small business

Has Q1 Come and Gone with No Real Marketing?

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 2.40.10 PM.pngWe’re already two months into 2018, and if your company has been playing the guessing game when it comes to marketing, it’s time to take action! Even if marketing wasn’t a focal point of your annual strategic sessions, or if you don’t have the time or resources to make a robust annual plan, there’s one thing you can do, in particular, to ensure your marketing is as effective as possible: create a quarterly marketing plan.

Here are some reasons why I recommend creating a quarterly marketing strategy:

  • Quarterly results provide the motivation to continue. Although a quarterly marketing strategy is more detailed than a simple checklist, it is still a checklist of sorts. Once each part is completed, you earn a sense of accomplishment that urges you to continue.
  • Quarterly goals are less intimidating. With annual goals, it’s easy to delay tasks until the following week, month, or couple months down the road. Many of us are prone to bouts of procrastination if we allow them. Don’t allow them! Procrastination kills goals.
  • Quarterly goals give direction. If you don’t plan out where you want to go, how can you expect to get there? Going with the flow without a map could lead you to a dead end.

How to Start Your Quarterly Marketing Plan

  1. Identify your target audience. If you haven’t already done so, it’s important to define who is most likely to purchase and use your product or service. Market research is one of the most effective methods of figuring this out.
  2. Learn their behaviours. Is your audience online, or are they more prone to seeing your brand through traditional mediums such as print? You want your message to appear where your target audience is most likely to see it.
  3. Compile a list of key dates for the upcoming quarter. Do you have an upcoming tradeshow? Undoubtedly, you know you’ll need collateral for it. Running a webinar? With no promotion prior to the event, how else do you expect to drive attendance? By outlining upcoming initiatives or events, you can better plan what’s required to allow you more time to focus on attaining your goals.
  4. Set realistic goals. Marketing is intended to support the growth of your company. With that said, aligning business goals with marketing goals makes sense, and it ensures accountability for the entire company that does not rest solely on the marketing team.
  5. Make it a one-stop shop. Include all upcoming campaigns, ad buys, content posts, and other relevant promotions that provide both a macro and micro look at the quarter. This approach will help you allocate resources where need be, and will ensure you stay organized with all things marketing-related.

Remember, a quarterly marketing plan will be more beneficial than having no plan at all. Once you’ve hit your quarterly goals, don’t stop! Marketing isn’t a temporary, one-time solution. Stick to the plan you’ve made and make changes to it if necessary.

There’s no doubt in my mind that you will start to see better results from your marketing once you have a blueprint to follow. As always, if you need help with developing a quarterly marketing plan or anything else related to marketing, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

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4 Tips for SMB In-App Advertising

adhereiphoneAs a SMB, you may not have considered advertising on an app (in-app advertising) because at first glance, it may seem complicated or far removed from the services you provide. But with the average user spending 198 minutes in apps while on their smartphone each day, compared to just 22 minutes on the mobile web, it’s time to consider this area of advertising for your business.

One of the reasons I feel in-app advertising is growing is because it provides a better solution to capture targeted consumer attention and entice them to interact without interruption. Here are my tips on in-app advertising for SMBs:

Research

Invest the time to do your research as to which app might make the most sense for your service or product. Look at what apps could be relevant to your audience and what type of advertising would be a good fit for this medium e.g. do you want them to download something, watch a video on a product, or answer a poll?

Information

When using an app on your mobile device, a pop-up usually appears asking you to share your location information. This location information is one of the reasons why in-app advertising works because it uses this data to understand and engage with your audience. Think about how this data can help you get a complete picture of what is going on at a certain location in real-time and how combining it can help you to find the right audience for your message.

Format Options

In-app ads, like banner ads, have various placement options. Apps offer banners that appear at the top or bottom of popular games, as well as more advanced social media auto-play videos and sponsored posts.  Depending on your business and marketing goals i.e awareness vs. click-through offers, you’ll need to test which ad placement and format works best for you.

Creative

There is no doubt that to get the attention of your audience, you’ll need to step up your “game” on your creative approach. To get noticed, you will need to create relevant, non-invasive and compelling ads that are uniquely targeted to your audience.

I encourage you to take a look at in-app advertising because not only is it more targeted, it has proven to perform 11.4 times better than standard banner ads, making it almost as effective as Google searches.

 

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.

Topsy Turvy Marketing

As we wrap up the first month of the year, many businesses are finalizing their marketing plans, and wrapping up their marketing budgets for the year. Not surprisingly, much has been written over the past few weeks regarding the best marketing practices in which to engage, in order to achieve and increase ROI throughout 2013.

As the owner of Creativeworks, a marketing agency dedicated to increasing marketing results for SMB owners, I have a few tips I’d like to share with my fellow SMBs. These tips will help you determine which marketing tactics might be worth investing in. But before I share my tips, I want to remind you that marketing activities or tactics must be aligned with your overall marketing strategy if you hope to generate leads and increase your sales.  In other words, you should think strategy first, then tactics, and never the other way around.  If you invest in tactics first, without a strategy, then you are shooting in the dark; throwing good money after bad, hoping that some tactic will eventually stick and give you the return you are looking for.

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To help you determine the best types of marketing tactics in which to invest this year, I have outlined my top four tips of what you might consider before setting any marketing plans in stone:

  1. Make sure your marketing shows prospective clients/customers how you are different from your competition.  Your company’s uniqueness should be reflected in your website, brochures, social media, video, but you might also want to ensure that it can be conveyed in a concise elevator speech, and all of your other marketing materials.
  2. Clearly define your target audience, paying careful attention to the demographics. You may find you have one service/product for one specific audience, and other products/services for a second audience. Identify them, including the type of media that this audience is engaged with. For example, although you may want to use social media in your marketing, Facebook may not be the best way to reach married men over 55.
  3. Make sure your marketing activities are tied to your strategy. Reactive and ad-hoc marketing simply does not ensure long-lasting ROI.
  4. Before you launch any tactic, make sure you have some ability to track the results in an actionable manner. For example, for your website, it’s important to make sure that you don’t only have Google Analytics for the sake of having it. You need to figure out how you can use this tool to track the success of your online campaigns or interactive solutions.

The world of marketing may seem topsy turvy to some, but with a solid strategy, aligned tactics and measured results, success is definitely achievable.

I am always interested in hearing from you. Have you thought about what marketing tactics you’re going to use this year? How is this year different from 2012? Or are you sticking with your tried-and-true marketing tactics from last year? Let me know 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.

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.

How To Create A Unique Brand In Five Simple Steps

Differentiating your brand in a global market where businesses compete for a piece of the pie can be a daunting task.

For SMBs, who often feel their competitors seem to be selling approximately the same services/products, your unique selling proposition (USP) becomes more important as a way to stand out, and build a reputation based on a “special” difference.

As the owner of a marketing agency focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses succeed through strategic planning, I’d like to share some of the branding knowledge, specific to creating a successful USP, that I have gained over the years.

These steps will lay the groundwork that you need to help you make the most of your marketing and business planning activities.

Before we begin, let me clarify the term USP. A USP is a summary of what makes your business unique and valuable to your target market.  It answers the question: How do your business services/products benefit your clients better than anyone else’s?

Step 1: Analyze Your Competitors

Look at how other companies use their USPs to their advantage. Analyze other companies’ ads and marketing messages.  If you analyze what they say they sell, and not just their product or service characteristics, you can learn a great deal about how companies distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Step 2:  Solve a Problem

Armed with the knowledge of how your competitors distinguish themselves,now you can clearly identify what sets you apart. This step involves looking at your business from your prospective clients’ or customers’ perspective, to identify what the problem, need or challenge is that they face, and then outlining how your service/product can solve it for them.

Step 3: Big Benefits

Now that you have identified how your business solves a problem, list a few of the biggest benefits of working with you. Explain why your services are important to your customer, and why they should choose you over another provider.

Step 4: Your Target Audience

This is a trickier step than you might think, as your target audience is NOT simply everyone who buys your product/service.  Since we all enjoy a good fishing analogy, here’s one as it relates to USPs: If you want to catch salmon, then you need to use a specific fishing net. Otherwise, if you try to catch salmon using a huge net, although you may catch a few salmon, you are more likely to catch trout, sturgeons and tench. Think about what you’ve identified in steps 1 to 3, and then be as specific as you can when identifying your target audience for your service/product.

Step 5: The Pledge

A big part of a successful USP is making a pledge to your clients.  This is a promise of sorts, which clearly states the type of promise or guarantee that you will provide to your clients. This could be a statement that you can either publicize or simply keep internally. Either way, it is a statement of your commitment to your USP. For example, in Toronto, we have a pizza delivery service that promises to deliver your pizza in 30 minutes, or it is free.  This promise speaks volumes to customers about the type of commitment they are making to their customers, and the value they place on customer service.

Using specifics to identify what makes your business unique and valuable to your target audience is unquestionably one of the most important and valuable processes your business will ever undertake.  When you can clearly state how your business services/products benefit your clients better than anyone else’s, then you are well-positioned to differentiate your brand and develop strategies for business growth.

Do you have a USP? If not, do you have any questions about how to create one?  Is your USP incorporated into all of your marketing activities? Let me know in the comments below.