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!
Do you feel like no one is reading the content you've so carefully composed, edited and maybe even sweated over?
If so, you have a good deal of company -- there are many blogs out there and very few business owners start with a large following! To help you get more readers, here are some tips from Neil Patel (who should know, as he averages 37,000+ visitors to his blog) :
Thanks for reading! Let me know if any of these work for you. :)
If you need more ideas, go to the link for Neil's original post -- you can find it between post 902 and 903.
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:
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.
Need more ideas for your business? Try these tips.
Change is rapid, constant and challenging to keep ahead of – products and marketing strategies that worked last year may not be as effective this year.
Implementing the same strategies as in the past may keep your business treading water, but new ideas are needed now more then ever for you to compete and engage with your preferred customers.
The need for creative ideas can span a wide range of possibilities and topics. Depending on your business type, market dynamics, target customers or stage in the product life cycle, your challenges may include ideas for new names, taglines, products, services, promotions, content or social media posts.
Whatever your objective, following the tips outlined below can help you generate that golden nugget you are looking for!
1) Clearly define the problem, challenge or objective – write a single sentence which states what it is you are trying to get ideas around. This may sound basic, but getting clarity can help spark ideas.
For example, if you were looking for new products you might start with why. Has your current product line stopped growing due to a gap in the offering or a feature it is lacking? Maybe you have received feedback indicating a characteristic of your offering is either unattractive or even annoys your customers? This allows you to focus on how you can address these known challenges.
“Simple can be harder than complex:
You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.
But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
– Steve Jobs
2) Set a timer – generate as many ideas as you can in short bursts of time. We’re talking 10 – 15 minutes here.
If you’ve eve been in one of those meetings that go on and on, did you notice as time goes on creative productivity decreases? The timer also gives you a constraint, which research has shown helps with creativity.
Try to do a couple of these sessions without evaluating or reiterating things from previous sessions.
You can do this on a screen, paper, on a white board or a flip chart, whichever makes you feel most creative.
Here is how it may play out - if you are trying to generate a new name for your business, start with a clear idea of what you want the business to be.
Then, on a flip chart, write down all the words you can think of that describe or relate to this concept. Once you have your initial list, search to see if there are additional words or ideas from brands you admire even if they are unrelated.
Then have fun making combinations of the words on your list and see how they sound.
For example, let’s say you’re designing a logo and branding for a holistic medical practice. You think of successful companies that have branding that emulates some of your practice's characteristics. Apple’s success in branding pops into your mind. That gives you the idea of fruit -- and maybe an unique image of a person combined with a super fruit like apricot or pineapple . . . remember at this point, there are no bad ideas, record them all without judging.
“Ideas come from everything”
- Alfred Hitchcock
3) Be patient -- If ideas don’t flow, walk away. Work on something else, get a cup of coffee, or go for a walk outside. Getting away can help relax and free your mind, letting your subconscious mind have a turn to work on the challenge.
"The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time." - Henry Ford
4) Observe and Gather -- You have heard of hunter-gatherer. The creative you is now an Observer-Gatherer!
Keep your eyes open and notice things around you. Whenever a lightning bolt idea hits you – no matter what the topic – gather it up and save it. Useful techniques for this are to use Evernote, One Note, send yourself an email, or go retro and carry a little notebook. Do whatever works best for you - but do it – after just one month you will be surprised at the number of really cool ideas and original thoughts you will have collected!
Great ideas can be like shooting stars –
capture them when you get them – jot them down –
and review them at a later date.
5) Bring others into the mix -- if you work with the team or have trusted friends, colleagues or advisers, share your ideas with them and get their reactions. Often, people that aren’t directly involved with the challenge can raise good questions and contribute novel ideas.
Tip: Create an evaluation free zone (or times) to share and discuss ideas. When you are trying to get good ideas, there are no bad ideas. An outlandish or crazy thought might not be so crazy with a few tweaks.
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
- John Steinbeck
6) Finally, if you work with a team, conduct a structured brainstorming session. This can be a very effective process in generating creative solutions. There are process parameters and session ground rules that should be followed – if done correctly it is amazing what your team will come up with! Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
Invite open-minded, energetic positive people.
Don't allow criticism or editing of ideas; encourage participants to:
“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”
- David Ogilvy
Author’s note: I love brainstorming and idea generation. As a marketing professional with a background in team dynamics, I’ve lead many brainstorming sessions to generate new product concepts and solve persistent or sticky problems. It works, it’s fun and truly more minds are better than one when it comes to creative problem solving.
I hope these tips will be helpful for you.
Please comment or send me additional thoughts or experiences -- and thanks for reading!
Great idea generation usually results in more ideas than can be used. The next step is prioritizing and selecting ideas. If you need help with that, read our next blog or contact us to see how we can help your business grow.
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.
Facebook is 'moving the goalposts' again ... or maybe changing the yard lines. Either way, if you are an organization that relies on a Facebook Page for marketing, the recent announcement sounds like bad news.
In 2017, many businesses were already seeing a downward trend in impressions, likes and overall reach on their Facebook pages. Then just last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the goal of Facebook is now changing from helping you find relevant content to helping you find “meaningful social interactions.”
So instead of determining the ranking of posts based on reactions, comments, and shares, Facebook stated they will prioritize posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people".
Facebook also said:
“Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
What to do now?
1) Keep the conversation going. If your objective is engagement and your page regularly gets comments, reactions, and shares – keep it up, you will probably not see too much change.
2) Try to increase engagement. If your posts normally don't get reactions or comments, you could try asking more questions, running a quiz, contest or sharing live video.
3) Put a minimal amount of effort into the page, just enough to let visitors know you are still in business and go on to #3.
4) Diversify your efforts. Look at the other social media platforms; put more effort into those that appeal best to your target audience.
5) Explore other methods to promote your business. There are many ways to market; you may have options that have gotten overshadowed by social media. Going through the market planning process can help you find new options and focus your promotional efforts.
Thanks for reading! Contact us to schedule a free consultation.
Marketing plans aren’t just for big businesses; every organization can benefit from one. But if you are a business owner or part of a small marketing team, it might seem like a luxury - something you’d like to do when you get the time. In fact, only 56% of small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have a marketing plan developed.
Marketing plans aren’t the only thing that organizations are missing -- many admit they don't have specific marketing goals. And outlining specific goals is important -- as the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there?
5 important reasons why you should take the time and effort to develop a marketing plan:
1. It helps you think through your business strategy and align your marketing efforts effectively.
You’ll then formulate marketing objectives that help your business achieve its mission and become successful.
2. It keeps you – and your team -- focused.
There are many marketing tools and opportunities -- it’s easy to become distracted, losing sight of your intended business goals. The marketing planning process helps focus on your priorities so you’re not spending time and resources on activities that won’t help you attain your goals.
3. It formalizes ideas and concepts.
You may have some great ideas for your business you’d like to try – including them in your marketing plan will help you determine how feasible they are. Once they are in the plan, you’ll be focused to work on them.
4. 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.
5. It can help you obtain financing.
A business plan is a must if you want to obtain financing, 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 – chances are you’ll be glad you did.
Need help creating your plan? Get your copy of our market planning ebook to help your business grow!
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!
While marketing a business takes thoughtful planning, implementation, feedback and adjustment, developing a clear positioning statement can make your efforts easier and more successful. This is because the positioning statement helps guide your tactical marketing efforts and internal operations to work together for better outcomes.
4 Steps to Create a Successful Positioning Statement
When creating your market position statement, focusing on these four elements will help ensure you have a quality end result.
1) Identify and articulate the profile of your most profitable customer
Take an inventory of your past and current customers. Which ones have provided you with the most sustained and profitable business? Identify them and list out what you know about them.
For example, a B2C business would want to list socioeconomic characteristics – demographics such as age, gender, education level, income level, marital status, occupation, or average size of family.
Highlight the characteristics they have in common to create your optimal customer profile.
This is the target market that you offer the best solutions to fit their situations/needs. Remember – keep it narrow! You are not eliminating others who may purchase your offerings - just focusing your efforts and resources towards those most closely aligned with your business success.
2) What / Who is Your Competition?
Potential customers have a wide range of methods to research buying solutions and comparing competing offerings. This increases the importance of clear, concise messaging that enables the researcher to find, and easily understand, your business offerings and how they differ from your competition. So find out where you stand.
3) Why Are You Different and Better for Your Target Customer?
Now that you have clearly identified your target customer and competition, define how your company offerings are superior to the other alternatives.
Begin by brainstorming a list of all the ways your company and its products/services are different and better than the competitions. Next, prioritize this list by the perceived value to your target customer. (You may want to survey them to find out which have the most value to them.) Select the top two or three differentiators -- you'll need these for the next step.
4) Write your Market Positioning Statement
This is a short statement describing your business and its remarkable qualities -- what you offer and how it uniquely solves your target customer's problem. It must be a memorable phrase - one you can use when introducing your company.
Remember – shorter is better!
Have it contain the top two or three distinguishing aspects you identified in the step above, coupled with the specific characteristics of your target customer. Test it out on many people to ensure that employees, customers and those you meet can all recite it with ease.
Using our previous example, the firm might have found that their personalized knowledge of the client’s situation, quick response and ability to work to prevent legal hassles was most valued by their clients. Their statement might read – Our business offers highly personalized legal expertise and rapid, proactive response to small for- profit environmental lobbying organizations.
In conclusion, taking the time to go through these four steps helps gain the perspective and understanding necessary for creating market positioning statement. Ultimately, your positioning statement can be used as a guide for your company’s culture, marketing efforts and allocation of time and resources. A laser like focus on your preferred target customer will increase the return on your marketing efforts, the top line and ultimately impact the long-term success of your business.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions or need help with positioning your business, please Contact us.
About our Blog:
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.