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!
When considering marketing options for new business, owners often ask about websites.
Questions like Do I really need a website? or How much will I have to spend? are frequently on their minds. There is a good reason for this – a website is a major investment of time and resources.
So if this is something that you've been thinking about, keep reading! We've compiled the following considerations, recommendations, and cost estimates to help you.
Question 1 -- Do you need a website?
Yes. A website is a recommended investment in the success of your business.
A well-developed website:
Note: There are a very few small businesses that can survive totally on word of mouth or by having a great location. But for the vast majority of businesses, prospective customers will use the website as a verification that you are a real business.
Question 2 – how much should you expect to spend?
The answer depends on your business situation - the type of business, the profile of preferred customers and the marketing strategy to attract them.
Effectively launching or reinvigorating a business goes beyond creating a website and includes developing a marketing strategy with more than one way to attract customers. So how much you should spend depends on several factors -- look for options that fit your business goals and budget.
Thanks for reading! For questions on websites or marketing strategies to grow your business, 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.
Other blogs on this topic:
'Tis the season to thank your customers!
Thanking your customers is a simple but effective gesture to let them know you appreciate them. This can be done in many ways. Here are a few:
Note: However you choose to appreciate your customers, remember to stay consistent with your brand values.
For example, if your values include supporting the local community, choose treats from non-profits or gift from locally-owned businesses. In the Triangle area, Life Experiences, Inc offers wonderful brownie and cookie trays for your office or key customers. For those environmentally minded, the World Wildlife Fund has a array of choices. Or instead of gifts, you could donate to a charity of their choice.
Do you have some innovative ways your company appreciates your customers this holiday season? What type of customer appreciation do you value most?
Or if you know of a non-profit with ideas for customer gifts, please feel free to share the links in the comments.
Thank you for reading! We appreciate our readers and wish you a wonderful holiday season!
Are you feeling like you need to step up your marketing efforts?
If that’s the case, here are some ideas to consider. Some may be new, but you may also be reminded of ideas that you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had time to implement.
For quick reference, we’ve organized the ideas by category. Take a look and see if any of these would help build your business!
Market Planning and Research
1. Update or create a marketing plan for your business. To make sure you get optimal results, your business should have a marketing plan that aligns timing, tactics and implementation with market opportunities.
2. Ask your customers how you’re doing -- revisit or begin customer satisfaction research.
3. Revisit your Value proposition – does it still ring true?
4. Refine your target audience and niche.
5. Explore the advantages of offering a new product or service in combination with your current business. Example - conduct focus groups and get input from your target market.
Check over your Marketing Materials
6. Take a close look at your business cards -- do they still represent the right image and convey key information about your business?
7. Think about printed materials – does your business need to create or update a brochure / sales sheet to leave behind with customers?
8. Evaluate if you need to update your website.
9. Check your online directory listings and get listed in desirable directories.
Person to Person Networking
10. Update your (and your company’s) voice mail message – keep it current, change it when you have new events or specials.
11. Enhance your email signature.
12. Revisit your elevator pitch. Does it still fit? Can you make it better?
13. Introduce yourself to other local business owners – you can do this in person or using Alignable.com. Explore creating a promotion with other local businesses.
14. Find a creative promotional product that fits your business and brand -- give them to prospective customers and referral sources.
15. Launch a targeted direct mail campaign. Think through your offer and call to action. You can create and test multiple approaches and measure their impact.
16. If you’ve used direct mail before, add tear cards, inserts or attention getting envelops to increase the impact of your mailing.
17. Contact past customers; send them an incentive to refer you or revisit your business.
18. If your business appeals to a wide target market, explore radio, billboard or even local TV advertising.
19. Use your car as a billboard – add a magnet, sticker or car wrap. If you have employees, see if they would be willing to add your magnet to their cars.
20. Use a sidewalk sign for specials or to attract walk in traffic.
21. Run a Google AdWords (Google Ads) campaign
22. Create a Groupon to attract new customers or get them to try a new product or service.
Social Media Marketing
23. Experiment with social media for your business – or evaluate the results of your current efforts.
24. Advertise on social media to attract new followers.
25. If your business sells to other businesses, try advertising on LinkedIn.
26. Evaluate starting a business blog.
27. If you already have a blog, try using video – add a video blog, and short video posts for your social media accounts.
28. List your business on Google My Business.
29. Add photos and videos to your Google My Business profile.
30. Create a post for your Google My Business profile.
31. Add an email opt-in on your website or blog.
32. Create an offer that encourages people to add their email address to your list.
33. Send periodic email campaigns to your list.
34. Measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
Less Usual Marketing
35. Create a business mascot to help promote your brand. This can be fun!
36. Take a stance on a hot industry or community topic, one that you have in-depth knowledge of or that aligns with your brand values.
We hope you found this post of value. Did you find some ideas to try?
Please be aware that not all ideas will fit your business --
and the success of many of them depends on having the right messaging and timing.
For help with planning or message development, contact us.
If you're opening a new practice or want patients to find you more easily, put your practice on the map! Registering to be found is one of the key building blocks to an effective local marketing strategy.
Start by creating a profile that accurately describes your mission, services, and contact information.
Then claim your profile at these sites:
1) Google. When you open a new practice, sign up at Google My Business. This is one of the first actions you should take because listing with Google can literally “put you on the map” (Google Maps) and get your practice hours, phone number and location shown on the map results. Once you're in their system, you can add photos and videos to enhance your information. In addition, Google offers the option to add posts to your listing, noting any specials, new services, or events. You can even feature your latest blog. These posts can help your practice stand out -- and you don’t have to pay for this feature.
2) Bing Though Google is the dominant search engine, 1 in 5 people use Bing, to complete and verify your profile on this search engine as well.
3) Yahoo comes in third for search engine usage. Now Yahoo has partnered with Yext on their listings and they try to confuse you into paying for the Yext service, but if you look closely and scroll down past the paid options, you can still obtain a free listing.
4) Yelp – a surprising number of people look at Yelp reviews for healthcare practices and providers.
To claim your listing, first check here to see if your practice is already listed.
Then if your practice is not yet listed, click ‘add your business to Yelp’, enter your information and submit.
Please note that you will need to confirm the email address you provide to complete your business submission.
If your practice is already listed, here's how you can claim it.
5) Patient review and rating sites are also important – Check your profiles at sites like HealthGrades.com, ZocDocs, Vitals.com and RateMDs.com
In addition, depending on your practice type and situation, there are other sites and organizations that may be worthwhile to consider. If you are willing to pay a fee, local groups may also offer listing opportunities -- for example, listing with your local Chamber of Commerce is usually worthwhile.
Remember to verify and maintain accurate information on search sites. This is important whether you're in a new practice or one that's well established.
Once you are registered, set up a schedule to review your listings on a regular basis to make sure they reflect the current state of your practice. Be sure to reflect changes in practice hours or services and check for new reviews. Four Tips on maintaining your online reputation.
For help with creating or maintaining your online presence, call Broad Reach Marketing for more information.
Thanks for reading!
Events can be an integral part of a marketing plan; many businesses rely on them to build awareness and generate leads. But as you may have noticed, some events are better run and attended than others.
What are the keys to orchestrating successful events?
1) Know your objective and desired audience.
Before you start planning the details, have a clear idea of whom you want to attract and what value you will be offering.
The earlier you can start planning, the better. For a large event like a trade show or conference, begin planning six months in advance.
For local events, you’ll need at least 30 to 45 days to get things organized and arranged.
TIP: If you are using vendors, have all vendor contracts completed a few weeks before the event. If they don’t have a commitment from you, they might book another event.
3. Find Partners and Sponsors to share expenses.
Look for businesses that have complementary services or would like to reach the same target market. Coordinating with a non-profit and donating the fees charged is a great way to attract participants and make them feel good about your company and their spending time/money at your event!
Don’t be afraid to ask – many things are negotiable. How much a vendor charges might depend on how busy they are, so being flexible with your dates/specifications can help reduce their quoted price.
Tip: Determine your budget before meeting a vendor or sponsor, and think of what you can offer in return for sponsorship or a lower negotiated price.
5. Assign Responsibilities; communicate
If you’ve recruited partners or a team, break up the various elements of the event into sections; clearly define roles and responsibilities of each team member.
Communicating and collaborating with the people working with you is important.
To keep everyone on the same page, create a document that details key elements of the event, timelines, and who is responsible. Have it easily accessible, easy to read and updated so everyone can refer to it and you can keep things on track. Many groups use Google Docs to do this.
6. Promote, promote, promote
Your goal is to get the right people to your event -- and enough of them to make it worthwhile.
Create a promotional plan for your event incorporating all the media channels available to you.
If you are planning to host more than one event, pay particular attention to branding. Using the same template will build brand recognition; repetition is the key!
7. Ways to promote your event:
8. Photograph Everything
Pictures can document the success of your event. Get pictures of the full room, event branding, speakers, and attendees enjoying themselves.
9. Have a dry run; then relax if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned
Hold a practice session, especially if you have several speakers and have everything in place before the event so you’ll be able to welcome guests. Create contingency plans. Things ALWAYS change – stay flexible and think of alternatives.
10. Follow-up Immediately
Thanks for reading!
Special thanks to Evan Carroll of www.attendedevents.com and Debra Mathias, www.connect-to-clients.com – I really appreciate their willingness to talk with me and sharing their thoughts and expertise.
Need more leads?
If the answer is yes, you are in good company. According to a recent report 63% of business leaders named generating traffic and leads as one of their top challenges.
So how do you generate more leads?
Successful companies use a combination of tactics that best fit their market and objectives ( see the list below).
Since prospective customers might not be ready to buy immediately, they also design a follow up system to nurture the leads. There are many tactics to choose from including advertising, mailings, social media and events.
Which tactics will work best for you?
Puppies are great (I love puppies) !
But even with these cuties on your side, you will get the best results when you start your lead generation efforts with a solid process like the one outlined below:
For example, Sally Forth Products is new retail business that creates high-end, customized products for individuals. They’ve gotten great feedback from current customers, but this type product is only reordered once a year. Looking at their overhead and other costs, they realize that need to double their customer base by 50% by the end of the year to break-even.
Sally Forth's current customers are in a high-income demographic and women drive the majority of purchase decisions. They have found that customers can be segmented by the way they approach the purchase decision.
1) Nina Needitnow -- has an immediate need for the product, knows the style she wants and the sales cycle is short. This type of customer needs a minimum of nurturing but needs polite, personal, responsive service.
2) Greta Gather -- is thinking and planning. She may love the concept, but may consider it for over a year before deciding.
The team at Sally Forth Products decide they to promote awareness and attract more "Ninas". Both target customer types tend to to to the same sources for information, so they chose tactics to suit each buying cycle.
Sally Forth Products is currently running traditional and search engine advertising, experiencing varying levels of success. To address the immediate needs of "Ninas" they added the phone number in their search engine ads, then streamlined the contact process and trained the team to answer the phone in a friendly, professional manner by the first or second ring.
They've also decided to compliment the ads they are running with a digital campaign to nurture "Gretas". They're developing two downloadable pieces of content to gather the emails of interested individuals and a series of emails to follow up the download. To deliver this content, they are beefing up their social media presence and plan to promote posts to their targeted audience.
Sally Forth Products put their plan into action; they logged the source of all new customer calls and are eliminating ads that did not generate customer interest. Their email list has tripled with some of the "Gretas" converting earlier than expected in the cycle.
Lead generation is important to building your business and following these steps will help you get better results.
If we can help you determine the tactics that will fit your business situation, please contact us.
Thanks for reading !
Need ideas? Get the 14 Tips to Build and Grow Your List today!
In a conversation about my last blog post on Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM), a business acquaintance remarked:
“It’s interesting how a big brand or shining new business gets word of mouth to work for them. But I have a reliable small business. I don’t want to be famous or go viral, but I’d like to grow my referrals. Can I still use WOMM?”
“Sure!” I answer. “One of the things you can do is WOW them with your customer service. And a WOW is the key to having great WOMM! When you give your customers or clients excellent service, they’ll say great things about you, driving referrals and supporting your overall business.”
“Great! But how do I make sure my service is excellent?” she asked.
By implementing a customer satisfaction feedback process.
1) Measuring customer satisfaction can help you understand what people are currently saying, what they really appreciate and what might be improved.
There are several ways to do this:
Observation - Be aware of your customers’ body language and expressions as they interact with you and your staff. If your business has multiple locations and / or staff, make it part of your routine to discreetly observe your business operating real-time. You can validate your observations by casually asking customers their impressions of the service and environment.
Interviews – Interview a sample of customers by asking a set of questions over the phone or in person. The advantage of this method is that it is more comprehensive than observation. The interviewer can take the time to ask follow up questions and learn more about the why of a particular answer.
Social media listening -- Some people are reluctant to give opinions verbally, but feel more uninhibited online. Also, avoid unwanted surprises by asking questions in your postings. Finally, “listen” to what people are saying by monitoring your business name and keywords on several social media channels. Some tools that can make this easier include:
Focus groups – This method is also interactive and gathers feedback from groups via dialogs with follow up questions and exploration of situations. One of the keys to successful, productive focus groups is having a skilled facilitator to make sure the more talkative participants don’t dominate or sway the group.
Surveys – Conducting a survey is the most common method used for measuring customer satisfaction. Surveys have the advantage of scale – if you have many customers, surveys give you the ability to get a large sample size to express their opinion in a short time. This can provide statistically viable observations and metrics, although the process can have a bias towards people with the time, energy and motivation to complete the survey.
All of these methods require a clear vision of what you want to learn. So keep it simple and focused – only ask the questions that will provide useful feedback. For example, don’t ask about your location if you’re not willing to move.
Which brings us to the next step in the process:
2) Analyze the information you’ve gained from your customers - to do this, look into these areas:
What your business is doing well -- and should do more of
Where improvement is needed
Services/products that are needed that you may not provide
Net Promoter Score – (for surveys) standard measure of how likely your customer is to refer your business. How does it compare to your industry and expectations?
3) Build an action plan to address any customer concerns, leverage your positives and this will ultimately improve overall satisfaction.
4) Measure your customer satisfaction ratings against your action plan on a periodic basis. This way, you will know if the actions you’ve put into place are having the desired effect. If they are, you’ll see your metrics moving in the right direction. If they are not, adjustments will need to made.
“So it sounds like my business could use this but… won’t it take time, resources and cut into my profits?”
According to Gartner Research, companies that prioritize the customer experience are 60% more profitable than those who don’t. That’s an average, but you could look at your own data – what is the cost to acquire a new customer compared to retaining a current customer?
To learn more on this topic and how to implement it painlessly, please contact us or visit here.
Augmented Reality (AR) is an exciting frontier with great possibilities for incorporation into your Marketing Strategy.
The first most wide-spread application of this new technology has been recently offered by Niantic and their augmented reality game – Pokemon Go.
I’ve tried it – have you? I've seen kid and adults all over pursuing the virtual creatures. It can be a good way to get out, get moving and even play as family activity.
But what does this mean for small business marketing?
It could be the start of a new trend. According to Larry Kim, CTO and Founder of WordStream:
“What this means for marketers is that the next time those adults are asked to interact with an augmented-reality interface on their mobile device, it's no longer a foreign concept to them. They're growing comfortable with it. They even enjoy it. That's super important, because pushing new marketing technology on consumers before they're ready typically spells instant rejection of the concept.
Virtual and augmented-reality devices are expected to become a $4 billion market by 2018. Pokémon Go just ramped up adoption in a massive way, helping pave the way for businesses that will use this technology in the future to connect with consumers.”
This technology as a new marketing tool could be growing exponentially over the next few years and even months, so now is the time to learn, experiment and analyze how it might or might not fit in with your organization’s marketing efforts.
If you are a consumer-oriented business that relies on foot traffic, Pokémon Go might be a great way for your business to “Lure” in potential customers. You could take advantage of being close to Pokemon “Stops” and “Gyms” by enhancing your advertising and signage with a Pokemon theme.
7 possible ways to use Pokemon Go in your local marketing campaign:
Not for everyone?
But Pokémon Go isn’t an opportunity for everyone. While a family resturant or new business might enjoy the extra traffic and exposure, business and insitutions that have secured areas or security policies might want to opt out of having any of the virtual creatures on their premises.
For example, hospitals, like the Carolinas HealthCare System, are beginning to see new visitors in unlikely places. Game players may emulate suspicious behaviors, like walking around randomly taking pictures or looking at ways to enter facilities or get in the way of emergency entrances.
The Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam voiced their request in a clever way on social media:
"There is indeed a sick Pokémon at AMC, but we'll look after him well. Please don't visit him," the Dutch medical center stated in a Tweet that included a picture of Pokémon character Pikachu surrounded by tissues.
To request removal of a PokéStop from the app, organizations can contact Niantic, the developer, and complete a form. (Select “submit a request,” in the upper right corner and “report an issue with a Gym or PokéStop” in the menu.)
But for the majority of organizations, there are opportunites in the growing area of AR. So jump in to learn, experiment and apply augmented reality opportunities like Pokémon Go, keeping your target market and security in mind.
For example, if you use Google Drive/gmail, as many smaller businesses do, and register to participate in Pokemon Go, you give Niantic access to your entire Google account. What we did at Broad Reach Marketing Services is use a separate Gmail account for experimenting with Pokémon Go. Easy solution, but you must be cognizant of safety implications of signing onto Apps and games with your business addresses.
As augmented reality interface options become available for your marketing efforts, remember they are just another tactic – and as with any tactic, consider how the offering aligns with your customer base, branding and service offerings.
Have fun while you learn about this exciting new marketing development!
Thanks for reading,
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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.