Happy Mondays (no, not the band, although I do hear that they are reforming for a tour one month this year).

As I got in the car to drive to work on Monday, it was with a sense of relief after surviving the usual chaos of getting everyone out of the house on time and in the correct clothing and the right bags and kit for the day.  My thoughts then turned to the day ahead and what it might bring.  I am lucky enough to be doing a job I really enjoy, that is providing marketing advice and support to small businesses in the area.

Some days of course bring challenges and it can still be hard to summon enough positive energy for the day ahead, particularly on a Monday.  What does make this easier for me though, is that the clients I work with are a really positive group of people.  We work with business owners who are facing these seemingly tough times, but are amazingly positive about how they are going to make their businesses successful.  This positivity really does have a knock-on effect on us, and how we go about giving them the best marketing advice we can.  But we are constantly reminded about how hard life is at the moment, with no apparent easy way out of it, all of which we find far too negative.  The subject of recession and tough economic times is actually banned in our office.

It was interesting then to hear on the radio, during my journey in, that it was ‘Happy Monday’, apparently the happiest day of the year.  According to psychologists, the combination of getting the first pay cheque of the year and booking a summer holiday makes Monday 31st January the highpoint of the year.

‘We each experience an average of ten major happy days every year but none is happier than January 31, or Happy Monday,’ said Dr David Holmes, senior psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University.

So, I thought are my clients going to be extra happy today?  Perhaps not, but what it did make me appreciate is that although the people I work with do face challenging times, they work hard to be positive.

Building your own business, brand or company takes time, energy, and a lot of work. Why do I think my clients are so positive? One reason I believe is that they all set realistic goals and a schedule to work towards them.  We work with them to create a marketing plan with realistic business growth objectives.  Our services provide the marketing activities which helps work towards those goals. The reward from the time and energy spent on their businesses is realised through those goals being accomplished.  If small steps are taken to maintain or grow your business, you are more likely to continue that cycle of hard work, commitment and achievement.  With achievement and reward comes positivity, whatever the challenges faced along the way.

So let’s all keep positive, and have a few more Happy Mondays this year, or any other day of the week for that matter.

Do you really fit the best with Everest?

Chantal

At the weekend we ordered some double glazing for our house, to replace the drafty windows that let the heat out in the winter. We called Everest on the Friday and got an appointment with a salesman the following day. He turned up with lots of samples and talked us through all the options. He showed us a press release from a few years ago, when Everest was taken to court over their strap line – Fit the Best. A slightly disgruntled customer accused them of not actually being ‘the best’ and the Advertising Standards Authority got involved.

So they went out to prove that they are the best! How do you do that? Well in the case of Everest, they spent a lot of time and money sending their products to independent labs, to be compared against those of their competitors. And the results came back to say that yes, they are the best! Impressive!

Our friendly salesman didn’t have one sample that we really wanted to look at, so he arranged to collect the sample and bring it back the next day – a Sunday. He put in a lot of effort to talk us through the options and in the end, we decided to order our new windows from Everest. We know that they’re not the cheapest, so why have we decided to spend more money? The main reason is due to the reputation of Everest. The company has been around for over 40 years and they’re showing no sign of packing up over night. They train their fitters very highly and check up on them on a regular basis.

And the day after we placed our order, we had a call from the customer service department, asking for feedback on the lovely salesman. That’s what you pay for when you pay for ‘the best’!

Have you noticed how Gillett no longer advertise their products as “the best a man can get”?

How can you prove that you’re the best?

What gaps are in your communication strategy?

Alice

The fourth assignment for my CIM Professional Certificate in Marketing involves creating a communications audit on the organisation I have based my assignment upon. After I had fathomed exactly what was required, I started to enjoy analysing every aspect of communication the organisation did, including the ‘external’ stakeholders involved, such as the media and pressure groups, the community and those involved in corporate social responsiblity.

This may all sound complicated, but there is no need to get apprehensive (unless you haven’t done much about communications in your business). First you need to work out all the different aspects of communication: websites, social media, blogs, PR, newspaper reports, articles written online and paper published, recommendations, networking (off and online), participation in events in the local social diary, corporate social responsibility and involvement in local groups. There are probably more you can think of, depending on your kind of business.

Go on the web and find out what other companies, especially your competitors, are doing to publicise the communication strategies they have in place. Sometimes a little light secondary research can reveal a lot about them, as well as yourself. How visible are you, both off and online? How much information do you make available about your company and the things that you do? How easy is it to find?

Then you need to work out the impact your communication strategy has on your business and your stakeholders, which includes past, present and potential customers, your competitors and suppliers, as well as the general public. How well do you communicate with them on the areas that are relevant to them? What kind of things do you need to tell them? How frequently do you perform this and what have the results been? Have you achieved your objectives from these ventures? What strategies do you have in place to continue, improve and achieve success in your future endeavours?

I have only just scratched the surface on this subject, but hopefully to get the strategic juices flowing. Being visible to the appropriate stakeholders could make a real difference to your business, not only to publicise what has been going on and any future projects, but to increase awareness, explain more succinctly exactly what you do and what you are aiming to achieve, increase networking opportunities and relationships that could evolve into joint ventures and other likely connections, and much more besides.

Let us know what you are doing within your communication strategy – it would be exciting to find out how successful you’ve been and what tactics you have thought up to set the communication wheels moving as smoothly as possible!

How do you integrate your online marketing, to save time and money?

Chantal

The number of ways that you can promote your business through online marketing is constantly growing. It is now accepted that you need an online presence in order to market your business. I was asked to speak about this at a recent FSB IT event in Reading, so I thought I’d share with you a summary of the session. (The full PowerPoint presentation is available from the Free Stuff page of my website, if you’d like a copy.)

So What Online Marketing Can You Do?

  1. Keyword Research – use to find phrases people are actually looking for online. Use keywords for your website, titles for your articles, newsletters, blogs and tweets. https://adwords.google.co.uk/select/KeywordToolExternal
  2. Website – use it to give the key messages about what you do, promote your blog, tweets and newsletter; list your articles. Put Google Analytics on all the pages; do some keyword research.
  3. Google Analytics – see how people use your website; see what keywords they use to find it and put more of those words onto the site.
  4. Newsletters – provide regular advice and comments, promote your website, blog, tweets and articles; use keywords for titles.
  5. Social Networking – keep it business. Post your articles and newsletters.
  6. Networking Groups and Forums – if you go networking, do those groups have websites you can use? Post comments and advice on forums; post your newsletters and articles. Complete your profile page to promote your website, blog and tweets.
  7. Blogs – provide regular comments and thoughts. Promote your website, newsletter and articles.
  8. Google Adwords – research keywords for your website, titles for your articles, newsletters, blogs and tweets. Create specific landing pages on your website.
  9. Twitter – daily tips and advice. Promote your website, newsletter and blog.
  10. PR – submit articles and your newsletter. Promote your website and tweets. www.EzineArticles.com

Summary

The number of online marketing tools is on the increase. If you try to do everything, you’ll end up spending all your time online – leaving no time to do your actual job; or you’ll spend all your money on online marketing with nothing left for old fashioned off line marketing.

Remember these three things – quality not quantity; integrate it and keep doing it.

How to make a brand powerful

Alice

I noticed a clever piece of branding yesterday on Twitter. It was incredibly subtle (the best marketing always is) and this company took advantage of Valentine’s Day to send a message of love (with a little present attached) to its clients without having to say who it was from. In this case the recipient would have immediately known who sent it because of the brand. There was no logo or name to latch onto, just the design of the card in that distinctive style that could be nobody else.

Now anybody who truly knows what a brand is will know that the design is not the be-all-and-end-all, it is also the ‘baggage’ that comes with it. Certainly this particular exercise would have backfired if this brand hadn’t worked on its reputation. It is also through hard-earned relationship-building with its clients that enabled this company to make a difference, as well as a consistent message of quality, added value, desirability, trust, knowledge and experience that is necessary to build a powerful brand.

A brand should reflect the culture of a business. Customer perception is formed after developing a relationship with the company, through purchasing their product or using their service, being a supplier, attending a workshop, offline networking, hearing recommendations and WOM, reading their blog or newsletter, and communicating with them through other media, such as social networking. There the customer will learn more about the company and the people who work in it, their values, aspirations and how they connect within the business world and their industry. The more sociable and approachable the company is, the more likely the brand will develop into an ever-lasting concept that ‘sticks’ in their minds.

And it is the ‘after-care’ that is so important to enhance the perpetuity of a powerful brand. The client should leave with a glowing feeling of achievement, excellent customer service, satisfied requirements, a sense of good value, and an affinity and liking for the company and what it provides and stands for. This is also an area where the company needs to work just as hard as gaining the customer, as advocacy is a powerful and strong marketing method that should be cultivated and appreciated with an appropriate sense of attainment.

LinkedIn Groups for interaction, publicity and knowledge

Alice

A great feature of LinkedIn is the groups. There are literally thousands to choose from, in a similar myriad of subjects, levels and sociability.

Locate them through the ‘Groups’ link at the top of your profile page, and you will automatically go to the list of groups you have joined. These vary from open to closed groups, depending on the whims of the administrators, and subgroups can be created out of a parent group, especially if it has grown too big or commands splitting up to cover further aspects of the group’s subject.

To join a group, either click on ‘Groups You May Like’ where a selection of groups that marry up to the keywords you have provided on your profile page (another reason to complete your profile as fully as you can) will be offered to you, or you could search out relevant groups via their categories (alumni, corporate, conference, networking, non-profit, professional or other) and in whatever language you prefer (LinkedIn is, of course, international).

Choosing a category will concentrate the selection, and the search field above that will focus it further. The more succinct you are with your keywords, the better the results. The groups are listed with the most popular (or with the most members) at the top, and closed groups show a little locked sign before the title, which means you will have to be accepted by the administrators before you can contribute.

Once you’ve entered a group, you will see a status update field for you to add in your own contribution (a comment, discussion, question, link to blog post, article or newsletter issue, or whatever you want to share) with the other entries listed below. There is a moving gallery of the latest discussions entered by members, and a discussion hierarchy can be allocated by the administrators for extra promotion.

You will also get email notifications of new discussions whenever they are entered, and when you have contributed to a particular discussion and others have commented so you can follow the conversation and reply if necessary. Discussions thrive on interaction, and some provide a lot of knowledge on particular subjects that I have found to be very useful.

You can check out the other members of the group to see if they are worth connecting with, or to read their profiles if their contributions was particularly noteworthy.  There are other links to publicise promotions and a job board to find new recruits or better employment! The ‘Search’ link allows you to view all the discussions made on the group to backtrack a particular subject or find a comment that is useful to you. And the ‘More’ tab reveals ‘Updates’, ‘My Activity’, ‘My Settings’, ‘Subgroups’ and ‘Group Profile’.

If you are so inclined, you could start your own group. It is very easy to create one, and much enjoyment, knowledge, interaction and opportunities could be obtained through accomplishing such an activity.

Radio part two – 7 ways to give a great interview

Chantal

In part one of this blog post I shared my tips on how to get onto the radio to get some free promotion. Click here to read part one if you missed it. Now in part two I’m going to share some ideas on how to get over your nerves and give a great interview.

1. Know your subject. If you’re passionate about what you’re speaking about, you will be able to answer all the questions you’re asked and provide lots of information on the subject. If you’re asked to speak about something you don’t know much about, you’ll find it harder, so make sure the interviewer knows exactly what you want to talk about.

2. Send some background information. Give your interviewer help in preparing the interview. If they have time to read up on your subject, they will be able to plan the questions they want to; it also helps you ensure that you get the right message across.

3. Do it in person. If you’re invited to go into the radio studio for the interview then go for this option, rather than just doing the interview over the phone. You’ll get more air time and more time to speak to the interviewer and build up a relationship with them.

4. Arrive early, so you have time to speak to the interviewer before you go on air. This is when they’ll tell you how the interview will go – how long they want you to talk and what questions they’ll ask you. This will also give you the chance to mention to the interviewer anything in particular that you want them to mention or ask you about.

5. Repeat the question before you answer it. This gives you time to think about the answer you want to give. If you just rush in with the first thing that comes into your head, chances are you won’t give the best answer.

6. Pause … before you go on. You don’t have to keep talking. Take a breath and use a pause to give emphasis to what you’ve just said. Don’t fill gaps with ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ just because you feel you have to keep talking – you don’t.

7. Speak up! You’ll usually be asked to do a sound test before you go on air. Make sure you speak loudly enough and slowly and clearly, so that the listeners can hear and understand what you say.

Many people turn down radio or magazine interviews because they feel too nervous. If this is you, accept any invitations you get and then get some help so you can be fully prepared to do a great job and get your free promotion.