Is marketing aligned with your business strategy?

Fuel Marketing - Blog imageI have no idea why some business owners, and indeed some marketers, still see marketing as something that needs to be kept separate and treated in a different way to other business activities. Because let’s be honest, the most successful businesses that I know of, are where marketing is closely aligned with business strategy and goes beyond the ability to just create brand awareness.

 

It’s no secret that without a strong business, you cannot create a strong brand. And marketing’s role is not to any stand apart from the rest of the pack and deliver fluffy/creative work, but to work across all parts of the business and take the lead in shaping the strategic direction of the organisation.

 

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So how can marketers ensure their activities are better aligned with wider business objectives? Here are my tips to ensure individual marketers, and the marketing team as a whole, can strengthen their ties across departments in order to achieve wider strategic goals.

  1. Understand how other departments within the business works and take the time to get to know their goals. Learn to communicate and collaborate with them for the benefit of the entire business.
  2. Become more engaged with the activities of the sales team in order to better understand processes, systems, channels, goals and pressures. And then plan projects/campaigns around the commercial expectations of the business.
  3. Work with the finance department to ensure that marketing is aligned with corporate goals as well as budgeting and reporting.
  4. Understand that marketing needs to deliver a measurable return on investment and then go ahead and do it. This will help to dispel the myth that marketing is an expense rather than an investment.
  5. Ensure that your marketing message does not become lost in translation because of problems with IT and technology. Keep IT in the loop at all times, so that they understand the need for free and easy access to the businesses’ digital marketing channels.
  6. Embrace leadership roles within the company so you can promote the brand internally as well as externally. Partnering with the HR team for internal communications such as e-newsletter, campaign updates, briefings and Q&A session will help to boost the brand message.
  7. Be a marketing expert as well as a business leader. If you are engaged properly in the business and have strong connections within the business then you will operate far more effectively as a marketing department.
  8. Ensure that you completely clear and transparent about marketing’s objectives and KPIs, as this can help to generate support from the different departments within the organisation.

Finally, don’t forget that brand and business are two sides of the same coin, and a business's strategy and its brand have to march in step. Marketing can't afford to be a separate entity, to be successful; marketing has to be part of the holistic brand.

 

For help to make marketing part of your business strategy or for any other marketing help and advice, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 5566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

9th July 2018

 

Diversification - a step too far?

Fuel Marketing blog imageI have a lovely client whose specialises in manufacturing. They do a wonderful job and have plenty of appreciative and loyal clients.

 

However, there has been a change on the management board and recently they’ve brought in a new director who’s full of forward-thinking ideas and is a real go-getter. Trouble is, he loves PR, has no expertise in it, but thinks it would be a wonderful idea to diversify the business and launch a new service area – manufacturing PR.

 

 

 

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Complimentary rather than random!

I’m not knocking diversification (or as us marketers call it - brand extension) in general, as it’s commendable and a wonderful way to grow your business and to survive during difficult times. But good diversification to me would have been into a complimentary area, i.e. parts and servicing, not into something that their clients’ might have trouble understanding. And whilst this scenario obviously has a slice of ego built in, it’s my job as their marketing consultant to point out the future problems that this decision might bring and of course try to mitigate them now.

 

Now I’m a marketer pure and simple, so if suddenly I decided to run a local taxi service in conjunction with my core business, people might wonder what the link is and whether I have the right experience to do that. And with any period of intense questioning, my clients might conclude that I have lost the plot and wonder if my usual marketing offering might be affected as a result of my new passion.

 

Common sense, research and planning

So next time that diversification comes to your table for discussion, remember that the adage “diversify or die” might be true, but good diversification is all about common sense, research and planning.  And if you bear in mind that only 15-20% of new consumer products/services succeed, then it’s even more essential that you get it exactly right from the word go.

 

If you want to know about famous brand extension failures, who can remember McPizza, Virgin Brides, Zippo (the lighter) perfume, Harley Davidson cake decorating kit, EasyJet’s EasyCinema  and Cosmopolitan (the magazine) yoghurt. And if the answer is what, how, why and when, then that’s precisely my point!

 

To be successful in the diversification stakes as a business owner you must be able to:

  • Demonstrate how your new product/service is different. Firstly, different from what you currently offer and secondly different from what your competition are offering
  • Do your homework and only invest in a new product or service range that will contribute to a sizeable increase in sales
  • Assess the risks (financial and profile wise) and decide whether it’s worth it as a long term strategy
  • Decide whether you should integrate the diversified business into one company or ring fence the new operation as a business in its own right
  • Decide whether your business is strong enough to be an umbrella brand where your core values will be able to resonate across the new activities
  • Have the right people with the right skills in place to help you
  • Focus on your new venture without neglecting your core business
  • Correctly position your new product/service with simple and easy to understand messaging
  • Get your timing right – test it first before doing the big launch

For help and advice on diversification/brand extension ideas so that it helps rather than hinders your businesses growth, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

25th June 2018

 

How emotional is your marketing?

Fuel marketing - blog imageWe all know that women are more emotional than men. So women marketers and business owners are you ready to receive some good news?

 

Latest research continues to highlight the fact that the vast majority of people on the vast majority of occasions make decisions emotionally and instinctively.

 

So whilst for many years we believed that logic, rational thought and functionality were reasons for buying products and services, this 180 degree turnaround means that we all need to start to get much more emotional about marketing.

 

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Time to get some feeling into your content!

Good brand marketing is about getting the right emotional response from your target audience. You can get people to buy a product in many ways, but to get them to love it; you need to play to their emotions. Understanding emotions is not just about how people believe, but how consumers behave. Once we get to grips with this, we can start to benefit from a healthier bottom line.

 

And whilst I know that many businesses have embraced the powerful part that people and emotions play in our buying decisions, other businesses are have still not entered the arena. So check out what you say about you, your business and your products and services and if there aren't enough emotional words in there, it could be time to make some important changes.

 

Make your customers happy!

Below are some key emotions that we need as customers to be satisfied. Where possible, you need to try to relate the benefits of your products to meet these all important emotions.

  • Self-improvement
  • Pride / Status
  • Security
  • Achievement
  • Power
  • Love

If you want to know which big brands are good at emotional marketing – check out John Lewis, Apple, Nike, Honda, M&S, Proctor and Gamble and a whole host of charities and dare I say it some supermarkets too!

 

In conclusion, “emotion sells” and as consumers and business owners we shouldn’t forget it.

 

If your marketing is not as emotional as you would like it to be, then engage the services of a professional marketer and you will soon achieve your brand marketing goals. Contact Vicky at Fuel and watch your emotions flow.

 

11th June 2018

 

Who are you partnering with?

Fuel Marketing - blog imageNo one doubts that as sole traders we provide a fantastic and personable service to our clients, which is enhanced by expertise, knowledge and the development of strong, long-term business relationships. However, what I am seeing more and more, and indeed what I am doing more and more, is partnering or setting up strategic alliances, with other businesses who offer services which are complimentary to my own. This allows me to be able to promote a more comprehensive range of tailored solutions to my clients.

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At Fuel, I specialise in delivering high quality strategic marketing consultancy services. Clients use me because of my professional experience and relevant knowledge. But occasionally some of my clients require other marketing services, namely telemarketing, PR, design, print, social media, website design and branded promotional items.  In order to satisfy their needs, and of course help them to think the best about me and my company, I recommend and them introduce them to some of my business partners whom I know can support what I do and deliver a successful extension to my service.

 

Whilst I hate the phrase “one stop shop” that is in effect what I aim to deliver to my clients and the benefits of partnering are clear to see:

  • Flexible access to specialist resources
  • Increased capacity
  • Cost saving – don’t have to employ full time staff or contract additional resources
  • Ability to strengthen long-term relationships through collaboration on short-term projects
  • Help to grow your business faster, increase productivity and generate greater profits
  • Potential for referrals coming the other way
  • Access to new markets

So where do I find my partners – well networking has been the best way to date, together with some brilliant referrals. And I never recommend a partner until I have experienced a working knowledge of how they operate and can trust them implicitly. In addition, we spend time ensuring that the aims and objectives and their role is clearly defined. Plus, even when they start working for my client, I remain 100% involved to ensure that the consistency of the relationship is maintained, the project progresses in a mutually satisfactory way and that I am on hand to help if needed.  

If you want to know how partnerships can benefit your business, contact fuel now – visit www.fuelmarketing.co.uk or email info@fuelmarketing.co.uk

25th May 2018

 

A guide to successful networking

Fuel marketing blog imageYou can never have enough friends and colleagues in business, so you need to ensure that you go to as many events, join as many groups and meet as many people as possible. Whatever line of business you are in and because people buy people, you need to make sure that you get out and about and network your socks off, because networking done well is the way to continued business success.

 

Networking is a means to build trust with other people or businesses, so that they can see how your product or service can genuinely benefit other people. Networking can be a low cost activity, with the main investment being your time, so try to make the most of each and every networking opportunity.

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Below are a few tips to help you get the best results.

  • Figure out what your specific goal is for the networking event you are attending, this will help you focus on networking with the right people i.e. if you sell websites, then you will need to look for people who are looking to have a brand new website or make changes made to their existing site. By doing this you will get the most out of your networking session.
  • Try to be a good source of information. People always want to know people who know things or people who can do things. So by answering queries easily and/or coming up with good ideas and suggestions you will be able to stay in the forefront of people’s minds.
  • Make sure that you have short, effective pre-prepared answers and/or captivating information to the most commonly asked questions ‘so what do you do’, ‘so how can that help my business’ and if needed your 40 or 60 second elevator pitch. You need to wow the person with genuine answers/information that rolls off your tongue as though it was second nature, thus giving the impression that you know your stuff.
  • Ask lots of open questions and try to keep control, even answering a question with a question works. Examples of good questions that will help you going forwards are shown below:
  1. How did you come to be in your line of work? Often people fall into their job through a chance encounter or a stroke of luck - these stories are often interesting, and recounting them will bring your new contact alive in a way that a straightforward discussion about current business never does.
  2. Describe to me your dream customer. You will learn much about their motivation and goals by listening carefully to this.
  3. What changes are happening, or can you predict happening, within your industry? Tap into a source of inside information here - it may well have implications for the product/service you can provide them with. What do you regard as your greatest achievement in business to date? Another great way of breaking the ice and getting to know someone better.
  4. What do you love about your work? Someone else's business will come alive for you if you listen to them describing their favourite activities.
  5. Are there things you wish you could change? A natural follow-on from the above.
  6. How would you like people to describe your contribution to your industry? This gets away from day-to-day business and allows them to discuss their deeper aspirations if they wish.
  • Let them talk about themselves and listen. Find out what’s important to them right now and what interests them (social etc) as a social reason might be the reason you can meet up again.
  • Stay clear of self-promotion and sales pitches, people will be less than impressed if they feel that you are selling to them. Focus instead on discussing generic business topics, issues, solutions etc. and try to find commonalities or shared interests.
  • Make mental notes on everything that they say so that you can follow up with them at a later date.
  • If you find that you want to do business with them, ask for their business card. Whilst doing this, ask them for the best time to reach them and the best method to reach them (email or phone). Don’t forget to offer your business card as well, so there is an even exchange of information.
  • If you feel that they are a good person to pursue at a later date, remember to say that you enjoyed meeting them and that you hope you can both keep in touch.
  • Alternatively when you have nothing more to say and/or want to excuse yourself “Excuse me a second, I’ve just seen somebody I need to say hello to, would you excuse me?”
  • Always follow up networking leads within agreed timescales.
  • Invite them to join you on your social networks, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc. and follow them where appropriate.
  • Add them to your prospect and/or contact database with their permssion and keep them informed about you and your business by sending them relevant and timely communications.

Finally, remember that the more networking you do the better and more relaxed you will be at it. And pretty soon a jam-packed room full of people you don’t know, will be an exciting challenge that you can’t wait to start.

 

Good luck and happy networking.

13th May 2018

 

Why is marketing still misunderstood?

Fuel Marketing - Blog ImageAfter 25 years in the industry, I am still saddened that marketing in some businesses is still not given the importance and status that I believe it's due. To some marketing is a quick fix which brings quick wins, rather than adopting a sustained and consistent approach over time. Whilst to others it's seen as a cost rather than an investment. And despite efforts across the industry to break down internal silos and encourage inter-departmental collaboration, it's still apparent that marketing is widely misunderstood.

 

I think that one thing that is universally misjudged is that many businesses take a short-sighted view, opting to focus on attracting new clients, rather than marketing their business and not losing existing clients.

 

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So what can marketers like myself do to ensure that marketing is better understand and better utilised? Essentially like any other discipline, we need to educate clients and businesses alike and explain to them what it is and what benefits it can bring. Of course being able to measure it and report back on results will also help to increase levels of awareness and appreciation. But most of all it’s about making marketing easy to understand. So ditch the jargon and buzzwords and instead we need to focus on the commercial and business growth benefits that can be achieved. These can include:

  1. Increased brand visibility, awareness and recognition
  2. Ability to develop lasting relationships with your target audience
  3. Improved levels of loyalty and trust amongst clients and prospects
  4. Development of authority and credibility by positioning yourself as an expert
  5. Increased sales and profitability

Here are my tips to ensure that marketing is recognised and rewarded for its efforts:

  • Educate everyone involved about what marketing is and what it can do and ensure you have business owners and/or management buy-in
  • Set clear goals and objectives
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience
  • Have a plan and implement it
  • Undertake marketing activities regularly for minimum 9-12 months
  • Be consistent with branding and messaging
  • Use stories and emotions to increase engagement levels
  • Don’t stop and start activities needlessly, unless they are not working
  • Measure and monitor ROI
  • Review and change in line with results

For help with increasing your marketing understanding and delivering tangible results to help your business to develop and grow, contact Vicky at Fuel, vicky@fuel marketing.co.uk or 07766 566690.

23rd April 2018

 

Top 10 tips for marketing success

Fuel Marketing - Blog ImageFor some businesses, marketing can be more hit than miss. To help you to ensure the best results every time, take a look at my top 10 tips. If you follow these, you will notice three key benefits. Over time you will be able to save time, maximise your marketing spend and increase your profitability. What's not to love about marketing now?

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  1. Know your audience. Successful campaigns get that way because marketers know their audience. They fully understand their needs, how to help meet those needs and how to create demand. Knowing and understanding your audience through proper market segmentation means a well targeted campaign that generates a profitable return.
  2. Focus on the offer. A marketing offer is the driving force of marketing promotions that drive results. In fact, market testing has proven that the offer is the most significant criterion for conversion. Focus on your offer if you want to be successful.
  3. Split test. Never ever run a campaign without testing something. One of the most common is a split test which allows you to simultaneously test two versions of something. It can be a web page, postcard, or email. Split testing is essential for improving performance.
  4. Never work alone. The most creative ideas come from working with other creative people. Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers or great ideas. You may start with an idea, but an open dialog with creative individuals will make it better.
  5. Don’t sell on price. I’ve seen so many marketers fail because they sell on price alone. This leads to a discounting war, lower profitability, and often bankruptcy. Rather, focus on creating so much value that the perception of price becomes insignificant.
  6. Consistent messaging. Consider the entire user experience before you launch a campaign. From email to website to offer, is the prospect having a consistent user experience? If they are, your campaigns stand above 98% of others.
  7. Create value after the sale. As marketers, it’s our job to understand our market segment and build relationships, not dump people off at the front door of our store and walk away. Focus as much of your energy on building relationships with customers as you do prospects.
  8. Test. Test. Test. In addition to split testing, you should consider multiple forms of testing in each marketing discipline. For direct mail, test headlines, offers, copy, time of direct mail drop, etc. Consider testing a lifelong mission.
  9. Integrated marketing works best. You can’t rely on one form of marketing to carry you to success. It’s okay to generate most of your leads or sales through one channel for example networking, but what happens when that dries out? Use multiple media sources to meet your goals.
  10. Measure and monitor everything you do. Ensure that you are making informed decision based on actual results achieved rather than sheer guesswork. Don’t be afraid to ditch activities that are not generating the right responses and equally if something is working, then it makes sense to further invest in that activity.

Finally, remember marketing is organic. Be proactive and ready to change activities, channels and/or timings quickly if you need to. In order to remain competitive in business you need to be capable or amending and tweaking things along the way. For help and advice when it comes to all things marketing, please contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

 

3rd April 2018

 

Being likeable can help you to achieve business success!

Fuel Marketing - Blog ImageIt doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, how much time/money it can save or how sophisticated your marketing is, if your clients don’t like and in turn trust you, they simple won’t buy from you.

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We all know how good it feels to work with people you know, like and trust, well surprise, surprise that’s exactly how your clients feel about you and your business. So how do you get that all important relationship off to a great start? Well here’s something not to do; talk at them and try to sell from the word go. Sometimes at events, I see a poor prospect effectively cornered by an over enthusiastic person who is telling them about what they do and handing out armfuls of literature without appearing to either pause for, or ask the prospect what it is they actually need.

 

People talk - so protect your reputation

Now if that was you, what would you do?  In my case I beat a hasty retreat and decided to avoid this bulldog like sales person in the future. I certainly wouldn’t ever buy from them and if the experience was particular unpleasant, I might also tell other people about it in person and via social media!

 

We buy from people/brands we like

Sometimes it helps to remember that we all buy products and services, so to sell our products and services effectively we need to think about how we like to be sold to. For me it’s about getting to really know somebody, asking them questions, listening to their answers and finding out what makes them tick. Plus, when you discover you have something in common and/or a similar business ethos, then you are really cooking on gas. Price and benefits are all very well, but if I know that I can’t work with someone or worse still find them self-opinionated or slightly irritating, I will look somewhere else to find that all important connection.

 

And if, as research tells us, we make a decision about whether we like someone in a mere 7 seconds, then you need to act fast. Here are my 15 top tips for ensuring that your initial contact with prospective clients goes well:

 

1.    Smile

2.    Be polite and professional

3.    Be yourself

4.    Never judge someone until you have spoken to them

5.    Stay focused on what people are saying

6.    Display enthusiasm and passion for what you do

7.    Be interested in what others have to say

8.    Be confident, but not overly confident, about your experience, knowledge and capabilities

9.    Offer some help or tips for free

10.  Find common ground

11.  Listen more than you talk

12.  Ask intelligent questions

13.  Don’t make any promises that you can’t keep

14.  Introduce people to others who might be able to help them

15.  Be generous and share good fortune

 

So next time a prospect says no, think back and ask yourself whether you were likeable or not? And if you think you could do something different next time – challenge yourself to hone your person skills and improve the chances of people wanting to do business with you! For more help and advice as to how you can market yourself better, get in touch. 

 

15th March 2018

 

It’s my opinion and you can’t change it!

Fuel Marketing - Blog ImageHaving been in marketing since the early 1990’s I’ve seen many things come and go and to be honest nothing that my industry does surprises me. However as a user of social media, I have come to almost despise its very invention, and whilst I fully understand and appreciate the benefits, I know that for every success there is a wealth of failures and disappointments to report.

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The right to be me!

Take my experience of last week when I commented on something in the news relating to my industry. I proffered my own opinion and was immediately shot down in flames by a follower, and others who jumped on the bandwagon, not because my opinion was wrong but because my opinion was at odds with theirs! This made me cross on so many different levels. Firstly it’s my opinion and there’s not a damned thing anyone else can do about it, but secondly it illustrated to me how far we have fallen in our blind need to be accepted by our peers.

 

This is not the first time something like this has happened to me, but this occasion has made me rethink how we communicate and whether social media is helping us or hindering us. Originally designed to be a useful marketing channel, I am now questioning whether it’s possible to successfully convey your opinion, values, authenticity and personality using social media, without causing offence, inciting others and/or just generally feeling guilty or inferior?

 

Fabulous or vacuous? 

Of course I get the positives of social media, but in light of my recent experiences I have been studying the negatives. So whilst it’s great to connect and communicate with lots of people quickly both locally and globally and have a level playing field for business, I wonder if it has also made us quite vacuous. But on the following points I think social media is a great big fail – so read, enjoy and remember you have been warned!

 

Bad things to come from social media

  • The rise of selfies  
  • Useless rubbish (photos of what people will eat, are eating or have eaten)
  • Bragging and showing off (updates on exotic holiday destinations with plethora of pictures)
  • Self-pitying posts (with accompanying sad face emoji’s or ambiguous status updates)
  • Objectionable status (disagreeing only because people want to be controversial)
  • Information oversharing (mostly relationship rants)
  • Political tirades (people who encourage conversations to devolve into personal attacks and negative judgments of each other’s characters
  • Hiding behind anonymity (the people who like everything but never comment)
  • All talk and no action (the people who encourage others to do things but never get involved themselves)
  • Amplified ignorance (the people who take one inaccurate ideal and shamelessly shares it)

For marketing help and support that aims to cut down on meaningless waffle, ambiguity and oversharing, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

5th March 2018

 

Do you have a messaging strategy?

Fuel Marketing - Blog Image“What is it that you do?” is a question that I often ask prospects and new clients. And sometimes the answers are so confusing and long-winded (and often accompanied by doodles and diagrams) that I find myself wondering how the heck they ever find any customers for their business.

 

One way of getting to the nub of the issue is to ask the question a different way. So now when I see potential customers I always ask them to describe what they do (their business) in one sentence as if they were explaining it to a seven year old. Essentially what I am looking for is simple, non-jargon language that answers the “so what” question and is compelling enough to make me want to find out more.

 

 

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What’s messaging?

Every brand needs a voice. Messaging provides the words that help your prospects and customers to understand your businesses’ value and what you believe in. Basically your message does three things:

 

1.       Articulates your brand promise

2.       Sums up your brand’s characteristics (benefits and features)

3.       Stimulates desire in your brand

 

Messaging takes many forms - straplines, slogans, headlines, value statement, customer promises, campaigns etc. - but they all share similarities. Essentially your brand message, or proposition, needs to be brief (12 words or less) and communicate why your brand matters and what it stands for. A core brand message also communicates the values and key differentiators that define your brand. And above all else, it needs to make people sit up and take notice!

 

Keep is simple

Effective brand messages usually oversimplify something that in reality can be quite complex. This oversimplication is a good thing, because the goal of a brand is to be noticed, remembered and desired. And in an over-communicated world your message needs to be unique, believable, full of benefit claims, as well as having the ability to be easily adapted across different marketing channels. But in my opinion the real success of good messaging is down to repetition. The more times you can say the same thing, the more chance you have of it being remembered!

 

Below is a list of 10 things that your messaging needs to be:

 

1.       Targeted

2.       Simple and brief

3.       Compelling, bold

4.       Credible

5.       Memorable

6.       Highlights what's important

7.       Ubiquitous

8.       Communicates your advantage

9.        Honest

10.    Consistent

 

Being succinct is harder than you think!

But be warned, I recently tried a messaging exercise with a new client and what they thought would be a simple job to explain their product in one sentence took them two weeks!  Crafting a message that's short, memorable and relevant to your audience can be a lot tougher than you think. However, after you've gone through the process (an external marketing consultant can be a huge help), you'll be a lot better prepared to explain your brand. And once you've found your voice, you'll discover that people suddenly do a lot more listening and that the rest of your sales and marketing becomes a whole lot easier too!

 

For help in crafting your marketing message or assistance with explaining your business in less than 12 words contact Vicky Boulton at Fuel on 07766 56690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

 

16th February 2018

 

Do you know what marketing is working?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageHaving been a marketer for some 25 years plus, I know that looking at the results of your activities and campaigns and then making informed decision is critical to the success of any marketing strategy. So it saddened me recently to hear about a colleague of mine who had employed another marketing consultancy (I believe they do exist) to implement a marketing plan on their behalf. Some 5 months in, they had no idea what had worked and what had not and found themselves constantly on the back foot when it came to results and recommendations. And given the fact that they paid the consultant a monthly retainer, I took the time to explain to them why this was simply not good enough. 

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What's your marketing ROI?

When it comes to marketing it’s as important to know what doesn’t work and why as it is to know what is successful. Knowing how everything is performing is key. So you need to ensure that you are monitoring, measuring and recording the results of everything you do and of course sharing it with clients and or your staff if you are doing the marketing yourself. This enables you to ditch activities that aren’t working, thus saving money, as well as giving you the opportunity refine and improve other elements to ensure greater levels of business success. And if you are a marketer it enables you to demonstrate a good return on investment and of course prove your value!

 

Are you flexible?

Marketing is organic and you need to be proactive and flexible enough to alter what you do should things change. However most business owners do not know what they want marketing to do for them and don’t actually set real, tangible and meaningful targets. Sometimes objectives and strategy can be blurred and occasionally I hear those dreaded words. “I think we’ll just do what we did last year!” So whilst I think that my colleague has been taken for a ride by his marketing partner, I actually don’t think they are to blame I think that my colleague is for not setting the right boundaries and parameters at the outset of their relationship.

 

So my advice is simply, if you’re not measuring your marketing then please make sure that you do. There are many tools available to help you to do this. Overall, I find that it’s simple and easy to set up and report on campaigns on a regular basis across multiple channels. And don’t forget to get your staff involved too – they speak to customers and prospective customers more than a marketing professional so their input and buy in is essential.

 

Marketing is about building relationships

And my final point is one about instant results. Marketing will bring you some quick wins, but essentially you need to do something regularly (minimum 9-12 months), consistently and as targeted as possible to get the best results in the medium to long term. Marketing is about building relationships over time using targeted communications and relevant channels.

 

For help with your marketing, with feedback and communications throughout the process so you can validate your return on your marketing investments, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

6th February 2018

 

What's your motivating factor?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageWe’ve all met those pushy people at networking events who use smoke and mirrors, tips and freebies, as well as offers and carefully crafted stories about “happy clients” or “wonderful business wins,” to tempt new prospects into parting with their hard-earned cash. And then months later the pushy person is no longer to be seen and the prospect who became their client is unhappy with what they received – value, service and results-wise.

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So what makes these people tick and why are they dangerous?

Essentially we are talking about people who are motivated entirely by money. They want new customers for their fees, not to provide them with all the things that they have promised. And whilst they don’t set out to be dishonest, they are liberal with the truth and use phrases like “I know what you need” and “all your competitors are doing it, so you need to.”

 

How can you spot them?

Years ago they would have been the ones handing out business cards and brochures and calling you the same day or the next day to hook up a meeting. But the “Pushy Prospect Pursuers” of today are a little more savvy. They surround themselves with people who like them and think they are doing something amazing and then use their often limited knowledge and significant amount of charisma to talk up what they do and how they can improve your business in several easy steps. In essence they are the people who talk and never listen, who have the perfect solution for you, but don’t take the time or show any interest in funding out if it’s your perfect solution too.

 

What’s the process?

But their focus is almost entirely on generating new business, as they don’t seem to care about customer service or having happy clients, which is just as well as they don’t usually have many. Essentially they take your money and do the least amount of work they can in order to deliver the bare minimum of what they promised. And if you question them or ask for more, they will look at you like you are from another planet and then blame the economy, the market, the industry, essentially anyone but themselves. That’s of course if you can get hold of them, or even see them again, as they have a habit of dropping out of networking groups and or other places where they might end up being questioned about their apparent failings. So in the end it is you who feels guilty for continually chasing them and you’ve given up on asking about your unmet expectations as the answers are not very forthcoming. So to stop yourself from feeling you have been knowingly used, you decide cease working with them and just move on.

 

Sound familiar? Well I have a solution for you. Before you engage someone to work with, I would suggest you do the following three things which will put your mind at rest:

  1. Have a meeting and see how much they listen and how much they talk. If they talk about knowing what you need and start to suggest solutions before they have understood what it is that you actually want, then walk away
  2. Ask them if you can contact one of their previous clients to find out more about how you worked with them and the results they got from using you. And make sure you choose who to contact and when, otherwise they could be a primed friend rather than a genuine customer
  3. Make sure you have a written proposal from them with tight parameters and regular (weekly/monthly) update calls or emails where they provide you with feedback, suggestions and results on the project/campaign etc. that they are working on. This way you can monitor their work from the word go and if you are not happy, you have something tangible to mark them against.

For help with your marketing from someone with good listening skills, readiness to understand what you want and an ability to never tell you what you need, together with regular feedback, communications and genuine results, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

23rd January 2018

 

Remember who you’re connected to!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageCommunication is a good thing and thanks to the plethora of online communication channels, we really can stay in touch with everyone 24/7.  But whilst I don’t want to put a dampener on your freedom, I would like to advise some caution and urge you to engage your brain and perhaps use some common sense before aimlessly publishing every last detail of your life including your daily plans online. And here’s why…!

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I saw a colleague recently, who was to put it mildly, upset and annoyed in equal measure. She explained that she had been engaged by a new client and had set aside a morning of paid work for them earlier that week. Despite the fact that the date had been agreed weeks ago and was in both of their diaries, on the morning in question she received an email (not a call) asking if they could postpone their meeting because he had to deal with a client emergency. My colleague was a little bit miffed, as she had turned down other work in order to meet with this client, but as she all too clearly understood that these things happen, she agreed and asked him to come back to her soon with another date. He agreed and that could have been the end of the story.

 

Managing social relationships

However, there is a part two. Later that morning she saw an update on Facebook from him and was surprised to learn that he was at the airport waiting to catch a flight abroad for a long weekend away! To say she was angry would be an understatement, but there is a lesson for us all to learn here and it’s quite simple. Firstly, always be honest and secondly remember who you are connected with/to on social media channels.

 

This is not a one off incident. I have had something similar happen to me both on a business and a personal front and I found myself disappointed with both my friend and my client. And for those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised to know that my duplicitous client is no longer my client and it won’t take a genius to know who it was who made the decision to part company! And as for my friend, well they have had a reprieve but they know that I’m still monitoring things.

 

Honesty, integrity and common sense

To conclude, consistent and regular targeted communications are key for marketing your business and for staying in touch with clients, prospects, business referrers, colleagues, friends and family. But you need to remember to treat all of those people that you communicate with as you would like to be treated yourself. Honesty, integrity and common sense are critical for managing relationships whether they are in person, on the telephone, by direct mail or online. It is up to you to oversee these relationships carefully and know that you are firstly being true to them and secondly you are being true to yourself.

 

For help in ensuring that you are successfully managing important business relationships and marketing yourself, your services and your business correctly using the right message, frequency and channels, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

18th December 2017

 

Less marketing, more branding!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageTo operate a successful business, you need a good brand. A good brand is one that is memorable and whose message resonates with us whether for good or bad reasons. And whatever size your business is, you need to establish a strong and consistent brand that will appeal to your customers and prospective customers in order to achieve continued success.

 

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However in recent years traditional branding and brand building has been harder, this is largely down to the popularity of social media and of course a more competitive market place with more discerning potential customers.

 

And to put this in context, from when we wake up to the time we go to bed, we’re exposed to between 5,000 and 10,000 marketing messages, from labels and adverts to commercials and pop-up banners. If it sounds like a lot, and it probably does, that’s the point. We’ve trained our brains to ignore most, if not all, of them. If not, we’d probably go insane. But to build a brand, you need people to stop and take notice.

 

But taking the amount of work you need to do out of the equation, building a good brand and creating tangible impact comes down to the following 10 things:

  1. Be authentic
  2. Develop a good reputation
  3. Think big stay small
  4. Put the customer first
  5. Innovate and be bold
  6. Tell a story
  7. Add a personal touch
  8. Be responsive
  9. Don’t broadcast - interact
  10. Maintain availability

The days of just stamping your logo on everything and saying that’s it for our branding activities, are very much over. The future of branding is fluid and engaging. You must respect your customers' intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.

 

For help in building and establishing a great brand or for any other marketing help and support contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

4th December 2017

 

Bring back some marketing mystery!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageMarketing today takes no prisoners. Its 24 hour, multi-channel, instantaneous and frequent assault on our eyes, ears and other senses is sometimes exhausting. And don’t forget that marketing now cannot mislead customers or be seen to be discriminatory or offensive in any way.

 

To compensate for this, marketing campaigns are now full of detail, tell a story, which can often be shocking and outrageous in nature, but still completely lacking in that most elusive of qualities - mystery.

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Ok so I admit that some marketing nowadays is clever. Too clever perhaps, as often you are left scratching your head trying to understand its true meaning. But whilst clever and creative is most definitely in, holding something back and asking customers to actually think for themselves, just doesn’t seem to be the order of the day.

 

Who can forget those marketing campaigns years ago when brands alluded to something wonderful and intriguing, but refrained from actually spelling it out? Adverts for Guinness, Milk Tray, Diet Coke, Nescafe, Oxo, Honda, Renault, Andrex, Dulux, Gold Blend, Cadbury’s Flake (plus Caramel & Dairy Milk) and Levi 501’s in the 1980’s and 1990’s were synonymous with mystery and surprise. We were left intrigued, perpetually wondering and filling in the gaps about the product or service in question, which just added to their allure.

 

Mystery generates interest and curiosity

Mystery is a key element to all great storytelling, and people love to tell great stories. Without this element of mystery, our curiosity wanes. Most businesses don’t understand the power of mystery and instead present every feature and benefit of their brand to their customers. But we customers want some depth; we want to discover what lies beneath the surface of a brand on our own.

 

Mystery helps provide meaning to your brand; it allows people to learn something about your brand they didn’t know before. If we learn something new about a company that no one else knows, we are more likely to talk. However, if everyone already knows about a particular benefit, there’s no reason to talk about it. We talk and gossip about products, services, and brands because it benefits us; we gain status by providing new information. This basic, biologically-rooted drive helps explain why people naturally talk about that which is mysterious and unknown.

 

Here are three key ways to add mystery to your brand:

  1. Don’t say every benefit about your business in every business communication. If everyone already knows everything about you, they won’t have anything to tell their friends that their friends don’t already know, aside from how you may not have fully met their expectations
  2. Break a standard rule in your industry and don’t be afraid to be different
  3. Listen in to what your customers are suggesting and surprise them by actually doing it.

So if you want your customers to talk about you, surprise them. Delight them. Let them discover you on a totally new level. In essence, give your customers a reason to talk about you.  For dedicated marketing expertise and support that will add that much welcome subtle mystery to your business communications, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

22nd November 2017

 

How to handle a referral

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageThe not so secret secret to getting new business is referrals. You cannot receive a better lead than one that has been sent your way with a strong referral. You cannot have a more motivated prospect to your business than someone sent there by a supportive and happy fan.

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A lot of very successful businesses are built upon referrals from existing clients. You do a good job for somebody, or show exceptional customer service, and they remember it. The next time that person is asked for a recommendation for somebody in your industry, they’ll happily pass on your details.  If you’re lucky, they’ll make the introduction for you to the prospective client – saying positive things about you to the prospective client whilst you’re there to hear it.

 

Never underestimate the power of referrals

Worth their weight in gold, I never underestimate a referral’s power ‘nor their value. I am a keen giver of referrals and recommendations to fellow businesses that I really rate because I know they do a great job and can make a difference to the growth and development of a client’s business.

 

But when you give a referral, what do you expect the recipient to do? Well for politeness’s’ sake you trust that they will thank you and then keep you updated on how it goes. And of course the ideal solution is for the client in question to let you know how things go too and generally be delighted with how they have been treated.

 

But sometimes, it’s as if people don’t understand referrals and their behaviour becomes questionable to say the least. I recently referred one of my loyal clients to another business – let’s call it ABC Ltd. I emailed them both to do the basic introductions and then sat back and waited. My client thanked me but I heard nothing from ABC Ltd, not even an email acknowledgement.

 

Keep everyone informed

A whole month later I met with my client who was disappointed in how the communications had fared with ABC Ltd. After my introductory email they had spoken and ABC Ltd had carefully explained the options to my client. My client then asked for some final prices based on her preferred choice for moving forwards. ABC Ltd said then would email something through and then nothing. Yes that’s right, nothing for a month, until I had to nudge them into action and they finally did email the client. But by then my client was annoyed, not at me I hasten to add, but had decided to use another supplier instead, one who would appreciate the value of their business and not fail to communicate the right information at the right time.

 

It’s not difficult to me. Someone does something for you; you thank them and then keep them up to date with the process. Needless to say I will not ever be referring anyone to ABC Ltd again. So in the end they will have lost out by simply not following simple business etiquette. And because the way you handle a referral will reflect on your reputation and that of ABC Ltd, my mind is made up.

 

Goodwill is key

The next time you receive a referral – think about how you’re going to express thanks to the person who made that referral to you. You’ve done the hard work by generating such goodwill that they’ve become a fan of yours, so why would you let yourself down by not dealing with the referral in a way that continues to build that goodwill? After all, you’d soon miss those referrals if they stopped coming in.

 

So for me, it’s as easy as 1, 2, and 3!

 

1.       Thank the person giving you the referral (it doesn’t have to be a gift just a thank you is fine)

2.       Make contact in a timely manner with the business they have referred you to.

3.       Keep everyone updated with what is happening and when

 

For help with referrals, recommendations so that you can tap into this invaluable business stream, contact Vicky at Fuel Marketing on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

 

14th November 2017

 

How many times is enough?

Fuel Marketing blog imagePrompted by a recent networking discussion, I wanted to discuss the importance of follow up when it comes to new business leads. According to a recent survey many business owners never manage to capitalise on all their hard work whilst attending all those networking meetings, events, and exhibitions because they simply don’t follow up on new business leads in an effective and timely manner.

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According to a recent survey, 79% of companies don’t follow-up new business leads which equals wasted time, opportunity, money, low morale and a damaged reputation. So ask yourself honestly, are you guilty of not following up, or of following up once and what do you think is the right number of times to keep reminding someone of your business’s existence?

 

As a marketer, I know that for a cold lead to even notice you exist it can take up to 12 points of contact, these could be an advert, an email, a direct mail letter, a telephone call and/or a meeting. And if you want them to do more than just notice you, then there are even more stages for you to undertake in order to move them from cold to warm. It’s not surprising that most of us give up after a couple of stages and that’s really sad as good follow up is all about timing, consistency, perseverance, flexibility and of course regularity and/or repetition.

 

But when a business has just started or is beginning to grow, many owners simply don’t have the time, people or resources to follow up each and every new business lead. This is in addition to managing any news that may result, as well as everything else they need to do with dealing with their current client work load and meeting their expectations.

 

So for successful follow up in your business, you need four things: 

  1. Time - Set aside some time every week for following up new business leads. Remember it doesn’t always have to be by phone, emailing and direct mail can work just as well and it’s not a one off contact, it needs to be done many times in order to increase your chances of success.
  2. Relevant information - It’s worth remembering to have someone you can send them that you think they would enjoy, so make time to build up a library of information including articles, books, white papers, blogs, podcasts, videos etc that you can share with them
  3. People - If you hate following up, give it to someone who doesn’t mind it and can do it on a regular and organised basis. Whilst not an advocate of scripts, sometimes it can help to have a few notes jotted down to keep the conversation moving along and to make sure that you cover all the bases.
  4. Systems - You need a system to help you with your follow up. A CRM system will record status, history and handle multiple channel campaigns, whilst effectively synching data with Outlook and other software packages and producing management reports to help you monitor and evaluate activity.

Remember when it comes to following up leads – faster is better and when it comes to leads whose purchase needs are slightly longer term, you need to be persistent and commit to staying in touch with them until they are sales ready. It is important to nurture them with consistent communications that describe how you can help solve their business challenges. So when they are ready to buy, they will think of you.

 

For help and support in new business lead follow up and other ways that good marketing practices can help you to increase your profitability contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

7th November 2017

 

Trust - your marketing toolkit winner!

Fuel Marketing blog imageTo establish your business, build strong customer relationships and develop a positive reputation, you need trust. It’s as simple as that. And some significant international research has identified that profit depends to a surprisingly large extent upon it. In other words, if you want to make a quantifiable impact on your bottom line, look deeper than the surface analysis that's often employed; trust is a significant key to building long term relationships, and long term repeat business.

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But what some businesses forget is that customer trust is earned not won and to be thought of as trustworthy you need to have integrity, loyalty and be:

  • Reliable
  • Open and honest
  • Competent
  • Sure that your behaviour matches your values
  • Listening to your clients and target market and finding out their needs 24/7
  • Able to build rapport and understand what is important to your clients
  • Looking at things from your clients perspective
  • Learning from you clients and applying that knowledge to improving your business
  • Deliver quality and dependability as standard
  • Customer focused/customer-centric
  • Communicating in a regular, targeted and professional manner
  • Able to fix problems quickly and efficiently
  • Proactive rather than reactive
  • Offering customers a choice based on your knowledge of them
  • Able to go that extra mile when needed
  • Capable of under promising and over delivering, not the other way round

For a free marketing audit on your business in order to establish whether your businesses is a trustworthy as it can be, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

 

31st October 2017

 

Surround yourself with your kind of people!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageWhy is when you go out with a group of work colleagues, friends or family to the pub, a restaurant, the cinema or even a party or celebration, there are some people that you just don’t take to. You can’t explain what it is, but you know that they are not your kind of people. So what do you do – you choose not to spend time with them, instead you find people who you do like and talk/socialise with them instead.

 

This is self-selection at its most basic. You choose who you want to be with. The same is true in a business arena.

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We’ve all being to networking meetings or corporate events where we have avoided people for reasons best known to ourselves. And we’ve all walked away from prospective clients when something just didn’t add up or feel right. So bearing all of this in mind, you need to remember that more than 50% of the people you meet won’t like you – and let’s face it you can’t control what they think about you. So if this is true, why do we waste time trying to please everyone and feel disappointed when we lose out on some new business or a new client?

 

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up, because if we can self-select, then you can bet  your bottom dollar that the person you are talking to, pitching to or working with is doing exactly the same thing. So instead of wasting time on something we cannot change, it's time you accepted it and just moved on! This way you will be able to avoid the negativity but best of all you will get to spend lots of time with people you like, whose energy synchronises with your own and who appreciate your true worth.

 

So my advice to you all is five-fold:

  • Be yourself
  • Trust your intuition (gut)
  • Surround yourself with people who make you happy or bring out the best in you
  • Ditch negativity, bitchiness and back stabbing and stay away from the mood hoovers
  • Align yourself with people that you can learn from

For help with your marketing, delivered with a huge dollop of honesty, so that you always know where you stand and what business focus you need to talk, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

24th October 2017

 

Could you just?!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageIf I had a £1 for every time a client said “could you just” followed by an urgent request for obscure marketing assistance or an order to do something now, I would probably be fairly wealthy. So why do clients, where there is a marketing strategy and plan already agreed and in place, insist on adding in novel and often confusing extras that were never part of our joint original thinking?

 

I have my own theories of course, and not all of them are conspiratorial, but essential I think that it comes down to control, or rather a lack of it. The marketing strategy and plan have been devised with their input but when it comes to implementation, they are often out of the loop. So in a small bid to leverage some authority on the whole relationship and prove that they really do know their stuff, the “could you just” plea tends to come into its own.

 

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I appreciate the fact that outsourcing (subcontracting) marketing can be scary and in the early stages of the relationship you are still unsure of how it will work and of course whether it will work. But my advice to business owners, who are thinking of taking the plunge, is to bear in mind the following five points to ensure that your transition to outsourcing is as painless and productive as it can possibly be.

  1. Be a part of the process – define the roles, establish realistic expectations and communicate clearly and frequently
  2. Clearly define the goals for the work and the standards to which it must adhere. Let the subcontractor know what is most important to you
  3. Be accessible so that response times are timely and decisions can be taken quickly
  4. Select your subcontractor carefully. They should share your vision and be able to quickly immerse themselves in your culture, so there is a shared marketing voice.
  5. Agree regular update times so you can stay apprised of the work and have an opportunity to input your opinions/thoughts

And finally – make sure that you give them the space and support to get on with their work without feeling the need to constantly interfere or interrupt the smooth running of the marketing operations

 

So if you want your subcontractors to work well for your business, you need to make sure that you keep your intrusions to a minimum. Remember they are following an agreed plan and have set up regular check in times for you to comment. Asking “can you just” will only delay proceedings and cause the subcontractor to wonder if you have a problem with them or their work, this can be disastrous for building long-term loyal and trusted partnerships.

 

My advice is that after say 3 or 6 months into a contract, you should get together for a meeting and raise any issues or concerns that you have with each other in a professional manner. That way both of you will know where you stand and have the right of reply in a controlled environment. Endless email or voicemail requests can niggle after a while and I find that just picking up the phone and vocalising any problems can solve most things.

 

For help with your marketing implementation so that it is seamless and inclusive and means that you benefit from an outside perspective, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

17th October 2017

 

Is there such a thing as a free lunch?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageRecently I was invited to a seminar entitled “How to market your business without spending money” and as a marketer that intrigued me enough to sign up. In over 25 years as a marketing professional I have never seen any marketing that was completely free. Plus there’s that nagging voice in my head that keeps chirping in with “does free have a value?”

 

Free marketing sounds fine and dandy in principal and whilst I do agree that no money is changing hands, business owners need to be aware that in order to do any marketing (free or otherwise) successfully you will need to commit plenty of time to planning it, doing it and following up on it too! And let’s face it when you are a business time really is money, so be carefully how much time you give to each of these activities and of course monitor and measure the results for a return on investment. Remember, every claim on your time needs to earn its place!

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So what is this free marketing that people are speaking of, well here are my thoughts on cost, but not time free, activities that you can get involved in:

 

1.    Word-of-mouth (referrals and recommendations)

Remember consumers listen most to other consumers' opinions, not to marketing messages. And whether you want it to happen or not customers will talk about your business, so you need to focus at least some effort on exceeding expectations and achieving quality – this applies to the service/product in question, your price and any discounts, how it’s delivered, your customer service, areas for adding value and of course your communications too.

 

2.    Networking

The more people you tell about your business, the greater chance you have of them trying it out. So putting yourself out there at events, seminars, exhibitions, business expos/shows, meetings (online or offline) etc. is a great way to increase your marketing reach. Whilst some networking activities involve a charge, there are plenty that are free, Remember to take your business cards and practice your elevator speech and always remember that everyone is a potential customer or a route to other customers.

 

3.    Social media

Sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn can provide a plethora of opportunities for free marketing if used well, and if your target audience use them too. Online forums and discussion groups can also work well. Just remember that frequency is important so don’t start something that you have no intending of doing a minimum of once a week, more is obviously preferential.

 

4.    Email newsletters

An email newsletter is a simple way of keeping your business fresh in your customers' minds and, if you offer exclusive deals through a newsletter, readers will often send it on to friends - meaning you reach even more potential customers. However Mail Chimp and other software can make the whole thing easier for you when it comes to design and distribution. Just remember to send it regularly, make sure that the brand is consistent, the content is fresh, easy to understand and act upon, check that the title is appealing and of course include plenty of calls to action and links to your website. Don’t forget to follow strict data collection/protection laws as most people still don’t.

 

5.    Blogging

Blogging is a great way of increasing traffic to your website as well as demonstrating your expertise, showing your relevancy and comments on topical issues and of course opening up a little about the real you to help more people connect with you and your business. Plus if you find businesses with some synergy and an overlapping customer base, talk to them and see if you can blog for each other. It’s great fun and of course means that if you blog weekly you may only have to write one or two blogs yourself every month instead of four!

 

6.    PR

 Write your own press releases and then build a network of relevant media contacts so that you can disseminate the information to them. Having media friends make the whole thing a lot easier but as a starting point, I would do your research as to which journalists are the ones who can help you and then try to find out their contact details using social media channels, websites and of course attending specific events, where a few journalists are often in evidence.

 

For help with free or paid marketing, call in the experts, then you can devote your time to running your business, whilst your marketing consultant does the rest. For expert marketing advice and help with implementation, contact Vicky on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

10th October 2017

 

Tell me what you want, what you really really want!

Fuel Marketing blog imageWhen I was a toddler, I can clearly remember my mum asking me to tell her precisely what I wanted simply and clearly. Obviously as a child telling people what you wanted was easy but as an adult, I am often mystified why we seem unable to communicate effectively and state our needs succinctly and without a fuss!

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When you are running your own business, it’s important to be able to vocalise your needs, both for yourself and your clients, as well as for possible business partners and referrers.  Having clients is like having a really good strong and healthy relationship. And for it to be successful, you need to follow three simple steps:

  1. Firstly, you need to remember that the other person is not psychic or a mind reader so does not magically know what you do, need or want. So you need to know what your business needs are.
  2. If you’re not sure what your business needs are, then please take the time to think carefully about them before you start telling people the wrong things or worse still nothing at all.
  3. Thirdly, you need to state your needs, don’t ask what works for the other person. You clearly say… “This is what I need. How can we make this work?”

Below is a list of things that you should know the answer to before you head out there and try to sell yourself and what you do:

  • What areas of business you will specialise in and what types you won’t
  • What types of work you will do and what types your won’t
  • What types of client you will work with and what types you won’t
  • What your fees/prices are and what areas will you be able to add value
  • What your responsibilities are and what are those of your clients
  • What timescales you work to and what you expect your clients to work to
  • What your client can expect of your business relationship
  • What expectations you have of your client
  • What you will do and what the results will mean for your client
  • Explain how you work and what you are hoping to achieve
  • What you will do if things go wrong
  • What you want your business to be known for
  • Where you want to be in 1, 5 and even 10 years’ time

So in the words of that legendary girl power group The Spice Girls, next time you are touting for business you need to “tell me what you want, what you really really want.”  Because by stating your needs, you are 75% more likely to attract the kind of business that you want than the kind of business that you don’t want.

 

For help in making sure that you know, understand and can confidently communicate your business needs, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

3rd October 2017

 

What makes a marketing expert?

Fuel Marketing blog imageIn one of my previous blogs, I talked about the fact that you cannot call yourself an expert, only someone else can. Well in the six plus years since I set up Fuel, I have come across many businesses and business owners who claim to be “experts in marketing.”

 

When challenged about their experience they seem to fall into one of the following categories, none of which I am afraid to say makes them a professional marketer in my humble opinion:

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  • Marketing is obvious – you don’t need any formal training
  • I’ve read many marketing books, so I know what I am talking about
  • I’ve just completed a weekend marketing course, which I am now putting into practice
  • I do something in a similar field (sales, business mentoring/coaching/ training, website development or social media) so I simply diversified into marketing as it seemed like the obvious next step
  • I have just contributed towards writing a basic business book, so I know all about marketing and how it works

Over promising and failing to deliver

What’s the problem I hear you cry? Well to me, the problem is this. On first contact, the client doesn’t know the difference between any of the above and someone who has learnt and refined their craft over many years. It’s only as time passes and they end up with a campaign that doesn’t do what they want it to, or more often doesn’t work, that they learn the hard way that the marketing services they have been promised, simply do not deliver.

 

And whilst I admit that at times marketing is obvious, after 25 years in the industry, I know what works for certain sectors and when. I also understand how long marketing takes to gain momentum and what investment is sensible to kick off with. In addition I advise people using my knowledge and experience on how to change marketing plans and campaigns in a timely manner so that the results will continue to surprise and delight.

 

Jack of all trades!

Let’s be honest, I admire entrepreneurship and know that in today’s business world you always need to be looking at the next big thing. But when I take my car to the official Vauxhall garage for its annual service and MOT, I know that they will service and MOT my car in a professional manner. If they were suddenly to tell me that they could also service my boiler and book my bi-annual holidays too, I would be confused and more than a little worried. Worried that their core activity, that of car maintenance, would suffer and of course confused that they see the need to diversify into areas where they don’t just don’t have a demonstrable track record or any qualifications.

 

Stick with the specialists!

So my advice is to use specialists wherever you can. They know their stuff, they live and breathe it 24/7 and if something does go wrong, they will know exactly what to do to make sure that any issues are quickly resolved. If you are unsure whether your supplier has experience in marketing services, ask them for a testimonial or case study, or better still ask them if you can speak to one of their actual current marketing clients and/or inquire about their qualifications!

 

For marketing expertise, delivered in an honest manner and focused on achieving the results that you want, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

18th September 2017

 

Are you really going the extra mile?

There are some phrases that are just plain annoying. The one that springs to mind today is “going the extra mile.” And whilst there are people that do just that, the majority of “extra mile self-congratulators” are people who are simply doing what they are paid to do and nothing more!

 

A prime example of rewarding people for doing the job they are paid to do is the New Year Honours List. This staggering display of smugness is where politicians, actors, professional sports people and even GP’s receive special commendation, whilst many unsung and genuine heroes are not even mentioned.

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Why are we applauding mediocre service?

When I ask, did we stop demanding more from our staff, our suppliers and even those in the public eye? And why are we so content to be complacent and applaud mediocre service when we should be out there insisting that everyone really does go that real “extra mile” for us?

To illustrate this point, I want to explain my recent train journey. I bought return tickets online. I collected the said tickets from my local train station. I made the train journey that I bought the tickets for, and as far as I was concerned that was the end of the transaction. How wrong I was. What followed days and even weeks later is what I can only describe as CSO – Customer Service Overload.

 

Communications overload!

It started with an email asking for feedback on my train experience in order to clarify whether they had exceeded my expectations. This included everything from the cleanliness of the station and its general ambience, to the clarity of the announcements and the quality of the food and drink. Needless to say I ignored the email request. Days later and a text appeared telling me that I hadn’t completed my feedback and included a link to a website page so that I could do it right now or certainly before hell froze over. Once again I managed to find a million and one things to do instead.

 

Just doing your job!

So what’s my beef then? Well I went on a train to and from a meeting. It was ok but that was it. I don’t see how rating food, ambience and an ability to hear a station announcer qualify the company as exceptional. Things would have been different had their feedback questionnaire made reference to the absence of car parking at the station, the extortionate cost of the ticket or the general lack of adherence to the promised timetable. On these points I would have been more than keen to share my views. You see as a train provider at my preferred station at a designated time, their only obligation is to provide a train that’s going where I expect it to go. I don’t want or need anything else. And I certainly won’t be congratulating you for the other things in which I simply have no interest.

 

Gush of adjectives!

It’s the same when my car was serviced last week. After some cross and upselling when I dropped the keys off, to the customer survey that appeared later the next day, I felt under pressure to lie about what really was their job. I paid them to service my car, they serviced my car. What more is there to this simple business transaction that I’m missing? Now if you’d washed and cleaned my car whilst it was being serviced or filled it to the brim with petrol for me – then I might have thought your company worthy of a gush of adjectives. I may even have gone that “extra mile” myself and told other people about my amazing experience! As it was, I feel quite justified in not completing your poxy questionnaire and of course keeping fairly quiet about the whole car service thing.

 

Realistic and honest

So to all you business owners out there. Watch what you’re saying. Don’t overpromise and under deliver and certainly don’t bombard people with requests for feedback when all you’ve done is something so simple that an amoeba could do it whilst sleeping. Be realistic and be honest and when you want your customers to be impressed, make sure that you have something impressive to offer them.

For marketing that adds value and generates good feeling amongst your customers, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

4th September 2017

 

Whatever happened to loyalty?

Fuel Markeing Blog ImageIn the last few years, I have noticed a worrying trend. Loyalty seems to have become less important as consumers have more power and greater expectations and are being presented with increased choice, competitive pricing and comparison websites. In addition people in general are less bothered by upsetting brands or people as long as they feel they are getting a deal or there is something in it for them!


So if the loyalty mind-set has shifted to value, savings or just financial rewards, where does that leave your marketing? For years loyalty has always been the bedrock of marketing success. When you had a client that knew, liked and trusted you that used to mean they were locked into using your product/service or brand for a while. But now, that’s no longer the case.

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Authenticity and meaningful experiences

To me, it’s all about being authentic. Real, honest and engaging are the words I would use to describe how brands today need to appeal to their buyers of tomorrow. In order to earn loyalty you have to create a meaningful experience with your customers. What do I mean by this?

We live in an experience-driven world. Consumers gravitate toward those experiences that provide them with the stimulation they are looking for. People have become sensitive about how they spend their time and what inspires them to do so. If a brand focuses more on trying to sell consumers their products/services rather than finding ways to creatively engage with them and solve a need, their brand will not survive.

 

Who do you trust?

So in a week where I heard a lady at a networking event refer someone to a business that does social media management (where she gets a referral fee) when her good friend stood next to her and also offers social media management, it seems as if even those closest to us cannot be trusted to “big” up our businesses when there may be a more attractive option (usually financially motivated) making them behave differently!

 

Be true to your values

My advice is simple. You win some and you lose some and you have to make peace with the fact that not everyone you meet holds the same values as you do! Loyalty may have died, but if you are the type of business who puts their customers first, deliver quality as standard, practices honesty and authenticity and who values timely interaction and encourages engagement, you will be fine, just as long as you follow my quick marketing 1, 2, 3.

 

1.       Treat customers well

2.       Be transparent

3.       Don’t make promises you can’t keep

 

For help with your marketing, so your customers want to create strong and long-lasting relationships with you and your brand, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

21st August 2017

 

Are you stealing your own time?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageSometimes the Nike strapline “Just Do It” screams in my head as I meet clients or prospective clients who seem to prefer procrastination and prevarication to actual getting on and doing things in their businesses. And whilst I am a big fan of working things through, I do feel that there is a real danger that over-thinking can talk you out of any kind of action whatsoever - essentially paralysis by analysis.


Take one of my clients for example. I wrote a marketing strategy and plan for their business way back in February and whilst they did not require my services to implement either element, they did retain my services for monthly and quarterly reviews. It’s been six months now since the very simplistic and highly detailed marketing plan came into force, and to date not one item on the plan has been completed.

 

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Sometimes the Nike strapline “Just Do It” screams in my head as I meet clients or prospective clients who seem to prefer procrastination and prevarication to actual getting on and doing things in their businesses. And whilst I am a big fan of working things through, I do feel that there is a real danger that over-thinking can talk you out of any kind of action whatsoever - essentially paralysis by analysis.


Take one of my clients for example. I wrote a marketing strategy and plan for their business way back in February and whilst they did not require my services to implement either element, they did retain my services for monthly and quarterly reviews. It’s been six months now since the very simplistic and highly detailed marketing plan came into force, and to date not one item on the plan has been completed.

 

Diversion not focus!

No instead of actually cracking on with the plan, I have been copied in on a wealth of diversionary tactics. These range from converting the plan into a different and more visual format, devising mind maps, using apps to create new styles and designs and then sending invitations to share documents on an almost weekly basis. In my mind these are all examples of things we do to feel we are actually doing something, without actually doing the one thing that we were supposed to be doing – i.e. some marketing!

 

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem folks is my motto here. So if you are the type of person who is unable to implement stuff in your business and instead talks a good game, then my advice is to outsource that function to someone who will do it for you. After all, outsourcing the tasks we don’t want to do is what drives efficiencies and of course gives us time to focus on the areas that we are good at. So to other small business owners out there, be wary of the prevaricators. They will drive you potty and as well as wasting their own time, they don’t appear to feel any guilt about wasting yours too.

 

Top tips for spotting procrastinators!

Sometime their disguise is ingenious and you’ll be impressed by their knowledge and their get up and go levels of enthusiasm. However like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, not everything is how it appears. Here are my top tips for spotting their behaviours early enough so that you can do something about it.

  • A varied career where they have never stayed in the same job/on the same project for more than a few months
  • Butterfly brain, which means that they are unable to concentrate on what you are talking about , preferring instead to take you in a random direction of jargon and good intention
  • Display an ability to look far too far into the future and do not appear to have any idea or want to discuss realistically about how they are going to get there
  • Cannot easily provide any evidence from happy clients  – i.e. testimonials, case studies
  • Possess numerous spreadsheets with limitless forecasts and projections of their business into the next millennia

 And just to scare you even more, I read an interesting article about the “Ten Habits of Incompetent Managers”. Point 6 made me laugh.

“Focus on small tasks: Produce the most perfect charts, forecasts and spreadsheets. Always on time and volunteer for projects in which they have no core expertise, i.e. marketing plans, meetings with clients and suppliers, offices reorganisation. Essentially it’s just displacement activity to hide the fact that they can’t do their real job!”

 

For focused marketing which seizes the day and doesn’t waste anyone’s time or money, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

14th August 2017

 

Forget the features – your customers are only interested in the benefits!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageI spend a lot of time reading my clients’ marketing collateral including brochures, adverts, flyers and websites and sometimes I’m shocked by just how much of their copy is dedicated to talking about the features of their product/service, rather than the benefits.

 

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What is a benefit?

Before I continue, let’s just establish the difference. A feature is simply a characteristic of a product or service. Whilst a benefit explains what the customer has to gain by using the product or service. If you are unsure whether your copy is focusing on the right thing and want some help, a handy trick you can use is to add the phrase “which means or so what” to the end of each feature.

 

To illustrate this, here are some great examples of features and benefits of a 4x4 vehicle.

  • Feature - Four wheel drive
  • Benefit - You are less likely to  get stuck in the snow
  • Feature - More miles per litre than competitors
  • Benefit  - You’ll save money on  fuel
  • Feature - Side-impact bars and 6 airbags
  • Benefit - Your family will be safe in an accident

Forget the owner’s manual

And from my point of view as a marketing consultant, marketing with features not only fails to provide the information your target audience really needs to make an informed choice, but it is also boring and in some cases even off-putting. Essentially I like to think that marketing with features is like making your target audience do all the work to figure out how your product or service will benefit them (rather like reading an owner’s manual). When your prospects have to work at making a buying decision, your conversion rates will be low.

 

Answer your customer’s questions

But you can avoid this problem altogether, and market with benefits instead! When you market with benefits instead of features, you answer your customers’ biggest questions, “So what?” and “What’s in it for me?” Below is a list of some common benefits. Think about your product/service and see whether any of the following would work for you?

  • Saves you money
  • Makes you more money
  • Saves you time
  • Reduces effort
  • Makes things faster
  • Eliminates fear
  • Grows their business
  • Is more convenient
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases confidence
  • Creates more opportunities
  • Makes you feel smarter
  • Positions you as an expert
  • Provides more freedom
  • Eliminates frustration or struggle

Now, I’m not saying that you should stop caring about features. You have to know and be able to state the features of your product or service before you can know and be able to state the benefits.

 

What problems will your product or service solve?

What I am saying is that as you plan your marketing and write your sales copy, you have to be able to state benefits in terms that entice your customers with all the problems your product or service is going to solve. Remember, always focus on benefits. Show customers how your product solves their problems or makes their lives better and they’ll line up to buy from you. 

 

For help in establishing your product or service’s features and benefits or for any other marketing help and support, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk 

31st July 2017

 

Rose-tinted marketing glasses!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageRemember those days when all you had was cash and/or a cheque book? There were no debit cards or confusing pin numbers to remember; the only thing you need was sufficient cash and the confidence to ensure that your signature looked the same as the one on your accompanying bank card!

 

 

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And even better, once you made your purchase, you simply left the shop and that was it, transaction effectively over. There was no tradition of following me up by phone, mail or email (ok so there wasn’t email then) and I certainly didn’t need everyone knowing what I was buying so they could endlessly try to sell me more of it or related (and indeed non-related items). Yes technology might be great, but sometimes I find myself actively yearning for simpler times.

 

Post-purchase stalking!

You might find this odd for a marketer but I guess that’s what makes me different. I’ve always liked and respect anonymity and my favourite thing of all is a bit mystery. 

 

So when I buy something from eBay or Amazon I am obviously excited, but these feelings are quickly replaced by something akin to annoyance when the barrage of communications start. And it doesn’t even need you to buy something nowadays, thanks to remarketing/retargeting, activities, you only have to browse a website or click on an item for more information for the marketing police to ask you what you were doing, why you didn’t buy it and to remind you that it’s still available, as if you needed reminding of that fact! And god forbid you put something in your cart and lose interest!

 

Enough is enough

Yes it seems as if technology has taken over our lives and occasionally I want to stand my ground and say no. Enough is enough - I want to be left alone.

I have recently returned from a short break to the Lake District where for the entire time I was there I did not use any debit or credit cards, I just used cash. How liberating was that? For a start I am not on anyone’s database for future marketing purposes, no one knows that I bought a pair of waterproof trousers and wants to sell me the matching jacket and most importantly of all, I feel like I am back in in control of that all important thing that I used to have consumer choice.

 

Respect my privacy!

I know that GDPR will stop some of the companies from sending me endless rubbish that I don’t need and never asked for, as you have to opt in rather than the current data protection laws for opting out. But occasionally, it would be nice for businesses to respect your privacy because it’s the right thing to do, without having to abide by a law saying that they had to.

 

Rant over. Now I’m off out for lunch today with a client, so fingers crossed that in a week’s time I don’t find myself in receipt of a free voucher for a 2 for 1 coffee and cake that has to be taken on the third Wednesday in September between 9am and 10am only and of course forever on their mailing list! 

17th July 2017

 

Are you comfortable being authentic?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageMarketing by its very nature is not known for its authenticity. Let’s face it Persil never made your whites whiter and who voted British Airways the world’s favourite airline? However, nowadays customers are beginning to have more trust in advertising and marketing and as a result are looking for honest and genuine experiences and interactions with brands. It’s worrying therefore to see that some brands are still failing to be true to themselves as they continue to overpromise and under deliver with almost carefree abandon.

 

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What is authenticity?

Authenticity isn’t perfect or safe but it is real. Being authentic means being transparent across all of your marketing channels. And because your audience knows you well, you have to be direct and honest and remove any misleading information. It’s being friendly, forthright and responsive and presenting yourself as a “real” brand in words, in visuals, in advertising and via customer service.  Authenticity allows you to bring value to customers regardless of the method of interaction. It boils down to understanding your customers and understanding what they want and expect from you.

 

Knowing that you will never appeal to everyone is key. Basically take a stand and stick to it. And whilst it’s important to know and listen to your customers, you have to stay true to what your brand stands for (its values and beliefs) and not waver in the face of public pressure!  Marmite has built its entire brand on the idea that its products repulse many people, whilst Apple and Microsoft are similarly divisive, creating loyal and often militant clans.

 

Is your business relevant?

Why is your business relevant? It’s not enough any more to say, “We make the best home-made tomato sauce.” Essentially your customers are all over it and they don’t believe you. They want to know whether your tomato sauce is organic or not, where and how you harvest your tomatoes and the reasons why you love tomato sauce. They also want to find out whether you make it in a massive factory with other brands, or in small batches on your kitchen table in a small farmhouse near the steady flow of a shady river. Of course you’re still selling tomato sauce, but you also need to tell an authentic story that shows passion, pizazz, progress and personality.

 

Live in your own skin

Fakers and those with their ability to trot out perfectly rehearsed and unproven propositions need not apply. Canny consumers can see through your thin veneer of broken promises and stuff that hasn’t and won’t ever add up. So play your authenticity card and live in your own skin, not anyone else’s. Tell your story, don’t retell anyone else’s, and try to cut through the communication clutter. Remember like any story you need to start at the beginning and tell people what you do and why you do it. And true beauty, power and truth in marketing come only when you are honest enough to be yourself!

 

For help in establishing authenticity in your marketing, contact Vicky Boulton at fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

3rd July 2017

 

Want to punch above your weight?!

Fuel Marketing BlogHow much time do we spend trying to make our marketing content interesting? How many hours have we stared at a blank computer screen praying for divine intervention. And why, oh why is it so difficult to write about you/your own business without sounding arrogant or worse still a little vanilla?

 

In 2001 I did a Copywriting Diploma with the Institute of Copywriting and since then I’ve not looked back. Gone is the drivel and meaningless waffle, instead I strive for punchy, relevant and engaging. After all if your target audience only have between 3-7 seconds to work out if what you are offering is for them, then you can’t be offering them a beautiful sonnet, when they would rather have a simple limerick.

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So what’s the secret? Well here are my tips for great results.

  1. Cut the crap – analyse every sentence by asking what does this really mean. If you can’t come up with a suitable answer then remove it.
  2. Be specific – remove jargon, waffle and superfluous words.
  3. Keep it simple - use simple language that tells people exactly what they need to know.
  4. Remove subtleties – tell people exactly what you want them to do.
  5. Give people a reason to listen – if you want people to follow your suggestions, give them something that they want i.e. something for free.
  6. Focus on benefits – remember the most powerful benefits are related to saving money, making money, being free from fear and worry, having a sense of belonging and/or being happy.
  7. Use stories to illustrate your points so your audience can relate to what it is you can provide and how it will help them.
  8. Don’t shy away from customer objections – address them efficiently and prove your value quickly.
  9. Don’t be self-indulgent – less I, we and us and more you and your.
  10. Don’t big yourself up unless you can prove it – truth still has a place in marketing copy.

When you write sales copy, you need to think about your target audience. But you also have to remember who you are and not try to be something that you aren’t.

 

I believe that writing good content comes down to three things: 

 

Be honest
Be yourself
And finally be captivating 

 

Think you can do it? Well give it a go.  If not, don’t be afraid to call in the experts. Vicky from Fuel is a master of words/sentences and paragraphs that work hard for your business, contact her now and reap the results from targeted communications – 07766 566690 or vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

19th June 2017

 

When bad publicity is bad for business!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageThanks to the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” many businesses are ignoring the basic need to check and double check their marketing and communications from every angle. Over the years I’ve witnessed some classic marketing blunders including:

 

- spelling and grammar mistakes

- use of inappropriate names, words or phrases

- wrong choice of image or video

- misleading facts, information or inflated promises

- incorrect pricing

- layout confusion

- confused messaging

- blatant racism, sexism and a raft of other “isms”

 

 

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And now with that all important customer journey starting from a mobile device, rather than more traditional channels, you need to ensure that your brand stands up to increasing scrutiny.

 

However, as a marketer I’m not immune from making mistakes either but with my top five tips below you won’t ever need to make one again! 

  1. Take your time to make sure that names, words, images and channels are suitable for your target audience
  2. Get lots of people, some of whom who are not directly involved in marketing, to proof read and check everything including spelling and grammar
  3. Keep it simple (and easy to understand) to avoid confusing, insulting or alienating your audience and ensure you remain consistent across all channels
  4. Make sure all your staff are informed about what to say and what not to say about the business and/or brand
  5. Be honest, genuine and authentic – basically never say anything that you can’t prove

For marketing help and support so that your brand and/or business stacks up – contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

5th June 2017

 

Are you offering too much choice!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageOne thing I have noticed during my 6+ years in business is the growth of the “And” business“. An “And” business is one where you ask someone what they do and they begin reciting a never ending list of often non-related (non-complimentary) activities punctuated by the word “and”.  

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Not everyone is your target market!

So what are the reasons behind people wanting to offer or do everything? One reason….money. They think that they can reach more customers and make more money by offering more services. But let’s take things back to basics here, and remember that everyone is not your target market. Research will tell you who your customers are and with this marketing nugget you are able to design your service to meet the needs of your customers, effectively putting them first rather than your long list of “me, me, me” reminders.

 

Too much choice can be counter-productive

And whilst many of you are probably nodding your heads in agreement that these “And” business protagonists are infuriating, frustrating and over the top, I want to convey a more serious point here. And that is that giving customers too much choice can be counter-productive.

 

Some people probably think that you can’t have too much choice, well I would disagree.  And so does Guy Kawasaki who said:


“When you give people too many choices, it makes them hesitate and not buy stuff”.

 

Are you damaging your brand?

So why from a marketing perspective is too much choice dangerous for your brand?  Essentially offering too many options causes:

  • Customer confusion
  • A lack of business focus
  • Stress and anxiety (customers are time poor)
  • Diminished levels of satisfaction
  • Customers to make bad decisions
  • A dilution of your brand message meaning customers move away from your USP’s
  • Marketing to be spread too thinly
  • Activities and campaigns to become more costly but less effective

KISS

So my suggestion for businesses is to KISS (keep it simple stupid). And instead of trying to market and sell 7+ different services, follow my easy three step strategy:

1.       Focus on the one thing that you do the best, or the one that is the most unique (or niche) or the one you enjoy the most.

2.       Make that your main service offering and get clients to testify to the quality and effectiveness of this service and the positive nature of their experience.

3.       To increase its attractiveness, wrap it up with a maximum of 1-2 other services that actively complement it.

 

Limit choice, add value

It is more important to be of value than to be successful and here I want to use the Tesco example. A few years ago in response to the growing market shares of Aldi and Lidl, Tesco decided to scrap 30,000 of the 90,000 products they stocked in an average store. At this time they offered 28 different types of tomato ketchups – Aldi had 1 and 224 kinds of air fresheners - Aldi had 12. Once they had undertaken this exercise, their sales started to increase as customers could effectively “see the wood for the trees”.

 

So next time you are brain storming product/service additions or brand extensions, think carefully because unlike Robinsons and their line of fruit squashes, “dilute for best results” does not work for your message, your marketing, your brand or your business.

 

For help in marketing your core capabilities for better results, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

22nd May 2017

 

How well do you know your customers?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageThe success of any marketing activity depends on one thing – customer knowledge and whether you have it or not. Researching your customers is essential to develop a deep understanding and knowledge of them and the market place in which they operate. 

 

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Here are a few suggestions for how this can work:

  1. Survey your current customers – so you can understand why they buy from you, what you do well and perhaps most importantly what you do less well. By using the results, you can fine tune your offering, build customer loyalty and sell more
  2. Profile and categorise your customer database – this enables you to divide your customers into segments in order to find the most profitable, fastest growing etc. You can then focus your resources on segments that yield the greatest opportunities.
  3. Optimise your value propositions – in order to target your communications effectively utilise different messages for different market segments. You will then be able to correctly define your benefits, provide a tailored solution and maximise sales.
  4. Develop and innovate – research enables you to confidently identify and develop new markets, channels, processes, systems and/or products and services. This allows you to stay ahead of the competition, by focusing on profitable opportunities.
  5. Lower your risk – good research means you can plan and prepare for potential changes in the market place or your customer’s expectations. This allows you to increase your business’ chances of survival in a fluctuating environment.

For marketing advice and support, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

8th May 2017

 

Is your business using the right voice and tone?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageVoice and tone are two common buzzwords when it comes to generating the right content in order to market you and your business. They are often thought to be the same thing and as a result seem interchangeable. But they are two different things and the easiest way to explain it is to think of voice as your company’s personality, and tone as your attitude towards your audience.



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Who remembers as a child adults saying “it’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it”? Even then as kids we were being encouraged to think about our tone. In business today, developing your company’s voice and tone is becoming increasingly important, and never more so than when it comes to online marketing.

 

Have you ever read an email, text message, tweet or blog post and it’s as if you can almost “hear” the author talking? Everything you read is created with a very specific tone of voice. When sitting down to create content, whether it is written or visual, it is extremely important to consider what tone of voice your content will convey to your audience. In face-to-face conversation, visual cues like hand gestures, facial expressions and pitch help to convey your tone. Online, all of those non-verbal communicators are lost. All that remains to your readers is tone. The tone of your voice is an essential part of generating online content which becomes worthless if it doesn’t work to communicate the specific message of your brand.

 

“Voice” is something that many online content creators overlook, particular in social media where businesses may have chosen to outsource this function to a specialist company for them to manage it for them. But remember voice is one of the most important pieces for connecting with your customers and essential in manufacturing an online presence. The right voice will show your personality, elicit an emotional response from customers, differentiate you from competitors and help to attract the right customers for your brand.

 

You can have a voice established, but until the tone of that voice is clear to the reader, they won’t know how to interpret it. How your readers choose to interpret your attitude isn’t always up to you, but you can take steps to lead them in the right direction. Your tone can come across in everything from the point of view your content takes, to the visual organisation of a blog post, to how you address your customer.

 

Voice and tone influence your audience in some incredibly important ways. The main power though comes when you are being consistent and can easily evoke strong emotional connections in your target audience, enabling you to achieve:

  1. Enhanced positioning - Establishing your company’s voice and tone sets your brand apart from the competition.
  2. Client appeal – Keeping your voice and tone consistent ensures that your clients become familiar and accepting of your brand.
  3. Prospect Power - Establishing the right tone of voice will help attract people to your brand and keep them coming back.
  4. Avoid audience alienation - If you bore your buyers, you’re effectively alienating them and driving them away from your site. The right tone of voice can ward off boredom and keep buyers interested.

While it might seem intimidating at first to commit to a consistent voice and tone, it can make a real difference in your brand’s relationship with your buyers ensuring repeat business, increased loyalty and of course ensure plenty of referrals too!

 

For help in establishing the right voice and tone of voice for your business, or for any other marketing help and assistance, contact Vicky Boulton at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

24th April 2017

 

The importance of consistency across your marketing channels

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageWhen I start working with a new client, I can never stress enough the importance of channel consistency. There are usually three questions that I am asked when I mention this marketing essential:

 

1. “What’s that?” This is the normal response when it’s mentioned it during our first strategic meeting. So I then carefully explain that whenever someone (clients or prospect) comes into contact with their brand, whether it is via their website, flyer, advert, editorial, brochure, Facebook page and or during a visit to their office, it needs to look similar. Note I say similar and not identical here. What we are looking for is for the basics to be similar enough – colour, logo positioning, images, copy, layout, message, font etc., so that you know as a customer that you are dealing with one business/company.

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2. “Are we ok?"The second question refers to whether they are being consistent or not. Now this can be awkward, as some business just haven’t got it right across all channels and the excuses for why things don’t look similar normally get more imaginative as our conversation progresses. “We’re in the middle of a rebranding exercise”. “We’re experimenting with a new look”. “We don’t want everything to look the same.” Or most frustrating of all. “We like it like it is”

 

3. "Does it matter?"The final question is probably the more important. The quick and simple answer to this is yes. Brand consistency has two massive advantages – professionalism and recognition. With recognition comes familiarity. With familiarity comes trust and confidence. Also, if done correctly, consistency brings clarity and purpose which consumers buy into. They then can become loyal – the perfect client in my opinion!

 

So whilst as a mere marketing consultant I can’t help the “We like it like it is” people, I can help the others. My three step process for helping clients to ensure channel consistency is simple:

  • Review and analysis of all marketing materials across every channel
  • Remove items that do not meet business brand criteria and replace with new items
  • Create brand guidelines which logo usage, typeface, colour palette, tone of voice etc., along with the brand message and positioning

If you want to achieve brand consistency across all of your marketing channels, call or email now – 07766 566690 or vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

10th April 2017

 

Don't show me the money!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageYou can never underestimate the value and implications of honesty in business. And I find myself agreeing 100% with Mary Kay Ash’s quote.

 

“Honesty is the cornerstone of all success, without which confidence and ability to perform shall cease to exist.”

 

And to illustrate a very important point about personal integrity and listening to your client, I want to share a story that happened to me last year.

 

 

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Recently, I was approached by a company to discuss how I could help them with a new marketing initiative they were hoping to launch. During the meeting, it emerged that whilst their idea was a good one, I didn’t feel they were ready to make a start on its implementation. Essentially they hadn’t done sufficient research into their target market to be confident of getting the right results.

 

Be honest

As I have always believed in offering an honest consultancy service, I took the opportunity to share my concerns with them. To say they were surprised was an under-statement. It transpired that I was the third marketing consultant they had approached and neither of the other two companies had felt the need to wave any warning flags. No, my competitors had calmly outlined costs and timelines before advising their availability to kick start the campaign.

 

Needless to say the company loved my honesty and were keen to learn how they could better prepare themselves for the launch of their new marketing initiative. After a lengthy meeting, where I offered just enough information for them to go away and do some work, but not too much that they no longer had need of my services, they said that when they were ready to begin they would let me know and then if I was in agreement they would love the opportunity to work with me. And upon further discussion it come to light that they had thought they were missing something, but were slightly confused that no one, apart from me, had actually had the courage and presence of mind to tell them what it was. To them, my approach was the right one as they felt that they could trust me.

 

Listen first

Therefore, my advice when meeting prospective clients is to not always say “yes I can do that”, “wow, what a great idea” and “when can I start.” Instead try to hold back and listen first. Because as an independent consultant or service provider, your role is to provide the best advice, tailored to your client’s current situation and future goals, regardless of whether you will make any money out of that advice or not.  And your prospective client wants to know that you have understood their strategy, they can trust you and finally that your values match their own so they are able to successfully work with you to deliver tangible results.  

 

Add value

So next time you are at a meeting, don’t think about what’s in it for me now, think about the added value of developing a long-term relationship based on trust. And because this scenario is sensible, it will more than likely earn you more over several years as a professional business partner than you could earn by just delivering a one off project.

 

And finally when your client asks you what exactly you are offering, remember to be:

  • Concise – remove the waffle and make your offering easy to understand
  • Clear – don’t let anything you say be misleading or open to interpretation
  • Relevant – summarise what they need and state how your service will provide a good solution

If you want to find out more about the importance of honesty in your business and how you can inject it into your marketing communications in order to encourage trust, loyalty and success, contact Vicky Boulton on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

27th March 2017

 

What’s in a name?

Fuel Markerting Blog ImageThe name is the foundation of your brand. Once in the market place, your brand name will greatly determine your position in the fight for customers.  Far more than just a series of letters, a successful brand name can help your product survive for a long time if it is able to stand the test of time.

 

 

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But how do you come up with a good brand name?

I always tell people to be careful and do their research when it comes to naming a new brand. Choosing a name is a very personal thing. Anyone who has named their offspring will have gone through a questioning process which could just as reasonably be applied to that of a brand. Some useful things to think about are shown below:

  • Is it a name which will last?
  • Is it a name which is too fashionable?
  • Does it fit your personality?
  • Does it have ‘the right’ connotations? Are the brand values projected - young   and vibrant, large and well established, localised or international, a specialist, etc?
  • Does it produce an acceptable acronym together with the other initials in the name?
  • Is it a name which will be appropriate in all stages of life?
  • Is it easy for everyone to pronounce?
  • Will it be remembered?
  • Will the name get shortened or altered to one that is acceptable?

However there are four things you should remember about brand names:

  1. Brand names should be simple so that they are easy to understand, pronounce and spell. Two words in the name should be considered the maximum.
  2. Brand names should be vivid in imagery so that the mnemonics present strong memory cues. For example, it is said that names beginning with the letter K are easier to remember.
  3. Brand names should be familiar sounding so that much of the information to which the name relates is already stored in the mind.
  4. Brand names should be distinctive so that the word attracts attention and does not become confused with other brands.
  5. It’s all in the translation!

But occasionally there are some great howlers when it comes to the potential translation dangers if the brand is to be used outside the domestic market. An innocuous English name may mean something very different written or spoken in French, German or some other language. To finish, check out the following:

  • Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhoea.”
  • In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into “Schweppes Toilet Water.”
  • Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave,” in Chinese.
  • Ford Motors launched a car under the name “Pinto” in Brazil but it turned out the Pinto in Brazilian mean “small male sex organ” and had to change the name to “Corcel” which means Horse.
  • Rolls Royce 'Silver Mist’ – the name had to be changed in Germany because Mist means 'dung’ or “s**t” in German, they changed the name to Silver Cloud.

If you need help with your brand naming so that it communicates only the right messages about you and your business then contact Vicky Boulton at Fuel

vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk or call 07766 566690.

13th March 2017

 

Why the real value of your business lies in the strength of your client relationships

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageThere was a fantastic article in the Daily Mail a few years ago about a GP in Portsmouth who was retiring after 32 years and the fact that his patients waited up to four hours to say goodbye to him. “Described affectionately as a ‘good old fashioned’ doctor, Dr Richard Hughes was adored for the way he took time to get to know people and talk through their issues - rather than to simply treat patients as 'a number’.

 

His decision to retire from Hanway Medical Practice in Portsmouth, Hampshire, was met with dismay and receptionists were deluged with requests for appointments with the 60-year-old medic just so people could wish him farewell. But staff were unable to fit them all in, so decided to open specially for two hours on a Saturday afternoon to accommodate their requests.”

 

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Wouldn’t we like our clients to do that for us? Wouldn’t it be great to know that what we do is valued so highly that people take the time and trouble to thank us publicly for our efforts? Well creating real customer value is not that difficult. You just need to remember that nurturing relationships with your customers is a crucial part of growing a successful business.

 

Let’s be honest in this age of social media and the internet, an unhappy client can share their thoughts and opinions with the masses and have an almost instant effect on your business. Which is why I believe that it’s essential to create an excellent experience for your clients so that they trust what you say and do and are intensely loyal, and of course they are happy to refer their family and friends too.

 

Walt Disney had it about right when he said: “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

 

And a recent survey backs this up with two key findings:

  • As many as 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.
  • Up to 60% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience.

So here are my top tips to help you create a customer-focused culture that will ensure you stand out from the rest.

  1. Treat your customers’ right (as a value partner) – Genuinely interact and talk as real people in a timely manner with a friendly and personable outlook.
  2. Always listen – Hear what your customers are saying when it comes to surveys, social media, forums, customer service etc. and make visible changes where needed.
  3. Continue to satisfy – Offer ongoing support and offers where needed in the hope of up-selling the customer to buy more. But don’t forget to make sure you know who is responsible for what.
  4. Build trust – Advise your customers about change (good or bad) and make recommendations to them based on knowledge, expertise and an in-depth understanding of their exact needs.
  5. Be transparent – Honesty is crucial when it comes to making mistakes – remember to own up quickly and do everything in your power to make it right.
  6. Don’t over promise and under deliver – always follow up on what you said you would do by when you said you would do it.
  7. Always Say “Thank You” – Kindness and gratitude will make a big difference to how your customers view you and what you do.

For help in making sure that you are creating and offering genuine customer value, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

27th February 2017

 

Building relationship, not getting people to buy from you!

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageImagine if you only ever contacted people in your life when you wanted them to do something for you. I’m guessing that these people wouldn’t be that responsive or that interested in wanting to hear from you for very long.

 

Marketing is the same, if you only make contact with your customers or prospective customers when you want them to buy from you, they will switch off. But develop a communications strategy whereby on a regular basis you engage them in conversation, listen to what they want, give them what they need including advice and support and have a variety of conversations with them over time about a range of topics and you know what, they will want you to stay in touch with them. So if it’s that easy, why are some businesses and brands so good at getting it wrong, particularly in an era of rising costs for customer acquisition?

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The reasons for getting it wrong are too many to list, but most failings have to do with a brand’s lack of understanding about their customers and what they actually need from them in order to solve their own unique set of problems. Other reasons include not listening, failing to respond to a changing market place and of course issues with customer care.

 

As a business owner you have access to lots of information about your customers, but there is often a lack of understanding about how you can use it to increase your knowledge of your customer’s motivations, buying history and behaviours so that you can enhance the relevance of every interaction and improve engagement.

Marketing success today involves understanding customers in every way, from their personality to their emotional drivers and then telling a story that’s relevant to that individual. So you need to:

  1. Communicate frequently and ensure that you have open channels of communication with your customers, highlight that they are your priority and their custom is valued through personal communication.
    Bear your customers in mind when making decisions and ensure that they have positive experiences when dealing with your company.  
    Have open dialogue with customers so you can respond to their changing needs and get feedback to make improvements if required.
  2. Deliver a consistent service and ensure that everyone in the business both understand and delivers high levels of customer care
  3. Reward your customers where possible in order to build loyalty and a good referral network.

So if you want your customers to like what you do, buy from you and talk about you to others then you need to invest in building relationships from the very beginning. Once customers know that you care about them and their personal predicament and that you have the solutions they are looking for, they will become loyal to your business and recommend others to use you as well.

 

For strategic marketing ideas and initiatives that will make a difference to your bottom line and customers who become your sales force, contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

13th February 2017

 

The worst kind of marketing

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageThe absolute worst kind of marketing that you can do is what I have termed “Keeping up with the Jones”. This is where you find out what everyone else is doing marketing-wise, normally your competition, and replicate it in terms of channels, campaigns and content. Also dangerous are the business consultants and coaches who say those immortal words “you know what you need to do”, without taking the time to do their homework into your business, market and industry.

 

This is not the way to do marketing. Every company and every product or service is unique and as such you have a duty of care to take the time to understand what works for you, rather than copying the efforts of others.

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Sound knowledge is essential - do your research

Essential, effective marketing is underpinned by sound knowledge of your market place. Only by knowing exactly what your customers want can you hope to satisfy (or better still delight) them – and possibly even persuade them away from your competitors.

 

Carrying out market research doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Finding the answer to the most basic facts is essential and sometimes a simple conversation with potential customers can be highly revealing. Find out what they think about your products/services and prices, and whether any of their needs are not currently being served. You can also ask them what they think of your brand, your messaging and of course you as a business.

 

But marketing research isn’t just about your market; you also need to find out about your competition. Start by carrying out online search to find out who you are up against, what they offer and how. 

 

Find your target market

Good market research can enable you to find your target market. This is important as you do have the time or the money to appeal to everyone. You need to focus on the needs of specific groups of people (segments) where their needs are not being served or you have the evidence to back up your belief that you can offer them something better than their current providers.


Ongoing marketing success is all about those famous 4 P’s – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. And getting the right combination is key. Alongside this you will also need some strong messages and a unique selling proposition (USP) that is convincing (and honest) enough to sway customers to buy from you and not another supplier.

 

The importance of having a plan

Once you know who you are targeting, when, why and can confirm what benefits you can provide, you are ready to put together a marketing plan. This plan needs to be comprehensive and designed to meet your marketing strategy and any business goals. 


Remember, marketing is not a one-off activity. To reap the long-term rewards you need to do it regularly and consistently. But most of all you need to monitor and review the results and make tweaks accordingly. And finally, because marketing is also organic, you need to be a marketing chameleon and change it quickly when required to do so.

 

For marketing that is tailored to meet your businesses individual needs and requirements contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

30th January 2017

 

All that glitters is not gold!

At a recent networking event, I overheard a colleague comment that Mr X couldn’t be doing very well in his business given the age of his car. Harsh you might say and I would agree, but unfortunately we do business in an increasingly materialistic world where some people judge our success by the location of our offices, make and age of our car, recency of our technology and the designer labels in our clothes.

 

But let me ask you a question, would you trust a financial adviser on commission who drove around in the most expensive BMW and dressed in the latest designer clothes? Or would you like me wonder if you were footing the bill for his exorbitant lifestyle?

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It’s a difficult thing to make sense of really, because not everyone likes to spend their money on the latest car, best clothes or most popular technology. Some of us instead prefer to stick with what we have and let our knowledge, expertise and personality speak for us instead.  And I want to illustrate this point by sharing a story with you. One of my clients drives around in a 15 year old Mercedes, dresses very scruffily and doesn’t own a smart phone. His ability to use technology is frightening but he operates a very successful multi-million pound business and is himself a millionaire. And perhaps most importantly to me, he pays on time and is a delight to do business with.

 

Smoke and mirrors?

My take on this really is that we shouldn’t judge by appearances but yet we still do. And in marketing terms that is dangerous.  Because let’s be honest just because things look fantastic doesn’t mean that they are. For years marketing was known as being fluffy and capable of telling a few white lies, but now it’s finally being taken seriously and that’s ver y much down to the fact that it now be effectively monitored and measured and in most cases can be proved to be instrumental in generating business and maintaining the interest of customers.

 

But with every success comes an amazing fail, who can forget the occasions when the hype overshadowed the reality of a product of services?  I refer here to Google Glass, New Coke, Crystal Pepsi, Apple U2 iPod and the hoverboard!

 

For me it’s all about providing added value, going that extra mile and not showing off shiny new items. So my hints for businesses out there who want to be taken seriously and not judged wrongly, I think that you should adopt the following three principles:

  1. Know your subject matter  inside out and back to front
  2. Make promises you can always keep
  3. Be authentic, honest, genuine and customer friendly
  4. Invest in things that customers notice, appreciate and can benefit from
  5. Make sure that your customers are your greatest advocates

For help in making sure that your business operates and delivers on its customer promises and glitters with success rather than stuff and nonsense contact Vicky at Fuel on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk

16th January 2017

 

 

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