If you’re a small business looking for help with strategic marketing, then you need to explore Growth Vouchers.
It’s a scheme launched by the government in early 2014 to give businesses a £2,000 boost to help them access specialist business support.
The vouchers can be used across five areas, one of which is ‘marketing, attracting and keeping customers’. And as that’s precisely what we do, you’ll be pleased to know that as of April 2014 SharpEdge Marketing has become an Approved Growth Voucher Adviser!
This means if you receive a Growth Voucher and you want to use it for strategic marketing help, you’ll be able to redeem it if you work with us. The scheme works on a match-funded basis, so you can claim 50% of the costs, with an upper limit of £2,000.
To find out more, take a look at the UK Government website, where you will need to apply. This gives lots of information about eligibility criteria and how the scheme works. Note that applying doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive a voucher, because recipients are chosen at random (but if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t receive one!).
It’s the spring exhibition season, and even these days, when marketing thinking is dominated by all-things digital, many companies are still choosing to stake out their spot in the exhibition hall.
But do you know how to make the most of the opportunity – and does your company team actually know how to behave at an exhibition? It’s surprising how many companies get it wrong!
Here’s a handy checklist of 20 practical things for companies to do (and avoid), in advance and at the event.
Many companies aspire to communicate regularly with their customers, perhaps with an e-newsletter, or to post them a new brochure. But the reality is that without good data it isn’t going to happen. And it all boils down to getting the basics right.
Amongst the companies I’ve dealt with over the years, there are usually five data issues we come up against.
Some companies think they do; but on closer examination it’s only the module attached to the accounts software; it’s used solely by the accounts department, and so usually doesn’t contain commercial decision-making contacts, or data for prospective clients who don’t yet have accounts – the very people you need to be communicating with and nurturing to a sale.
Data ages quickly, whatever the industry, and if the data hasn’t been actively managed then it will deteriorate and decrease in its usefulness. You’ll discover that when you mail the database and get lots of returned envelopes, or e-mail and get a high bounce rate.
I’ve seen data littered with typos; and where key data fields (including surnames and company names) are left blank. No-one has controlled the input, so the data needs a lot of cleaning before it can be considered usable. Quite apart from anything else, it would make a shocking impression on the recipient, if it were to reach them.
Many companies are a bit unsure how they can use their data, and risk inadvertently breaking the law and being fined. Even if you’ve passed the first three tests above, your data may still be problematic if you don’t have consent to use it as you intend. For example, for consumer data you need to make sure you have permission from the contact to send them marketing e-mails: if you don’t, you can’t e-mail them. But if you’re e-mailing a business, then you can. This is a huge area, and there’s too much to explain in depth here – but it is so important to get it right. If you want to be sure of what you should do, talk to us, or visit the ICO website, which is full of useful information.
In other words, do you know (for example) if the company/contact is an architect, a building contractor, or a plumber? Because it will affect what you say to them. Even a basic degree of segmentation can help you target your marketing more effectively.
For a small business it really doesn’t matter if your data is housed in an expensive CRM system or an Excel spreadsheet. If it fails on these five points, then it fails. Better an accurate, well-managed spreadsheet than a CRM system filled with useless data.
All of this might seem mundane and petty – but your direct marketing success depends on it, so do take it seriously. If you’re planning to start doing direct marketing, then take the time to audit your data first, or ask us to do it for you. You’ll waste less money and increase the effectiveness of your campaign if your data is right.
If you’ve heard the term ‘content marketing’, and you’re not sure what it is or why you should think seriously about doing it for your business, let me explain.
Or, as a better way to make the point, let me give you an example.
You’re searching the web for something. You click on a page, and what greets you is a little column of text, surrounded by flashing adverts and banners. Just when you think you’ve found the right place to start reading… a pop-up box appears in front on it asking you to share your opinions (“it’ll only take a minute” it assures you…).
Annoying, isn’t it.
Because what you actually want to do is read the content on the page.
When I start a conversation with a new client, one question we usually discuss is how the company wants to be perceived, to help with brand development. “Professional, friendly and knowledgeable” is one of the stock answers. This doesn’t help much, as I’ve yet to find a company which wants to be thought of as anything else!
But another answer that I once received (after professional, etc) was “young, fresh and dynamic”.
“Are you?” I asked. “For example, are your staff quite young here?”
What three things would I put into a ‘Room 101’ of marketing – a chamber containing my worst marketing nightmares?
Most companies at some point will have been contacted by a magazine (of which they have probably never heard) with the exciting proposition of having a double page article published about the company absolutely free of charge! The only condition is that you provide the magazine with a list of 10 suppliers and they will approach them to see if they would like to show you their support by taking out an advert.
This is wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels!
Digital marketing – which includes e-mail marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimisation – is currently one of the most sought-after marketing training areas. Businesses are seeing the marketing opportunities online, and recognising the need to equip their staff with new skills through digital marketing training.
SharpEdge Marketing takes a highly tailored approach. Rather than running set courses – where some content may not be relevant to all attendees – each course is built specifically from a series of modules. The result is a bespoke training programme, precisely tailored to the trainee’s needs, with examples and activities based on the client’s business.
Courses are delivered on the client’s premises, in a series of short, manageable sessions; and personal follow-up sessions can also be included, to ensure the trainee has been able to apply their learning.
The nine new digital marketing training modules now available are:
I’ve just ‘unfollowed’ someone on Twitter. It’s someone I feel I ought to be following; someone who actually says useful things, and is clearly knowledgeable in their field.
So, if they’re ticking all the boxes, why the unfollow? It’s their demeanour online – their online personality and behaviour; and specifically their tone. Rather than coming across as helpful and knowledgeable, they come across (to me, at least) as a bit patronising, and a bit of a know-it-all. It’s a shame, especially when I find myself stumbling across useful things this person has said elsewhere. But the way they say it just makes me cross.
Is this person like that in real life? – I have no idea: we’ve never met, or even spoken. So my impression is totally drawn from their online persona. But in this day and age, sometimes that’s all we have – the written word, devoid of inflection, conveyed in 140 characters, and open to interpretation.
The world of social media is a fast-moving place, where the instant pithy reply reigns. Unlike other media, you can’t rely on a copywriter to refine your every sentence. You have to be your own copywriter – and censor – and be quick about it.
Of course, there’s an argument that you should always write in your own natural style, even if it’s abrasive. Because at least it’s authentic. And if people don’t like it, well, at least they’ve seen the real you.
But what about accidental style? – where your style just doesn’t reflect your real personality, and you don’t even realise it? Or, when you’re writing on behalf of a brand, and your natural style doesn’t fit with the brand’s persona? Keeping the tone of voice on-brand (and deciding what that should be) is as vital as, say, observing the company’s colour scheme in an advert.
While a copywriter probably can’t (and shouldn’t) script your every tweet, they can conduct a social media audit by reviewing your tweets or facebook postings over the last few weeks, and commenting on the tone and the personality conveyed; picking up on subtleties and saying, for example, “did you realise, you don’t sound very… approachable?”
There’s a fine line between being knowledgeable and being a know-it-all; between being followed and unfollowed. And it can all come down to your tone.
For help with creating your tone of voice (and other copywriting services), get in touch today.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the On The Edge digital marketing conference in Bristol – nine information-packed seminars about SEO, social media, video, etc. So it’s an interesting contrast to write about something perceived to be at the other end of the marketing spectrum – good old-fashioned direct mail.
Direct mail is sometimes spoken of with a bit of snigger, almost like it’s a guilty confession – the fear that it will be considered “so very 90s”.
Yet there are some good reasons to use direct mail, and I believe it has every right to be in today’s communications mix.
1) Less is more. There’s certainly less post being sent overall – thus the opportunity to grab attention and ‘share of voice’ through the medium is probably higher than ever. Continue reading →
The concept of the ‘internal customer’ has been in business parlance since the late 1980’s, and seems to have become particularly rife in recent years (or perhaps I’ve just got a bit sensitive to it). The ‘internal customer’, according to the Business Dictionary, is “an employee who receives goods or services produced elsewhere in an organisation as inputs to his or her work” – in other words, the next person or department along the chain of activities which receives the work that you do.
Propagated through the rise of quality management, and one of the fundamentals of TQM, the theory goes that if we serve the needs of our internal customer then it helps them to do their job more efficiently. If they in turn serve the needs of their internal customer, and so on, then eventually the external customer gets better service, and the whole organisation runs happily and efficiently.
Now it’s very nice in theory, and let me say I’m a big fan of quality management. But I do have a problem with this term “internal customer”. It’s a dangerous misnomer, which few people ever seem to question. Colleagues are not “customers”, and we skate on very thin ice when we start to think of them that way. Continue reading →