Whether you are strategic planning for your business or creating a marketing plan for a product, you'll find it useful to start by analysing your current situation. An effective tool to use for this is a SWOT analysis matrix.
SWOT is short for:
SWOT analysis (or a SWOT matrix) is a strategic planning technique used to help identify strengths and weaknesses, then compare them with market opportunities and threats related to business competition or external forces.
Why would you use it?
1) It’s a simple but strategic way to start the thinking process needed for planning
It will help you (or your team) begin thinking about things that they might not think of day to day, and provide a way to document them.
The idea of listing items in each category, evaluating the most important ones, and identifying connections can ignite the fire of creativity. People might be inspired to begin market research, look closer at their current competitors, or shine a new light on liabilities so they can be addressed.
Overall, a SWOT analysis allows individuals and teams to understand their businesses better — both in terms of the internal and the external environment.
2) It provides a balanced view
Let’s face it, it's easy to get excited about opportunities and strengths! But this tool forces you to also consider the downsides of your product or organization.
3) It’s great for teams
A single person can do the analysis, but the best results are accomplished when a team works on the analysis. It’s a way to bring employees from different functional areas and levels in the organization together to provide insights. And because the SWOT is easy to use, it promotes healthy discussion and assists individuals with different backgrounds to exchange ideas freely.
People in the meeting will all be on the same page, so to speak.
4) It's Flexible
It’s a tool that can be used for many applications -- it can be used to assess the current state of a company, product, or new business idea.
5) It’s tested
SWOT analysis not trendy, it is a tested method that works. And it works quickly – usually the initial SWOT can be completed by a team in less than an hour, creating data that is easily prioritized for further analysis and action.
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If you'd like more information about planning for marketing success or using the SWOT, please contact us.
Have you used the SWOT analysis recently? Let us know if the comments.
Congratulations! If you are reading this, you've made it to the 4th quarter of this crazy year.
Being the 4th quarter means it's now time to start thinking about next year, and
if there are secret sauces to business success - market planning is one of them.
But let's face it, marketing planning isn't secret -- it’s just difficult for many business owners (and even marketing teams) to take the time to develop one. A recent survey done by Search Engine Journal found that only about 50% of small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have a marketing plan developed. If you're part of the 50% who hasn't done a market plan - or maybe have one but it is a couple years old - here are 4 things to consider.
4 important reasons why you should develop a marketing plan:
1. It helps you think through your business strategy and align your marketing efforts with your goals and values. You then can formulate marketing objectives that help you, or your organization achieve its mission.
The planning process helps ground your goals in reality. Your goal may be to be leader in your area of expertise, increase profitability, or have a well-compensated and loyal employee base. Or perhaps you want to be able to give support to your local community. Whatever your objectives are, the planning process will help you see if they are feasible, considering your situation.
2. It helps you focus. There are many marketing tools and opportunities -- it’s easy to become distracted and lose sight of your intended business goals. Having a plan acts as a compass - it will help you clearly see where you want to go and assure you that you are heading in a direction aligned with your goals and core values.
For example -- you may have some great new ideas for your business that you’d like to try and including them in your marketing plan will help you determine how feasible they are. If they are in the plan, they won’t be forgotten or thrown in as an afterthought.
3. It helps you establish tasks, timelines, and milestones. A good marketing plan includes clearly defined objectives and tactics; outlining these makes it easier to identify the tasks that need to be done, who should do them, and when they need to be done by. This will help you get the most out of promotions and seasonal or local events.
4. It will help you see if you need financing. Once you know what you need to do, especially marketing-wise, you can identify areas in which you’ll require financial assistance. Having a well thought out marketing plan shows that you mean business (pun intended)!
So set aside some time to create a sound marketing plan for your business – you’ll be glad you did.
If you need help getting started or developing your market planning, please contact us to bounce around ideas or join our email list.
Our next blog will focus on the important aspects of an effective marketing plan - watch for it!
Thanks for reading :)
I recently tried out LinkedIn’s polling function, using a hastily written survey. The first hurdle encountered was the character limit on the answer options, and when I condensed the answers they were not as well balanced as the original ones.
Learning #1: Plan for short responses
As this was just an experiment to try out the polling feature, I forged on ahead to see what would happen. The first 5 responses came in the first few minutes. After that, it slowed, so I added a comment and sent a note out to a few connections to stimulate interest. Even then, after a week the poll only had 20 votes out of 431 views, a 4.6% response rate.
Learning #2: Expect a low response rate
Since no one chose the “Something else” option, if I were to do this again, I’d use five balanced answers with a neutral one in the center. I also learned that the poll was only seen by first degree connections, so might not be a representative sample of the LinkedIn population.
But despite the flaws, the poll did seem to indicate a trend (20% option 2 vs. 80% option 3), which is in line with the advice from leading marketing blogs -- for brands to emphasize messaging that shows support for their customers and the community during the current crisis.
Learning #3 Though visibility on LinkedIn is important to your personal (and company) brand, not all exposure is positive. It’s a good idea to think about your target audience’s perceptions before you click that post button.
Thanks for reading!
Do you agree? Disagree? Have an additional thought?
Please post in the comments.
As we noted in our last blog, virtual platforms offer many positive aspects for sponsoring/hosting business events. They can showcase your strengths and connect with prospects and customers -- even when you can't physically be in the same place.
Just like face to face events, you’ll get the best results when you plan ahead, provide useful information and build relationships with prospective customers.
Four tips to make your event or sponsorship more successful:
When events that your organization normally sponsor go virtual, try these tip to increase your ROI:
1) Get the lay of the “land”
If possible, attend an event similar to the one you’ll be sponsoring.
Ask questions. This could be a new format for the event organizers, so ask about the opportunities, specs and requirements. If you see something that could be improved, go ahead and suggest it, as their format may be evolving from event to event.
Explore the format. Like live events, virtual events have booth sizes and display requirements; graphic specifications that need to be followed. Also check out how the elements will be displayed – for example, where will the event management place video links? You'll want to check to make sure they don't interfere with your graphics.
Ask about the speakers and attendees. Due to the virtual format, speakers and audience demographics might be different than previous years. Does the event organizer have a list of who is expected to attend so you can gear your information to the right audience?
2) Plan for key elements to reinforce your brand and value proposition.
A virtual booth usually will include a main graphic with brand identity. Like a physical booth, you’ll want to include the main points of your product or organization's value proposition – usually 3 to 5 at most so they are easily readable. To save time, you might be able to use the graphic you created for your trade show display.
When possible, add a video with a personal welcome message and introduction from a key team member or officer that a customer would normally meet. It doesn't replace a handshake, but will give your booth a more personal touch.
Some sponsorships will have places where visitors to your virtual booth can download documents. Carefully consider what information would be useful to someone interested in your company. Depending on your industry, useful content for your target market could include company overviews, FAQs, capabilities outlines, white papers or product brochures. It’s best to limit the content list 3 to 5, so you don’t overwhelm the visitor. Have them clearly named so the visitor can identify what they are once they have downloaded them (and hopefully remember why they wanted to read them!).
3) If you are presenting, plan to insure a pleasant and enjoyable experience for your audience free from distractions like overactive backgrounds or intrusive noises. Plan for interaction -- become familiar with the interactive tools the event organizers provide. It's also helpful to have someone help you watch for questions and audience reactions while you are speaking.
4) Build relationships -- before, during and after the conference.
If the event organizer has an email list, request it. Due to GDMP laws, many organizers will no longer share lists but some offer messages services. If you do this, make sure you have an interesting message with a call to action. Or you (or your business development team) could use LinkedIn (or another prospecting tool ) to build a list of five to ten key prospects you’d like to connect with. See if you can find something you have in common that might make them interested in meeting you. Send a message on LinkedIn saying something like, “Are you planning to attend [conference] this year? I had been hoping to meet you there, as we’re both [common interest], I thought it might be interesting to chat. Since the event is going virtual, I thought I’d reach out to see if you were interested meeting [via zoom or using the conference's virtual rooms].”
If a Chat function is an option, don’t miss out on the opportunity during the conference -- plan to have it staffed, at least during prime hours. Even if it’s not busy you don’t want to miss that live person who would like to make an inquiry.
Follow up with the individuals who visited your booth. Use your CRM and depending on the size of your list, segment or prioritize your follow up emails. Personalize your high priority prospects with any information you gained from the event or other sources.
Thanks for reading!
How is your organization adapting their event strategy? If you have comments or additional tips, please leave them in the comments.
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The pandemic has impacted our lifestyles and the way we do business. One of the areas where it has had a significant impact is on conferences, trade shows, and live events.
People attend business events to learn, meet new people, and nurture relationships. Businesses use them to build awareness, educate attendees, generate leads, and establish thought leadership.
When it was not possible to have face-to-face events, some were canceled and some went virtual.
How well do virtual events work?
Are virtual events the way of the future?
To add to my research and observations, I asked a group of experts – individuals that frequently attend or host events -- to provide their perspectives and experiences with the virtual format.
Overall, there are many positive aspects of virtual events:
1) The potential audience is expanded
The ability to reach a wider audience was a positive aspect I heard most frequently – virtual events are not restrained by geography – opening up a wider world for both presenters and attendees.
Speakers could present from their home offices (or anywhere where there is a strong internet connection) and attendees faced lower barriers to participation. Online events typically cost less to produce and attend (some even waived the ticket price), and there are no travel costs, which is good for start-ups, small companies, or any organization with a tight budget.
2) More Efficient
Because you have the convenience of participating from home or office, virtual events are less disruptive of regular work schedules as even local events require travel time. And for events with more than one speaker, it is easy to "zoom" in and out, viewing just the most relevant sessions to attend.
3) Networking is different but better in some ways
Networking was still possible via breakout rooms or chat functions. For many events, it is easy to see who is attending and to message another attendee that you want to meet. For some, this is easier than walking across a room and striking up a conversation.
Virtual events can also have an equalizing effect – people who are smaller in stature or who have softer voices sometimes struggle to be heard, especially at an event or meeting with many people or ambient noise. Since there is no sound in a chatbox, and you can position yourself the way you want in front of the camera, everyone is equal. And for some people it is easier to ask questions in a chatbox than in front of a group, helping to increase interaction between audience and presenters and enrich the learning experience.
What is Missing from Virtual Events?
1) Social interactions
Not surprisingly, those who mentioned they were extroverts missed the casual exchanges, happy hours, and lunch/dinners after the event.
2) Spontaneous interactions and humor
It’s hard to have those chance encounters in the hallway at a virtual event as well as there is less opportunity for spontaneous ideas to hatch when having a casual conversation during meeting breaks. Additionally, spontaneous humor and comments that add to meetings and lightens presentations may not be picked up (or the participants are on mute).
Are virtual events more or less rewarding?
Most of the respondents thought that the virtual events were either as rewarding or more rewarding as face-to-face events.
How do you think the current situation will impact the future?
For forward-thinking organizations, it already has – for example, PMMI, who produces Pack Expo and Healthcare Packaging Expo, is incorporating virtual technology to accommodate individuals who will not travel to their November 2020 show. And if conditions are not safe, they have plans to convert to a fully virtual format.
The people I asked agreed with this:
To sum it up:
For both now and in the foreseeable future, virtual platforms offer many positive aspects for hosting your business events, showcasing your strengths and connecting with your target audience.
And it appears from all of the positive feedback that even when it is safe again to hold in-person events, they most likely will take a hybrid form that uses virtual technology to enhance and customize the attendee’s experience.
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Due to the need for social distancing, many businesses and organization have turned to online meetings. It is a different environment -- but don't let that stop you. If you're new to video conferencing, or looking for tips to make your next one better, read on!
1) To Zoom or not to Zoom
Before you schedule your meeting, think about the content. Do your really need to use video? Video applications are great for presenting, demonstrating and screen sharing. It isn't always needed for every meeting and can have its drawbacks -- too many online meetings can even lead to "zoom fatigue". There are times when a speaker's message can be garbled -- stopping in mid sentence and picking up again several words or sentences later. If conversation, rather than visual displays is the main point of the meeting, consider a conference call. Organizations have run virtual teams for years using the tried and true phone method.
Prepare for the meeting just as you would for any other meeting.
If it's a group meeting, have a list of participants handy so you know who should be there before you get started. A list is also handy if people will be given a chance to introduce themselves, so you don't leave anyone out.
3) Think about your visual presentation:
4) Test your sound:
5) Be an engaging facilitator:
Remember that just like an in-person meeting, the participant(s) are giving you their time and attention -- try your best to make the most of it.
Thanks for reading! Have additional tips? Please leave them in the comments.
Image by Armin Schreijäg from Pixabay
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Face to face meetings and networking are a major part of many businesses' marketing strategy. With the outbreak of Covid-19, with meetings and events cancelled, it is a good time to step back and reexamine our short and longer-term marketing/communication initiatives.
So what adjustments can be made?
1) Your online presence is more important now than ever
Start by checking your Website and email list:
Is your website up to date? It might be a good time to refresh your content, paying attention to your key messages and keywords.
2) Think Beyond Digital
With people staying home and social distancing – they may be more open to talking by phone and/or reading their mail.
3) Bring people together using technology
Is a meeting needed to brainstorm or exchange ideas? There are several tools you can use:
To sum it up -- don’t just hang in there – grab this as a unique opportunity.
The businesses that look at this as a challenge -- to freshen their marketing approach and even capture new business -- can and will prosper.
If you have any questions or would like to talk about your communication strategy, contact us.
Thanks for reading!
Do your customers know that you appreciate them?
Listening to your customers while making sure they receive excellent products and services is essential to building a long-lasting brand. It’s a year-round job! Any season is a good time for customer appreciation, but during the holidays, taking time out to thank your customers is a nice way to let them know you appreciate them.
What's the best way to do this?
It depends on your business situation and who your customers are. Start by thinking about what you know about your customers and what they might value or enjoy, then scan the list below for ideas.
If you decide to send gifts, select ones that are consistent with your brand values. For example, if your values include supporting the local community, choose treats from non-profits or gifts from local artists or businesses. In the Triangle area, Life Experiences, Inc offers wonderful brownie and cookie trays for your office or key customers. The artists at StarworksNC offer unique glass, pottery, and woven gifts. For those environmentally minded, the World Wildlife Fund has an array of choices. Or instead of gifts, you could offer to donate to a charity of their choice.
Thank you for reading! We appreciate our readers and wish you a Happy Holiday season.
As a customer, what type of customer appreciation do you value most?
Do you know of a non-profit with ideas for customer gifts? Please feel free to share the links in the comments.
Marketing consultants can be important to the success of small businesses. They offer an unbiased, fresh perspective on your business, growth opportunities, and preferred target customers. The right marketing consultant can identify, develop and implement strategies that can successfully grow your business by:
Selecting and building a relationship with the right marketing consultant is a key step to achieving success for your business.
Before hiring a marketing consultant, it is a good idea to review your business goals -- both short and longer term.
In addition, clarify what kind of relationship and personality you are looking for in partnering with your consultant. If you do this, it will make it much easier to identify the consultant with the competencies, experience and communication style that most closely matches your needs.
Six questions to ask when choosing your Marketing Consultant:
1)Tell me about your expertise -- what is your background?
This may seem obvious, but there are many self-proclaimed “marketing gurus” out there, so beware. A solid education in Business is a must and an MBA / Masters in Marketing a big plus. Marketing affects other areas of the business and the consultant should be able to grasp the whole picture before recommending marketing plans.
Marketing consultants develop different skills and specialties throughout their careers. Look for a consultant with a skills profile that matches your requirements. For example, if you need to develop a strategy for growth, ask about the consultant’s strategic capabilities. If your target market is local, you’ll want the consultant to understand the opportunities in the area.
2)Have you worked with small businesses?
Experience owning and/or working with small business is a BIG plus. Small businesses have many unique challenges larger established companies do not. Understanding those challenges takes “time in the trenches” to fully appreciate. Just as important, your marketing consultant must be able to demonstrate experience and success in solving the types of challenges your company faces.
3) What tools or processes do you use in your work?
Consultants often use business models and other tools. Understanding their approach to gathering information and working through a project may help you determine if it’s appropriate for your situation. It will also show you if the consultant follows a process, versus falling back on "canned" solutions that worked for one firm but may not work for yours.
4) Am I comfortable working with this person?
The working relationship between you, your key partners/employees and the marketing consultant is extremely important. Your consultant’s communication style, personal branding/business values and level of commitment should be compatible with yours and your company’s. Do they use words implying themselves as telling and selling or partnering, creating and facilitating? Assess if they are a “hands-on” partner during implementation or more consultative. These are extremely critical expectations that you and your consultant need to understand and agree upon before the relationship begins.
5) Does the consultant have time for me?
Understanding the consultant’s resources/network and client load is a consideration for you. How many clients do they have? Do they have specialists they can call on when needed? Having many clients often sounds good but is not necessarily better for small business owners. A consultant that is a dedicated partner to a few clients can spend more time understanding and focusing on your business and is always there quickly when needed.
6) Can I talk with references?
Last but not least, ask for references and call them. Check out their LinkedIn profile for recommendations. These references can give you insight into the consultant’s capabilities, working style and character.
Choosing the right marketing consultant for you and your business can be one of the most critical and rewarding decisions you make. Asking the questions outlined above while talking with potential marketing consultants will help to ensure a productive successful partnership.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions on working with a marketing consultant, please contact us!
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