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!
Whether you are an established business or just starting out, your website is an important vehicle for prospective clients to find and become interested in your services. It should be a great representative of your brand and the expertise you offer.
Does your site contain the information your prospects need to consider your firm?
Let's start with some facts. According to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Marketing Professional Services, SMPS, there are five types of information prospective buyers look for:
#1 Expertise /Project Descriptions -- Prospects check for expertise to see if the firm has successful experience with projects that are similar to the one that they are looking to hire an outside firm to help with.
#2 Firm profile/history -- Prospects visit this section to learn about a firm’s size, longevity and priorities to see if they should contact them. They might also look for credentials, methodology, value or techniques/process. For example, for Architecture and Engineering firms, they may check for an ACASS rating (rating from the Federal Government) or professional memberships.
#3 Services provided -- This section helps prospective clients verify that the firm can provide the types of service(s) that they need. Examples can help illustrate expertise and this information could be on the same page as the project descriptions.
#4 Client lists -- The fourth most visited area is client lists. Viewing a client list gives a prospect the confidence knowing the firm has worked for others in their industry. Testimonials are also helpful.
#5 Staff info -- While this area was only visited by 24% of respondents of the survey, when asked about what things they would have liked to check that they did not find on websites, they answered staff information, especially qualifications and certifications in the biographies of the staff.
Other items that impact prospect perceptions include:
Quality of the site itself – typos, difficult navigation, or outdated web design were sited as items that reflected negatively on the quality of the firm.
Inconsistent Branding - images, content and graphics that do not reflect the companies values, culture and offerings.
Contact information – it is important that there is a way to contact the firm on each page.
Does your website provide the key information listed above a way that supports your brand and business development efforts? If you are not sure if it does, please contact us to schedule a website review.
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Once again someone has asked when you are going to get a new website. You're definitely not excited about spending the time and resources it would take to get it done.
Do you really need to do it? It's an important decision – in this digital age, your website is a critical part of your business’s success. It’s often the first—and in some cases the only—interaction customers have with your business.
Answering these questions might make your decision easier ...
Is your site:
Why are these important?
1) A great representative of your brand? Because first impressions are important -- you should evaluate if the site makes the impression you'd like. Has your target market changed since you launched your site? If you’re not sure, try asking recent customers or prospects what they think of your site.
2) Fast loading and easy to navigate? As companies grow, they often add pages to their websites. Adding pages that way can create a site that is difficult to navigate. Customers may become frustrated if loading is too slow or it takes too many clicks to get to their information. You can check if this is a problem with Google's free analysis.
3) Mobile friendly – Mobile is becoming increasingly important. Over half of internet traffic now comes from a mobile device. If you love your site, it may be possible to transfer the content to a template that looks good on both a PC and mobile phone (responsive design) at a lower cost and effort than building a new site.
4) Attracting needed traffic? Your website might be fine, but you can generate a higher ROI by enhancing the digital strategy that drives traffic to the site. A digital strategy can include complementary components, like SEO organic traffic, Adwords and / or Bing Ads for paid traffic, content marketing and social media.
Thanks for reading!
Broad Reach Marketing provides practical, effective solutions to connect with your customers.
If you’d like to discuss any of these points or find out more, contact us !
Social Media - it's everywhere!
Both large and small organizations use social media. Large companies are most visible and usually use multiple channels, but small businesses are active as well – in fact, over 41% of small businesses use Facebook to support their marketing efforts.
And no wonder -- social media can be used for both outgoing and inbound communications. Organizations can listen and monitor for customer service and public relations feedback as well as communicate and engage their target market.
But you may have noticed that some organizations get more out of their efforts than others. Their audience likes, shares and comments more often, resulting in greater awareness and better connections.
What are the keys to these successful social media programs?
1) Specific Goals
First, these organizations are not just "doing" social media. They start with objectives that are aligned with organizational goals and values. Social media is often used to support specific objectives, like growing awareness for a new offering, communicating brand and organizational values, or supporting recruitment.
2) Audience Knowledge
The program is built on knowledge of the target customer and what interests them.
3) Offers Value
Social media should include information and topics of interest to engage. Posting information that is entertaining, or that customers might not find elsewhere (like exclusive notices of sales or coupons), and encouraging interaction is key. These organizations think of social media as a conversation with their followers rather than a sales announcement tool. With social media, you have to earn your following, so any sales messages have to be subtle and sprinkled through the other messages – less than 20% of the content.
4) Prioritized Tactics
Successful social media programs take time and consistent effort to build a following. To maximize resources, efforts are focused on channels that appeal most to the target market and fit the organization’s content. They try to be where the potential market is, but don’t try to be everywhere! Better to excel at two channels than have a scattered presence on five.
5) Team Effort and Coordination
Coordination helps get the best out of social media. For small business as well as larger ones, a designated team and coordinated calendar are essential. Planning consistent messaging across platforms, knowing in advance of events and other initiatives, leveraging the following on one channel to point to content on another, and having a reliable source of fresh content are benefits of a well-coordinated team.
6) Clear Guidelines
Many industries have regulations and restrictions on what can be made public. In addition, it is a good idea to have ground rules that employees may refer to when posting or re-posting/retweeting information about the organization.
7) Measurements, Analysis and Adjustments
Success social media efforts are tracked and measured so they can be continually improved. Simple measures like shares, likes, retweets and comments can indicate engagement. A growing number of followers can indicate awareness. Depending on the goals, there are other measures as well:
Great social media programs have their finger on the pulse of the audience and stakeholders. Feedback collected from customers and employees is used to refine the content and can be valuable to marketing and business growth decisions.
Thanks for reading! How does your organization run their social media programs? What have you found that works best?
If you have questions or would like to explore team-based social media marketing, please contact us.
Image credit: John Atkinson's Cartoons
Broad Reach Marketing helps professional practices and local businesses engage and retain customers with practical, effective branding, strategy and promotions.
We love to help good ideas and organizations grow!
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This is Blog 2 of a three part series on Rebranding. The first post is "When is Rebranding the Answer?"
It’s the beginning of a new year and you plan to make some changes to your business. And one of them is to rebrand as you revitalize or expand.
So what steps do you need to take? As you work through the process of creating a new brand, please keep in mind the definition of a “brand” as defined by Seth Godin:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that,
taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or
service over another.”
1) Understand your current image
Using that definition, the first step to successful rebranding is finding out what current customers, employees and key stakeholders REALLY think of your organization and the brand that represents it.
When gathering this feedback, pay particular attention to:
2) Identify Brand Characteristics
Once the feedback is collected, the next step is to identify the key characteristics of the new brand.
The output from this analysis will be a statement of brand attributes.
3) Get Creative
Now the fun begins! Set up a brainstorming session to generate options for the desired brand name, logo, tag-line and/or other branding symbols. Then, keeping in mind target customers’ demographics and perspectives, narrow the brainstorm list down to 2-3 potentials. Even if you hire an outside agency, be sure to invite key employees, management and stakeholders to participate in this process – they can be sources of creative ideas and their participation will help to increase buy-in and support.
4) Check Availability
Sometimes everyone’s favorite option isn’t available, so be sure to check the availability and suitability of the final choices.
Here’s an example of what can happen if you skip this step.
A local Pesticide company wanted a new look to reflect a change in management. The old branding included a dark brown logo of a tank. The updated look included lighter colors, predominantly yellow. Seemed like a good change. But when they implemented the new branding, they ordered new yellow shirts for the service crew. Unfortunately, the shirts showed dirt and sweat easily; the technicians disliked them for this and customer impressions were poor. After a while, the company listened, reversing their decision and returning to brown shirts, but this could have been avoided by involving key individuals in the rebranding creation process.
When selecting your new brand, remember to test before full implementation takes place.
Does the new brand convey the right message?
Is the tag line appropriate?
Does the logo have a hidden (unintended) meaning or symbol?
Testing may seem time consuming, but even well established companies have made the mistake of not testing and incurred embarrassment and negative impacts.
What can happen:
When Airbnb unveiled this logo, it generated a wave of criticism for its design.
Some likened it to a triangular paperclip or something else unintended.
6) Plan Implementation
Finally, the devil is in the details! Take the time to plan for every aspect of implementing the new brand. The best branding is consistent; therefore updating everything customers come in contact with is important. Often it is advisable to include a “soft launch” before announcing your new brand.
Our third and final blog entitled the Nitty Gritty Rebranding Checklist will include a handy list of common items to update during your implementation phase. Please watch for it!
Thanks for reading, and as always comments and additional thoughts are appreciated. If you have questions concerning your rebranding efforts please contact us!
Would you like your business to be the subject of positive conversation?
Many Business success stories start just that way -- by word of mouth – or as it is referred to now -- WOMM (word of mouth marketing).
Today, along with traditional verbal interchange, social media is also a prevalent means for communication. So when discussing WOMM from a marketing perspective – lets look at what we are trying to achieve:
But what actually is considered word-of-mouth marketing? Traditionally, it was a verbal exchange of positive information about your business between people on the phone, face to face, or maybe in a letter. Now with the rise of social media, word of mouth marketing has more tools to amplify it. But the principles stay the same:
Someone is motivated to say something nice about a product, brand or business.
Statistics show that person-to-person WOMM is by far the most effective form of marketing you can create:
So can everyone use WOMM ? What are the keys?
Have a WOW factor
The best WOMM features a “WOW” factor -- something that provides customers with such an wonderful story, product or service that they can’t help but share their experience with friends, family, co-workers (and maybe even the person behind them in the check out line).
Keys to the WOW factor:
Be Relevant and Authentic
Coconut Bliss This little company seized on a need that was not being filled for a distinct consumer segment – an organic dairy-free alternative dessert. They developed this unique product and started by encouraging WOM - they held tasting parties and demonstrations to generate awareness and interest, and encouraged their fans to petition stores to carry their products.
Do something exceptionally well
A prime example of this is a focus on delighting customers. When consumers have an exceptional experience with an organization, they tend to talk about it – just like they like to complain when they’ve been frustrated. Companies like Zappos, Amazon and others have grown successfully through making customer satisfaction a priority ingrained in their culture.
Alternatively, offer an unexpected extra gift with an order, or are willing to go the extra mile .
Have a mission beyond profit:
The first thing I heard about Tom’s shoes or Warby Parker was about the non-profit work they support – not comfort, fit or product performance! These, and other B corporations have stories people feel good about sharing.
Make it easy and rewarding for your customers to talk about you:
Even where there’s a great story for word of mouth sharing, people are busy, so make it easy to refer or share. The rewards don’t have to be large, but should be relevant to your target market.
Thanks for reading,
For help in leveraging word of mouth marketing, give us a call.
If you’re not sure if you have a WOW factor, you may be interested in next week's post.
According to the Journal of Medical Practice Management: of those patients that rated their healthcare providers with two or fewer stars, only 1 in 25 claimed their physical examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery or health outcome as the reason for their dissatisfaction.
Patient's negative perceptions sited poor communications, disorganization, excessive delays, indifferent staff and communication frustrations.
In an environment where rising costs and increased competition for patients is prevalent, this fact is important because:
Due to these shifting dynamics, surveying and montoring your patient’s satisfaction and perspectives is becoming a necessity for successful healthcare providers. This enables you to learn more about what’s important to your patients and the best way to communicate and engage them. You only have a short time with each patient; the focus is on their health. If they had a bad experience trying to get hold of you or other non-health related problems, you most likely won't hear about it. But a dissatisfied patient may tell others, post a review or leave your practice. Give them a chance to give their feedback! The information gleaned from a well designed and implemented survey process can be invaluable to your practice’s future success.
The good news is that conducting a custom patient satisfaction survey can be done with minimal time demands on you and your staff. Then, once you become aware and understand your patients perceptions of your practice, you can put actions and processes into place that leverage their positive impressions and diminish the negative ones.
For more information concerning successful methods for obtaining patient feedback and implementing enhancement processes, please contact us at Broad Reach Marketing Services.
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Marketing Tips is dedicated to providing busy professionals and local businesses with information on marketing trends, strategy and tactics in a way that is both accurate and easy to read.