business

The Missing “Link”

LinkedIn is one of my favourite social media platforms to use. Like many of you, I use it to conduct business development activities, discover potential new talent, and find out what some of my peers are working on. As a business owner and marketer, I also use it as a platform to target my potential clients and “tout” my expertise through the sharing of my company’s updates as well as industry-related articles.

LinkedIn has two distinct options: the LinkedIn profile page which most of us have to showcase our personal “resumes”, and the company page that is set up for your company.

While I know many business owners and marketers have an LI profile, many small businesses still do not have a company LI page. So what exactly is the difference between a profile page and a company page on LinkedIn? A LinkedIn profile is probably the most powerful tool you can use for business development as it allows you to highlight your professional experience, connect with your peers or potential clients, join industry-related groups, post your blogs or other articles, and share awards and updates.

I have seen many companies use the profile page as their company page, but LinkedIn has a distinct company page that provides your business with the opportunity to engage with followers with targeted and regular news and activities, share career opportunities, and expand your online brand presence.

If you are a business owner or marketer with a B2B business, an LI company page is a must! If you have a B2C business, it is still a good idea to have some presence on this platform, as this platform is great for SEO and for expanding your reach to influencers.

Here are some reasons I‘d recommend considering using an LI company page for your business:

1. Show How You are Unique

In the description on your company page, emphasize how you stand out from your competitors. You might want to include company news and share information about your company culture. This will help you reach potential customers and also new hires. Support the content with professional videos, or images to help you show how your company is different.

2. Improve SEO

We all hear about SEO, but did you know that Google and other search engines rank LinkedIn company pages and posts highly in the search engine results pages? Having the page and posting on it frequently will help you increase your SEO and increase site traffic.

3. Share Content

It makes sense that you need to write posts that your viewers want to see and share with others. The more you can engage your viewers, the more likely you are to expand your global reach and influence. You can also link your post back to your website for more information and to convert them into a warm business lead. It’s a good idea to create a media mix on this platform as well, so consider using different formats such as SlideShare business presentations, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts and videos.

4. Measure Success

Like most social platforms, you can view analytical data about your company page to help you gain deeper insights into your page performance.

Having a LinkedIn company page will help you network and prospect to a targeted audience for quality sales leads, while establishing your business’ public image on a global scale as a reputable and trustworthy organization. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!

Knowing Your Customers: A Market Research Case Study

 Several organizations I have worked with over the years claim to know their clients inside and out, but is that really the case?

Many of them often tell me they know how their clients perceive them because they explicitly ask for their opinion. However, I would argue that much like we rarely tell the waiter/waitress that we don’t like our meals, our clients are unlikely to tell us the truth unless there is a real issue. However, if third-party sources ask the same question to your clients, your clients are more likely to tell the truth. This fact alone is why unbiased market research is a crucial step in any marketing strategy.

In this blog, I’d like to share with you a case study that perfectly illustrates the importance of market research and how it helped them better define who they are to their customers.

Overview

Our client, a mid-sized educational toy distributor in Toronto, wanted to conduct research to identify their customers, the views they have of their brand, and the values they tie to the brand and its products. Specifically, they wanted to determine if there was a difference in buying behaviours between the company’s two key markets, establish any product leakage, and validate their brand recognition in the marketplace.

 Conducting the Research

Based on the client’s goals for this research project, we determined both qualitative and quantitative research was needed in order to receive the answers we were looking for.

First, we started by conducting preliminary qualitative research. Qualitative Research is the process of talking to someone through open-ended questions about a particular subject to gain insights into their thoughts and opinions. This can be done through a conversation, phone call, or focus group.

To complete this research, we conducted eight discussion guide-driven phone calls with a targeted cross-section of buyers within our client’s target audience.

With the results of the pre-field research, we crafted a highly customized survey that allowed for each audience to only see questions specifically directed at them. We further segmented the questionnaire by programming it based on the role of the individual by type of organization and then by responsibility. This type of research, called Quantitative Research, allows us to track data with closed-ended questions and more numerical information.

Findings

After analyzing the gathered information, we were able to provide our client with an in-depth analysis of their customers. The key findings indicated that their customers with the most purchasing power in their target audience reported the least amount of brand exposure. It also clearly identified that their brand was very well known in one of their key target markets and less known in the other, and lastly, their catalogue is highly utilized and highly regarded. 

Next Steps

Once the deeper analysis was complete and revealed more about their customers’ buying behaviours, preferences for price vs. product quality, and delivery times, our client was able to develop a marketing strategy for 2017 that was truly in line with their customers’ needs and wants.

Market research is a crucial step in your marketing strategy. It provides you with insights you would not be able to get by just asking your customers yourself. Market research helps you get to know your customers better, and what is more valuable than that?

Print And Digital: Integration For Real Marketing Power

 They said that the phonograph would kill live performances. They said that television would kill radio. And now they’re saying that print is dead. Of course none of this is true. Just as recorded music and live performances coexist, so do television and radio, and digital and print. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Print is here to stay and it’s still a powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal.

  • Magazine and newspapers have the highest ROI, at 125%, compared with other ad mediums including TV and digital, which weigh in at 87%. (GfK Panel Services)
  • Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media (5.15 vs. 6.37), suggesting that it is both easier to understand and more memorable. Post-exposure memory tests validated what the cognitive load test revealed about direct mail’s memory encoding capabilities. (Roger Dooley, Forbes Magazine)
  • 70% of people exposed to direct mail recalled the brand name, as opposed to 44% who were exposed to digital. (Roger Dooley, Forbes Magazine)
  • Print is still a top-of-funnel medium. (American Marketing Association)
  • What continues to make print ads valuable is the (nearly) undivided attention that readers give to magazine and newspaper content, rather than multitasking like they do when consuming digital content. (American Marketing Association)
  • Subjects gave greater interest and memory for physical media. What’s more, print media induced more brain activity that is associated with value and desire. (U.S. Post Office)

With digital media you are depending on a viewer to find your website. Only once they’ve found your website can you deliver your message. With printed brochures, direct mail and print advertising you are putting your message in the viewer’s hand. If flyers didn’t work do you think that the most successful retailers on the planet would invest heavily in them? Print still has the power to entice and lure customers.

As a marketing advisor to many businesses across Canada, I want to reassure you that you do not have to make a choice – it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Print and digital complement each other. Integrate the two for real marketing power.

 

5 Reasons Email Marketing Adds Value to Your Brand

mail contact

One of the most valuable content marketing tools that can showcase a business’ brand to their customers regularly and share relevant information is email marketing. Email marketing is a cost-effective solution that gives businesses the power to reach customers in a place most people visit every day – their inbox.

According to a study by MarketingSherpa, 91 percent of adults in North America like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with. As a business owner, I believe that building successful email marketing campaigns has never been more important than it is now.

In a recent conversation with a client, I was surprised to hear how he defined email marketing. His email strategy was simply sending notices out to clients, and that was very different than what I, as the owner of a marketing agency, perceive email marketing to be. It then occurred to me that everyone’s definition of email marketing is different, as I believe that email marketing is a constant communication and relationship-builder between you and a client.

No matter what your definition is, email marketing is without a doubt a value-add to your brand. Here are a few ways email marketing can strengthen your brand and create strong, lasting relationships with your customers:

  1. Building credibility
    • To build strong customer relationships, it’s important to have an effective tool to communicate with the people who matter most to your business. Email gives you the ability to stay top-of-mind and keep people engaged.
  2. Generating Leads
    • Email gives you the opportunity to capture new visitors’ attention and nurture relationships with helpful and informative content. You can also share your updates on your own social networks to bring new people to your business.
  3. Learning what works
    • Email marketing gives you the metrics you need to see how your emails are performing. These insights help you market smarter and give you the advantage of better understanding the needs and interests of your customer base.
  4. Reaching your customers on any device
    • With nearly two-thirds of all emails read on a mobile device, email marketing is one of the best tools that can help a business take advantage of the growing popularity of mobile technology.
  5. Looking professional
    • Email templates aren’t just easy to use; they are also designed to make sure you look professional and consistent when you reach your audience’s inbox.

If your business doesn’t have an email marketing strategy, and you don’t feel you have the time or skill-set to write them, consider hiring a marketing agency. An agency can create the content as well as an email schedule for you that are integrated with your brand and business direction. 

Do you use email in your business? If so, what is the value to your business?

Finding Your Own Marketing Path

As the owner of a marketing agency, I hear it all the time: “If my competitors are on social media and writing blogs, or hosting webinars, then I need to as well, right?” On the surface this seems like a slam-dunk “yes!” answer, as we’ve all been taught that you need to be where your competitors are. While I would agree to this on some level, I vehemently disagree on a more fundamental basis with this belief because good marketing practices will tell you that each business is unique and has to offer a unique value proposition to its customers. Therefore, your customers are not exactly the same as your competitors’, and you might want to consider delving a little deeper into what sets you apart, who your audience is and what services/products are relevant to that specific audience.

For example, a car is a car is a car, until Tesla came out with a “car experience”. They could compete, and do compete on some levels with high performance, expensive cars, or some may argue with the “green cars”, but what Tesla did is carve out their own brand, unique placement and experience that sets them apart from the rest. Tesla did what Porsche had done before them, and are forging their own way, creating their own marketing path and winning the hearts and dreams of millions of daydreamers around the world.

Not every company needs a website or social media to be successful, as these are simply tactics, but what they all do need is a service/product brand that is unique. This uniqueness is what will set you apart from your competition and dictate where and what you should invest in to win out your competition.

Is your marketing based on placing your marketing investments where your competitors are? Has this strategy worked well for you? How might you change this moving forward?

3 Things to Consider to Overcoming Privacy Concerns of Cookies

CWM TuesdayYou may have heard of the term “cookie” or come across it in your online experience. But what does it mean? What does it mean for consumers? And what does it mean for you as a business owner or manager?

Have you ever noticed when booking travel destinations online that the next day or time you are on the internet, ads or messages will appear from other travel sights? This is not a coincidence – this is as a result of cookies tracking your purchasing and surfing behaviours.

Cookies are therefore a key tool that we marketers can use to track customer behaviour and purchasing choices. They can help your business understand your customers so that you can provide them with tailored content specific to their behaviours.

From a marketing perspective then – cookies provide us with a pull-push approach, but the challenge is we need to make sure our campaigns are transparent and therefore we need to utilize cookies in a way that the customer does not consider invasive of their privacy.

I wanted to share with you a few tips that will help you overcome privacy concerns raised by cookies when planning your next online marketing campaign.

  1. Show transparency

The most important thing to consider when using cookies is that privacy is the biggest concern. Let your customers know when they visit the site that you are using cookies to provide them a tailored experience.

One popular approach is to provide a notification on your website. For example, a website will post a notification like this:

Company X sites use cookies and similar technologies. By using company X sites, you are agreeing to our revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our cookie policy.

A simple notification like this serves to provide both knowledge and consent. The choice is then on the consumer to continue using the service. Your customers will appreciate that you are being transparent with them, and that they are being given a choice.

  1. Value-added, permission-granted

Make sure you have a strong value proposition. Based on consumer behaviours in downloading Apps, if you can provide them with the tailor product/service they need, and the value is there for them, they will grant you permission to track them.

  1. Make it part of a larger strategy

For a cookie to be effective, it should be used as part of a larger marketing automation strategy. Just simply placing cookies on your site only tracks users on your site, and does not give you much “intel” on what your customers are doing and where they are going online. You’ll need to track them across many sites, to gain a richer understanding of who they are and how you can push them targeted content.

With all of the exciting automated marketing technology that is available to us today, we need to always put our customer first and ensure they are not feeling their privacy is being compromised.

Do the benefits of cookies overcome its potential danger to privacy? Do you have other online strategies for understanding your consumer behaviours?

Is Your Brand Honest?

Men_HandshakeWe’ve all become aware of the recent media incident involving an employee of Hydro One acting inappropriately, resulting in his swift dismissal due to their code of conduct policies. Although it has raised several social issues, it has also given many of us pause to rethink the importance of brand honesty.

Strong brands are built on a business’s values and beliefs, and as a business owner in the marketing industry, I know how challenging it can be to stand behind those values and beliefs, particularly when faced with an issue in the public eye.

While it’s clear a brand exceeds far beyond just a logo, and integrates into the lifestyle of your consumers when they interact with the brand, we need to be mindful of and be committed to upholding our brand values even when it may not be the most popular thing to do. The public’s perception of Hydro One now as opposed to a couple of weeks ago lays bare just how important brand values can be and the role they can play with your audience.

McDonald’s relies on the public’s opinion and/or perception of them to sell their products. They are often in the media with bad press related to the quality of their food, which may be influencing a public shift to healthier fast food alternatives elsewhere.

To combat this perception, McDonald’s created the “Our Food Your Questions” campaign, which introduced a series of videos to address some of their customer concerns. The campaign features hundreds of video questions from actual “real people”, which are then answered from third-party suppliers to McDonald’s. Questions like “Is your McChicken actually made from chicken?” and “Is your burger 100% beef?” are posed, and are then answered by chicken and beef farmers respectively.

Although it appears that these videos are honest and unbiased, I am not convinced that they have changed customer perception of their food quality. I find myself wanting to believe but still questioning the sincerity of these farmers and testing labs.

Changing the perception of a brand is no easy task. Acting swiftly and with conviction as in the case of Hydro One sends a powerful message not only to their employees (i.e behaviour outside the workplace is just as important as in the workplace), but also to us as consumers. Regardless of how you feel about their decision, there is no denying their brand honesty – to stay true to their values and beliefs.

How do you think consumers perceive your brand? What challenges are there in changing the way people perceive a brand? I look forward to discussing this further!

Tradeshow Strategy – Tips on How to Make Your Next Tradeshow a Success

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.53.18 AMYou have 4 seconds to engage someone that’s walking by, and distractions are everywhere – what do you do to grab their attention first?

Tradeshow Tips

Write a Strategy

Before reserving a booth at an industry tradeshow, ask yourself and your team, “What are we trying to accomplish by going to this tradeshow?” Tradeshows can be rewarding and can demonstrate true ROI if you do it right and are clear about what you want out of it.

Attempting to attract an audience to your booth can prove to be challenging and we all know tradeshows can be extremely expensive, so set tangible objectives, that can measured as outcomes. Without objectives, how else will you know if the tradeshow was successful? Whether your desired outcome is to generate buzz, increase brand awareness, build customer relationships, share industry knowledge, network, or gain leads, relying on random traffic in the room is not the wisest strategy (especially when most tradeshow attendees already have an idea of which booths they plan to visit before they get to the show). If you don’t set out measureable objectives, you wont have a clear understanding of how your booth performed.

It’s important to be intentional and create a booth that attracts the right people, so you can more easily reach your tradeshow goals. I recommend you try some, or all, of the following:

Preshow Outreach

Contact your regular customers, local contacts and existing prospects, and, if you can get access to the list of registered show attendees, contact them too! Make appointments by reaching out through direct mail, email, or the phone.

Stand Up

Most exhibitor staff sit behind tables. Don’t do that! Get up, and engage with people – that’s what you’re there for. Either push the table against a wall or leave chairs out of your booth set up.

Stand Out

Tradeshows are an investment of money and time. If you’re making the investment, try to grab a good location (the better locations will be more expensive), and brand your booth. Your actual booth itself is a silent salesperson – it speaks for you and your brand when you’re not able to, so it pays to have a pretty booth in a great location. TV screens, or interactive touch screens are a great way to grab attention and share your key messages!

Signage

Something else to consider is having a benefit-oriented sign that can be seen from down an aisle on the showroom floor. It should have verbiage that gives prospective clients a reason to stop and showcases a solution to a customer problem. Your signage should also answer the question all potential customers will be asking themselves – “What’s in it for me?” Don’t be afraid to be specific – it will weed out anyone who isn’t your target.

Offer Incentive

In order to attract the right people, you have to know your attendees. Make sure your incentive speaks to your target market and offers them something they want so they have a reason to come to your booth. Promotional items will impact how show attendees perceive you. Investing in promotional items that are as unique and high quality as your offering will pay off. Whether its swag, a game, a discount, or free services, special gifts say “thank you for coming by.”

Social Media Live Feeds

Tradeshows are an “in-person” event, but social media should still play a part. Let your clients and prospective clients know where your booth is and what you’re up to over social media. Being active on social media during the show will help you connect with attendees and those who couldn’t make it to the event.

It’s common for events to have their own Twitter hashtag, so participants can communicate with one another from the showroom floor.

Promote the Tradeshow Like It’s Your Own Event

Every year tradeshows drive thousands of people to different events. Exhibitors can pay for passes to give to great customers, prospective customers, or media, to join you. The show organizers will be promoting the event themselves (which in turn promotes you by association), so give back to your partner by promoting them.

Follow Up AFTER the Show

You need to respond to leads really quickly! Key in business cards right at the show, and follow up either later that day, or early the next morning.

If a lead calls you first, do NOT wait – call them back immediately!

Do you create a strategy for your tradeshows? Do you have the same strategy every year? How do you measure the success of your tradeshows? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Please feel free to leave questions or comments in the comment section – I’d love to hear your stories!

The Basics of Branding

fierce-brandingBranding is one of the most important aspects of any business, no matter what type of organization you run. Having an effective brand strategy can give you an upper hand in today’s competitive market. You may be asking, “What exactly does branding mean?” “What is a brand strategy?” and “How do these two things help my business grow?”

Put simply, your brand is a promise you make to your customer. Your brand tells customers who you are, who you want to be, and what they can expect from your products and/or service.

Are your services expensive and serve a niche market? Ask yourself, is your service high quality at a high-cost, or, low-cost but high-value? You’re going to have to choose, because you can’t be both. Who you are should be based on what your target market wants, and who they need you to be.

What is a Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy is the what, where, when, how, and to whom you communicate your brand messages with. A good brand strategy differentiates your offering from your competitors’. In thinking about your brand, try answering the following:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Brand Equity
Having a solid and consistent brand leads to strong brand equity (the intangible added value brought to your company’s products and/or services that makes it acceptable for your company to charge more for your products and/or services than what seemingly identical unbranded products charge).

Christian-Louboutins-red--007A great example of brand equity is high-end footwear designer Christian Louboutin. Louboutin launched his line of luxury, red-bottomed women’s shoes in France in 1991. The red-lacquered soles have differentiated Louboutin from other luxury shoe brands, and have influenced women all over the world into buying and wearing high-end shoes. People will pay more for the promise of luxury, quality, and the red-bottomed recognition that comes with wearing Louboutins.

Bottom line: the more recognized your brand is, the more real estate you take up in your consumers’ minds, and the more power you have to persuade your target market to buy your brand.

Defining Your Brand
Trying to define your brand is like a journey of corporate self-discovery. It can be time-consuming, difficult and at times uncomfortable – but in the end, it’s worth it!

Is your brand defined? Do you have a strong brand strategy in place? Do you understand the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers? Do you rely on what you THINK they know rather than KNOWING what they know? Comment and share your branding successes and failures with me. If you are looking to define your brand and/or develop a brand strategy, please feel free to contact me at 416-653-3053, or info@creativeworksmarketing.ca.

Case Study: How a customer analysis saved thousands for a B2B client

consumer-analysisLooking for the “wow” factor in your business is not always about what you want your company to be for your customers, but very often, it is more about what your customers value about your company. As a first step to creating powerful strategic marketing plans, we always recommend market research to our clients. Market research, specifically customer analysis, is the most powerful tool marketers have for really finding out first hand exactly what your customers value and why they choose you over your competitors.

Many companies want this business intelligence and feel they can “do it themselves” with an email survey or direct mail piece. Well, with almost 20 years in the business, I can tell you that research obtained by “doing it yourself” is truly invalid research. Research needs to be conducted by an unbiased third party who can listen and respond without prejudice or emotion.

I’d like to share with you the big wow factor that came as a result of the research we conducted as the first leg in a strategic marketing project. We’ll call this company ABC Consulting. Prior to our engagement, they were about to “press the button” on several online marketing tactics including investing heavily in a new website with interactive capabilities and launching into social media networking sites. We convinced the client to “hold off” on implementing these tactics until after we conducted a competitive analysis and customer analysis. They took our recommendation and decided to hold off and are eternally thankful that they did. It is true, as with most qualitative research, that the truth lies in asking the “right” questions and so we personally spoke to our client’s customers, asking them a host of custom questions to determine not only what they value in the service they are receiving, but how they feel what they are getting differs from other competitors.

There was not one customer we spoke to that values online communication, stating that they never visit ABC Consulting’s website, and have no need for social media. What do they value? Personal calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. The result of this research is a 180 degree shift from what our client had determined was what their customers’ wanted. As I have said in many of my blogs holds particularly true here: no tactics before you understand who your audience is, and what they value. If our client had executed their online tactics, what type of success do you think they would have had? My guess is none, as their customers never visit their website and new customers search for this service in other ways, but not online.

The research revealed many values, behaviours, wants and needs of ABC Consulting’s customers and competitors, but none stronger than a 180 degree shift in thinking!

With this research in hand we are now able to develop a targeted and strategic plan, rooted in solid research, and our client will save the thousands of dollars they were about to spend on the wrong tactics: tactics that were rooted in guess work and marketing pressure to conform.

My take-away for all business owners is to take the time to get to really know your customers, NOT through your own personal dealings but through someone else’s eyes and the result could be a game changer!

When was the last time your company conducted third party qualitative research? Do you think you need to conduct research before you execute a new marketing initiative? Are you willing to try new tactics without knowing what your customers value? I look forward to you sharing your thoughts in our comment section.

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