Let me tell you a story…

Jefferson family reunionI am a self-confirmed analyst of advertisements in our local paper, every single week without fail I scan the pages and see how local businesses are influencing Worcestershire folk with their products and services. This week I noticed a huge campaign run by a local business; it must have cost them a small fortune.

Upon further inspection there didn’t appear to be an inspiring and meaningful message across the campaign; it made me quite sad to think they had spent all of that money and wasted an amazing opportunity to really captivate their audience. It also made me think, there is still one key ingredient which very often gets left out of marketing communications – a good story.

With a focus on content marketing, communications have become far more personable and increasingly more participatory. Across social media in particular, your customers are busy documenting their own lives, telling their own stories, and this makes them far more receptive to yours.

There is nothing we enjoy more than a good story; our brains are hardwired to remember them, and they are often far more convincing than using facts and figures alone. As a small business owner, you might ask ‘how is telling my story going to increase sales?’. Simply put, the success of many brands is intrinsically linked to emotion. This is your opportunity to appear more human, more approachable, enabling your prospective customers to relate to you on another level.

For small businesses, it makes complete sense to write about who you are, and what inspired you to start-up your business. Following your initial inspiring introduction you could write about problems you faced and how you overcame them, linking them to your products or service. Supporting your communications with a mix of images, photographs and videos will certainly help make them more impactful.

When storytelling to enhance your marketing efforts, it is still essential that you follow the textbook rules of storytelling (much like a book); set the scene, hook the reader in, face adversity and come to an inspiring resolution. We all enjoy reading a positive, inspiring and exciting story so be sure to keep this in mind at all times.

Remember that today, we operate in a very transparent society when it comes to communications, so be sure to follow these golden rules;

  1. Do not lie
  2. Solve the problem – do not sell the product
  3. Be visual, images are incredibly powerful
  4. Set yourself apart, draw your distinctions
  5. Use your brand story to underpin your communications; always using the same messages and the same vision.

So ask yourself – what story is your business telling? How are you connecting on an emotional level with your audience? and finally, how are you adding real meaning to your communications?

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Planning – it doesn’t have to be complicated…

Put the kettle on...Its time to plan your marketing!Whether you take a reactive or proactive approach to marketing, it would be a great idea to know where you want to be and what you want to achieve.

Sure, planning can be a complete nightmare and take up quite a bit of precious time…so why bother? You may be wondering why i’m even writing about this, “nobody else bothers to plan their marketing”.

Its true, I am shocked at how many businesses do not even consider planning and setting goals for their marketing.

I think the reality of this is that many small (and even sometimes medium sized) business owners simply do not know how, and do not understand the positive impact it can have on their business.

There are hundreds of documented ways of writing a marketing plan, people make a lot of money for thinking up swish acronyms and simply relating them to basic planning principles. You certainly don’t need all of this.

Keep it simple
The purpose of marketing planning is to help you maintain focus. This focus will keep you on track, aware of opportunities and create consistency across your business. For those of you with employees, it can really help empower them to make decisions based upon your key objectives.

Forget the 50 page word documents, forget the fancy acronyms and follow a basic and simplified approach to planning, covering the following;

1. Where am I? Where do I want to be?
2. What makes your business different?
3. Where are the opportunities and threats?
4. Who are my customers?
5. What are my goals?
6. How am I going to get there?
7. What is the cost?

At first your plan might not even cover a page, or make much sense, however it is worth noting that a marketing plan should be a live document; it should be reviewed and updated constantly.

Every book on the market has a different take on how you should plan your marketing activities; many of these books are geared towards the big corporates with very little information for those who don’t speak acronym! Your approach should be individual and something you understand.

If growth plans for your business are significant, this is where you will need to enlist the support of a professional marketer who can utilise frameworks such as ‘Mr Porter and his Five Forces’ to put a little more weight behind your plans.

Good luck!

 

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Well, here goes. My first Blog post…

Know your customerI have pondered over my first Blog post for many days now. Firstly, may I add – setting this site up has been a real learning curve for me. I am still perfecting things as you can probably tell!

The real purpose of this Blog (as you can read here) is to simplify marketing for small businesses. Recently even I find myself in a world of ridiculous jargon, not to mention an over emphasis on digital and content.  Just because many businesses are jumping on the digital bandwagon doesn’t mean you have to.

Many marketers neglect the fact that the ultimate goal is to provide a solution to a problem. We are all recipients of totally irrelevant promotional blurb – in our inbox, through our doors and down the phone. So why does this happen? Simply, those businesses do not understand who they are marketing to.

So lets take this right back to the fundamental principles of marketing.

Firstly, you need to identify the problem. What actually is it that requires a solution? What is the purpose of the product or service? You need to think like the customer and brainstorm the real benefits you will deliver.

Once you have identified the problem you can align the problem to the solution. How do you think you customers will feel when they resolve the problem they encounter? Brainstorm as much as you can, even if you are just jotting down keywords.

Now identify what the customer looks like. Who are they? What do they do? Where are they? What does their daily life look like? You may identify several different buyer ‘personas’ through this process; this is great – write them all down.

It may be really worthwhile to mock up a visuals of your customer groups, use stock images if necessary. I personally find pages of images better than pages of text.

These steps should give you a great idea of the perfect candidate for your product or service.

The benefit of knowing your customers inside out is that you can produce more relevant communications aimed specifically at those groups.

I am finding more and more that businesses are neglecting these fundamentals to appeal to multiple customer segments, especially across digital platforms. Chucking random content out is not the answer.

It is true that sometimes a ‘shot in the dark’ can pay off – but for those who really want to create an incredible experience, set themselves apart from the competition and add value to their brand, there is nothing more important than REALLY knowing your customer.

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