Digital Strategy

Why Tough Times Can Be Good For Smart Marketers

5 ways you can come out of tough times a bigger, better brand than your competitors.

We’re now firmly in the middle of unpredictable external economic factors. It’s time to give focus and quality attention to the areas we can control to ensure we’re planning for future success. Smart marketers can outperform their competitors and lay a strong platform for growth if they learn from the lessons of the past.

According to Harvard Business School’s John Quelch, marketing driven companies can learn from the lessons of the past and realise that when the going gets tough the tough get going – in a marketing sense.

So, do we pull back or push forward?

Here are the top 5 ways to come out the other side of the current ‘tough times’ in a much better position than you may be now – and certainly better than your competitors who may take the ‘retreat’ option:

  1. Don’t invest less on marketing – just invest smarter.

This is not the time to cut marketing. It is well documented that brands who maintain (some even increase) their marketing during a recession – when naive competitors are cutting back – can increase market share and their return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times.

Take a good hard look and an unemotional assessment of your planned marketing budget. Make a list of the mandatory and proven ‘must haves’ and the less compelling ‘nice to haves’. Then ask yourself “what if we dropped the ‘nice to haves and added that budget to the ‘must haves”?

Without reducing your marketing spending you can improve the yield and effectiveness of your marketing by concentrating your efforts in the areas of known (marketing) productivity. Even better, your more ‘panic stricken’ competitors will more than likely ‘cut’ their budgets so you get a double whammy marketing effect by being more judiciously focused.

An added benefit is that you may find yourself in a stronger negotiating position when dealing with media, printers and other marketing suppliers who will be keener than ever to win your business and bank your revenue.

  1. Get close to your customers – they too want reassurance.

During recessionary or tough times, customers are more likely to postpone purchases, trade down to a lesser quality, or simply buy less. The ‘must-have’ features of yesterday’s good times are today’s ‘can-do-withouts’.

Talk to your customers about providing testimonials or developing case studies that demonstrate their importance to you. It’s important to remember that your customers are also feeling the tougher times, so offer them a reward for their custom, discount the price slightly in recognition of their on-going support or better still, find ways to ‘bundle’ your product or offer to them in order to provide them with better value in return for a larger sales transaction.

And make sure the offer is seen as ‘specially’ prepared for them and based on the ‘past partnership’ and their loyalty.

You might even consider a direct sales campaign that offers these loyal customers rewards (ie: lower prices, bonus product) for any introduction to a ‘new’ customer that results in a sale to you.

  1. Focus on your core customers.

These are your most precious tangible (marketing) asset and you need to nurture them through these times. But remember, they’re going through the same tough times also and are facing similar financial and operating pressures.

Find ways to get even closer and how you might be able to assist them even more. Brainstorm with your team ways that you might further demonstrate your appreciation and how to build an even stronger relationship with them. Deferred payments, improved ‘fast-track’ delivery, better terms, bonus ‘added values’, tiered discounts etc.

Importantly play the game of ‘the other team’ – think like your competitor ie: If you were your competitor what offer or approach might you make to this customer that light lure them away from your company? This may well provide you with what you need to do to ensure they stay your customer.

To simply continue to do what you’ve always done for these customers may not be enough when the going gets tough. Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of different results.

There is no worse inquisition in business than the ‘if only we had done XYZ they wouldn’t have left us!

  1. Reassess your pricing tactics.

Don’t deceive yourself. Even the most loyal of customers will become promiscuous during tough times. Make no mistake they will be shopping around for the best deals – not necessarily the lowest price.

This doesn’t mean you have to cut your prices, but you may want to offer more temporary price promotions, implement quantity discounts, extend credit to long-standing customers, create ‘bundled services’ or ‘buy two and save even more’ type of pricing tactics.

Importantly, look outside your industry or category to see what pricing tactics other marketers are deploying in their respective categories – ask yourself how you might adapt similar tactics?

  1. Reinforce your core values.

Reinforce in your marketing the core capabilities and values that have got your company to where it is today. In tough times like these, companies (just like people) need reinforcement that “even though the economy is toughening up” some things never change.

Don’t scare or frighten your customer by showing signs of panic. Especially don’t (visibly) cut corners in any way, shape or fashion that a customer might perceive you to be ‘reducing your service’. At times such as these your current customer base is paramount and your service and core values (customer support, warranty, on-time delivery) may be the very reasons that a customer feels reassured and comfortable – and stays with you.

Deploying the above strategies and uniting your marketing and sales (and admin) teams across the board to emerge stronger than others will place your company or organisation at a distinct advantage when the current cyclical climate is over.

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Digital Strategy

The Science Behind Logos

Here’s the well researched reason behind every logo colour.

Have you even wondered why Mars bars are wrapped in black, the Facebook logo is blue or why Coke, Kmart and Canon are coloured in red?

The reason particular colours are used in branding is because colours actually affect our purchasing decisions by triggering certain emotions and associations.

Black is definite, powerful and credible. Blue is calming, clean and trusted. Red is youthful, bold and confident.

The Logo Company recently delved a little further into the science behind logos and identified exactly what the response to each colour is. Check out this infographic they compiled from their findings.

Another marketing metrics researcher KISSmetrics delved a bit deeper to identify the male and female responses to each colour.

They found that women love blues, purples and greens, but oranges, browns and greys just don’t do it for them.

For men the big turn ons were again blues and greens, as well as black, while the most hated colours were brown, orange and purple.

Related: The Small Business Tattoo Branding Employees

Looking at the common ground on brown and orange, it’s no wonder so few consumer brands are painted these colours.

So what’s a logo to do if the business wants to win a bit of everyone’s business? Try a bit of everything. Think about Google, eBay and Microsoft – they’ve all got a swatch of colours in their logos to appease all comers.

But before you assume every brand is driven by these principles, you should know there are some that are just down to an old fashioned owner’s aesthetics.

Like Facebook, which is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. Blue’s just the colour he sees the best.

 

Digital Strategy, SEO & SEM

The Rise And Rise Of Local Search

It’s getting a shed-load of traction… Here’s how to make it work for you.

In the past two months we’ve noticed that businesses that rank well in local search results are gaining an unusually high volume of enquiries from customers on mobile devices. It’s not just a percentage or two higher – it’s huge.

So is it good fortune? No. It’s all to do with the recent move by search engines to interpret your intention when you search.

What’s your intention?

These days, search engines understand that there are three types of searches:

  • Navigational queries
  • Informational queries
  • Transactional queries

Navigational queries are searches carried out to find a particular website or webpage. For example, you might search “Kochie’s Business Builders” to find this website.

Informational queries are searches carried out to find particular information. For example, you might search “when was the Sydney Harbour bridge opened” to find your answer (the answer is 1932 by the way).

Transaction queries are searches that indicate intent to complete a transaction, such as making a purchase. Transactional search queries may include brand or product names, may be generic (like “24 hour plumber Geelong”) or may actually include terms like “buy” and “order”.

Mobile signals a different intention

So, how does a search engine determine the intention of your search? Simply put, it uses all of the information at its disposal to take a best guess.

In the early days, it was all about semantics – looking at the words you typed in to your query. But more recently, search engines have been able to draw on a host of other data, and have been able to customise results based on your assumed intention.

As an example of how this works, let’s consider a person who searches “pizza”.

Searching from a desktop, algorithms interpret this as an informational search – that is, a person who types ‘pizza’ is likely to be looking for information about pizzas – how they’re made, their common ingredients, how many calories, etc.

Consequently, the results returned are generic and informational, including results such as Wikipedia.

Searching from a mobile device, Google has started making the assumption that this is likely to be a transactional search – that is, that the person is likely to be looking for a nearby pizza restaurant.

And so, using the GPS location information from the mobile phone to pinpoint the location, they’re showing local business listings of nearby businesses. If you’re a business with a local listing, this is gold dust!

Taking advantage of the situation

So how can your business take advantage?

Aside from investing in professional search engine optimisation, there are three main areas you can work on to gain visibility in this space.

LIST ON GOOGLE PLACES

If you’ve never heard if Google Places (AKA Google Plus), you absolutely need to get on it now. It’s a free service that acts as an online directory, giving customers simple, valuable information about your business.

It’s also the basis of Google’s local business listings, and the key to taking advantage of the current situation.

EMPHASISE YOUR LOCATION ON YOUR WEBSITE

In the past, your products and services were the critical factors to highlight on your website; well, certainly from search engine optimisation point of view. Whilst they’re still the biggest factors, we’re now seeing value in increasing the prominence of location information on your website.

By including and optimising your location information on your website (preferably on more than one page) you give yourself a head start on local search listings.

ENSURE CONSISTENT INFORMATION ACROSS THE WEB

If you’re building your online presence, there is one major factor to get correct right at the start: ensure that all business details you plan to use are clear, correct, and consistent.

To determine whether yours is a trusted local business, search engines are cross-referencing information from many sources (including your own website, local directories, yellow pages, and many more).

Ensuring that the information is consistent is a strong signal to the search engines that your business is established, and trusted, and worthy of displaying in the search engine results.

With a prominent local search listing, you could be one of those ‘lucky’ businesses gaining a high volume of enquiries from customers on mobile devices.

Digital Strategy

Facebook Loosens The Reins On Promotions

Just don’t forget the legals.

In what will be seen as a welcome move by many who run online promotions, Facebook has done away with the requirement that promotions and contests can only be administered within 3rd party apps.

Its updated rules allow businesses to run promotions and competitions on their Facebook page’s Timeline, with no requirement for an app.

While Facebook was built on the ability to tag and like things, when it came to promotions, that was a big no go area. They didn’t want you using ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘tags’ and ‘wall posts’ – and if you broke the rules, they could take down your page. To run a promotion, you had to use a 3rd party app – until now.

Yes, Facebook may have loosened the rules, but the Permit Authorities certainly haven’t so it’s important that brands and companies remain diligent or they run the risk of facing huge problems and perhaps even larger legal battles.

What’s changed?

Now you have a choice. You can administer promotions on page Timelines or in apps on your business Facebook page.

You can collect entries by having users post on the page, comment on or like a post, message the page. You can now use ‘likes’ as your voting mechanism.

Something else that is new is that you can pay Facebook to promote your competitions. Now that you can create competitions based around a post, you can pay Facebook to “boost it” like you can with any other post.

You can’t run promotions on personal Timelines though, and Facebook also prohibits tagging or encouraging people to tag themselves in content that they are not actually depicted in, in order to win a prize.

What does it all mean?

Facebook says the change is all about “making it easier for businesses of all sizes to create and administer promotions” on Facebook.

Will it?

The change will certainly help small businesses in particular, making it easier to host promotions.

It will be faster and simpler to get a competition or promotion up and running because you won’t have to wait on a designer or developer to create an app for you. That means nimble brands will be able to respond quickly to trends and opportunities.

There is a trade-off though – Timeline promotions limit the amount of data you can collect to use beyond Facebook in other marketing initiatives.

Drawing Facebook ‘likes’ and comments are great, but being able to leverage intelligence from your Facebook audience in broader promotions and marketing initiatives is where apps will still deliver an added benefit.

Another plus of the update is your promotions can now reach a bigger audience – but that also could come with an unwanted side effect. The bigger and broader the audience you reach, the greater the chance of exposing your business and brand to negative and damaging comments. I suggest you have a plan to deal with this.

So, while there is more freedom, before you rush out and start running promotions on Facebook, make sure you have considered the legal aspects such as Terms and Conditions and Permits, etc.

If you are running chance to win promotions, for example, you are governed by State Lottery and Permit Boards nationally and you need to comply with their strict rules and regulations. And Terms and Conditions are required for all promotions whether they are game of skill or game of chance.

It is important to keep across Facebook’s changes relating to promotions but it is also vital to keep abreast of the legal requirements as they go hand in hand when running online promotions.

Digital Strategy, Marketing Management

How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand

Your personal brand is the biggest investment you’ll make.

It’s who you are and what you stand for as well as the reputation you have (or want). The best brands are always re-inventing themselves, so developing a personal brand shouldn’t be a one-off assessment. Here are some of our tips on creating a strong personal brand:

Know yourself

Really take the time to sit down and figure out your strengths and weaknesses, what it is you do (or will do) and who your target audience will be.

Think of the service you will offer and how it will stand out. How do you want people to think of you and your brand? What’s your personal appeal, are you organised, fun, professional, driven? What is it that makes you stand out from your competitors?

Your brand is what you represent, so make it strong, authentic and memorable.

Set goals

Like anything, there’s no point investing in it if there aren’t evolving goals and benchmarks to reach. No one’s an expert from the beginning, and you’ll be learning a lot along the way, so make the goals realistic, achievable and measurable.

Your brand needs to stay fresh and grow over time, just like you do. It’s also something you have control over – think about professional development to increase your expertise and have a strong style in how you go about communicating.

Have an online presence

This is a no-brainer. With information about you a click away, google is the first place employers or customers will look to find your personal brand. Google search yourself to see what online presence you currently have.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin or a blog (or hopefully all of these), make sure that there’s a strong online presence. Be an active Twitter user. This means tweeting at least five times a day, interacting with others and posting things of value – links, pictures, blogs and other websites. That said, make everything you do online relevant. Hourly tweets that have no substance will add nothing of value to your brand and will only clog up your follower’s news feeds.

Be consistent

Make sure that everything is consistent. Use the same font, graphics and logos on all of your communication streams – the biggest brands have a stand-out font or colour on all of their branding. Think Tiffany’s blue, the McDonald’s arches and the classic Coca-Cola red.

Your personal brand might not be a multinational billion dollar company just yet, but there’s no reason it can’t be. Just ask Richard Branson.

Get people talking

In a good way, of course! Whatever marketing or PR strategies you use, make sure that they’re working and that there is something of worth in what people are saying about you and your brand. Take press opportunities when they arise and network wherever possible.

When your name is mentioned, you want people to know what it is you’re about. Think Oprah Winfrey, Rachel Zoe or Donald Trump.

It’s crucial to build trust and authenticity, and these can be pretty strongly supported by consistent results.

Creating a strong personal brand gives you the chance to manage your own reputation. Without making everything sound like a sales pitch, it should reinforce what you stand for and who you are.

Digital Strategy, Marketing Management

Big Marketing On A Small Budget

Startups and small business owners don’t have huge marketing budgets. This doesn’t mean their reach is limited.

Startups and small business owners usually don’t have huge marketing budgets, but this doesn’t mean their reach is limited. Read these quick tips to ensure your business really is reaching its full marketing potential.

Blog

There are a surprising number of businesses that started out as a blog. It’s free to set up, and as long as you’re posting relevant things regularly, blogs are a great marketing tool. A lot of online stores have a connected blog, so customers can see what’s happening and stay up-to-date with the business.

Post on other people’s blogs, reply to comments on your blog and make it as interactive as you can. Ask other blogs in the industry if you can write a few articles for them. People love free information.

You don’t need a massive marketing budget to do this – in fact, it won’t set you back a cent. Remember that convincing content and snappy syntax will win every time.

Customers

These people are your most effective marketers. In a world where competition is fierce and the market is crowded, a word-of-mouth recommendation can be worth more than gold. People take recommendations from friends and family seriously , so get your business mentioned. For the right reasons!

It doesn’t always have to be word-of-mouth though. If a customer has a great experience, ask them to post a link to your business on Facebook, tweet about it, or share it on their blog. There are also sites like True Local, where they can write reviews. Give them easy steps to follow to be able to do this.

Website

If you have a website (and you really really should), make sure it’s in good order and can be navigated easily. Most of all though, make sure it can be found. Search engine optimisation is the key here.

Google will usually be the first place potential customers look for your business, so you need to rank highly on it so you can get more visitors to your website.You can learn to do this yourself – there is lots of basic SEO information and education available for free.

Go Local

Getting involved in the local community is an important tactic to meet people and get the business name out there. Cross-promoting with other local merchants and attending networking events is really important for potential customers to put a face to the business name.

If it’s possible, donating your products or services to certain charitable events or sponsoring local sports teams is also a great way to get your name into the community.

Public Relations

You don’t need an exxy PR professional to write press releases if you’re just starting out. Every time your business does something new, write about it yourself, put it on your blog, and send it to local newspapers, websites and email mailing lists.

Sharing your story with others is an easy way to generate interest, so don’t be afraid to approach other local businesses, the council and journalists.

Here at Okapi Digital Marketing, we get lots of small business owners writing or calling in and sharing their stories with us. A lot of those have featured on the show or had a feature article written about them. If you give your story to a journalist, it saves them time and is a great way to get your business out there. Remember to make it relevant and newsworthy!

Social Media

It’s a fine line between always promoting and advertising your business and posting useful information that people want to read. Whether it’s Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter, use social media to post important information about your business – like a sale.

Don’t clog people’s news feeds though, otherwise they’ll unsubscribe. It doesn’t always have to be about your business post relevant industry facts, or other interesting articles, photos or blogs.

Facebook has the greatest reach among all the social media platforms, with the best time to post between 1pm and 4pm weekdays. That’s also the best time to post on Twitter – with most people avoiding social media on the weekends.

Digital Strategy, Social Media

Facebook For Business

The most popular social media platform is also one of the most difficult to master.

Facebook can be tricky to get right. No-one wants to be hit with a hard sell on their news feed, and it’s a fine line between promoting your business and posting information people actually want to read.

The latest Facebook Performance Report from Social Pulse and Online Circle Digital is out and it looks at the top Facebook pages in Kenya by fans, likes and engagement.

Unsurprisingly, TV shows, airlines, fashion brands and sporting clubs are some of the industries with the most fans.

Standerdmedia.co.ke’s page has the most fans . Daily Nation is next , and Safaricom round out the top three fans.

For engagement though (how many people were talking about the brand), politics, radio, news and sporting clubs were on top. The federal election and football final season meant it was a busy time for these industries.

Lots of the bigger companies were found to post photos, hold competitions and ask engaging questions to get their fans participating. So as a benchmark, it’s worth following the big players to check out what they post and how often, and how they engage with their fans.

For businesses big and small, Facebook is a great real-time marketing tool. When used right, it’s a convenient, quick and cost-effective way to market your business.

Check out these quick tips to help you get started.

Be Yourself

Your business’ Facebook page shouldn’t be the same as your website. It needs to be more conversational, more personal and more interactive. Posting photos of other interesting and relevant things you like helps people know more about you and your business.

It will take a while to gauge your fans and what they like, be patient and look at what gets them responding, and what doesn’t.

Post Regularly

And encourage others to do the same. Post too often and people will start unfollowing you for clogging their news feed. Post too rarely and you lose interest and timeliness.

If you encourage comments by asking questions and using photos, people are more likely to gain an interest in your business and share it with their friends.They’re also more likely to turn into customers. Make sure you respond though, turn it into an interaction.

Don’t Hard Sell

Sure, posting about an upcoming sale, new store opening or media coverage is a great way to generate interest. As long as it’s not all the time and it’s not littered with slogans.

Remember that Facebook is a social network, not an advertising channel. Join conversations, comment on other people’s posts and pictures and you’ll become part of the community, rather than someone just on there to sell their products or services.