a search engine to find a company like yours.

WordPress provides you with an option to enter meta data, this sounds technical but it’s actually really easy to implement. By entering the tools menu you can add meta data to optimise your SEO with Google and Microsoft (Bing). You must firstly have a Gmail and Hotmail email address. Follow the WordPress instructions and then copy and paste the required code from Google & Bing into your WordPress account so people can now find your blog when making internet searches.

Get Started

Anyone can blog and WordPress makes it easy to put together and distribute. If you run your own small business then you obviously have a passion for what you do – so get typing and let everyone know how good you are.

Stay tuned for the next blog from King’s Content – Marketing your Blog

For a free step by step guide on how to start a WordPress blog please leave a comment and I’ll send you the guide 🙂

How to use Social Media to enhance your Credibility and build Trust

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You’re good at your job, you have experience and expertise in your field but how do you let potential customers and stakeholders know you’re credible and can be trusted?

As a new start up credibility can win or lose you business, it all depends on trust. Social Media can be harnessed to demonstrate your credibility and begin to build trust with your audience, and here’s how to achieve this:

Blog

Share your experience, knowledge and skills of your industry to position yourself as an independent thinker and thought leader in your field. Write in your own style in your own words and don’t be afraid to go against industry norms. Personally I don’t care if I don’t agree with what everyone else in my industry is saying, if what I believe will benefit my customers then that’s who I aim to please.

Be controversial, not argumentative by always writing with substance and evidence to back up your beliefs. Be unique, be different and in the words of Seth Godin, be remarkable.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+

Join and create groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ relevant to your industry and provide comments on what you think is right and wrong. Be seen and heard by the very audience you aim to influence. Open up your views to constructive criticism, you might even learn something by being open-minded.

Everyone can see what you Tweet, your words are not just limited to small groups. Let people see you connect and engage with other people and businesses, and make sure your sales-related posts are well targeted. Nobody wants to engage with people who just sell themselves, take a genuine interest in your audience.

Network with top industry experts and thought leaders to demonstrate that you can hold your own with the best in the business.

Be Transparent

Invite and answer difficult questions, don’t shy away from subjects that people want to know about. Use Social Media as a Customer Service tool to answer queries and even complaints let your audience see how quickly and effectively you handle their queries. Your business is precious to you, not your customer – they want results and you must respond quickly and effectively.

If people see that you’re not just trying to sell then you’ll become more approachable, credible and trusted.
Offer Free Advice

If your business isn’t offering free advice, then your competitors certainly are. This is where I get a little controversial and say don’t always have a call to action to buy buy buy. Invite comments yes but don’t always use your blog to sell. If you raise awareness, be transparent and engage with real people in real time then you’ll be a credible and trusted source.

Prove it

Don’t ever buy followers or likes! Build your followers and fans organically and aim for volume (not at the expense of quality). The 1st thing people see on your Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn profile and Facebook page is the number of followers and fans you’ve amassed. Shout about your achievements from the rooftops, let your audience know that you’ve reached 1,000 Twitter followers or 1,000 Facebook likes – it helps to build credibility.

Promote client testimonials and share comments from people to prove people like and trust what you have to say. When people tell you that you’re good – let everyone know.

Are you a new business? How do you build credibility and trust on Social Media? Let me know what you think, thanks.

Social Media IS the 7 P’s of Marketing

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PRODUCT PLACE PRICE PROMOTION PEOPLE PROCESSES PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

The 7 P’s of Marketing existed well before the explosion of Social Media and for decades has been taught to Students, Marketers and Business people as the fundamental basics of Marketing, known as the Marketing Mix. For any Marketer or Business knowing your 7 P’s is always a good place to start with Marketing, but as you become more advanced there are so many other theories, elements and concepts involved.

The initial 4 P’s of Marketing is more widely used whereas B2B and International Marketing are more suitable for the use of the 7 P’s. However any business in any industry can use the 7 P’s, but can we apply Social Media to all 7 elements?

PRODUCT

What do your customers think about the product/services you sell to them?
Do you have ideas for a new concept or star product?
Would your customers be willing to pay more for a premium priced product?

Ask them. Co-creation involving your target market at the stages of idea generation and product development can be conducted via Social Media. Conduct a focus group on a webinar, groups or forums. Run polls on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook or post videos on You Tube or pictures on Pinterest. Get feedback from the very people who will ultimately buy your goods and include them at the R&D stages.

Co-creation of your PRODUCTS and ideas, all done using Social Media.

PLACE

You don’t need a shop, fancy website or offices to sell to your customers, Social Media can facilitate all of this. Some small businesses find it easier to sell their products by uploading photos to the Business Facebook or Google+ Pages rather than entering complex code into the back end of company websites.

For example my own business website is modest at best, a free page which is very limited so I try to sell using my Social Media sites – and it works. As a recent graduate with a brand new business a new website isn’t in my budget yet so I network on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and forums which has won me new business in my 1st 2 months of trading. All I need is a computer, a phone, sweat equity and my Social Media networks become the PLACE I sell my services.

PRICE

Different Social Media networks have varying demographics which opens up the possibility of charging more or less according to each target segment. High net worth individuals can be targeted to sell at a premium price, whereas lower income earners perhaps could be targeted with discounts or budget ranges.
Co-creation can also be applied using Social Media to help determine the PRICE of your product.

PROMOTION

PROMOTION, this one is easy. You can promote on almost all Social Media sites as long as you know who your market is and what channel they use. Content Marketing and customer engagement are vital when promoting your company, but always remember that Social Media is social where people communicate.

Target your ads and always narrow your target market to as small a segment as possible and always keep the conversation flowing. If you get a like or a comment, respond immediately to engage with real people on a 1:2:1 basis.

PEOPLE

PEOPLE areTHE most important element of any type of business, service or product in any sector anywhere in the world. Your customers are number 1 so consider them in every choice you ever make for your business and you’ll always do well.

Use Social Media to connect with wider stakeholders to your business such as your local community, competitors, trade associations and public bodies. Employees can be used as an asset when communicating via Social Media but ensure you train them and have a solid social media policy implemented.

PROCESSES

Customer Service PROCESSES can be facilitated on your company Social Media sites. Respond swiftly to customer complaints and re-tweet, share and post any testimonials or positive feedback. Check all your Social Media sites at least twice daily and regularly conduct searches for key words about your company.

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

Walk down any street in any city and you’ll most probably see someone on their mobile phone. Go into any cafe, University or shopping mall where people communicate on their handheld devices. Their world, their PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT is in that device, talking, laughing, crying and sharing their lives on Social Media.

Get into their world, the rise of Mobile advertising targets consumers according to their habits and businesses need to think about how to fit into consumer lifestyles.

Even the old fundamental classic 7 P’s of Marketing can be adapted to incorporate Social Media. By applying old and new theories and tools, Social Media should be seen to compliment and enhance traditional Marketing.

5 Tips to help you find the time for Social Media

time-management

So many small businesses have a desire to harness the power of social media, but there’s one constant grumble I hear – But I don’t have the time to do social media. It’s tough running your own business and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything you want. You’re constantly juggling customer enquiries, doing the accounts, answering the phone, deadlines to meet and the kids need picked up from school. Then you need to do the gardening, attack that pile of ironing and make the dinner. Always juggling and you can never find the time to send those tweets or update your Facebook page.

Social media IS important and there’s always something more important to do right? – Wrong! Find the time and make social media a priority. With a little thought and forward planning you can always find the time for social media, here’s 5 tips to help you find the time.

1) Outsource your household duties

Instead of outsourcing your accounts to an Accountant or Marketing to a Consultant, do it yourself. It’s important to understand all the different business functions and the best way to do this is to do it yourself. So instead of paying an Accountant, pay a Gardener or pay for someone to do that pile of ironing or house cleaning. Be dedicated to your business and take the stress off your shoulders, free up time and dedicate this to your business, in particular your social media functions.

2) Schedule

Write down a daily schedule and stick to it. 15-20 minutes in the morning and the same in the evening and make this a daily habit of your everyday working practices. Just make social media a daily priority and ensure you don’t fall behind the times, it’s where your customers are. Form a strategy and write down your plan, always write down your goals and objectives.

3) HootSuite

HootSuite is a fantastic auto-scheduling tool which can help free up time to post for you at optimum times of the day. I like to post when people will be sitting on the bus/tube going to work, at lunchtime and evenings. You can’t always be ready to send out posts at these times so use the schedule function on HootSuite to do the work for you. You can post to all your social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn all with one click. The free version will be ample for small businesses.

4) Twitter Lists

Open the homepage to your Twitter account and the volume of tweets can be daunting; the solution is to use Twitter lists. Sort all the people you follow into distinct lists, as a Marketer I have a number of lists which include Social Media Marketing, Entrepreneurial posts and Market Research. This way I can look at each individual subject from my lists and pick out the best posts to write about or re-tweet. Lists can easily be set up on your HootSuite account for ease of access.

5) Involve your employees

If you have employees, then get them involved in your social media strategy. If you involve your employees make sure of you have a social media policy in place and ensure your employees have received adequate training. Failure to do either of these 2 things can lead to damaging your brand, so training and a social media policy are essential.

Social media is important to your small business, it’s a cost effective way to market your business and allows you to personally engage with customers on a 1:2:1 basis. Remember that large businesses struggle to answer every customer on social media, but you can. Social media is where your customers are communicating, so go and find them.

The Importance of a Database in Marketing for Micro-Businesses

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Who exactly is your customer? This is one question many small businesses struggle to answer. What age are they? Where do they come from? What are their characteristics & lifestyles? These are all fairly easy questions to answer, if you have a database.

The Importance of a Database

When someone enquires about your products/services via email, Facebook, your website or any other channel you’ll naturally respond to those people using the channel they made the enquiry from. You’re correct to respond to your customers using the channel they use, but it’s also important to collect as much information as possible about each individual person or company. If they phone you then ask for their email address, if they email you ask for their Facebook profiles. If you want to know who your customers are, then you must collect as much relevant details as possible so you can begin to understand exactly who your target market is. When I see an advert with only a phone number, it’s dead. Unless I need to call that company immediately their potential to sell to me has been lost. If that advert had a Facebook page, a website or email address then I can make an enquiry in my own time.

Database Benefits

The importance of capturing as much information as possible about your customers is essential to ensure future marketing activities are more relevant to the people who’re receiving them. With a richly populated database you will be able to understand:

• How much it’s cost you to generate a lead (Cost Per Lead)
• Cost Per Sale
• Conversion Ratios – Enquiries to Sales
• Customer trends & habits
• Your typical customer location
• Your typical customer demographics
• The typical lifestyles your customers share

Measurement & Segmentation

Measuring the effectiveness & ROI of your marketing efforts cannot be achieved unless you capture, store and utilise the information from your database. There’s no point in having details about your customers in a range of locations like a diary, email list, pieces of paper and social media accounts. Your customer details must be in one place so they’re easily accessible for speed and accuracy with the ability to collate and measure that data. From here you can target smaller segments of customers based on a range of variables and tailor marketing communications to those smaller more unique groups of people. See – Why Small Is Good in Segmentation.

What Database?

What database do I use? Good question to ask. There are a multitude of database options available for small businesses and using Microsoft Excel or Access is a good place to start. Once your database and company begins to grow then you might consider upgrading to paying for CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems which will incorporate all your back office processes. CRM systems are advantageous over the likes of Excel & Access with superior capabilities, but it would be advisable to use simple free databases in the early stages of your business and reconsider your database options as you experience growth.

Don’t underestimate the importance and power of the database to your business, because from here you will truly be able to understand exactly who your customers are and how to reach them.