Month: December 2012

Two Special Words

With New Years Eve upon us, I’m looking forward to singing Auld Lang Syne, the traditional song that is now sung all around the world to ring in each New Year.  For me, the lyrics have always signified recognition of, and gratefulness for, our long-standing friendships.

Writing this last blog for 2012 got me thinking not only about my personal relationships, but also about others who are near and dear to me – namely, my clients.  I own Creativeworks, a marketing agency offering strategic marketing advice, development, implementation and measurement to SMBs.  In developing strategies, I spend quite a bit of time getting to know and understand not only my clients’ business, but very often the business owner as well. 

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Once we implement the strategy, we work with our clients, sometimes on a rather constant basis. As such, I have a number of thank-you messages for my clients, with whom I have built and fostered long-term relationships. Without you, my agency would not exist. 

  1. Thank you for continuing to be open to my innovative ideas, and letting me push the marketing envelope to help you obtain your goals.
  2. Thank you for calling me whenever you want to brainstorm your way through an idea. I appreciate that you value my opinion, and trust that I will develop solutions on which to act.
  3. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to help you better understand the nuances of your marketing, e.g. why social media works, and why your printer should not design your logo.
  4. Thank you for working with me on fostering our relationship.
  5. Thank you for continuously allowing me to bring you the latest industry trends and insights to your attention, so that we might implement them for your business.
  6. Thank you for letting us work hard for you every day.
  7. Thank you for allowing us to celebrate and share in your successes that have been realized through the work we have done together.

To those of you reading this blog who are not my clients, I thank you for reading my blog. In 2013, I will continue to bring you hands-on, thought-provoking insights based on my personal experiences as an owner of a Toronto marketing agency. To all, a happy new year!

Please let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to write about in 2013. Do you have any other marketing or related questions for me?  Please share your questions and comments below.

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If This Isn’t Marketing, Then What Is?

I often come across small business owners who have spent their hard-earned money on ad-hoc advertising tactics, off-shore website designers, local printers and, more recently, SEO specialists and YouTube-focused video production companies. However, they find that these efforts yield little to no return on their advertising investments. These failures have left many small business owners feeling discouraged about investing in further marketing, as they think that marketing as a whole simply “doesn’t work”.

As the owner of a marketing agency targeting small- and medium-sized businesses, I want to set the record straight: Marketing is not about how pretty it looks, or how cool it is – it’s about how effective it is. Marketing tools will have limited effects when developed without a clear purpose. However, when developed to support a marketing strategy, marketing tools can generate qualified leads, and thereby increase your results.

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In this blog, I’d like to advise you of a number of marketing tool suppliers that are often confused with actual marketers. If you are able to identify what results you can expect to get from these types of suppliers, the outcomes of any efforts undertaken with these individuals/companies will be easier to comprehend.

1. Printers.

As their name states, printers only know how to print marketing materials. They do not develop marketing strategies.  Although some may offer web and logo design, or know how to layout your business cards and letterhead, this does not make them a marketer.  Printing is nothing more than an advertising tactic.

2. Web designers

Web designers are individuals who can design a website, and will advise you on what makes the most sense to feature on your site from a navigational or flow perspective. They might know what looks best, and might even share with you some best practices of site design, but, typically, they are not marketers. Like print, web design is a marketing tactic or tool.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialists

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialists can help you to increase the chances of your site being located online, through search engines such as Google and Bing.  Although I believe that SEO is one of the most important marketing tools available today, it is nothing more than a tool that should be used to support marketing strategies.

4. Social media specialists

Social media specialists are amazing at getting your brand out there, and keeping you relevant to your customers through social media strategies and implementation. This does not necessarily mean that they are marketers.  Social media is a marketing tactic that should follow a strategy, and it should be aligned with your overarching marketing strategy.

5. Online marketing

Although the word “marketing” is in the name, online marketing is, again, a tactic that needs to be identified and aligned with your marketing strategy. Many companies offer a proprietary online marketing tool “guaranteed to increase your sales”. This needs to be considered as part of a marketing strategy.

6. Video marketing

Video marketing is undoubtedly a marketing tactic.  Frequently, video marketing is provided by video production companies – individuals who can shoot and edit video, who lack a marketing background. As well, some marketing companies with no background in video often claim to provide these services.  Professional video requires expertise in the field, and if used for marketing purposes, also requires alignment with your marketing strategy in order to be successful.

If you only take away one point from this blog, let it be that marketing requires a strategy. Every vendor that you hire should be asking to see how their marketing tool aligns with your overall marketing plan, increases ROI, and will be measured against your marketing strategy.

Do you have any questions about the difference between marketing tools and marketing strategies? Do you have any other marketing-related questions for me? Please share your questions and comments below.

Why Stop-and-Start Marketing Does Not Work

All businesses see fluctuations in their revenues. And it is understandable that when faced with “cash flow” issues, many businesses owners look to cut what they deem to be “unnecessary expenditures”. However, I can tell you from my many years of marketing experience that marketing is an integral part of your business, and stopping marketing activities can have a dramatic impact on your business.

A good example of this in practice is the 2008 financial crisis. Many businesses were faced with huge revenue challenges, and although some decided to stop their marketing and withdraw from their consumers’ radars, there were those that looked at it as an opportunity to “market smarter”. They continued to invest in their marketing, and not only survived the crisis – they actually thrived. Fueled by a strong marketing presence, these companies pushed forward with bolder strategies, and thereby gained a competitive advantage.

The reason that marketing is so important to businesses is that marketing is your main lifeline to customers and sales. Without it, you can’t be sure that customers know who you are, and what you are selling.

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I’d like to share with you a few tips to consider, if you are ever in a situation where you are contemplating stopping or “pausing” your marketing activities:

  • Sync your business operations to be in line with your marketing strategy, so that if you have a “weak” month, you can pick up sales leads and revenues via another avenue.   For example, if you know that August is traditionally a bad “cash flow” month for your business, plan to combat that with a campaign running in July and August. Your marketing strategy plays a key role in your success.
  • Stop the marketing activities that are using non-measurable tactics, and replace them with other more measurable marketing practices.
  • Focus your advertising campaigns on lead generation instead of simply brand recognition.
  • Leverage social media strategies to increase engagement, audience and potential leads.
  • Find more ways to connect with your customers, so that you will be “top of mind” when they are making a buying decision.

I understand why, when faced with a crisis or dip in revenues, companies look to cut marketing budgets. But, simply stated, as “marketing” encompasses everything you do to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers, your marketing really needs to be continuous.

With markets becoming more competitive, it is more important that you get ahead of your competitors – by any means necessary.  That should start with a great marketing strategy, and continue with “smart”, measurable tactics that attract customers to your business.

Have you ever contemplated stopping your marketing?  What impact did this have on your business?  Please share your experiences on the importance of continuous marketing in the comments below.

Social Media: Understand Why Before Hiring an Internal or External Resource (1 of 2)

As the owner of a marketing agency, I am often asked whether a company should take on social media themselves, or hire an outside agency to do it for them. It’s a good question. In fact, it’s one of the most important and frequently asked questions of our digital business age.  However, before I answer who should implement your social media, I want to address why you should make social media an integral part of your marketing strategy.

 

Small and medium business (SMB) owners, particularly those of B2B businesses, struggle with finding the value of social media. They often think of it as nothing more than people talking about what they had for dinner last night, or the music they are listening to (which, depending on your company’s field of expertise, may be rather useful information!). To be sure, there are many conversations occurring, covering a wide array of topics. Regardless, if you have a brand and want to further it,I advise you not toignore social media.

 

If we think back to about 14 years ago, in 1998, when the internet was at its infancy, many SMB’s were questioning whether or not they should have a website.  Although it is hard for us to imagine this debate happening today, business owners were questioning the validity of websites, and wanted to see hard evidence to substantiate their investment.

 

Their questions made perfect sense then, as they do today regarding social media – they want to see real proof to justify an investment in social media, either with internal staff or an external agency.

social-media

 

There are various statistics bandied about the industry when looking for this “hard evidence” or value in social media, but the top four stats that stand out for me are:

 

  • 62% of the world’s population uses social networking, making it the most popular online activity.
  • Over half of social networkers follow a brand online.
  • Over half of consumers say they are more likely to recommend a brand if they are fans of the company online.
  • Online ad spending increased to just over $30 billion in the U.S. last year, over 20% increase (Source: ComScore).

 

I share these four stats as I feel that they best provide the “hard evidence” a SMB needs to understand why they should integrate social media into their marketing strategy: the audience is there, your competitors are there, the audience wants to engage with brands there, and you can target your advertising there.

 

Simply put, social media is not going away anytime soon. As such, if you are not using social media in your marketing strategy, you run the risk of losing business to other companies that are.

 

In next week’s blog, I’ll outline some points to consider when making a decision to use internal or external resources to execute your social media strategy.

Have you integrated social media into your marketing strategy?  If not, why not? If so, do you have any success stories you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments below.