Another Less than Perfect Year Passes

Goodness, another dodgy year comes to a close.

This time last year, we assumed that 2021 couldn’t be as bad as 2020…

Anyway, onwards and upwards. I’m constantly impressed by people’s ability to keep their small business alive and kicking. The resilience is impressive, to say the least. Chapeau to you, one and all!

For a person who is usually out and about at least 3 or 4 days a week, it has been truly extraordinary to reflect on the fact that, since Thursday 12 March 2020, I’ve actually only been out for a face-to-face meeting on 4 occasions.

One of them was just last week. The others were in September 2020 and twice more strung out during 2021. Incredible!

another less than perfect year

I wonder will this pandemic have a lasting effect on remote working? There will be an interesting tug-of-war to observe, between the desire to get back out and meet people in the ‘real world’ and the inclination to just keep working over Zoom. I’ve already had one colleague tell me they have no intention whatsoever of going back on the road to hold meetings – ever.

I wouldn’t see myself making such a bold declaration, but whatever you feel is right for you!

I think what might happen for me is I’ll return to face-to-face meetings where a venue, factory or workshop demands to be seen, but with other digital marketing and social media meetings, where there’s no real requirement to see a facility, they may well remain online. Let’s see how this evolves into what is now the third year of this mess.

Anyway, Christmas beckons and, with it, the end of another less than perfect year.

I guess we have to believe that things will, at some stage, return to normal, although with new variants popping up all over the place, maybe that’s idle dreaming…

Which Social Media is best for a Beginner Business?

One of the most common questions that pops up during training or mentoring assignments is which social media is best for a beginner business.

Unfortunately, it’s not the right question.

which social media is best for a beginner business

Too often, small business owners choose to go with the social media site they are most comfortable with, or the one they enjoy.

Neither is a great basis upon which to make a business decision …

Like so much more to do with your fledgling business, it’s really all about the research. You need to put in the donkey work to find out all you can about your one or more target markets, your competitors, their offering and the habits of your potential customers.

Know your target market!

It’s about them, not you!

Here are some generalist comments on the leading consumer-focussed social media platforms out there. Each of these should be verified for your particular market.

Facebook : Still by far the largest platform, in terms of number of active users, Facebook is now ever more for an older audience, many of whom are over 45 or 50 years of age. Know that organic reach has collapsed and this is now essentially a “pay to play” platform.

Instagram : Its audience is aging too (obviously!), but remains mostly under 40 to 45. In Ireland, it tends to more female-oriented. Remember that, unless you are a ‘verified vendor’ of physical products, you cannot post live links in Instagram posts, meaning very few clicks back to your website. Update Nov 2021 : Now you can include live links within your Stories, though still not in a regular post.

Twitter : Look at Twitter not as a direct marketing platform, but more of an indirect channel. Rather than ‘speaking’ to individuals, concentrate on intra-sector comms, journalists, influencers, etc. Chase other relevant accounts’ databases and your target audience will then find you.

Pinterest : If your offering represents a (sometimes long-term) project for your market, then this can be the platform for you. Examples might include long-haul “bucket list” travel, kitchen refurbs, architecture, etc. The beauty here is that people connect with you sometimes months or years after they’ve pinned your post.

TikTok : Very much for a younger audience, mostly under 25s.

Snapchat : This platform is ever more being squeezed by TikTok from below and Instagram from above. This is a nice article about its potential demise.

So, which social media is best for a beginner business?

The answer is simple : whichever one is where your target audiences hangs out online.

What does this mean? You may need to be present on more than one, depending on whether or not you have different target audiences. However, you shouldn’t be on them all, because that might suggest you’re not as focussed as you need to be.

Updated Nov 2021

Nine Months since my last Blogpost

Forgive me, for it’s been 9 long months since my last post…

2020 was a strange year – one obviously dominated by a dreadful pandemic, yet one where I was crazily busy.

2021 has begun the same.

9 months since my last blogpost

I guess this Covid craic will end eventually, but where will it leave us?

From a purely business point of view, we all really need to look at our model and see how we can ensure a viable future, where such ‘disruption’ might well re-occur sooner rather than later.

Clearly, that means optimising our delivery method, whether we are a service or product business.

For my part, I’ve now held over 550 meetings and/or training workshops online via Zoom.

I’ve helped more and more service providers investigate the likes of Teachable and Thinkific, as platforms to change their modus operandi.

By the way, remember that, even if you go global, via online teaching tools such as these, you’re still most likely to attract clients from Ireland and the UK. Stay relatively ‘local’ with your marketing concentration.

But, with Brexit running parallel to this mess, you also need to be seriously re-evaluating any supply chains you have running across the neighbouring island. It’s fantastic to see the shipping companies so rapidly responding to the landbridge mess by providing ever more direct routes from Ireland to the Continent, like this one from Rosslare to Dunkerque.

If you’re still importing virtually all your materials from the UK, then sit down and start investigating alternatives – the most manageable of which may well be The Netherlands. They’re great business people and, crucially, speak great English too.

Onwards with 2021 and the very best to you and your business.

Months since my last blogpost

By the way, if it’s admittedly been months since my last blogpost, here’s what I want to know.

What marketing actions have you been taking over the last while? Although motivation can be a challenge in these times, you do need to keep working on your marketing. For my part, I’ve put up more videos than ever before.

En avant!

When We Travel Again

I can’t remember the last time I put diesel in the car.

This Zoom thing is all the craic these days and I’m perfectly happy with it too, I must admit.

But, in all honesty, I’m looking forward to when we travel again for work. Work-wise, there’s nothing better than meeting people face to face.

when we travel again

I love travelling the byroads and high roads of Connacht and beyond to help people with their small business marketing. Do I know it all and have all the answers? Absolutely not. But I do give what I can and leave a person’s house, or the nearest hotel reception area where we’ve met, hoping I did something to drive them on, improve their business and grow their income.

Plus, there’s the banter.

The small talk is much less easy online. There’s an important ‘social outlet’ aspect to the work I do, which can be difficult to replicate over a computer screen.

Indeed, the same applies to group training events. Sure, they can technically be achieved online, but that delivery method completely misses one important element of the job – that word “group”. This self-employment path can be isolating for many small business owners. Training workshops, like more casual networking events, offer a welcome opportunity to mix, meet and simply chat over coffee.

(By the way, if you are self-employed and not getting out to some form of regular networking event or other, put it on your “Absolutely Must Do” list for when this period of social distancing has passed. It’ll be good for your health, as well as your business.)

I know, from when I deliver offline events, that for attendees there is always an element of wanting to greet, mingle and enjoy the interaction in the room. I’m absolutely in favour of it.

So, while this online work is 100% fine, maybe it’s actually more like 90%.

Looking for things to do with your time these days? Read this article about marketing things to do under the current situation.

Here’s to when we travel again.

Coronavirus Marketing Things To Do

Wow, what a smack in the gob this current situation has been. And it’s not nearly over yet.

Unless yours is a service business deliverable online (and perhaps even then), you’ve most likely seen a significant drop in activity and probably have some spare time on your hands. Make sure you use it wisely!

Let’s look at this under two headings.

Coronavirus Marketing : Long-Term Strategic Stuff

This is a great opportunity for you to reflect strategically on your business.

Now, let’s face it, on reading the word “strategic”, your eyes probably glaze over. Your brain fills up with trepidation when it comes to big thinking, big projects and big planning for times ahead. That’s a natural reaction we all suffer from.

Coronavirus Marketing

You’d prefer to watch YouTube videos of cats playing with wool.

No! Do not hit that link.

Instead, what you need to do is break down seemingly insurmountable tasks into more manageable parts and allocate perhaps one or max two hours per day, every day, to tackling them. At the end of a week or two or three, you’ll be delighted you have done so and will be armed with direction and purpose for when we ride out of this mess.

And don’t worry – like everything else, this too will pass.

We’re talking here about updating your Marketing Plan, or writing your first. Email me if you’d like to get a template.

We’re talking about pruning or adding to your product range.

We’re talking about reflecting upon and making any necessary changes to your distribution system, the channel partners you use and how to get your business selling online, if it isn’t yet.

We’re talking about vital market research into trends and competitor practices, market segment profiling, running some customer feedback surveys, etc.

Are you capable of being objective about your own business? Of course you are. Then sit down and carry out a genuine SWOT Analysis. Don’t do it in just one sitting. Instead, tweak over several days.

Remind yourself : What is that customer want that you are seeking to satisfy? Review and tweak.

Next, list out your USPs and get to work on the bits that aren’t quite there yet. Now, look over your website content and make sure you’re really highlighting those USPs.

Coronavirus Marketing : Short-Term Practical Stuff

Clearly, your main focus needs to be on maintaining some level of turnover. Between implementing social distancing that permits you to keep on working, making phone calls, sending emails, driving social media engagement, or moving meetings online using a tool like Zoom, you can probably manage something in that regard.

Stay connected – avoid disappearing down a rabbit hole.

Get out of bed every day and put your clothes on. This is not a holiday.

If you aren’t already, then go sell on your own website, Etsy, Shopify, Eventbrite, Facebook or any other platform that can generate revenue for you.

But you’ll still have plenty time left over.

Get to fixing your email list, clearing out inactive subscribers who never engage with your campaigns. Apart from good housekeeping, that will keep you in the good books with GDPR.

While you’re at it, go design your next newsletter, so it’s already done when you feel it’s time to send it out. I use Mailchimp.

Refresh your visual library, by producing new videos that tell your story and shooting new marketing focused photographs.

Cast an eye over your content marketing. Are you happy with what your webpages say about your business? Is the tone just right? Is your content correctly reflecting your core branding message?

Review the SEO credentials of your website. Are you correctly using focus keywords that match what people are searching for? My website is built on WordPress, with SEO plugin by Yoast.

Have you learned how to use Facebook advertising or indeed Google Ads? Now might be the time to plonk yourself in front of a computer screen (again, in small doses), grab 73 coffees and visit YouTube to learn how to create adverts on both these platforms. Or sign up to online training about them. Always check what courses your local LEO is offering.

Build in some Downtime

Having said all of the above … it’s also ok to take some downtime. You don’t need to work 8 hour days right now. So get distracted and relax a bit too. Learn a language, read a book, plant some veg.

Coronavirus Marketing Takeaway

Yes, we can feel down in the dumps because of what’s happening in the world and, yes, the health of yourself, your family and the wider community is the most important thing.

But there is an opportunity here for your business. You have suddenly been given time to ‘reboot’ – time you did not expect to have. Get busy, sorting out daily tasks and working on longer-term strategic improvements.

In these strange times, the very best of luck to you all.

And, to repeat, this too will pass.

Make Time for Marketing

Dealing with micro enterprises, mostly with 5 employees or fewer, I hear every week how difficult it can be to make time for marketing. And yet, you must.

The same with community groups and social enterprises I work with.

As another year passes, I invite you to reflect on how much time you spent these past 12 months on actually pro-actively marketing your business, its products and services. Honestly, how much?

make time for marketing

Small business owners often have poor time management skills. Time management is essentially about differentiating between perfection and excellence, between what’s urgent and what’s important. It’s about understanding what needs to be done and what doesn’t.

Marketing needs to be done.

When I hear a business owner tell me they don’t have time for marketing, what I hear is that they do not want to dedicate time to marketing.

Big difference.

Marketing time is also about stopping all that procrastination – ending up doing nothing.

There is a business adage that I like which tells us that we will lose 20% of our customers each year. Think about this – you know it’s more or less true. On the other hand, we all love to quote how much business we pick up through word of mouth, testimonials and referrals. You know that’s the case too.

So, while we pick up business “passively”, we also lose some. So what I am saying is that, even though you undoubtedly are winning new business all the time, if you keep the other side of the equation in mind, you might greater appreciate how you should nevertheless be marketing.

Make time for marketing.

In fact, when things are going quite well, that’s when I want you to be marketing. People like to do business with busy people.

Here are some ideas of how to make time for marketing this new year

1. At some predictable point in your week, there is downtime. For me, it’s every Monday morning before 10.00. Use it to schedule out posts on your social media platforms. On Facebook and Instagram, using the Business Suite, you can schedule posts up to three months out. This hugely reduces the amount of time you need to spend on FB & IG daily, leaving you free to just respond to comments, interact, engage.

2. Use automation in your email marketing campaigns, via www.mailchimp.com or other service. It allows you to keep interested parties warm, through automated follow-up emails based on what they clicked.

3. Rather than running a large ad in a newspaper once or twice (if still relevant in your sector), run a smaller version for a protracted period of time. Devising the ad takes less time and it runs for longer, giving greater impact.

4. Go to networking events. They force you out of the office for a while each month and grow your connections at the same time. They improve your “elevator pitch”. If ‘offline’ is currently not an option, get into online networking groups that are relevant to you and active. In there, be active!

5. Spend less time browsing “news” on the internet that you really don’t need (you know you are guilty of this) and more time on the phone and email to customers present and past, as well as prospects.

6. In B2B, send out a manageable number of sales letters/emails (why not try postcards?) this week. Realise that a letter/email is only an excuse to pick up the phone. Force yourself to pick up the phone. Repeat next week.

7. Commit to trade or consumer shows a few times each year. I’m not saying you necessarily have to get into the expensive business of exhibiting, but do go along. Meet people; press the flesh; get used to having coffee with strangers.

8. Get into video marketing. Get used to putting your face on camera.

And so on.

Trust me : if you want to make time for marketing, you’ll make time for marketing.

So, as another new year approaches, I invite you to write down some targets for your renewed marketing activity. Get on it!

While you’re at it, go read this post about avoiding time wasting habits.

Updated Dec 2021

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.

BTW, one thing we’re looking out for here is the person who says “I didn’t know you did that.” Ouch!

I’m telling you – In marketing, it’s often the simple things, the low-hanging fruit.

Ongoing Revenue Streams

My wife told me the other day of a company that sells such-and-such a product, but who also sells 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, what did you think of the offer in 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.

Updated Sept 2021

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”.

Great.

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. 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 one week 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 orders from and delivered produce to 4 new customers within 6 weeks of the show”.

Etc.

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.

Updated Dec 2021

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

Or

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.

At one point, the top social media marketing gurus were predicting that Facebook, for example, may well become a video posts only platform. That hasn’t quite transpired, but we can still see where things are headed.

Different social media platforms allow for different lengths of video to be posted – Twitter has a 140 sec max, Instagram has reels of 15, 30 and 60 seconds, while longer videos can also be uploaded (previously known as IG:TV), 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, or constantly on-screen in the top corner. 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 168 million views and 400,000 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.

Updated Oct 2021