Good marketing starts with a good foundation – here’s our recipe

Whenever I meet with a prospective client, I always ask them what their goals are for their new marketing activities.

99% of the time I get the answer I’m expecting: I want a stack of new leads.

Next, they usually talk about all the channels they think they should be using to get the leads (or, the ones they have been using that aren’t working).

But really, we’re putting the final coat of paint on the house before the foundation’s even set. There’s one huge step that needs to be completed first.

I call it a brand story, and it’s made up of five key components – business values, USP, value proposition, brand voice and key marketing messages.

It’s basically a five-point ‘self-discovery’ plan for businesses who haven’t looked in the mirror for a while. It tells anyone reading it who you are, what you stand for, what’s different about you, how you should sound in communication and what your key marketing messages are.

Pretty important, right?

It’s fundamental.

The content we develop in partnership with our clients can’t exist without a solid brand story to inform it.

And you can’t pick a channel or assign a budget before going through this process – even if you think you know what your goals are.

At The Marketing Project, we stick by the research – planning – implementation mantra for developing the perfect marketing plan. The brand story is a huge part of the research and strategy phase. We take all new clients through this process step-by-step. It’s amazing what comes out – our clients always discover new things about their own businesses.

Let me take you through it.

Your brand story, step-by-step

1. Brand values

Any business leader should watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’. It’s a bit of a sacred text in the business world.

Simon’s idea is simple: people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do it. 

Great leaders aren’t afraid to say what they think. To give a crap about changing the world (or at least their industry) for the better. Great brands are no different.

People buy from you because they like the journey you’re on and they want to ride shotgun. That’s why it’s so important to have your brand values nailed down.

 

2. Your USP

Finding your unique selling proposition can be a tricky one for some brands to identify. Not because they aren’t doing great, unique stuff, but because sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective.

Clients we work with are quick to cite aspects of the business that they think are unique, but often we find that it’s an aspect of the business that they hadn’t even given a second thought.

There are a million guides on Google to finding and articulating your USP. Some of them are good, and a lot of them aren’t (just like USPs). Or, you know, you could just talk to us.

 

3. Value proposition

So you’ve found your ‘why’ and your uniqueness – it’s all smooth sailing from here!

It’s time to do a value prop.

These can have a bad rap – often they’re the product of boardroom compromise, and say way too much without actually saying anything. Actually, this should be one of the most exciting parts.

Basically, this is ‘what’s in it for me?’ time for your audience.

Your value proposition should answer a few key things:

  • What you offer;
  • Who it’s for;
  • How you solve your customers’ problems;
  • What benefits you bring;
  • And why you’re different (which you should already know from #2).

The good news is that once you come up with this, it’s going to get plenty of airtime. Your value prop, perhaps with a little editing, should be the first thing that people see on your website. It should be on the business cards. Hey, it should even be on the wall of your office.

Here’s ours for reference, from our brand-new homepage:

Now try creating your own – let me know how you go!

 

4. Brand voice

Think of your brand voice as a character that does all your talking for you. If you were going to have a mascot – your own Michelin Man – how would they talk? What would they say?

As you start to answer these questions you can put together your own brand voice.

This can be as simple as three words, e.g. ‘creative, mature and charming’ – a couple of guidelines – e.g. ‘we talk straightforwardly and don’t use technical jargon’ – or a 20-page document, depending on what kind of business you are and how much content you think you’ll be creating.

From our point of view, the more you can flesh this out, the better (our copywriters love detail). Don’t worry, it’ll get used – this will be the voice you speak in on your website, on social media, in your advertising and in your content marketing.

 

5. Key marketing messages

It’s time to mix these all together, blend them up and create some beautiful marketing message soup.

Your key marketing messages are the statements that you take to the market, stand up proud and say ‘buy my stuff!’.

You should have several (we go for 3-5) per audience segment.

Here’s what makes for a good one:

  • Explain to people who you are, and why they should care;
  • Show how your product/service solves their problems;
  • Separate you from your competitors;
  • Demonstrate the value you bring;
  • And speak in your very own well-defined tone of voice.

These messages can form the basis for content you create, or work on their own in your marketing and advertising.

 

Now go and build your foundations!

Yes, the point of marketing is to get that stack of new leads. But to get there, we need to introduce some process. Working through these steps is the best way to get started.

A cohesive foundation like this is the jumping-off point for your content strategy.

Just remember these steps:

  • Define your values (why you exist)
  • Find your uniqueness (why you and not someone else)
  • Communicate your value (why now?)
  • Establish a tone of voice (how you speak)
  • And determine those super-important key marketing messages.

Want some help? Get in touch. We’ve taken lots of clients through this process and we’d love to help you too.

Three Things You Need To Get Your Marketing To ‘Work’

When I meet with B2B clients for the first time, we often have one simple thing in common when we’re talking about their marketing – they want their marketing to ‘work’. By that, they mean they want more leads, more clients, more sales and they want to increase their bottom line.

If only I had a magic bullet.

The team at TMP are amazing – but unfortunately, we are not magicians and there isn’t any switch we can flip to bring those customers to your door. It’s just not that easy, as much as we wish it was!

When it comes to marketing that isn’t ‘working’, there are three common themes I see:

  1. No marketing plan
  2. Marketing efforts are inconsistent
  3. Not investing enough in marketing (time or budget or both)

So how can you get past the slump and take your marketing to the next level?

Marketing Plan

This one is pretty simple. If you don’t have a plan, you’re going to end up wandering around aimlessly, throwing all your marketing budget and resources into the latest “fad” rather than those that actually work. Trust me; I’ve seen it many times before.

If you want your marketing strategy and plan to work, it needs to be well researched and it should include the following things:

  1. A section summarising your brand values, voice, value proposition and USP
  2. Key marketing messages
  3. Marketing objectives
  4. Outline of tactics and how they will be used
  5. Key metrics to monitor
  6. Marketing calendar
  7. Budget

Do some research, learn everything you can about the industry and your target audience, and you’ll have more success with your marketing plan. If your budget is tight, put the plan together yourself, or if you can – outsource it. It doesn’t matter HOW you get it done, just get it done.

Inconsistent

If you don’t have a marketing plan in place, you’re not going to have any consistency. And the same goes if you do have a plan, but you don’t follow it.

Successful marketing is backed by solid strategy. It needs constant and consistent implementation, analysis and revision. Exciting and glamorous? Not really… But it’s the hard truth.

Not Investing

If you’re not investing in getting your marketing right, it’s going to fail. Fact.

You need to either:

  1. Take the time to invest in learning the right marketing skills so you can implement the right activity and strategies yourself; or
  2. You need to find the budget to outsource.

It’s one or two. There is no three.

If you’re a little unsure where to start and need a push, or you want to skip the stress and have TMP do the hard yards for you, contact us today. We’re waiting to hear from you.

Choosing the right marketing structure to scale up your business

A few years ago, you were probably sitting around the kitchen table wondering how you could get your business started. There was just you, and a cup of coffee. Before long, you’d hired a part time support person as the work started to come in; and today – you have a small team around you.

Sound familiar?

So what’s the next step? Scaling up. And how do you do that?

Obviously marketing is a part of this, but effective marketing needs a great backing team and if you want to know the best way to get the right support as your grow – keep reading.

There are a lot of options out there and it’s easy to get frazzled while you’re trying to assess them all, so we wanted to help by providing you a summary of three structures for a marketing team that can help you grow your business to the next level.

Structure One: External Team managed by an Internal Marketing Employee or You

Pros: Having an external marketing team working for you means you have a range of expertise, and it’s not just one person trying to do it all. If you have someone in the office managing the team and reporting to you; or if you have the time to manage it yourself, you can make use of existing resources. That means, you don’t have to pay someone to work 40 hours a week for you as you would if they were employed by you.

Cons: Managing a team of marketers can be time consuming, so you need to ensure you have someone available on your current payroll who has both the time, and the skills, to manage external suppliers. Or, if you’re planning on doing it yourself – do YOU have the time?

Structure Two: External Team with External Marketing Manager

Pros: By outsourcing 100%, you won’t have any added strain or stress on your existing team members. You’re getting the expertise of a range of external marketing suppliers and the expertise of a trained marketing manager. You can also rest assured knowing that these people are 100% focused on marketing and are not going to be distracted by other operational tasks that are involved in running your business.

Cons: It’s going to take some time to find the right team and manager. Where do you search? What do you look for? It could be a long process of trial and error (or you could find the perfect assistance straight away). You need to make sure you invest enough time to make informative decisions.

Structure Three: Internal Team with Internal Marketing Manager

Pros: If you’re working with a team that you already have on board (or you’re planning on hiring), you get full visibility of all team members and can control what they’re doing and when. And if anything isn’t running efficiently, you can address it immediately in-house.

Cons: If you’re using existing team members they may not have the skills to deliver all marketing activity effectively and efficiently – or they may need extra training. If you’re planning on hiring someone new specifically for the job, this can be a long and tiring process. It’s expensive, and as you’re no doubt aware, it can be hard finding the right person to fit seamlessly in with your company’s culture.

Marketing your business to scale up is not a decision to take lightly and it’s important that you weigh up the positive and negative aspects to decide what option fits better with your company’s marketing requirements. Hopefully we’ve helped make the decision a little easier for you.

And if you need any advice, we’re waiting to take your call.

Email Automation Doesn’t Have To Make You Cringe

If you’re anything like me, you hear the term “email automation” and cringe. It sounds so icky and impersonal, doesn’t it? The thing is though, and this is something I’ve learnt over time, if it’s done the right way, it’s actually the exact opposite.

Email automation can actually provide your prospects and customers with a tailored experience; showing that you understand them and their needs.

I first realised the possibilities that email automation held for business owners when my mentor at the time, Susan Jones from Ready Set Start Up, suggested I trial Active Campaign. You’ve probably heard of it.

There are other great platforms out there too, including Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor, but I tried Active Campaign and liked it – so it’s been my tool of choice ever since. I love the user interface and how easy it is for ‘non-techies’ to understand. And simplicity is crucial for business owners because we’re so busy wearing multiple hats.

So what are the benefits you can see from email automation?

Firstly, you can show your customers that they’re important. You can do that by using separate automations with targeted content for different audience segments. This way, you’ll show your customers and prospects that you really do understand them, rather than just lumping them all in the same “monthly newsletter” bucket.

Through email automation, you can get clear data on who downloads your content so you can nurture your prospects with the information they want. If you’re someone that loves stats and figures, you’ll be able to report on who downloads what and who clicks on what links. Over time, this will enable you to create clearer customer profiles.

Email automation saves time in the long run. I’m not going to argue – it takes time and effort to get successful automations up and running. But the thing is, once they’re done, they’re nurturing your prospects and customers for you with little input needed.

It can shorten your sales and marketing cycle and help you make the most of the resources you have. Instead of a continued “just following up” email or call, your sales team (or you – if you’re a solopreneur) can instead focus on adding value to your prospects through the use of targeted and informative content.

You can sort the valuable leads from the not-so-valuable. By monitoring the interaction your contacts have with your email automation, over time you can provide contacts with a score as to how valuable a lead they are.

You’ll increase customer retention. We all know the saying “it’s cheaper to maintain an existing customer than win a new one”. Automated campaigns that are created using targeted and valuable content; can go a long way to demonstrating to your existing customers why they should stay with you.

When it comes down to it, as small business owners, we generally get a lot of emails every day. So the one thing you want to ensure your email automations do is to set you apart from other companies or contacts. Be creative, but also ensure you choose the right audience for the right topic. Email automation doesn’t have to make you cringe and it can, in fact, be extremely beneficial to both you – and your intended target. Go about it the right way, and you’re further on your path to marketing success.

Repurposing Content – a Guide for Busy B2B SMEs

You don’t have to be a marketing expert to bring success to your business, but having a marketing plan in place will certainly help. As I mentioned in our earlier post on what works and doesn’t for marketing, having a plan in place is the key to providing your business with the right online coverage.

And of course once you have that plan, you need to action it.

Over the years, I’ve noticed the one thing many business owners don’t realise is exactly how important your written content is for promoting the business. They think it’s all about the pictures and a great logo – and while yes, these do have a major effect on branding itself –it’s actually the content that is most likely to sell.

And with online marketing taking over, your content has become even more important.

Here’s what I mean. You might look at a photo of Angkor Wat on Facebook and it looks amazing; but what is it? Where is it? And how do you get to see it? Click the attached link to the blog page and voila! There’s an amazing story about a tour that will take you to see this amazing piece of Cambodian history. Sold!

And now we’ve also hit the nail on the head with this article’s heading – repurposing content.

Not only is the content itself important, but how you use that content can make all the difference with online marketing. Not sure what I mean?

Here it is in simple terms. If you write a blog about a trip to Cambodia and post it on your website; you’re targeting people on your website and that’s great – but they are already there anyway. So what you want to do is attract NEW people to the site and to do that, you need to post through other sources as well.

Right now you’re probably thinking two things:

“How much content do I need to produce then?”

And/ or “I don’t have time for that!”

Trust me when I tell you it’s not as hard as it might seem. In fact, it’s as easy as allocating the job to someone else! That way, all you have to do is approve what is being written and watch the magic work. If you’re a sole trader, don’t worry – you can still find an amazing freelance copywriter that will do it for you; and if you choose someone of varied writing experience, they may even do a better job!

Okay, so now you have your plan and you have your writer. Let’s talk about how you can repurpose that content to make the most out of all elements of online marketing. Here are 15 great tips to get you on your way:

  1. Turn your blogs into tweets

Twitter is so easy to use: all you need to do is write under 140 characters, include a link to your blog, and away you go. Grab some of the best lines or the key points from your blog; something that is going to grab people’s attention and make them want to read more. And then use a program like Buffer, Hootsuite or Sprout Social to set them up and send out.

  1. Audio posts

These are great to include on your website. If you have longer blog posts and you’re thinking “no one is going to stick around to read all of this”, turn it into audio. Get someone with a great voice to read it (male or female) and give people something exciting to listen to when they’re stuck in all that peak hour traffic.

  1. Post to LinkedIn Pulse

LinkedIn is a great networking source for every business but particularly B2B ones. And it includes benefits like LinkedIn Pulse, where you can post your blogs for a different and targeted audience. The thing is, when you post a blog on your website, you know exactly the kind of person who will be reading it. When you post a blog on LinkedIn, you’re targeting a different audience – and the response you get might surprise you.

  1. LinkedIn Groups

If you’re a member of any particular groups on LinkedIn, choose part of your blog that is relevant to each group, start with that as your intro, then post it into the group to target a range of your target audience. Just remember to take the time to read and respond to anyone’s comments.

  1. Produce a Guide / Ebook

Ebooks – everyone is doing it these days! Why? Because they immediately turn us into experts in our field? Kinda. But they also work. If someone is reading your blog every day, it’s because they love what you write and they find something useful in your information. And if you have a range of topics that are similar, then why not offer it as a guide, or ebook, so people can download it as a full document, rather than switching from page to page on your website. Get yourself a designer who can put them all together into a nice looking PDF, add a cover page and credits, write an introduction and conclusion and start promoting it on your website, social media, online advertising. It’s a great way to get people to sign up to your newsletter as well – “sign up today and get a free ebook on…” Everyone wins.

  1. Create an Opt-In Product

This could be your ebook or guide like I’ve mentioned in point 5; or you can look at a particular post that has received a lot of engagement. Expand on that single post and turn it from 300 words into 3,000 words; then offer it to anyone who subscribes to your newsletter.

  1. Facebook Notes

You’re not alone if you have no idea what Facebook Notes is, but it allows businesses to post anything to their business Facebook page – and that includes your blog posts. I highly recommend you check it out and it’s easy and quick to use.

  1. eNewsletters

There’s nothing I hate more than getting e-newsletters that are the size of a book; but there’s nothing I love more than getting e-newsletters that offer great advice! So if you’re looking at sending an e-Newsletter and you’re stuck for content, get one of your blogs, cut it back so it’s around 200-300 words, add a fantastic image and send it away.

  1. Create a Graphic

Create a series of images that represent what you’re talking about so you can post them over social media. For example, if I was to do a graphic on this blog, I’d turn these 15 points into images. Get a designer in, or have a go yourself. You can do this in Canva if you don’t have access to Photoshop or InDesign.

  1. Infographics

These are a great way of distributing any statistics or numbers you might have used in your post. Share it on your blog and on your social media channels.

  1. Third Party Publications

This is a great idea for blogs, particularly if you’re writing HOW TO blogs or anything that will be helpful to a particular audience. Sites like eHow and Ezine take articles from writers around the world to be shared based on topics. You might also go offline and check out any local newspapers or magazines that could be interested in the information you have to share. Make sure you include a backlink to your website in anything that is printed online, or a short bio and web address if it’s a print publication.

  1. Guest Posts

Take a look online and see if you can find any blogs that follow a similar topic style to yours. You don’t want this to be your direct business competitors, but rather people who operate in a similar industry and target the same audience. Give them a call or send them an email and pitch an idea for a guest blog post for their site. Ask if they have a particular word length, tell them a bit about the topic and see if they’re interested. You could also join sites like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and Sourcebottle as an ‘expert source’. If they do accept what you have to offer, you could even become their “go-to” when they’re looking for experts on that particular topic.

  1. Post Generation from Customer Queries

Frequently asked questions are a great place to start when coming up with ideas for blog topics. Whether you’re a service provider or you’re selling products, someone has no doubt come to you, the sales team or your support desk with questions: use the most common ones and turn the answers into a blog post.

  1. Turn Your Posts into a Presentation

There are two types of people: those who look at the pictures and those who look at the words. Cater to both of these by creating a presentation that you can promote on your website, use for training purposes or share on Slideshare. It’s a great way to turn long posts into bullet points that everyone can read and understand.

  1. Live Streaming Videos

One of the latest and greatest ways to market on Facebook is by using Facebook Live, where you can send out live videos to your audience. Whether this means reading some of your blog or simply telling people about it live online, why not give it a try?

So, to recap I like to put it this way: Why use something once to target a hundred people, when you can use it 15 times to target a million? One piece of quality content can go a long way as a marketing tool, so don’t let them go to waste.

If you need some help getting your repurposing off the ground, give us a shout and we’ll guide you along the right path.

 

How to get the Best Value from your Marketing Suppliers

Marketing. Did the mere mention of the word give you a shiver down your spine and dollar signs in your eyes?

Unfortunately in the business world, marketing is traditionally a dreaded word many business owners cringe at. It doesn’t have to be that way.

It astounds me every day how fast the world of marketing can change and the things we’ve seen evolve in the past 30 years, 20 years … even 10 years, are amazing!  10 years ago, Facebook was only just starting to hit the social world. Crazy.

When I first started in the corporate world, our money was spent on newspapers, TVs, radio advertising, and sending out thousands of brochures to thousands of homes across local regions – possibly getting 1 hit per 100 brochures, if we were lucky. Now we can hit millions of people globally and it doesn’t have to cost much at all, as long as you have the right preparation; and a great team working with you to create engaging content.

Yes, I will agree marketing CAN cost a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean it has to. As a business owner, and particularly a small business owner or a start-up, finances are not always readily available and with the little funding you do have, you certainly don’t want to be wasting it.

So here’s a little secret I’d like to share with you… it doesn’t matter what your budget is as long as you are getting the best value from your suppliers.

Sounds simple right? It can be.

So, how can you do that? Follow these great tips:

  1. Prepare design guidelines.

It doesn’t have to be a textbook, but if you create a great PDF document that you can provide to any design contractors, you’re going to make marketing a lot less expensive for yourself, and a lot less time consuming and confusing for the designer. Simply send the guidelines across with your instructions on the job, and there will be fewer questions back and forth (which means less hours banked).

The guidelines should include:

  • Your logo, and any instructions on how it can and can’t be used
  • Your corporate fonts
  • Your corporate colour palette with Pantone or CMYK breakdown (ask your logo designer to give you this)
  • Your preferred style of image
  • Any other graphics that are part of your branding
  1. Prepare a brand pack

This is where you can keep all of the things I’ve mentioned in the first point. Dropbox or OneDrive are both great options for this – and both are free to a certain extent. In the folder you should put:

  • Colour and mono logo in high res jpg, eps, png and pdf formats
  • Brand icons if you have any
  • Images and illustrations that are particularly relevant to the business and marketing
  • Font files, if you use non-standard fonts
  1. Write a detailed brief

When you first make contact with your designer and/or copywriter, be very specific about what you want done. Don’t give them any waffle and get to the point. If you DON’T want something done a particular way, tell them. If you want a specific style of writing, tell them. They aren’t mind readers so don’t give them basic instructions and then get annoyed if they come back with the wrong design for you. Be very specific and give them plenty of information up-front. The more time they spend asking you questions, the more money you spend paying for their time.

  1. Give them deadlines

If the project is something quite major (such as website design or a series of brochures), create a timeline. Map out the timeframe so everyone knows what is involved, when it’s due and who is completing the task.

  1. Internal Feedback

If you work alone, you don’t need to worry about this, but if you’re in charge of a team of people, allocate one person to liaise with your suppliers. Don’t have emails going back and forth between 10 different people as this will not only confuse your supplier but will also waste their time and your money.

  1. Prepare a brand voice document

When you’re marketing your business it’s important you keep to the same style in order to establish your branding. And that includes in your writing. If you’re getting a contractor to do any copywriting for you, create a brand voice document that explains to them the guidelines for your brand. That includes:

  • The tone and style of your brand’s copy
  • Specific words and lexicon you use
  • How you write specific words (such as your business name and products) – for example, the Australia TradeCoast region of Brisbane is often shortened to TradeCoast, however according to brand standards, this is not acceptable. You need to make this clear to your suppliers.
  1. Samples

No doubt when you’ve been compiling your marketing plan you’ve seen some great ideas and some terrible ones, great content and terrible content. Print them off or save them into a file in the cloud. That way you can show your suppliers what you love vs hate so they know what to do and what not to do.

  1. Be open and honest

You need to be completely honest with your suppliers. If you don’t like what they have done in a first draft, give them a full explanation of what you do want in the second draft. Get into specifics. If they are good at their job, and if they value your business, they’ll work with you to achieve the best results for your brand and budget.

Just remember your suppliers aren’t mind readers, so you need to be clear and specific about what you want.

And if you need help getting on track with your marketing, contact us today.