marketing agency

The Advertising Essentials for SMBs

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More so than with a larger enterprise,  when you are a small-to-medium sized business, every customer counts. Business-owners often hear about the next “cool” thing in advertising and marketing, and immediately want to try it to see if it will bring customers through their door, with little thought to cost and overall fit within their marketing strategy.

I decided to highlight a previous blog post, compiling a list of best practices when it comes to choosing the advertising that best fits with your budget and your business’ overall goals.

As a SMB owner, once you’ve decided you want to advertise the challenge is making a choice about which type of advertising is best for your business. From online adverting to print ads, flyers, banner ads, radio and TV spots, the amount of selection seems endless.

We all know that to gain customers for your product or service you’ll have to invest in some advertising. One of the most important things for a product/company is to be seen and recognized by its target audience.  Advertising is the main avenue marketers use to attract customers to your specific brand, but it can also be the most expensive, so choosing the right type of advertising will be key to your success.

Here are a few tips to I’d like you to consider before investing in your advertising this year.

  1. As advertising can be costly, consult your marketing strategy to align your advertising goals with your overall marketing strategy.
  2. Consider your audience before choosing the type of advertising. E.g. if you are a tattoo service targeting a younger audience, then an ad in the newspaper (which older people are more likely to read) would not be a good investment of your advertising dollars.
  3. Keep the goal in mind.  In consultation with your strategy, be clear on what you want to achieve with this advertising.  Some may advertise to increase brand recognition or to actually drive sales.  Be as specific as possible about what you hope to achieve through advertising. E.g. increase sales by 10% in product “x”.
  4. Timing. Decide the frequency and duration.  Advertising is won and lost based on how many times it is seen or heard by your audience, so think about how often you will run an ad and, if it’s a radio ad, how long will the spot be.
  5. Use a mix of different methods.  Unless you know your audience is using a certain type of media 100% of the time, versification is also important. Think of a radio ad you may have heard and then read that ad in the newspaper or trade publication, and then possibly seen the exact same ad in a local bus shelter.  Increasing your audience’s exposure to your brand directly correlates to their buying decisions.
  6. Make sure you have measurement in place to track your advertising. You’ll need to track it so you can determine what the ROI is and if it met your goals.

If you want to grow your customer base you have to advertise, but before you spend one dime, be sure you choose advertising that helps you to effectively reach your target market and attract new customers.

Have you considered advertising your company? Have you included advertising in your marketing strategy?  What kind of success have you had with your advertising? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

A case for Instagram for Business

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What kind of social media tools do you utilize for your business? Many companies use a combination of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even Pinterest as platforms to communicate their message and each of these social mediums have their distinct benefits and unique audience niches.

If you have been keeping yourself up-to-date on social media trends, you would have noticed that Facebook recently admitted that 2013 saw a loss of a significant amount of active daily users in the 13-24-age bracket. While most of your direct consumers would not fall in this demographic, this age group will grow into your target audience in the coming years and are big influencers of the older generation.

If you’re looking for a new and fresh outlet for your company to engage with your audience, perhaps Instragram, a newer platform which launched in 2010, is the answer! With over 200 million users, Instagram is a photo-sharing application where users share their up-to-the-minute activities with their followers. B2C companies have used the app to feature their products, new arrivals and even used the video function to share 15-second demonstrations.

You might be asking how you would use Instagram as a B2B enterprise, and so you might be surprised to discover there are interesting ways to use this tool in your business:

  • Highlight your brand’s history by posting old photos and facts (Pro tip: Engage with a popular hashtag on Instragram #TBT or “ThrowBack Thursday” where users post old photos of favourite memories and past moments)
  • Text and graphics: use text and graphics to create short and snappy messages to your followers, like how to enter a contest or an interesting fact.
  • Blog posts: Reference your company blog with your Instragram account with a photo and a link
  • News: Post pictures of industry or corporate news that your followers will find interesting

Which of the above suggestions would work well for your business? Have you seen Instagram used in any other creative ways for businesses? I look forward to your thoughts below.

#3 Piece of Advice For SMBs is Hire a Professional Marketing Agency

In our online poll of a few weeks ago, we asked what the best piece of advice a SMB owner needs to help them grow their business and the third highest response was “hire a professional marketing agency”.

As the owner of a professional marketing agency, I feel a little biased writing an article about this topic from my perspective, so I decided to let a third party address this week’s topic and found this fantastic article from Brianna Smith at Fpweb.net. 

In this article entitled “The Modern Marketer”, she outlines, in what I feel is a humourous way, just exactly what it takes to be successful marketer today:

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Want to be a marketer? Well, make sure you know what it truly means. To become a successful marketer it is no longer about developing a catchy ad campaign that you will shout from the roof tops. Marketing has evolved into a combination of artistry and science. The modern marketer must have a strategic and analytical mind dedicated to measurable metrics but that is always craving a creative outlet.

Take a look at what you need to be a successful modern marketer in the infographic below. A marketer must:

  • Be a creative writer
  • Have an eye for great visual content
  • Understand the power of social media for engaging with consumers
  • Live by the rules and best practices of email marketing
  • Be Dedicated to tracking and measuring all marketing efforts
  • Enjoy using analytics tools to understand data and visualize trends
  • Be a budgeting maven
  • Never stop looking for new tools and resources to understand consumers

But, even though being a modern marketer means not thinking like the advertising minds of the Mad Men characters, it does not mean you can’t dress like them!

6a00e54ee3905b8833017d428025a6970c With all that is involved in being a successful marketer today, it is no wonder why hiring a professional agency is top of mind and solid advice for SMB owners.

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Do you have a marketing agency working for you?  Would you ever consider hiring one and if so, what aspects of your marketing do you feel an agency could help you with?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

The “How” of Lead Generation

Last week, I wrote about the Five W’s – who, what, when, where and why – in A Formula for Lead Generation, which outlined how to create a strategy for a lead generation campaign.

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As the owner of Creativeworks, a marketing agency dedicated to increasing marketing for SMBs, once we’ve created the strategy for an online campaign with clear objectives and methods, we focus on how the campaign will be executed. As a follow-up to last week’s post, I’d like to share with you a number of tips on how to perfect your online marketing campaign.

  1. How to get your audience’s attention: The first step after creating the strategy is engaging your audience.  We have found that presenting an offer of some kind is the best way to attract your potential customer. Think of a type of offer you would be comfortable presenting. The offer needs to be engaging enough to entice the audience, but can’t appear to be too good to be true. Otherwise, your audience will steer clear of it. For example, the offer can be a free download of a whitepaper, a discount on product or services, or a chance to win a prize.
  2. How to get their lead information: Customers know that in order to receive an offer, they have to do something. Once you have your audience interested in your offer, they should be on your site’s landing page. In addition to containing details regarding your offer, this landing page should include an online form for visitors to fill out. This is the lead generation acquisition piece, and the questions will vary depending on your individual needs.
  3. How to get the offer: Once they fill in the online form, an email will go to you, for lead generation, and an email or similar will go to them, delivering your offer (e.g. offer code, download link, whitepaper attachment).
  4. How to process the lead: Once you have the lead information, it is up to you as to how you process it. It should follow a sales process. For example, ensuring that contact is made within 48 hours of receiving the lead, second notice is sent within a week, and after 10 days, a phone call is made.  You have to evaluate what sort of process works for your company.
  5. How you look: Ensure that all design and copy elements are consistent with your brand. If the first time your potential customer sees your brand is via this online advertising, it needs to reflect the same look and tone of your brand on your website, and all other aspects of your business.

These tips, plus last week’s tips on strategy, will help you to get started, and to work towards launching an online lead generation marketing campaign. If this all seems a bit overwhelming, or you don’t have the internal resources to take this on, you might want to consider getting some help or advice from a marketing agency.

Have you done any online lead generation marketing, and found promising results? Are you considering online marketing this year? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

Do I Need A Marketing Strategy Or A Marketing Plan?

As a small or midsized business owner, you need to have both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.  To truly understand why you need both, first you need to understand what the difference is between a marketing strategy and a plan.

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Marketing Strategy (the map)

A marketing strategy is your road map to help you get to where you want to be.  It is shaped by your overall business goals. It includes a definition of your business, a description of your products or services, a profile of your target audiences or clients, and defines your company’s role in relation to the competition. The marketing strategy is essentially a document that outlines a road map or summary that you can use to evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of your specific marketing plans.

Marketing Plan (the road)

The marketing plan, also sometimes referred to as a tactical plan, outlines the details of the roads you will take to get you to where you want to be.  It is a practical application of your marketing strategy, which includes details of what marketing activities you need to implement (website, advertising, videos, radio, etc.) to support the strategy in getting your business where you want it to be.

Similar to road construction, if you don’t have a road map, you can’t build the roads that will lead you to your destination.

In outlining the differences between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan, it is clear to see that the answer to the original question is simply: you need both.

To get started in developing your marketing strategy, first you’ll need to do a little homework to prepare. Here are a questions you need to answer for yourself before an agency can help you develop a marketing strategy:

  1. How would you define the business?
  2. What are your key services or products?
  3. Who is your target audience for each of your services or products?
  4. Who are your key competitors in this market segment?
  5. Is your pricing inline with your competitors or at parity?
  6. Is your business trying to lead or follow industry pricing?
  7. What is the ROI for all of your marketing tactics to date?
  8. How have you measured the success of your marketing activities?
  9. What distribution channels do you use?
  10. What do you think is your unique selling proposition versus the competition?
  11. Why is this unique selling proposition compelling to your audience?
  12. Have you done any client and/or market research?
  13. What is the image or personality of your company and its products or services?
  14. What are the sales targets for this year? Next year? (be specific!)

Your marketing strategy and marketing plan have a symbiotic relationship, in which you need to have both working for you to get you where you need to be.  Before you start writing your own strategy, you might want to consult a marketing agency.  These are professionals, dedicated not only to the field of marketing, but to helping businesses realize their goals through the creation of successful marketing strategies.

Was this blog helpful?  Share your comments below, and let me know.