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.
Thanks for reading!
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 :)
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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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!
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.
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.