How to Have a Winning Trade Show Strategy

Trade shows are a great way to promote your business to a targeted and captive audience. They allow you to get in front of a lot of interested prospects at one time. Trade show participants are there with a purpose: to learn and seek out what’s new in their industries. With a little planning these events can be productive networking and revenue generators.

 

 

I have been at trade shows where companies set up their booth displays, spread out their trinkets and sit behind their display tables waiting for show attendees to stop by. This passive approach can lead to a tchotchke fest where attendees scoop up as much free stuff as they can with no intent of doing any business with you. If your trade show objective is to give out as many pens, key fobs, zip drives, coffee mugs or other promotional gift items, you can stop reading now. If you are looking for a return on your trade show investment, here are a few recommendations to make your next event a winner.

 

Develop a Strategy

Trade shows should be a key component in your overall marketing plan because they are an ideal way to showcase your brand and your company. Taking a strategic approach based on carefully selected shows with specific goals, objectives and a budget, allows you to implement a more streamlined and focused effort that puts you in front of the right people and yields a positive return on your investment.

 

Pick the Right Trade Show

Selecting the right show is the first step to achieving your goals. Across all industries, there are countless trade shows to participate in. The most popular are often the most expensive, so with a limited budget you are challenged to select the show that will give you the best bang for your buck. Use your brand as a filter to decide what show fits best with your business.

 

It is critical to understand the way that your customers make purchasing decisions, as it will also help you narrow the choices of shows to participate in. Look for shows that decision makers or those that may play a role in the final decision will be in attendance. Realistic goals for your investments in trade shows are to:

  • Build your brand
  • Expand and broaden your audience,
  • Establish, improve and maintain customer relationships

 

 Build Your Brand

The people representing your company personalize your brand and are crucial in delivering a memorable and engaging experience.  They must be courteous, friendly and knowledgeable. If you have more than one person staffing the booth, take time well before the show to train them on their pitch. Develop a script for them to follow and master to ensure that each of them provides consistent messaging to visitors. Make sure your show employees are “pitch” perfect before you put them in your booth.

 

It is preferable that your show employees dress in company logo wear, if not they should at least wear similar colors. After all, you want to present the visual of a cohesive team, not a disorganized group. A tricked out booth with all the bells and whistles can certainly draw visitors, however, you must rely on your staff to complete the experience. That interaction will have a major impact on your success.

 

Booth displays come in all shapes, sizes and configurations, from custom high end modular exhibits to simple table top and pop up displays. Deciding on what’s right for you depends on your show objectives, your brand strategy and your budget. Go for the largest investment your budget can handle, keeping in mind that the more you invest in the show the more you must get out of it as a return.

 

When selecting a booth location, register early and try to not to have direct competitors near your booth. Early registration may get you better choices for your locations. Select high traffic areas for the most exposure. High traffic areas tend to be near the show entrances and exits, food concessions and major show sponsors.

 

Promotional gift items (aka tchotchkes, aka trinkets) are an unavoidable necessity at trade shows. However, going for the cheapest items may not be the best thing. Your brand strategy should inform your decisions about promo gift items. Your giveaways should be consistent with your brand promise and image.

 

Select items that effectively communicate what you stand for. Tying your giveaways to your brand will make a stronger impression on your prospects. Go for the highest quality item that your budget will allow. The more unique the item the better it is for getting people to your booth.

 

In a previous business life, I worked at a home show where we gave away branded fluorescent colored yardsticks. It was both practical and unique and resulted in several hundred people promoting our brand. It became a mainstay and a signature giveaway for several years.

 

Expand and Broaden Your Audience

While you can set up your booth and hope for show traffic, there are things you can do before the show to ensure that you will have visitors. Bring your audience with you. It benefits you and the increased show traffic would be viewed favorably by the show/event provider.

 

Prior to the show/event, try to obtain the list of registered attendees. Some associations make this information available. If it is an annual event, use the list of attendees from previous years. Use that list and your list of customers and prospects to recruit attenders for the current year’s show. Consider mailing to your customer and prospect lists an offer to redeem an enclosed coupon for a “special gift” at the booth or an invitation to a hospitality suite as your special guest.

 

All company outgoing customer communications in the weeks leading up to the show should promote the fact that you will be there. Give your booth number and invite customers to visit you. You can track the effectiveness of this tactic by telling them to mention a promo code or attaching a coupon for them to bring. It is important to be able to measure the effects of all your trade show tactics.

 

Customer Relationships

If you want to establish, improve and maintain customer relationships, give some thought to the type of experience you want attenders to have when they interact with you. When participating in a show/event you want to make meaningful contacts, set up future appointments or if at all possible make a sale. Your actions at your booth can determine the visitor experience.

 

Adopt a “no sitting” policy for your show and event employees. Have them get out from behind the booth and engage with the show attenders by making the first contact and giving people a reason to stop and talk.

 

Trade shows sometimes include seminars and workshops as part of their daily programs. This is where a business can build their brand and establish itself as a thought leader. Take advantage of any opportunities to make a presentation, sit on a panel, or conduct a workshop. Provide branded reference materials that participants can take with them at the end. You should also videotape your presentations for use as content for your inbound marketing efforts.

 

Be sure to get a count of the number of attendees. Also, if the show does not do it, you should provide a short survey for attendees to fill out. The feedback can be used to improve the workshops and could help identify future topics. It’s also another way to record the number of people in attendance.

 

Within 48 hours, follow up with the contacts you made at the event while it is still fresh in their minds. This is a good way to build customer relationships that could lead to sales.

 

Competitive Intelligence

Take advantage of trade shows to find out what your competitors are doing. Mystery shop your competitors exhibits. Find out what they are offering, how their booth is set up, what giveaways they have, and how big of a presence they have. Listen to their pitch and see how it compares to yours. Which benefits do they highlight? How do they position themselves against their competitors? All of this information can be factored in to future marketing plans.

 

The Bottom Line

The high cost of participating in trade show requires a strategic and goal oriented approach in order to justify the expense.  By picking the right shows, executing your strategy and measuring results, trade shows can provide a boost to your marketing effort. It’s not about how much free stuff you give away, but how much did you build your brand, expand and broaden your audience, and positively impact customer relationships. These are the metrics that matter when it comes to trade shows.

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Why Should You Focus on Customer Experience (CX)?

 

Delivering a superior customer experience (CX) is an effective way for businesses to separate themselves from their competition. Customers respond in positive ways to companies that understand their needs and deliver a seamless and consistent experience. In markets where products and services are similar, companies that focus on the customer’s experience can have a sustainable competitive advantage over those that do not.

 

There are significant revenue gains to be realized by doing right by customers because people want to do business with companies that treat them well. Satisfied customers are more loyal, tend to buy more and are more likely to refer a business that excels in delivering a quality customer experience.  A Customer Experience Impact (CEI) report found that 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience.  But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations.

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Despite the benefits of focusing on CX, many businesses continue to come up short meeting customer expectations about being treated well. In fact, there is a huge gap between businesses and customers when it comes to CX. According to Bain & Company,  80% of companies believe they provide a superior customer experience, yet only 8% of their customers believe it.  Clearly there is an opportunity for businesses to distinguish themselves based on the experience they deliver to their customers rather than the products they sell.

 

Word of mouth is the way that most consumers get information about products, services and the companies that provide them. It is the most trusted way to get information. According to a Harris Poll, 82% of Americans seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase and 67% are more likely to buy a product after friends or family have referred it. Providing a quality experience to a customer will likely result in positive word of mouth, which is more credible than any company’s paid advertising campaign. While an ad campaign runs over a defined time period, a company can delight its customers all the time.

 

The merging of digital technology and marketing has resulted in multiple interactive touch points for customers to communicate with businesses. Customers today expect and demand a seamless and consistent experience across all touch points, digital and non-digital. They want to be able to self-serve via mobile channels, but when things don’t work they want to deal with a human and basically pick up where they left off without repeating all of their information (name, address, account number, reason for the call etc.).

 

Customers

The way that customers buy has changed. The digital era enables customers to get tons of information about products and services when they are ready and able to buy. In many instances they can make purchases without ever visiting a store. Customers are also sharing their experiences (positive and negative) on social media.

 

Having an in depth understanding of customer attitudes, opinions, behaviors and expectations is critical to providing a superior experience. This data should be collected on a regular basis in a systematic way. However, there must also be a commitment to analyzing the data with the goal of developing actionable strategies and tactics to positively impact the customer experience. Customer surveys can serve as an effective early warning system for identifying service gaps. Avoid the mistake of collecting data just to find out how good you are rather than using it to identify problems, correct them and make continuous improvements to the customer experience. You can determine the effectiveness of your improvements by your customer feedback mechanisms.

 

Employees

Creating and fostering a customer focused culture is key for delivering a superior customer experience. It begins with owners and senior managers being committed to a customer focus. A prime example of this commitment is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, who is legendary for building a customer centric company and putting customers before profits. His leadership is a key reason Amazon has been at the top of the list of the 24/7 Wall St Customer Service Hall of Fame survey for seven years in a row. Businesses seeking to establish customer centricity as a core competency would be well served following Amazon’s primary core principle, Customer Obsession whereby,

It starts by having the right people. Customer facing employee must be:

  • Internally motivated
  • Willing to take ownership of the customers well-being
  • Taking pride in what they do
  • Supremely confident in their people skills.

These are the traits to look for when building a customer experience team.

Front line employees must be empowered to make decisions, on the customer’s behalf. However, you need to have employees that are comfortable with such autonomy. Employees who prefer the safety of bureaucratic policies and procedure are better suited for administrative positions that do not involve customer contact.

Dealing with customers can be a challenging job and it takes a person with the right temperament to do it well. Satisfied employees produce satisfied customers. To keep customer facing employees engaged they must be encouraged and recognized for the work that they do. You can celebrate and highlight employees that exemplify a customer focus, by building and telling stories of their customer encounters. These provide concrete examples for others to follow and contribute to building the culture.

The Bottom Line

Customers that receive a superior experience from a company have higher satisfaction levels and are more loyal. Over time they are worth more to a small business. Studies show that it is 6-7 times more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. And a recent study by Walker suggests that by 2020 customer experience will be more important than price.

 

More and more companies are finding that delivering a superior customer experience is a cost effective and sustainable way to stand out in today’s hyper competitive environment. By doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way businesses can distinguish themselves in ways that customers will remember and come back for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Should I Use Video In My Marketing?

Web 2.0 has facilitated a dramatic change in the way that organizations and businesses communicate with customers and other stakeholders. One of the fastest growing communication tools resulting from this change is online video.

In this digital world where people express themselves in 140 characters or less, video is becoming a preferred way to communicate. Cisco estimates that by 2018, 84% of Internet traffic will be video.

One minute of videoThat’s because video is one of the most efficient ways of getting a message across. According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. While this seems hard to believe, his statement is the result of a simple formula based on the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Clearly, video can deliver complex messages in an engaging way through the combined use of sight and sound.

Who is Using Video?

Even though it has been in existence for just 10 years, YouTube has over a billion users. They watch more than four billion videos each day. YouTube processes more than 3 billion searches a month and is now the second largest search engine behind Google which handles 100 billion searches per month. And while some YouTube viewers can’t get enough cute baby and funny pet videos, there are many more who are looking for information. It is possible to find a video on just about anything on You Tube.

The organizations and businesses that are using video are as diverse as the viewers themselves.  Advance Auto Parts, a provider of quality car parts, truck parts, advice and accessories uses online videos as “how to” guides for customers that self install their auto parts. Advance Auto follows a disciplined strategy that produces videos tailored to provide the right information at the right time for the right customer. The emphasis  is on serving the customer rather than being self serving.  Using this approach, they have experienced an increase in conversion rates (sales).

New RulesIn his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR David Meerman Scott cites the example of Mary McNeight. She is the owner of Seattle based Service Dog Academy, a provider of private training sessions for service and pet dogs. The Service Dog Academy website features instructional videos McNeight produced with an inexpensive video camera and software on her Macbook. These educational videos  generate high search engine rankings. By Ms. McNeight’s own admission she went “…from barely having any students to getting anywhere from 20-40 emails per day requesting my services and advice…”Her first instructional video “Best Dog Food Puzzle: The Kongsicle” is on the Service Dog Academy website and their branded YouTube channel. The Service Dog Academy You Tube channel has nearly 1,000 subscribers and over 95,000 views since 2010.  Like Advance Auto, Service Dog Academy videos are more about helping customers than direct promotion.

Light Speed, is aLight Speed 2 Connecticut based eLearning and Multimedia development firm. Carlton O’Neal, Managing Partner said, “We saw the potential of leveraging the power of video many years ago and made a conscious decision to transition away from consulting, facilitator led training and development to eLearning and multimedia.

Light Speed’s video marketing, has enabled them to secure numerous appointment with senior leaders of major corporations by asking, “What if we can show you everything you need to know about Light Speed in 90 seconds and be out of your office in under 15 minutes?” Time after time, this approach has led to business for this cutting edge firm. O’Neal says, “We are true believers in using video in our marketing and promotional mix.”

What is being done with video?

Videos can be posted on several different platforms, 24/7 at little or no cost. In their 2014 State of Video in the Enterprise Report, Kaltura found that a majority of businesses use video for customer training (65%) and customer webinars (60%). Videos are also increasingly being found on company websites, in email campaigns and on social media.

Website: Videos can help generate high search engine rankings for websites. That’s why a website should be one of the first places to post videos. You have the flexibility to post videos anywhere on your site – home page or landing pages. Research shows that adding video content to a text heavy web page can increase customer engagement. Mist  Media reports that the average consumers spend 88% more time on a website with video.  Diode Digital found  that 60% of viewers will watch video on a website before reading any text. A landing page with a video gets up to 800% more conversions than a page without a video. (Source: Orion21).

Email: More marketers are using videos in emails to improve the performance of their campaigns. Incorporating videos into email marketing campaigns can increase open and click through rates dramatically. Research shows that emails with video have a 5.6% higher open rate and a 96.4% higher click-through rate.

Social Media:

Why is video a better option?

Video is a better option because of lower costs, more control and human nature.

Cost Effectiveness

Many business owners and executives mistakenly believe that video content is an expensive option.  However, their beliefs are based on the old paradigm where highly polished corporate video took months to produce and cost thousands of dollars. Today however marketers have low and no cost  options of creating or curating video content. Do it yourselfers can use smartphones to produce low cost videos that are stunning. While it is true that high quality multimedia video can be fairly expensive, animated Power Point presentations, white board animation and flash animation offer ways to create affordable video content at significantly lower costs than a television commercial.

For those that are less daring and creative, curation of video content is a viable alternative. Content curation is the process of collecting, organizing and displaying information on a particular topic. Basically, you are sharing content produced by someone else on your own digital mediums and platforms. Essentially when you share the content of others you are endorsing them. It is therefore a good idea to make sure that their views are consistent with yours. Also, it is a good idea to give credit to those whose content you have shared.

Control

Unlike TV ads, businesses have complete control over when, where and how long a video stays on and where it is seen. Companies can also control costs by selecting lower cost options or even by deciding to share the video of others, an even lower cost option.

People Are Rational and Emotional

As with any marketing solution, a clear understanding of targeted audiences is a key prerequisite. When determining the appropriate mix of video and text content to use in  digital marketing, keep in mind that people are both rational and emotional in their decision making. Video and text content combined can accommodate both sides of the human mind.

While studies show that people are more likely to remember a video, there is ample evidence that people are more intellectually involved when reading text. Video content can engage the consumer who is at the top of sales funnel deciding whether to buy.  This is an ideal opportunity to connect with prospects on an emotional level. As the prospect progresses along the sales funnel the intellectual side kicks in and they are more likely to read text content.

The use of video for marketing will only increase in the next few years. The data supports this increased use. It is a proven viable communications alternative that offers benefits in terms of lower costs, control and customer engagement. Savvy businesses can jump start their results by adding video to their marketing.

5 Tips for Effective Video Marketing

For many businesses, video is becoming an important component in their marketing plans. It is being used  with direct mail, email, mass media, social media and other marketing tactics as part of an integrated strategy. Videos can enhance, reinforce and compliment  your overall messaging.  Here are five tips to consider for effective video marketing.

  1. Define Your Audience -When you are targeting and segmenting the market, be sure that video is a consideration. Craft well defined customer personas to guide your video content development efforts. Key criteria to include in your personas are their demographics, buying behaviors and habits. Including:
    • A profile of your ideal customer in terms of:
      • Demographics: Age, Gender, Education, Income
      • Psychographics: Values, Attitudes, Lifestyles, Buying Behaviors/Habits
    • What information do they seek when buying?
      • Product information
      • How To Do Something
    • Where are they in their decision making?
      • Just kicking the tires
      • Ready to buy now

Having a detailed understanding of your audience will make it easier to create videos that  serve the information needs and requirements of the personas you develop.  The goal should be to produce videos that provide the right information at the right time to the right customer. Knowing your audience will make it easier to select  the appropriate type, tone and format for your videos.

2. Define Video Content – With video content, one and done should not be an option. Helping customers solve problems, explaining  your products or giving customers a forum to talk about you provide a wealth of topics that can be communicated with video.

  • Explainer/Tutorial – Customers need information. Explainer or “How To” videos provide the information customers need to solve problems or make purchase decisions. They are ideal for posting on social media and position you as a valuable contributor, offering helpful input to the online conversations consumers may be having about your products, brand or services.
  • Product Reviews – Videos are an efficient way to communicate the features and benefits of complex products. Product videos on your  company website can also help close sales. A 2014 study by Animoto revealed that 96% of consumers find videos helpful when making purchase decisions online and that almost 75% are more likely to buy if they watch a video explaining a product before they buy it.
  • Testimonials – The Nielsen Global Trust In Advertising study found that in North America the top two most trusted forms of advertising are 1)  people we know and trust and 2) consumer opinions posted online. This suggests that providing a forum for brand advocates via video testimonials can be a powerful and credible way to connect with prospective customers.

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If you are going to use testimonials you will need to make sure that you give consumers something positive to talk about. A focus on providing a superior experience at every touch point is critical if you follow this approach.

  1. Emphasize Help over Hype – People use social media to be social not to be sold. Businesses should be aware of this and refrain from using social media for explicit selling. Your video content should consist of a mix of both informational and promotional. The video you post on social media should be geared towards helping your customers. Promotional video content is better suited for your website and email marketing.
  2. Keep Videos Short and Impactful – When it comes to video, a good rule of thumb to follow is, the shorter the better. According to Wistia Video Analytics, the longer the video the less people watch. Depending on the topic and the target audience, you should be able to get your point across in 90 seconds or less. If not, you can produce multiple videos as part of a series.

Video Length Matters

  1. Make Your Videos Accessible – Consumers control when, where and which devices they use to watch video content. So make sure your potential viewers can watch your videos in  a  format that is compatible with mobile and desktop devices.
  • Mobile Devices – Video is particularly effective on the smaller screens of mobile devices. Smartphone and tablet users are 300% as likely to view a video as laptop/desktop users (Invodo).
  • Video Platforms – Although YouTube is the undisputed leader for video sharing there are other alternatives. According to Top Ten Reviews there are over 50 video sharing websites on the Internet. Select the best one that meets your needs to increase access to your videos.
  • Your Website – Videos are an effective way to add variety to your website. Research shows that adding video content to a text heavy web page can increase customer engagement. Diode Digital found  that 60% of viewers will watch video on a website before reading any text.

Finally, in terms of accessibility, make sure your video loads up quickly. Internet users are an impatient bunch; after 2 seconds they will leave a  video that hasn’t loaded. All the more reason to keep your videos brief.

The keys to a successful video marketing campaign are knowing your audience, defining your content, emphasizing help over hype, keeping  videos short and making them accessible. The data shows that the use of online video will continue to increase. Keep these customer driven keys in mind to maximize your video marketing.

If you’d like to add additional tips, think we’ve missed anything, or have insights you’d like to share, please contact us, or leave a comment, below.

Social Media Myths – Why Just Having a Website Won’t Cut It

At a Social Media Marketing (SMM) training session I conducted with a group of small business people I heard comments, concerns and assertions that revealed some common misconceptions and myths about SMM. In a previous post we attempted to dispel the “myth” that social media doesn’t cost anything. In this post we address the notion that if you have a website you really don’t need to do social media marketing.

For the most part, marketing is about capturing eyeballs andDigital Media Time Spent By Platform most eyeballs today are affixed to smartphones and tablets. According to a study by comScore, a majority of Americans (60%) access the Internet with mobile devices.

People are using their app driven mobile devices to go on social networks. To build awareness and generate sales, businesses need to go where their customers and prospects are.

Social networks are where millions are congregating, celebrating and collaborating. Its where people are having 24/7 conversations, sharing photos and videos about product, goods, and services.  This is why social media marketing makes sense.

The way that people make purchases has changed. Consumers want to solve problems. They only care about your products or services to the extent that you can provide a cost effective solution to their problem.  When consumers need a product or service, they go to the search engine of their choice – Google, You Tube, Bing, Yahoo etc.- and type in a search term or question regarding the problem they need solved or the question they need an answer for. It is highly likely that what they are looking for will be found on a social network. If your only digital presence is your website, you significantly reduce your chances for being found.

The Role of Your Website in A Social Media Marketing Strategy

As a small business you are challenged to generate the kind of web traffic Leading Social Networksthat many social media platforms have. This is why it makes sense to use social media marketing to leverage their traffic to boost your own. So instead of having just one distribution point for your content, you can share your content on various social media platforms and significantly expand and extend your reach.

 

 

Teach Inspire MotivatePeople don’t go on social media to be to be sold to, they go on social media to be informed, engaged and entertained. The content you share on social media should also inform, engage and entertain visitors. Social media is where you build trust and generate qualified leads and provide links back to your website. Your website is where you can present visitors with “hard sell” content. It’s your store and they come there to buy, so make it easy for them to do so. Your website is where you should close the sale or get visitors closer to converting.

Your website can and should be the hub of your digital marketing strategy. It’s a 24/7-touch point where your target audiences can engage with your company, at their convenience, for information, purchases and service. It’s where you want your social media marketing leads to go for more of the relevant content they looked for during their information-gathering phase. A website that is rich with a variety of relevant content that people are looking for becomes a destination site.

Most importantly, unlike social media networks, you own your website. You have complete control over the amount, type, quantity, quality and frequency of the content that appears on your site. There is no other medium that affords that amount of control.

Over a billion people are on social media. Its where people are spending a great deal of their free time. Small businesses that continue to discount social media as a playground for the youth market and choose not to use these channels may become isolated and separated from key target markets by a vast amount of information they cannot access.

7 Keys to Effective Marketing

7 Keys to Effective MarketingMany businesses have no clue if their marketing is bringing in any new customers or generating enough sales to justify the expense. Most don’t have a way to measure the effects and generally have a hit-or-miss approach. There seems to be little rhyme or reason and no overall plan for marketing.  So what should a small businessperson do?

Well, before you spend another dime on a brochure, flyer, billboard or newspaper ad you need to just stop and take a careful look at what’s going on in seven (7) key areas of your business:

1. Customers- who are you selling to? What are they really buying and why do they buy?

2. Products- What’s your value proposition or why in the world would anyone spend money on what you’re selling?

3. Pricing – What’s your pricing strategy? (Uh…yeah you should have a strategy for each of your targets and it shouldn’t be to make the most you can on everybody).

4. Place – How are your customer’s going to get your product? In the old days you needed to have a store to sell your wares. That cost a lot of money. Today, you could be selling to customers in Dubai and never leave Cleveland, or wherever you live, because of the Internet. Your distribution is part of your marketing (Betcha didn’t know that!!!!)

5. Promotion – This is what most people think marketing is all about. But if you don’t pay attention to the other Ps of marketing (there are 4), then you’ll end up   with marketing that doesn’t do anything for your bottom line.

6. Competition – Think holistically when it comes to your competition. Don’t think about just the other folks selling the same things you do. Consider everything your customer could be doing with their money and come up with a darn good reason for them to give it to you (uh…that’s what your value proposition is all about, see how this all comes together?). Your value proposition is that compelling reason for a customer to select you and your product over all the other things they could do with their money, including the alternative of keeping it in their pocket and doing nothing. Sometimes customers doing nothing is your toughest competition.

7. Branding -What do people think of when they think of your product? That’s what your brand is all about. For example when I think of Volvo, safety comes to mind, Wal-Mart, low prices. Nordstrom, great service. These companies didn’t get this way by accident, but by consistently delivering on their brand promise over a long period of time. (Did you notice I didn’t say anything about advertising or logos or any of that stuff when talking brand?)

So all you have to do is get your arms around these seven areas. The best way to do this systematically is to create a marketing plan that addresses each of these areas and then be totally committed to working that plan and implementing it. You must be flexible because things are constantly changing in the marketplace and your plan should to.

Is Marketing Misunderstood?

Is Marketing Misunderstood?Marketing is one of the most misunderstood disciplines in business. If not the most misunderstood, it is certainly one of the least valued. Many business owners and managers see marketing as a “luxury,” something to be done when things are going well and the organization is flush with cash. As a result, when things are tight marketing budgets are the first to be cut. This stems from managers and owners inability to see immediate returns for their marketing investments.

It is not unusual to hear small business people say that they don’t do any marketing; that they get most of their business through referrals. Despite these claims, they continue to pass out business cards and meet with people, make changes and enhancements to their products/services, make pricing decisions and seek ways to distribute their products and services more efficiently. Doing these things independently of one another without a coordinated plan is more of an issue than assigning the name “marketing” to these actions. In the final analysis, regardless of what it is called, businesses need a plan of action built around key tasks that enable them to create and keep customers so that their businesses will grow and prosper.

Most non-marketers see marketing as promotion, advertising, brochures, and flyers. Others see sales and marketing as one in the same. Both views focus on only one aspect of the marketing mix.

The primary purpose of gL Market Research and this blog is to provide our visitors with tools to identify, define and measure their marketing efforts. As a result, we will de-mystify the term marketing in a way that allows businesses to understand the practical applications of marketing. By helping managers understand that decisions about critical aspects of their business are essentially marketing decisions, we hope to create better understanding of this misunderstood discipline.

Misconceptions and Myths About Social Media

I recently conducted a Social Media Marketing (SMM) training session with a group of small business people. Their comments, concerns and assertions revealed some common misconceptions and myths about SMM. All were aware that many of their customers and prospects use social media and they had clear expectations for what they wanted to take away from the training. Some of their expectations included:

  • To learn how to be more proficient at social media
  • To gain more insight on using social media to promote their organization
  • To learn the benefits of social media
  • To understand SMM watch outs

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Social media is a relatively new phenomenon when compared to traditional marketing communications tactics.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are all less than 15 years old. Given the relative novelty of social media, I was not surprised by the level of skepticism, doubt and misunderstanding expressed by the students.

Myth One: Social Media Marketing Won’t Cost Me Anything

Time is money and it takes time to plan, research and develop a marketing strategy that incorporates social media. It can take a significant amount of time to produce relevant content that target audiences will want. It also takes time to implement, activate and monitor a social media marketing strategy. According to the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 80 percent of marketers spend up to 20 hours per week on social media marketing.

Hours Per Week                       Source: 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

The amount of time spent is related to the size of the business and the length of time they have been using social media in their marketing. Experienced social media marketers in large firms spend more time than beginners in small firms.

Two thirds of small businesses choose the Do It Yourself (DIY) method of social media marketing. These companies are on the low end of the time spent chart above because they spend little if any time on strategy and focus solely on execution. The extent of their SMM is to set up a company page on social media and post status updates or announcements.  SMM is viewed as less critical to the business than traditional media. While this approach to social media marketing is low cost/no cost, the truism “you get what you pay for” is at work.

A third of business owners choose to outsource social media marketing. Mack Collier, recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the Top Social Media Marketers in the world, has written about the costs of social media marketing. In 2012, he reached out to several of the leading social media consultants and identified industry average monthly costs for various social media marketing services.

SMM Costs Source: Mack Collier.com

He noted several changes that have occurred in the social media consulting industry over the last few years.  Since 2010, businesses, in general, have increasingly accepting the permanency of social media. It is no longer seen as a fad, but rather as a necessary component of an overall marketing strategy. In my view, medium and large business are at this point already, small businesses and non-profits are getting there.

The growing acceptance of social media as a necessity resulted in mid-sized and larger companies building their in-house social media capabilities. For Social Media Consultants this means a shift away from day to day social media tasks (e.g., account set ups, content creation, customer interaction etc.) and toward higher value services (e.g., strategy, training, consulting etc.). This shift is reflected in a change in prices. In general, since 2010 outsourced prices for day to day execution has gone down while higher value services have increased in price.

Clearly, social media marketing will cost you, whether you DIY or outsource it.  However, these costs can be managed. For DIYers, implementing social media marketing can take significant amounts of time out of their day, so a degree of discipline is required. For small businesses, time management is key.  Creating a strategy and plan for social media marketing will enable you to be more efficient with your time. One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is not having a plan that enables them to schedule and prioritize their efforts.

Another way to manage the time spent on SMM is to start small. There are over 200 social media platforms and the number continues to grow. A small business marketer should attempt to master no more than two platforms, at least in the initial phase. Mastering a social media platform involves more than just posting content. It requires taking the time to understand the unique characteristics of each platform. This includes the site demographics, the tone and context of the interactions.

The goal of SMM should be to get involved in the conversations taking place on social media platforms and become a valuable contributor to those conversations. This means resisting the temptation to sell and focus on being social by developing and cultivating relationships over the long term. You can become more comfortable with this approach if it is aligned and complimentary to your traditional outbound marketing which is squarely focused on sales.

Finally, even though outsourcing SMM is cost prohibitive for many small businesses and non-profits, there are cost effective alternatives. There are a number of smaller SMM agencies that specialize in the small/medium sized business and non-profit market. Local Chambers of Commerce and community colleges may offer SMM training sessions and classes. There are several blogs that provide great information for small businesses that are new to social media. Check out:

In our next post we will discuss another small business misconception about Social Media Marketing: “I have a website, I don’t need Social Media Marketing”

What is Web Content

shutterstock_352992047Compelling and relevant content is at the core of a successful digital marketing strategy. However, many small and medium size business people have no idea what “content” is. This post is for you if you fall into that category.

For your website and other digital platforms, content is information that your target audiences look for on search engines when they begin the buying process. Content is anything  that tells a customer about you, your products or your services. It includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Photos
  • Product Information
  • Webcasts/Webinars
  • How To Guides
  • White Papers

What would you think of a store where the items on the shelves never changed? Week after week you go in and the same stuff that was there last week is there this week. Some of the stuff expired months ago, yet it is still there on the shelves. You would probably stop going to the store thinking that no one else was purchasing products there and neither should you. Of course this is a highly unlikely scenario. A successful store would never leave stale products on its shelves. It’s just not good business.

Businesses should think of their digital platforms as stores. Just as a traditional store replenishes and updates its inventory, businesses must do the same for the digital inventory on their websites and other platforms. Yet it is not unusual for many small and medium size businesses to keep the same old stale, expired content on their websites.

A company’s digital platforms (e.g., website, social media etc.) are the 24/7 touch points that anyone in the world can visit. It is the public face of your business, the place where visitors can form a first impression of your company. If your “What’s New” section hasn’t been updated in over a year then you’re not going to leave a very good first impression. Yet the very same companies with static websites will run multiple sales campaigns or change their brands and logos.

Companies must adapt to the changes in the way that customers and prospects get their information. You should have a plan for refreshing your digital platforms with current content. Don’t keep stale content on your digital store shelves.

How Often Should I Update My Web Content?

Although daily updates are not practical, you should be aware that a steady flow of content might increase your search engine optimization (SEO). Think like a customer when it comes to producing content for your digital stores. Rely on your customer facing touch points to come up with the questions your customers frequently ask or problems they may be looking to solve. Your posts and content on topics like this will make it easier for customers to find you during search.

Information about your business, products and services is just as important, if not more important than simply promoting the features and benefits of your product. Consumers buy benefits not features. Your content should reinforce in a compelling way the benefits of your products and services.

Businesses have a wealth of information they can share with their customers and prospects to make their purchasing decisions easier. Content that customers are looking for and use can result in increased leads and hopefully a closed sale.