How fresh is your content?

Fuel Marketing - blog imageIn a world where nothing stays static for long, your website copy and its messaging can be out of date in a matter of weeks or months. In this time, your business has probably evolved, your target audience has moved on, and you can be sure that your competition is trying to find new and dynamic ways of engaging with their prospective customers and ensuring that they return to their websites on a regular basis.

 

So why with clever and easy to use content management systems (CMS), are some businesses still failing to grasp the concept of regular website content updates?

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Bring in a content specialist

As a marketer I understand the concept surrounding regular updates and making sure that your content is customer focused. Search engines typically adopt the position that new, fresh content is better for their users and this is what companies like Google are looking to offer their users – a fresh and top quality experience. By providing up to date information and relevant content, provided by authoritative websites they can ensure that users are getting the most benefit from the results pages that they display.

 

Keywords

The more content you add, the more keywords will be included on your website. The days of keyword stuffing pages are long gone and businesses should now be looking to add new content regularly in order to attract highly targeted visitors thanks to the large amount of long tail keywords that are introduced to your website. Remember to write natural, but by all means, look to include your most important keywords in unique phrases.

 

Relevancy

In a world where business owner's heads are turned by SEO, pay per click advertising, Google AdWords and a realm of other online advertising options, I think that for sheer price competitiveness and ease, that getting fresh and relevant on your website quickly and easily is the way to go. Here are a few suggestions for how to do that:

 

·         Start writing a blog – make sure your blog is hosted on your website

·         Use social media channels including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to point people to your blog (website)

·         Ask for comments on your blog or other articles in order to encourage online engagement

·         Add more menu pages

·         Develop a resources section and write top tips or whitepapers for your specialist area. Ensure these can be downloaded by website visitors.

·         Develop a news section and include in it press releases and details on special offers, a forthcoming event, changes in policy, employment opportunities or            staff announcement or changes.

·         Respond to topical news items, with your views and or your company policy on it

·         Add images or video clips

·         Add testimonials and/or case studies

 

By regularly updating your website content, your customers always have up to date information regarding your business. In keeping the information up to date, you will also be helping your SEO. I offer a free 1 hour website content review service. At the end of this, you will have some ideas for how to improve your site to benefit your business.

 

3rd January 2020

 

The toll of the bland, brand, band wagon!

Fuel Marketing - blog imageBrands are really knocking themselves out recently to be our heroes as well as saviours of our sanity and our purchasing conscience, or so it seems.

 

With carefully crafted imagery and messaging to appeal to our beliefs and allay our worries and fears, i.e. diet, wellbeing, environment, inequality, culture, mental health, hacking/cyber-security, privacy, fairness etc., it’s become commonplace to see a brand bragging about a plethora of benefits. 50% less sugar or salt, no artificial additives, 100% natural, ethically sourced, locally produced, consciously made, or the fact that it’s constructed from recycled materials, completely secure or produced in the UK.

 

The disease to please

Now as a consumer this is obviously relevant. But really if I’m being honest, I am finding it all a little smug, hollow, contrived, hypocritical and self-righteous. With life currently conspiring on every front to be challenging, coupled with an overwhelming choice of everything, what I really want from a brand is something entirely different.

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Typically, marketing campaigns nowadays feel like a cross between scaremongering and the actions of an over-enthusiastic puppy! So to avoid being lost in the marketing sea of sameness, please can you think about making some changes!

 

Mystery and suprise

I want a brand to be brave, creative, innovative and appealing. I want something that will make me sit up and take notice, not have me nodding my head in agreement at their “right on” values. I need a brand to be authentic, but I also want a dash of mystery and perhaps a surprise. Essentially, what I am asking for is a return to the nineties, when branding and marketing was fun!

 

Find your own rhythm!

Currently, I find myself getting weary of businesses whose scruples have been pricked by world events and feel the need to trot out unoriginal promises, guarantee and meaningless waffle to ensnare us.  Of course I can see why they are doing it – I am a marketer after all – but just for one day, how refreshing would it be to see some big names refusing to ride on the bandwagon of sameness and instead being bold enough to stand out from the crowd and beat out their own rhythm!?

 

Bring back some fun!

Brands – take note. We are not sheep; we like to be treated as individuals. I can’t save the planet, my health, my sanity and everyone else single-handedly and neither can you!

 

So, I ask you to cut me and yourself some slack. Think of the reasons why we buy anything – desire or fear - and then reimagine your proposition, before being a little bit cheeky and adding in a huge dollop of brilliance and enjoyment!

30th September 2019

 

Sharing values builds strong relationships

Fuel Marketing - blog imageAt a recent networking event, we were asked to discuss how we thought we could get the most from prospect meetings. Whilst the usual points about research, listening, understanding and follow up were raised, I decided to input my own thoughts by saying that having shared values was the most important thing to me when meeting a prospect. Some people in the group looked a little confused, so let me explain what is key about shared values in business relationships.

 

To ensure that you get what I mean, I’m not talking about shared interests. So whilst I agree that it’s lovely to work with someone who enjoys the same hobbies and activities as you, if your fundamental beliefs and value systems are similar, your relationship has a greater propensity for success.

 

What are core values?

Our core values affect all the decisions and choices that we make in life, including religion, political believes, career choices, lifestyle, attitudes etc. Essentially we all make decisions based on what feels ‘right’ to us. It’s an inner feeling, sometimes termed a gut feeling, so when you go along with something that doesn’t fit with your core values, you will feel uncomfortable and unhappy. 

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Our core values can change over time, as we grow and learn more about what’s important to us as individuals,  but it’s unlikely that anyone will be happy in a relationship (business or otherwise) with someone whose core values conflict with their own. Occasionally you may decide that for a certain person it’s worth changing, but unless you can find a way to make it suit your own values then it’s unlikely that you will feel authentic within the relationship – you will feel compromised.

 

What are your values?

Many people aren’t very clear about what their values are. They don’t know that they feel strongly about something until it’s threatened. It’s important to spend some time getting to know yourself and what’s important to you if you are going to find a client with similar values and beliefs to your own. But don’t forget that over time and according to what life stage you are at, your values will change. And whilst having a lot in common is fine, you might find yourself unhappy about a prospect’s negative view on something that you are passionate about. When this happens, do not fight it, withdraw gracefully and find someone else whose beliefs/values more closely match your own.

 

Value matching example

To bring this home I want to share a prospect meeting story with you. This happened to me many years ago. I was arranging a meeting with a prospective client in a local town to me. They were not from the area but having talked to them on the phone, I had found out as much as I could about them, including some information about their business/personal values. To this end, I confirmed that we would meet at an accessible local hotel, where I knew that all hot drinks were free (and you could help yourself to as many as you wanted), there were also comfy sofas, private areas of the lounge to talk, friendly and non-intrusive staff and plenty of free parking. The meeting duly went ahead and a proposal from me to them followed by email. A week later I was offered the work. On asking why they had chosen me as opposed to the other marketing companies they met on the same day, they confessed that they liked the fact that I took them to a venue which had everything they liked and offered free refreshments, as this matched their careful and considered attitude to spending money.  And it will probably come as no surprise to learn, that they are still my client.

 

Essentially successful working relationships are the ones with people who connect at a deeper level. And despite changes along the way, they are still in tune with each other as they are joined by their shared values/beliefs. If you need help to establish and communicate effectively your values and beliefs and those of your brand, then get in touch.

 

20th August 2019

 

What's your brand message?

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 it 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!

7th August 2019

 

Integrated marketing – are you channel-centric or customer-centric?

Fuel Marketing - blog imageOften in client meetings I am asked the dreaded loaded question. “In your opinion, which marketing channel will work best for us?” Now I always try to be careful with my answer, because sometimes people have been told that one channel marketing, usually involving online stuff with plenty of social media input, is the answer, whereas in my experience I know that no one channel has all the answers.

 

Every marketing channel has merit in its own right and no channel is better than another. What makes this world interesting is that you cannot find two people alike, meaning that no two people respond to different channels in the exact same manner. The key to attaining optimal results is to promote your brand, product, or service across a host of different channels that work together cohesively to get your message across.

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That’s called integrated marketing and you will find that success comes into play when you use one channel to optimise another in an effort to create a marketing campaign that works together to generate a positive brand image. For example, I write an online weekly blog – the one you are reading right now. I put this blog on my website but strangely enough no one knows it’s there. So I use Twitter, LinkedIn and email marketing to let people know what it is and where it is. I also ask my lovely and obliging business partners to put it on their websites too.  As you can see here, I am using other channels to publicise my blog.

 

One size does not suit all!

 

Obviously some channels work better for certain products, services and industries, and essentially what we are all looking for is the one which brings in the most leads, orders, customers as well as having the highest return on investment. But if you accept that it takes a minimum of seven points of contact (touch points with your brand) for prospects to be aware of you, let alone want to buy from you, and that people respond to different triggers via different channels, then you can see the importance of covering all the bases.

 

When I put together marketing campaigns for clients, I study their industry, undertake comprehensive client, market and competitor research, leverage their budget and then design a multi-faceted strategy that will raise brand awareness, create trust and loyalty and promote engagement An average campaign tends to involve direct mail, email, telemarketing, advertising, PR, website social media and networking all delivered in a timely and targeted manner with strong calls to action.

 

Putting customers at the heart of everything you do!

 

However, as business owners you need to know that things are once again on the change and now I am finding that being channel-centric is not the answer – the only way to be in order to achieve success is to be customer-centric. Being customer-centric is by definition cross-channel and increasingly channel-agnostic. Obviously, we still need to understand the specifics of various marketing tactics and channels but its increasingly obvious that it’s now longer a good use of time or resources to put all of our marketing into appropriately labelled silos.

 

When it boils down to optimising conversion rates regardless of the channels, there is one thing that matters: consistency and relevance across all touch points. To achieve that and maintain value we must look at every interaction a (prospective) customer has with our brand both online and offline. It is only by looking at each single touch point, direct and indirect, that we can succeed in offering great experiences and, doing so, achieving best conversion possible.

 

Don't rush

 

What we all need to understand is the following. We don’t matter. Our messages don’t matter. Our channels don’t matter. Relevance is in the eye of the beholder. And we’re not the beholder.  But remember it takes time to achieve the perfect customer-centric brand– so take your time and use the channels wisely. Always monitor and measure what you do and once you have some useful statistics and feedback, you can revise what you do, spend less money, be more targeted and of course get better results.

 

23rd July 2019

 

How agile is your business?

Fuel Marketing - blog imageThe key to business success lies in the ability to respond quickly to changes in the business environment, whilst remaining cost efficient and embracing innovation and technology. In today’s highly competitive market place, it is critical for all business owners to remain flexible, so they can move and adapt, as well as actively encouraging a culture of entrepreneurship and innovative thinking.

 

Agility over perfection

 

We all know that the early bird catches the worm, but now more than ever before, we are seeing a scenario where agility is winning over perfection. Whilst browsing on the internet I read the following quote from movie maker John Lasseter at Pixar, which made me think.

 

“We don't actually finish our films, we release them."

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What Lasseter is saying is that your company, product or service will never be finished and will never be what you would consider to be "perfect." So instead of beating yourself up, increasing numbers of companies are simply launching their offering as it is (90% perfect rather than 100% perfect) and are often able to gain a major advantage. They are doing this because they understand that there is no way to know every flaw, bug or feature request until they actually get their product/service in the hands of their intended customers.

 

Good enough?!

 

Whilst some of us might balk at the idea of launching something that is not 100% perfect, it’s worth remembering that there are some advantages. And whilst there are certain services that I wouldn’t want to compromise perfection on – MOT, heart surgery etc., there are without doubt some interesting reasons why being agile in business may present some interesting opportunities.

 

  1. Clear advantage over your competitors – when you launch something new quickly, you have an immediate advantage over your competitors who may still be at the testing or trialling stage. And whilst they are trying to achieve imaginary perfection, your company is achieving real sales and real market share.
  2. Time vs. perfection – if it took you 19 months to release the perfect product, you need to remember that a lot can change in that time, including customer demands and competitor behaviour. By being agile, you can set smaller, short-term deadlines that reduce the chances that your market will shift too sharply on you.
  3. What’s perfection anyway? – You will never know if your product or service is perfect until you get it into the hands of your customers, and even then some of the features that you spent months agonising over may never actually be used.
  4. It boosts your employees – Being an agile company means that your employees get the chance to work on different projects and have the invaluable experience of launching new features. It reduces the rates of burnout that can come from months of working on the same project with nothing to show for it.
  5. It energises your customers - Customers get excited about new features, new versions and new product development. It gives them something to talk about and keeps your company at the forefront of their mind.

 

So next time you are wondering whether your latest product or service is good enough, why don’t you do what the big brands are doing and launch it anyway?

8th July 2019

 

Good communications start from the inside!

Fuel Marketing - blog imageIt’s worth remembering that whilst your customers see and benefit from the results of your external communications, for complete business success you must not forget or forgo efficient and effective internal communications too.

 

Effective internal communication is essential for the smooth running of any business, both to convey your company culture and values and to stay on top of employee concerns. It is also one of the key intangible factors leading to high performance.

 

Where communications work well within an organisation, you'll find that frontline staff are empowered to deal with issues as and when they arise giving the customer a quicker response time and a much better experience. It makes excellent financial as well as business sense to resolve any customer query at the earliest possible point.

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To illustrate this point clearly, I recently had a meeting with a prospect. The prospect company had four offices and at the meeting was a representative from each office. As we worked our way down the agenda it became clear that each office were doing things slightly differently when it came to the handling and implementation of internal communications. The result, as I am sure you can appreciate, was very disorganised. Because as we all know, internal communications need to come from the top down, not the bottom up.

 

Open, honest and consistent dialogue

Internal communications can take many forms, via an intranet, emails, newsletters or message boards. But when it comes to important issues, it should always be two-way, preferably face-to-face. Monthly company-wide meetings can be a good way of keeping everyone up to date with what's going on in each department to ensure that all important consistency.  Success comes from an open, honest, consistent dialogue throughout the organisation where opinions and ideas are listened to and valued.

 

Every internal communications programme will be different. It will reflect the unique set of circumstances faced by each business. For the successful implementation of an effective internal communications strategy, you need to follow the seven steps below:   

 

1) Align your internal communications with your business objectives      

2) Audit your current activity      

3) Clearly define roles and responsibilities            

4) Select the appropriate communication channels          

5) Listen, listen and listen again

6) Develop honest and consistent communications          

7) Invest in training

 

Is your business ready?

All organisations use different mechanisms to communicate internally. The challenge is to ensure that what you communicate is closely aligned to your business objectives and that how you communicate can be easily heard so that your staff are engaged, motivated and prepared for the changes, challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Capturing and listening to feedback both formal and informal can have a hugely positive impact on culture and performance and can help take your organisation from good to great.

24th June 2019

 

How good is your marketing choreography?

Fuel Marketing - blog imageGood marketing is not made up of any one single activity, but a series of well thought out, complimentary and connected tasks.

 

Perfect marketing should resemble a well-choreographed musical number where planning, consistency, people, content, enthusiasm, communication and timing all come into play. And despite some people’s rather vocal thoughts, marketing really isn’t just advertising or social media, it’s so much more including:

 

- Direct Mail

- Telemarketing

- Digital (website/emarketing/SEO/PPC)

- PR

- Content (blogs/articles/editorials)

- Events

- Campaigns

- Networking

- Referrals

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So when marketing goes wrong, and it does, there are often quite clear reasons why it has happened.

 

Below are the 15 main reasons why I think that marketing can fail.

 

  1. No strategy or plan in place
  2. Insufficient or unrealistic budgeting
  3. Lack of clarity about target audience
  4. Brand inconsistency
  5. Overcomplicating the message and the content
  6. Doing what you’ve done before without evidence of success
  7. Using one or too few channels so marketing is not fully integrated
  8. Too much focus on features and not enough on benefits
  9. Overpromising and under-delivering
  10. Getting swayed by new opportunities, channels and tactics so forget what actually works
  11. Undervaluing the importance of current customers
  12. Lack of business agility to respond to change
  13. Delivering on price rather than value
  14. Lack of accurate monitoring and measurement
  15. Expecting instant results

 

If you want marketing success, you need to make sure that you do your homework and put as much effort and resource behind marketing, as you would behind any sales or business generating activity. Because when marketing is done well, it can make all the difference to you, your staff and your business.

11th June 2019

 

Manners cost nothing!

Fuel Marketing - Blog Image“No matter who you are and what you do, your manners will have a direct impact on your professional and social success.” - Anonymous

 

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Emily Post

 

As a child of the 1970’s, and with strict parents, manners and common courtesies were drilled into me from an early age. Respect your elders; never tell lies; help people when you can; do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it; don’t let people down; always apologise when something is your fault and finally remember to say please and thank you when appropriate. And like all of these things, once you know how to behave, you think that everyone else will follow suit.

 

Well two incidents in recent weeks have made me wonder exactly what’s happening with the rest of the world and whether I am an exception rather than the rule.

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You don’t call, you don’t write

Take the first example. I refer my client to use the services of a company that I have met and networked with for years. The client buys from them and thanks me for the referral, whilst the company who got the work have not even had the good grace to call or drop me an email saying thank you.

 

Do as I say, not as I do

The second example refers to a proposal I recently submitted for some work. When following up with the prospect they said that they needed another quote for comparison purposes but were going to make a quick decision so would be in touch in the next two weeks. Well it’s week four and still nothing from them, despite a friendly chaser.

 

Now some people amongst you might say that’s forgetfulness rather than rudeness but to me this two incidences say more to me about them and their businesses. In fact in light of these behaviours, I will change the way I do business. I won’t referrer any business to the company in the first example and if/when the organisation in the second example makes a decision, I will turn it down if I win the work - particularly as they were keen to point out to me the importance of keeping their clients informed every step of the way.

 

Relationships and trust

Making promises you have no intention of keeping and/or forgetting to say thank you are not exactly the worst things people could do, but in my line of work where it’s all about relationships and developing trust, manners really do matter and let’s face it they are free!

 

But I think what is more frightening is the fact that when I told a few people about these lapses in manners and general business etiquette, the people I told came right back at me with their own stories which in some cases were far, far worse than my own.

 

Treating people how you wish to be treated has always been my mantra. So next time you come across a display of bad manners ask yourself if this is something that you are willing to put up with or not?! Remember we are all consumers and there are individuals and organisations out there that are a sheer pleasure to do business with.

 

For marketing with manners, get in touch and let's see if we can help each other's businesses to grow.

28th May 2019

 

 

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