In Marketing, It’s Often the Simple Things …

Trust me : In marketing, it’s often the simple things that work best.

I remember reading somewhere that marketing is 90% sweat and 10% inspiration. Most “marketing gurus” wouldn’t like to admit that, of course, often preferring to accentuate the inspirational side of things. And don’t get me wrong, there’s most definitely a need for that good stuff also.

in marketing it's often the simple things

But let’s look at some examples of the less sexy side of marketing – the side that will very often bring you more benefit at lower cost.

Existing Contacts

Do you have a ton of contact details? If so, when’s the last time you sent them some info on new products, new services, upcoming events, aspects of your business they may not be aware of? Subject to the requirements of GDPR, get on the text, email or blower to these people. They carry huge potential for you.

Ongoing Revenue Streams

My wife told me the other day of a company that sells such-and-such a product, but who sell annual checks when the customer makes the item purchase. In this way, they generate ongoing annual income from a product sale, while the customer gains peace-of-mind. Simple. Contrast this with a company I once dealt with for a gas boiler, but which wasn’t involved in providing annual servicing at all. Strange!

Repeat Ordering

There once was a company that provided a service that people either did or didn’t purchase. Discretionary spend, you might fancily term it. But this particular guy not only provided that annual service, but pro-actively booked his clients in for their next service one year later. “Now Mary, I have you down for this day next year. See you then!” And he handed them a card with the date and time on it, for their kitchen notice board. In this way, he lost hardly any customers to forgetfulness or drift. Again, simple.

Email + Phone Call + Visit

Folks, an email will rarely get you a sale. But it can provide a legitimate basis on which to make a follow-up phone call. “Hi Paul, did you look at my email I sent yerterday?” When you make the call, get yourself a meeting, then hang up. What you really want is to be sat in front of a potential client (depending on your industry, of course).

Want to know more about easy steps to take to grow you business?Read this article about the importance of following up.

SMART Goals are the only Way to Go

Now, we’re talking uniquely about business here, ok? While SMART Goals are the only way to go for your business, they don’t always apply to life in general.

They’re a bit rigid for that.

But when it comes to business, they surely are, well … smarter.

When discussing our business and where we want to get to next, we often use loose terms like “we need to grow”, “we need new customers” and so on. But those ‘goals’ just don’t cut the mustard. Why? Because they’re not goals. They’re simply aspirations, dreamy notions of a bigger, better business in some hazy future.

SMART Goals focus the mind.

SMART goals are the only way to go

They force us into setting goals that are measurable and that must be achieved within a particular time frame. Whether that be one week, three months or a year, they’re concrete and, since we can’t adjust the march of time, the day will arrive when you either have or have not achieved those goals.

So what are SMART Goals?

S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Achievable, R = Realistic, T = Timely.

We can readily relate to the first four, right?

So, “we need new customers” now becomes “we are to sign up 10 new wholesale customers and we include them only from their second order. Customers who only order once don’t count”.

Is that specific ? Yes. Is it measurable? Yes. Is it achievable? Maybe. Is it realistic? Perhaps not. So let’s refine then.

“We are to sign up 10 new wholesale customers, of which possibly 5 will order only once, while the other 5 re-order”.

Great, now it sounds realistic and achievable.

But wait. We’re missing the critical element.

T for Timely (or time-defined). That’s the key.

Refining further, therefore, our very clear SMART Goal now evolves into “we are to sign up 10 new wholesale customers within 6 months from today, of which at least 5 will have re-ordered within those same 6 months”.


Let’s look at the very concrete example of exhibiting at a trade show.

So you spend a load of time and money showing at a trade event, then return to the office with a load of leads and then … time passes. Here’s where there absolutely needs to be SMART Goals. Without them, there’s drift and, before you know it, everybody forgets about what the outcomes were. No. That’s no good.

“Goal #1for this trade show is to meet and spend some time with 25 of our best clients. They are A, B,C, etc. We are to demonstrate our new service Z to each one  and follow up with an email to each one within two weeks of the show”.

“Goal #2 is to have a good meeting with 10 potential clients we never heard of and to follow them up with …within one week”.

“Goal #3 is to have secured and delivered produce to 4 new customers within 6 weeks of the show”.


It’s about clear, defined, time-limited SMART goals. Ditch the wishy-washy.

Want more? Here’s an article on SMART Goals by the ever-excellent Hubspot.

Why Should Anybody Buy From You?

In today’s world of hyper competition and online v offline purchasing options, why should anybody buy from you?

We’re all in business of one form or another, of one size or another.

But whatever type of business you run, one question should keep popping up in your brain. “Why should anybody buy from me?”

Now, we all know that we’re not the only alternative that our target audience can avail of. If you think that you don’t have any competitors, you won’t last long in business. There are always other solutions to the problem faced by your target market.

why should anybody buy from you

When a person wants to buy something, there are lots of factors influencing their decision, including the all-important subconscious ones. We sometimes joke that the marketing person in your business beavers away in the background, trying to build the best associations between your product or service and what people want (you might call that branding), while the poor auld salesperson has to actually face the potential customer and relate to that person.

Of course, for many of us, the marketing person and sales person is one and the same – it’s you.

Let’s consider why people might not buy your product or service. Reasons often include :

  • They found an entirely different solution
  • They found what they perceive to be the same product / service as yours, but at a better deal
  • They don’t feel secure about your offer
  • They simply get distracted and forget
  • They don’t actually know what they want

Here’s a thing : be specific – offer a specific product for a specific audience. Be sure your product offers value to your clearly defined target market.

So, why do people buy a particular product or service?

People want to move away from, or reduce unhappiness


People want to move closer to, or attain happiness

Now, which are you offering? How are you providing value and how are you relating to those needs and wants of your audience?

So, here’s the killer question.

Does your prospect believe that your product or service can fix their problem and help them achieve their goal? Do you help them move away from unhappiness, or towards happiness?

Keep asking.

Why should anybody buy from you? Because you’ve a grasp on value, what people want, where you stand vis-a-vis the competition and what your compelling branding communication consists of.

Oh, and you’ve a great product or service.

How Long Should Marketing Videos Be?

We’re all gone very visual now.

And demanding.

Your target market is looking for visual content. They react best to visual. And their preferred format is video.

Earlier this year, the top social media marketing gurus were predicting that Facebook, for example, may well be video posts only by 2020 – and that’s just around the corner.

Different social media platforms allow for different lengths of video to be posted – Twitter has a 140 sec max, Instagram 60 sec, Facebook apparently 20 minutes (but that would be way too long).

Whichever platform you’re posting to, remember that you’re in a highly competitive marketplace and people’s attention spans are shrinking all the time. You’d be doing very well to hold a person for anything like 2 or 3 minutes, let alone longer.

So how long should marketing videos be?

how long should marketing videos beWell, there are a number of factors.

First, how quickly and succinctly can you get your message across? Remember that your marketing video needs to have just one focus. It should not try to be all things to all viewers. Give it one core message and one ‘hook’ only. And get it across in the shortest time possible.

Next, you’ll probably want to brand it up, maybe with your business logo at the beginning and end. Don’t forget to brand it at the start, because most people won’t watch through to the end.

Also, can you get on screen yourself?

Finally, you’ve got to include a ‘call to action’ – what you want viewers to do. Do you want them to pick up the phone, book a ticket, visit your website, come into your store, submit their email address?

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to complete your marketing video in 60 to 90 seconds or less.

Now, there are of course exceptions. If you’re putting up a ‘how to’ video on your YouTube channel to help your target market or existing clients, for example, then the focused viewer will happily watch it for 5, 10, 15 minutes or longer, if they perceive value and they are going to learn something.

By the way, be aware that ‘native video’, i.e. clips uploaded directly, work much better on Facebook than links to the same video on your YouTube channel. So when you’ve created your masterpiece, upload it straight on to Facebook and separately onto your channel (if you wish).

And then there’s the wonderful Johnnie Lawson – Visual Artist, whose videos are mostly 1 to 8 hours long! Check out some of his meditation and relaxation creations on his YouTube Channel. Oh, and by the way, he has over 90 million views and more than 220,000 subscribers, so he’s definitely doing something right.

Just goes to show you shouldn’t take what others tell you as gospel …

How long should marketing videos be – Resources

For greater detail on the technical specs of your marketing videos for social media, check out this article from Hootsuite.

9 Things to Consider When Starting your own Business

Beginning your journey with your own new business can be a wonderful experience, but also a daunting one. While working for yourself can certainly be a hugely rewarding path to take, it comes fraught with dangers – not least of which is the disappearance of your weekly pay cheque.

Are you ready to take the plunge? Great. Here are 9 things to consider when starting your own business.

The three elements of a sale

No matter what your business, its products and / or services, there are essentially just three parts to any sales deal – the buyer, the seller and the product (or service). Are you sure that at least two of these three elements are known to your target market? In other words, when you approach your first prospects with your own business, presenting its products, will that prospect recognise at least two of these elements? Will they, for example, know what your type of product is or does (even if they don’t know you)? Will they relate to others who use your product? Do they know you already, even if they weren’t aware that you are now marketing whatever your product is?

Your family’s opinions have no value (and that includes your own!)

The fact that your wife, husband, daughter or mother thinks your idea is great does not count. Your product or service has (hopefully) not been designed according to your tastes, but those of the identified target market.

things to consider when starting your own business

Money, money, money

Quite apart from the resources you must have in order to build your product or design your service, you must have cash to run a viable marketing campaign, e.g. build a website, advertise on Facebook, print flyers, etc. One of the great business adages reminds us that “Running a business without promotion is like winking at a good-looking girl (or boy) in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does”.


You’ve simply got to believe in what you’re doing. Coming back to the point above, that does not mean your friends and family can give you confidence. No, it’s about research, research and more research.


Yes, things will get sh*tty at some point. It’ll also get lonely. C’est la vie. Get on with it.

Target market personae

Marketing research is critically important, but it’s not exciting or sexy. Knowledge is intricately linked to confidence, above. Carry out lots of research, including as objective a SWOT Analysis as you can manage. Learn as much as possible about the marketplace, competitors, pricing, distribution channels used by others, etc, etc. Segment the market. Then focus – and I mean really, really focus – on one or two target markets within the overall market. You do not want to try to be all things to all people. Develop a persona that represents each of your one or two target markets, as if each of them is one single real human, and put all your effort into them.

Of all the things to consider when starting your new business, this is the key.

But you’re not doing this blind. You’ve carried out thorough research and that research has told you there’s a market out there for your product.

Get used to having coffee with strangers

Hopefully, you will have some pre-existing relationships to bring to this new business. They might be past clients with your previous employers; they might be suppliers from your last job. No matter. You’ll still need to build lots of new ones, so get out there and meet people.


You don’t expect the first person (or business, if you’re in the B2B space) you encounter to purchase on your first meeting. No, it will take time to build that business, recalling the AIDA Formula, namely

A – Awareness

I – Interest

D – Desire

A – Action

Your task is to move targets through each stage, from at first knowing your new business exists, to becoming interested, then wanting to act, then purchasing your product or service, thanks to your impressive marketing and great product.

“Nobody gives a damn about your business but you”

I’m also very fond of this saying. It reminds us not to be too precious about our lovely shiny new business. What it’s telling us is that your targets have loads of things on their mind and their world is not going to change just because you’ve set up a business. No. Your job is to provide value to your market. If you provide genuine value to the correct target market, you’ll make it.

Keep in mind these things to consider when starting your own business and the very best of luck. Break a leg!

Things to consider when starting your own business – Resources

The internet is full of helpful articles on tips and tricks for the new business owner. Be disciplined – grab yourself a coffee every day for at least two weeks and dedicate 30 minutes to reading every tip you can find. Then distill and go for it!

The network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) offer regular training programmes in ‘Start your own Business’. Find your local LEO at

Service Gaps Model for Exceptional Customer Service

I’m not a big fan of marketing and business development ‘models’ in general, but I do like the Service Gaps Model. It’s old-fashioned, perhaps, but still works for me and the many service businesses I deliver mentoring to.

Essentially, the Service Gaps Model is a way of reviewing the performance of a business, as measured against what the customer had perceived the service would be before experiencing it.

But crucially, it also measures performance against how management had declared it should be. In other words, actual performance is measured against both internal and external preconceptions.

Let’s put some meat on this.

Imagine a person walks into a restaurant and orders the full breakfast for Euro 8. She imagines that this would include not only the fry but also tea and toast. In fact, she is surprised to be charged an extra Euro 1 for this. This is a service gap.

On the other hand, imagine the manager of the above restaurant prescribes that the breakfast should include two sausages and two rashers, along with the rest. In fact, there is a new recruit in the kitchen who has been putting three of each on the plate since he arrived yesterday. Again, this is a service gap.

Service Gaps Model

Service gaps can result in fluctuating margins and disappointed customers. And we all know that the disgruntled customer goes away and tells twenty friends about the experience…

One of the Seven Ps of Marketing is People. While it’s clear that people are critical to the success of any business, this is particularly the case in services. Training of staff is important, but then so too is the role of management in determining the level of service that should be delivered to the customer and ensuring that it is both appropriate and delivered upon.

Understanding the Service Gaps Model gives insight into how providing exceptional service that surpasses customer expectations can drive your business forward and make it stand out from others that have not given due consideration to this powerful marketing tool.

Service Gaps Model – The 5 gaps you need to close :

  1. Customer perception of what they will receive (Expected Service) v Management perception of what the customer will expect.
  2. Management perception of what the customer will expect v Management specification of what the service should provide.
  3. Management specification of what the service should provide v What actually happens.
  4. What actually happens v What was ‘promised’ through communication and promotion.
  5. What actually happens in the eyes of the customer (Perceived Service) v Customer’s prior perception (Expected Service).

Service Gaps Model – What you need to do to close gaps and deliver the type of outstanding customer care you’re aiming for :

  • Carry out marketing research, talk to your customers, ask questions and listen to what customers say and want.
  • Communicate clearly to your customer what he will receive and when. Do not over-promise and under-deliver and be sure that every marketing claim is justified.
  • Commit to service quality. Train and match the right people to the right job.
  • Preach uniformity, standardise tasks and levels to be delivered. Lead by example and do not cut corners.
  • Improve two-way internal communication between front-line staff and management, as well as between marketing, design and technical / production departments.
  • Work as a team towards a common branding goal, recognise and reward the delivery of quality service across your team.

Remarketing Tools from Facebook and Mailchimp

As a small business owner, you’re probably using Facebook Pages and some email marketing system or other. Mine’s a Mailchimp, thank you for asking. But are you using the powerful remarketing tools these platforms offer?

Placing the Facebook pixel tracking code on your website allows you to build audiences on Facebook of website visitors who have taken actions, as defined by you.

For example, imagine you have an online shoe shop. You could build an audience on Facebook of people who visited, say, your ladies’ boots page, but did not purchase, i.e. did not visit your post-purchase ‘confirmation’ url.

Alternatively, if you don’t sell online, you could still use the pixel to simply count website visitors, irrespective of what actions they do or do not take on the site. The ‘audience’ (or group) thus built can be advertised to down the road.

To get into remarketing (aka retargeting) using the pixel, learn more from Facebook here.

Remarketing tools from Facebook and Mailchimp

Mailchimp, meanwhile, is a wonderful email marketing system. The basic idea here is to gather email addresses legitimately and forward occasional newsletters via email. However, the system offers much more, including remarketing automations. Here, you set up certain “if, then” scenarios and craft good emails to be sent when the trigger occurs.

For example, let’s imagine you’ve sent a newsletter and one of the articles is selling a certain event. You might set up an automation to forward a second, more in-depth email about that event, to encourage bookings. Or a follow-up video link, perhaps.

Learn more about Mailchimp automations here.

Remarketing tools from Facebook and Mailchimp

I use both these tools and would highly recommend that you start to experiment with them also. They build brand recognition, play a role in brand reinforcement and, ultimately, help drive sales.

Remember that book you looked at on the website of that huge worldwide book vendor, but didn’t purchase? Have you noticed it popping up on your Facebook newsfeed … Or that flight you checked, but didn’t book…

That’s remarketing (or retargeting) in action, right there.

How much Time do you Waste each Week?

There’s no such thing as “not enough time”. There is the time that there is and none of us can increase or decrease it. I wonder how much time do you waste at work each week?

We often hear others, and indeed ourselves, uttering those great words “I don’t have time for that”. Again, there’s no such thing as not having the “time for that”. If I say that I don’t have time for that, I’m simply saying that I’m not prepared to allocate time for that. It’s a question of two things : time allocation and wastage of time.

how much time do you waste

Whether or not we like to acknowledge it, the fact is that we all choose what to do with our time and, consequently, what not to do with it. Sometimes, we choose to waste it. Indeed, sometimes that’s perfectly fine and we call it ‘downtime’, ‘vegetating’, or whatever you’re having yourself.

But here’s the thing. Unconsciously wasting time can be a terrible hurdle to you getting on with your business. I hear people regularly telling me about the time they waste, for example, on social media. Mindlessly scrolling down the Facebook or Twitter feed. Engaging with stuff they really don’t need to be engaging with. A tap of the ‘like’ button here; an inane comment there; now and again a love heart…

I’m a big fan of social media. It’s a wonderful place to learn and communicate stuff, with Twitter being my favourite. It’s also a great way of driving people to your website and, ultimately, making sales for your product or service. But if you’re running your own small business, like I am, you’ve simply got to control the time spent on these platforms.

I used to be very good. Then I went through a phase where I started to spend too much time on them, looking at cute photos of cats and reading unimportant news stories. I’ve now gotten much better again, thankfully. I can tell you that just these last two weeks, I’ve sent proposals to a number of target clients which I wouldn’t have forwarded had I been wasting too much time on things bringing no benefit to my business. Now it’s up to me to follow up.

Nor, by the way, do I spend my evenings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever. But that’s another story and you might reflect on how much of your precious family time gets wasted glued to smartphone screens …

How much time do you waste each week?

So here are some tips on, yes, reaping the benefits that social media offers your business but, no, not wasting time looking at that cool video showing goats leaping across a mountain gorge.

1. Just because it’s coffee time, doesn’t mean it’s ‘get distracted’ time.

2. Make a list. You hate lists? Doesn’t matter. Make one anyway and do it every single working day. On the list, jot down small jobs and break up big jobs into smaller tasks. You’ve got a huge tender document to complete by Friday? Do one section today, one section tomorrow, and so on.

how much time do you waste each week

3. Schedule your posts for your Facebook page and other platforms. Do that on, say, Monday morning before 10 am. Then all you have to do for the rest of the week is interact and engage with those commenting, which is what it’s supposed to be all about anyway. Right now, I’ve got 15 scheduled posts already up.

4. Never visit your personal ‘newsfeed’, aka ‘home’ on Facebook during office hours. Indeed, only use the Facebook Pages Manager App when on that tool for work.

5. Stop checking your social media, email, etc, so often.

6. Get yourself a task timer.

7. Turn off the radio, stop talking to time wasters, etc.

8. Stay focussed and resist the temptation to drift …

So sit back and reflect on how much time do you waste each working week. I’m sure you’ll realise that improved time management is achievable, if you put your mind to it. And by the way, did you watch those crazy goats?

Customer Care at the Cleaning Company

It’s a few years since I met these people, but the client’s name recently popped up in a conversation. This cleaning company has been very successful over the years and I remember them as one of the most impressive small businesses I’ve come across.

First, their business is spread quite widely across the country. Despite this, they retain excellent customer relations because they put it at the very core of everything they do. This is not just lip-service, but genuine quality customer care. They’re all the time talking with their customers, reviewing budgets and what can be achieved within the means of the people who employ their service. They talk to them as fellow humans, not as paying customers, and they’re not trying to sell a service the customer cannot afford.customer care at the cleaning company

Second, they do as they say. With many services that call to the home nowadays – like the tv guy, boiler guy, phone and broadband guy – the customer receives no more than a vague “morning” or “afternoon” slot for the call around and is expected to just sit at home and wait. As if they had nothing else to do with their lives. Not so here. This service gives a tight one-hour window in which they will call around. Much more reasonable, much more acceptable, much more customer-centric.

Third, the business keeps in touch via email. But not just any old humdrum marketing-heavy newsletter. No. These regular emails don’t mention the services of the business at all. There’s no pushiness; there’s no up-selling. It’s fantastic.

Learn More

If you’re in a service business, you could do a lot worse than consider the quality of customer care at the cleaning company. And while you’re at it, read this post on the importance of people in services marketing.

Here’s a nice article on customer care from

Keep getting better.

Tips for the Start of a New Year

Let’s face it, we all reflect at the start of each New Year. How’s our business going? How did last year end up, compared to our plans and aspirations of 12 months ago?

With that in mind, here are a few tips for the start of a new year.

Get out

First, go somewhere new to think. Go into town and visit a coffee shop you’ve never been to before. Bring a pen and paper … remember them? In fact, do this a few times during the year, not just in early January.

tips for the start of a new year

Get scribbling

With said paper and pen, start throwing down some ideas – lots of them – about what you feel you could or should be doing this year that’s either the same or different to what you did last year. Something worked really well last year? Great, keep it up, but advance it, fine-tune it, improve it and bring it to an expanded audience. Something else didn’t work? Fine, get rid of it. You know the adage : if you keep doing the same wrong thing, you can expect the same poor results.

Get after a lost client

Each year, through natural attrition, we lose maybe 20% of our clients. That’s okay, especially if we’re happy enough to have lost some of them. Who doesn’t have a client they’d be happier without? But if not, then get on the phone, email or whatever and see if you can win them back. Where that’s not possible, then at least learn a lesson.

Get into something new

Your market is constantly evolving. You must evolve with it, or ahead of it. In 2017, I generated over 20% of my turnover from a product I didn’t even offer back in 2016.

Note that there are essentially three components to any sale : the buyer, the seller and the product.

For example, if your buyer knows you and appreciates the products you currently offer, then you have an opportunity to offer him something new and relevant. Equally, if the buyer doesn’t know you but does know or can relate to a similar buyer to him who has bought from you and he understands the product you’re offering, again you have an opportunity. Indeed, here are some tips on how to present a new product or service.

Get mental

Outside of work, but directly related to it, go get some physical exercise. Get into walking, cycling, swimming, team sports or whatever you fancy. Regular exercise will help you feel better both physically and mentally and that can only be good for you and your business. Right?

Tips for the start of a new year – resources

Here’s a nice list of practical things to do marketing-wise from the blog at Wix.

Here are 9 goals to aim for, from Entrepreneur Magazine.

And here’s what Social Media Today has to say – 18 digital strategy tips. Pay particular attention to Number 18!

Happy New Year!