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Marketing – Is it really all about the 3 C’s – Content, Content, Content?

Pick up a copy of a business magazine, webinar, SEO whitepaper, workshop agenda or open one of those hundreds of marketing tip e-mails [not all such e-mails are the same of course 🙂 ] and the chances are you’ll not go far before the word “content” is mentioned.

Content Marketing Plan

Content Marketing Plan

If you want your website to be a successful shop window for your company you need it to be well furnished with content, lots of it, all shapes and sizes, colours, creations and categories……or do you?

Call me an old cynic…but when I start to sense a trend forming and a bandwagon being jumped on I have a natural inclination to run in the opposite direction.   Sure SEO is important but what if you produce masses of poor content?  All that will prove is that you’ve created a big website full of “stuff” that nobody is going to read let alone share.  Surely the idea with this facet of marketing is to produce quality, focused material that appeals to those who you have identified as your target audience.   Badly written and presented content will have the adverse effect.  I would argue that even if you did rank higher as a result of your prolific production once anyone clicked on it they would be more inclined to bounce straight out again.  This would only create a negative impression.

Ok back to basics, what is “content”? Does anyone really know or is it just another “buzzword” that sounds good but has little thought behind it.

 

Content varies from the obvious written word, blog, news update, article to more visual and increasingly popular sources such as infographics, webinars and other video based productions such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope.

Just for starters WordPress report that there are 42.6 million blog posts per month. Now imagine how that number is going to escalate with the buzzword of the year “content” driving marketing activities.  Add to the written word the growing trend of video posts and you’ve a very busy and somewhat cluttered space in which you’re trying to make a name for yourself.

Typical Examples

A)     You can just see the common scenario developing where a young marketing manager, having read all the latest guides, asks the MD to produce a blog for the company.  The MD is very busy but she knows this buzz of blogging and “thought leadership” is the thing she really should be doing…so she writes one.  It’s not great but it is her first effort.  The marketer doesn’t feel that they can correct the boss so is left with no option but to post it.  No one comments on it, it’s only read by staff internally who universally agree the MD should stick to running the business.

B)      Or what about a situation where no one in the business has the time to write an article or blog so they look around for help.  Now for the purpose of balance I must advise that yes, there are excellent copywriters, journalists, wordsmiths who have both the intelligence and skill to produce high quality “home grown looking” material that is both informative and easy to digest.  Unfortunately given the “content” Goldrush we have no shortage of prospectors panning for nuggets but finding fool’s gold, those who look the real deal, talk a good game but simply don’t understand enough about the business and the best way to communicate with their target audience.  In this example the business spends a large chunk of their annual marketing budget on an agency who simply fails to connect with the client and produces low grade results albeit in large quantities.  The company sacks the agency when the MD asks a few pertinent questions at a board meeting such as “Do they own a dictionary” “Have they met our production team” “Why are the web visits up but the engagement down?” The result, the agency blames the client and the resultant lack of business demonstrates the importance of having a well thought through strategy that involves communications that connect with the target audience.

So what should you be doing?

  1. Know your audience and understand what they want, how they consume information and if indeed an MD blog is the way to grow your business profile.
  2. Google does seek fresh and relevant content so it is an idea to have your website populated with dynamic regularly updated and appropriate material.
  3. Don’t overlook the use of video or slides as content alternatives but ensure they are well scripted, planned and executed and not “handmade”.
  4. Don’t follow the competition, find your own voice and methods of communicating that speak of your business, its culture and strong sales points.
  5. Whilst it’s important it’s not all about digital.  Consider the offline use of content such as print, face to face and traditional broadcast mediums.
  6. If you can make use of the writing talent within your business.  It doesn’t need to be perfect but be prepared to offer constructive criticism to ensure that the finished article is as professional as possible.
  7. Provide training – consider bringing in a professional writer/ journalist to deliver a session on writing for a specific audience.
  8. Don’t make it a one hit wonder. Take responsibility for driving the content creation within the business.
  9. If you do outsource vet the suppliers with terrific care. I would strongly counsel against allowing an agency to run social media sites for your company however more complex written material may need external expertise to deliver. Seek out those who are prepared to understand your business and offer true bespoke material rather than a factory production line.
  10. Last but by all means not least, be clear as to your objectives and strategy. Ask the question IS CONTENT CREATION THE CORRECT SOLUTION FOR MY BUSINESS? If so what will work and where are you best employed to deliver optimum returns. If not don’t be badgered by the bandwagon promoters, trust your instincts.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please contact David Laud via twitter @davidlaud or call 08456 446624

Byadmin

Is the Marketing Plan a Dead Doc?

I sense that the traditional marketing planning process has taken something of a back seat in recent years.  I don’t have definitive proof just anecdotal comment from fellow marketers and business owners but I suspect there’s a trend developing.

Putting a Plan Together

Putting a Plan Together

The main reasons for our failure to plan appear to be time, or rather the lack of it.  When I’ve pressed on the subject many get defensive and point to a myriad of additional excuses such as;

  • Lack of resource to help with the process
  • Nothing wrong with the plan we have just need to update it
  • Too many day to day distractions
  • Other areas of the business are a priority

Plus the rather worrying comment I overheard recently “It won’t make any difference if we plan or not, it’s just a piece of paper and no one ever looks at it”

You might be surprised to hear that I have enormous sympathy for those making these comments.  I agree that you need the resources, time and a clear focus as to what the planning process is going to deliver for you.

In addition to the above statements I also get the impression that the increased emphasis on social media activity has created a challenge for many marketers, to “keep up”, innovate and manage the relatively new medium.  This creates a dilemma for the marketing manager/director or business owner.  As soon as you set out what you intend to do in your carefully prepared plan some new development, platform or nuance emerges that overrides the plan and requires either a re-write or more likely just enough reason to ignore the original plan.

Given the pace of change and pressures the obvious question would be, is the traditional marketing plan redundant, defunct and a “dead doc”?

My answer is yes and no.  Yes the traditional method of planning out a year’s worth of activity, by product, service or person by location with expected outcomes, in fine detail with budgeted expenditure and suppliers, has a diminished value.  It can still be worth undertaking as a broad guide to budget and activity and shape thinking but not as a firm “set in stone” plan.

If plans are going to have any real influence and ongoing relevance on the direction and success of the business they need to be dynamic and almost entirely built around a full and detailed understanding of the customer.  That’s nothing new…I can hear you cry and I would agree.  Many marketers already create their own flexible planning processes incorporating new technologies that are adaptive to customer behavioural changes.  The opportunity is in migrating businesses to this approach so that the thought of planning remains key and is not considered a waste of time.

How do you do this?  Well there are no easy “off the shelf” answers.  I know there are hundreds of marketing plan templates, just “Google” the words and you’re spoilt for choice.  The problem is that they are generic or too specific and invariably don’t relate to YOUR business.

 

The best advice is to follow a simple process…and for me it involves breaking down the overall plan into manageable projects.  Here’s how……

 

  1. Talk to the business owners about the process and intention to set out a new plan
  2. Avoid making assumptions – obtain current intelligence across the business (examples)
    1. Financial performance
    2. Customer data (including satisfaction surveys)
    3. Website Google analytics
    4. Social media stats
    5. Advertising performance
    6. Competitor analysis
    7. Market research
    8. Factor in any political, economic, legal influences
    9. Skills audit of marketing staff – identify training need

 

  1. Review overall company objectives and assess relevance and need to update
  2. Map out financial targets by product/ service/ office/ individuals
  3. Create marketing project plans for specific segments of the business and include
    1. The objectives
    2. Owners of the project
    3. Team members and roles
    4. Suppliers i.e. web designer, SEO agency, printers
    5. Platforms i.e. press, social media channel, radio station
    6. Timeline of activity including regular review points
    7. Costs
    8. Results and analysis (this should be factored in as an ongoing aspect of the project)
    9. Overarching schedule of the projects providing simple helicopter view of the marketing team’s actions to ensure that it is planned, not overly ambitious and achievable within the timescales suggested.

Today’s marketing professional needs to be an accomplished project manager, not necessarily an expert in any one particular field but capable of co-ordinating resources with the help of a straightforward plan.

Creating a method for the business owners to view and engage with the project plans as they develop would also help maintain “buy-in” and might be possible through a form of shared software platform or intranet.  This can also be used by the project team to monitor their progress and avoid “lag” by identifying issues such as a specific element that has failed to deliver.

As you might have gathered I’m a huge fan of project planning and management.  It’s obviously not a new concept but it lends itself perfectly to a dynamic fast paced environment which most of us find ourselves in.  Not so much re-inventing a wheel but adapting it to move faster, have greater grip and flexibility.

If this is a topic you have experience of or would like to contribute toward please feel free to comment or tweet me @davidlaud

David Laud

Byadmin

Marketing – It’s a Dirty Word

I still encounter those who see marketing as at best a necessary evil and at worst a practice of smoke and mirrors with no substance.

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This unwarranted prejudice is borne out of a lack of understanding of the core principles of marketing.  Sceptics who poke sticks at marketers often suggest that the acquiring of customers is not difficult.  Winning new business is not connected to marketing activity.  They believe that by producing a quality product or service customers will return and promote to others.  That method of gaining customers can often be effective but the marketing element should already be interwoven with production and customer experience and not simply be seen as a blunt instrument of advertising or PR before or after the fact.  Ironically sceptics often employ marketing techniques, unaware of their natural ability to develop the business.  MD’s don’t always connect their activity to marketing which they see as a separate collection of basic promotional actions.

If you were to survey 100 non marketers and ask them for a definition of marketing the chances are over 50% would reference advertising within their response.  The truth is marketing, certainly for me is “The Business of Business” a little more than creating and placing an advert.  To be an effective marketer you must understand all you can about your customers, the financial model that produces the product, where the margins kick in, the mechanisms involved in delivering the product and the experience of customers once purchased.  The entire scope of the company, its infrastructure, inner workings and technical elements must be understood to contextualise a successful approach to develop the brand and thereby grow the business.

All too often when recruiting or appointing a marketing resource business owners go into the process with a narrow pre-determined idea of what the person will add to the mix.  They focus on PR or advertising.  They might also worry about the need for a better online presence rather than consider an opportunity to involve the marketer in helping with business planning and setting a strategy.

Typical Marketing Professionals Skill Set

  • Account Management
  • Administration
  • Advertising
  • Analytical
  • Brand Marketing & Management
  • Business Development
  • Client Relationship/ Customer Care
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Content Marketing
  • Contract Negotiation
  • CRM/ Database Management
  • Creative
  • Direct Marketing
  • Displays
  • Event Planning
  • E-mail marketing
  • Financial
  • Interpersonal
  • Leadership
  • List Management
  • Market Analysis & Research
  • Market Strategy
  • Merchandising
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Order Processing
  • Planning & Project Management
  • PPC
  • Presentations
  • Product Research
  • Problem Resolution
  • Product Management
  • Product Promotion
  • Professional
  • Public Relations
  • Purchasing Inventory
  • Quality Control
  • Reporting
  • Sales Tracking
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Supplier Management
  • Teaching/ Training
  • Team Player
  • Time Management
  • Troubleshooting

An added challenge for many is the “hobby” marketer boss who believes they can play “the marketing game”.  We all consume so many marketing messages each day it’s not surprising that a boss or client might suggest they have the answer to a new advertising campaign, website or sponsorship deal.  Don’t for one minute think I’m against business owners or bosses getting engaged with the marketing activity.  I’ve spent far too long in my career trying to encourage such interest to fight it; but it can be difficult for junior, less experienced marketers to put a counter view forward when the ultimate decision maker insists on having their way.

Where experienced and effective marketers set themselves apart is in their ability to distinguish “good ideas” from the ego driven project.  They need an ability to swiftly reflect and analyse any newly presented opportunity, establish the potential impact and make recommendations in plain jargon free English.  That particular skill can save organisations a large chunk of their marketing budget.

A very good example of the scale of the challenge for today’s marketer is their need to stay on top of the terabytes of information related to digital marketing.  Without necessarily being an expert the modern marketer must understand the principles of SEO, (search engine optimisation) PPC (pay per click advertising) Social Media, Mobile Technologies, Online Advertising and CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  Interpreting Google Analytics and having the confidence to reject or accept digital agency proposals are also essential attributes of those holding the responsibility for marketing in any organisation.

Yes it’s complicated out there but life is these days.  We can either keep up or give in and outsource management to the wave upon wave of niche agency suppliers promising to deliver success.  Without the confidence borne out of our own knowledge of specific marketing processes we’re left with fingers crossed just hoping that the agency knows what they’re doing with their sizeable budget.  Personally I don’t see it as an option.  We owe it to ourselves, clients and employers to provide the very best level of expertise and professionalism and demonstrate that more than ever we have the knowledge and the spark to drive businesses forward.

Far from being a dirty word marketing is the discipline that business owners need to embrace wholeheartedly.  They need to seek out the very best qualified practitioners to work with, provide resource and trust them to deliver.  David Laud – FCIM Chartered Marketer, consultant.

Byadmin

How Many Social Media “Experts” Does It Take To Turn On A Lightbulb?

We’re all under pressure for one reason or another. This ever developing technology has not delivered its promise of greater leisure time and standards of living; well not for most of us anyway. Instead we’re expected to task like a multi armed, dextrous ninja; responding to e-mails, calls, texts, skype and of course schedule in good old fashioned face to face interaction.

No surprise then that I’m often met with a more than cynical sneer when its suggested that a business owner take some of that valuable time and engage in or make more resource available to develop their social media presence.

I get it. I truly do understand that the thought of “tweeting” baffles and bewilders, facebook’s not for everyone and Linkedin, whilst appearing more suited to the business professional; is not easy to see how you benefit.

Too many evangelical so called social media “experts” have fallen in love with the various platforms and the ego trip of growing followers, connections and responses and forgotten that for most they’re not seen as essential in the battle to grow their company. There’s an awareness of the staggering demographic statistics but not how they can be used to benefit a business.

Many of my clients are very sharp individuals who’ve typically built successful businesses by meeting the needs of a targeted customer base. They’ve kept a step ahead of the competition, invested in their company and know their business inside out.

They also have no fear in challenging the call to join the social media bandwagon. They didn’t succeed by following a flock but they’re curious enough to ask the direct questions everyone should pose to a new medium.

How does it work? What are the benefits? What are the costs? Who needs to be involved? Where are the opportunities? And my favourite which covers all the aforementioned, Why should we do it?

If practical answers to these key questions are not forthcoming it’s unlikely the business owners will engage, and who would blame them?

Each business is unique and no one solution can possibly “fit all” which is why my advice is qualified by researching the specific sector, understanding the issues and the behaviours of customer groups and industry influencers.

We’ve now experienced over ten years of social media activity, it continues to move very rapidly yet within this timeframe you can find a multitude of examples where companies have positivley engaged with their customers. These examples are quantifiable, real and very often prove to be the “lightbulb moment” for MD’s VP’s CEO’s Directors and Partners especially if it’s a business operating in the same sector if not a direct competitor.

From Insurance and Aflac running an XFactor styled voice talent competition to Airlines and KLM’s “meet and seat” facebook campaign.

Of course it’s not just big businesses that can afford to make the most of social media and most towns, sectors and networks have their own shining examples of “best practice”.

We strongly believe in encouraging ownership and participation “in house” to develop the understanding, not outsourcing social media activity to third parties.

As professional marketers our objective should be to build confidence for our clients and employers through practical planning, suitable resourcing and measurement; all prepared as a specific project helping to make best use of everyone’s time. Social media’s a serious business development tool but we should make sure we factor in time for some fun too.

If you’d like more information or arrange an initial consultation please drop me a line david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

David Laud
Partner
i2i Business Solutions LLP

Byadmin

Real-Time Re-election and Re-tweets

As Barack Obama appeared through the huge curtains at the Chicago Convention Centre his smile said it all, the crowd nevertheless said it for him, over and over again, a little like a re-tweet, “four more years, four more years….”.

With the economy far from recovery and very tough times forecast the US electorate have remained faithful to the Democratic Presidential incumbent.

Obama’s feisty Republican opponent, Mitt Romney had but one task, admit defeat gracefully and in a very public address he did just that.

No doubt the networks will be poring over the multitude of statistical data that such events spew out but for me there is one clear set of statistics that left me in no doubt of the outcome.

The evidence was part of our modern history.

In the Spring of 2011 a political wave started, initially overlooked by those in power. All too soon their underestimate of the strength of this wave became apparent due in no small part to the turbo charge push of social media platforms.

But four years before the Arab Spring, back in early 2007, a relatively unknown senator was running for president against Democratic nominee and household name, Hilary Clinton. But on November 4, 2008, Obama then 47 became the first African American President winning an election against Republican candidate, John McCain.

Mr Obama turned to social media platforms to gather support, raise funds and engage with volunteers the essential foot soldiers of any successful campaign.

Fast forward to the US election of 2012. Presidential wannabe Romney was trying hard to compete on twitter, facebook and Linkedin but unfortunately for the Republicans he was up against an opponent who is a natural social media communicator with a team of dedicated experts supporting his social media broadcasts.

Enough of this blogging rhetoric what about the facts?

On Twitter Mitt Romney has a respectable 1.7 million followers and has made 1,350 tweets. But just compare that to Barack Obama’s 22.7 million followers and 8,000 tweets.

As if those figures weren’t bad enough Michelle Obama has more followers than Mitt at a very healthy 2.2 million.

On Facebook Mitt has worked hard to match Barack but even his 12.1 million page likes pale compared to the re-elected presidents 32.8 million page likes with over 3.5 million actively talking about the content.

Google Plus – smaller numbers, but we’d guess at that. Obama 2.3 million +1’s with Romney less than half at 1 million +1’s.

Of course it’s not all about the numbers but if your message is being broadcast at those levels through these channels you have a major advantage, especially if your demographic fits the profile of the more active social media users.

As if to prove the point Obama’s victory tweet showing his embrace with wife Michelle and the quote “four more years” is now the most re-tweeted tweet of all time, so far RT’d over 650,000 times beating someone called Justin Bieber (you know who he is you just don’t want to admit it – ed) who’d held the record at 223,000.

Whether it proves to be the right decision for America only time will tell but one thing’s for sure, if a politician has any serious ambition they need to understand and harness the true strength of social media.

David Laud – Marketing Consultant
i2i Business Solutions LLP

e-mail me at david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk follow me on twitter @davidlaud

“like” our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/i2isolutions

Byadmin

Virtual vs Reality – the role of offline marketing

 

Perhaps it’s the natural born geek in me connected to the genuine interest in new marketing mediums but I’ve blogged a lot about online activity, time to consider matters offline.

What do I mean by “offline”? Well literally anything that’s not computer or even phone related, that’s my definition. Others are more specific stating online is anything internet based but with sms and app technologies I think we need to broaden that to include smartphone marketing.

Twitter, Linkedin et al are awash with marketing experts pushing particular top ten ways to…, things to avoid, the must have software all related to developing online business.  True, there is a massive market out there online but we shouldn’t become too focused on this channel of activity.

Offline online crossovers do occur of course with articles and press stories appearing in online news and traditional paper based periodicals but in the most part there is a distinction.

So what offline activity should we be looking at if we’ve spent a little too long screen staring?

Events – Event based marketing that brings targets to you. Offering your guests an opportunity to experience something interesting and worthwhile that may help them in either their professional or personal life can be an ideal way to raise your brand profile.

Meetings – the opportunity to spend time face to face with a prospect customer is still one of the best methods of generating new business.  With finances and time often in short supply it can be hard to persuade a prospective buyer to open their door.  Preparation and an appropriate approach to each prospect is the key.  These days the “hard sell” won’t get you very far customers are far too aware of the signs so taking a consultative problem solving approach can be far more effective.

TV and Radio – whilst times have been tough for broadcast media many stations have adapted to offer attractive and not always “break the marketing bank”, methods of advertising. Sponsorship of certain regular features can be a very good entry into TV or radio but it isn’t for all businesses and can still be expensive if not focused or creatively weak.  This medium can still dazzle many business owners who fall in love with the idea of broadcasting their brand in this way.

Press Adverts – again publishers have been struggling to attract advertising revenues so be prepared to bargain hard if it’s a route you’re considering.  As with TV and radio it can be expensive if you dip in and out rather than construct a campaign of reasonable duration unless of course you have a specific promotion and time limited call to action event.  We still like to read and take in information on good old papyrus rather as well as pc although figures on readership are down generally certain local newspapers and magazines have bucked the trend.

Direct Marketing – traditional mailshots are declining.  This is a result of the increase in e-mail marketing as more of us are online and the costs compared to design, print and distribution of leaflets or flyers. As with newsprint – a well designed and targeted mail campaign can still be effective. Personally I’m a big fan of a well drafted letter but many households have signed up to the mail preference service (mps) which actively prevents you targeting them for such activity.  Taking the message to areas where your target market congregates eg a shopping centre, may be one way to overcome the compliance issue but again the creative execution would need to be one that makes an impact.

Not an exhaustive list but some examples of the offline activity that has worked for years and can and does still work for many businesses b2b or b2c global corporation or sole trader.

Volvo V40 Forums
Peugeot 208 Forums
Ford B Max Forums
Skoda Rapid Forums

The decision to buy a product or service can be a complex one based upon a range of influences.  Often it is the human interplay and physical connection that helps the customer to finally decide but subliminal supporting references gained from marketing in a variety of mediums will always help.

Online activity certainly supports the cause but it’s the traditional routes with a fresh “twist” that can help to make your business stand clear of the competition.

If you have any examples of effective offline activity we’d love to hear from you.

David Laud – Chartered Marketer

David.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

 

Byadmin

Super Stars, Injunctions and Massive Black Holes

This article is brought to you with the aid of three “Supers”; Stars, Injunctions and Massive Black Holes. An odd combination but as you’ll see they’re connected.

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You can’t have missed the recent media storm over celebrities and senior figures using a legal instrument to protect their privacy and prevent the media from running stories on their private lives. Personally I’m not at all interested in who’s done what to whom, where and when with whatever but of course we all know it does sell papers.

A normal injunction is a court order that asks a party to take action or prevents a party from undertaking certain activities – these are used widely in domestic matters such as family law disputes but can also be used in a wide range of contractual matters including copyright and patent infringements. OK that’s all well and good but what are these “Super-injunctions” ?

In simple terms they are used when an organisation or individual wishes to prevent reporting of a story which may bring them negative publicity, they’re also commonly referred to as gagging orders.

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen how these SI’s have been circumvented, politicians have parliamentary privilege which allows them to talk about cases within the confines of parliament and not be subject to prosecution. With parliamentary debates broadcast it makes something of a nonsense of the original objective of the SI.

There are also limitations in geographic scope and the press in Spain recently had great fun in “outing” a professional premiership footballer who had an SI in place regarding an extra marital affair.

The most recent high profile case is one that has also been played out on the web, specifically Twitter. Once the story broke in the Spanish press the twittersphere exploded with comments, jokes, jibes and some support for the outed star.

Human nature being what it is there is an insatiable desire to discover the celebrity who is trying to retain privacy whilst suffering domestic strife.

Unfortunately this particular celebrity sports star has not been well briefed or advised on how to manage the media maelstrom being played out on the social networks. The genie is out of the bottle and attacking those now feeding on the story will only end badly for the central player in this particular dama. Having shone so brightly for so many years people power that lauded this star and granted awards can equally turn and create an implosion that may turn this once shining example into a dark vaccuum and black hole of negativity.

Superinjunctions may provide a temporary “cease fire” in the battle to prevent media attention but ultimately they have been proven to be flawed and in the most recent cases acted as more of an incentive to “seek the truth”.

David Laud Twitter – @davidlaud email David.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk