Gone are the days of expensive advertising and glossy brochures for most marketing budgets. The positive spin is that we have been forced to think cleverly about how to target customers which can then produce more effective results and without incurring large invoices. Quite often it is the time, thought and effort that is more important than the amount of money spent.
Below are our suggestions for low cost marketing ideas which can be selected according to your specific needs or as a collective campaign.
1. Content. What else? We’ve discussed and explained the benefits of content in our other blogs. Quite simply, it can be free if you or a colleague can write content and it can give customers so much added value and position you as the expert in your field. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/
2. Social media. No surprise. Again if you’re in charge then it’s your time and no cost. Try to co-ordinate across the various platforms and encourage your biggest ‘fans’ to share and interact. See our related blogs on the various social media platforms; http://www.vgandassociates.com/facebook-as-a-marketing-tool-for-your-business/ http://www.vgandassociates.com/the-dos-and-donts-when-using-linkedin-to-market-your-business/ http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-to-use-twitter-for-your-business/ http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-pinterest-can-work-for-your-business/
3. Website. To be honest, any business these days can’t really exist without a website. It’s the first place people go to check out your ‘existence’ and credibility. All social media should link back to the website and your content updated to give Google fresh ammunition to drive traffic to your site. But it does not have to cost the earth. Keep it simple and easy to navigate. Make sure your proposition is understood and obvious. Good clear branding is essential so that customers know and remember you. Include clear calls to action and a response mechanism. Then you’re good to go. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/creating-an-effective-website/
4. Video. You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg (or have his budget) to produce something which conveys your message in a simple but effective video. People are visual and love watching and listening more than reading copious amounts of words, so keep it short, to the point and interesting. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/using-video-for-marketing/
5. Infographics. Depending on your design capability as to whether you pay for these or not, infographics are so useful when communicating key points and messages to your audience. Whether it’s a specific explanation about something technical or an overview of a product, they help convey visually so customers understand quickly what you are aiming to put across. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/infographics-explained-with-a-little-help-from-some-infographics/
6. Database. Make sure that you have all your contact data in order so that it’s in the most effective state for your target marketing. If you have missing data, then fill in the gaps. Analyse the data so that you know exactly who are your most lucrative customers and who are your hottest leads. With your database ready to go, then you are in a much better position to ‘hit’ the right people with the right message.
7. Loyalty. If you find out from your database that you have a selection of loyal customers, then consider reward schemes and loyalty cards. Also, tap into these loyal customers to refer friends and give testimonials. You can even use them as successful case studies to demonstrate how your company works and get good results.
8. Networking. Mingle with the right people at the right events and it could be worth your while. Know who you want to meet and what you want to say before you go along or it could be a total waste of time. Be prepared with business cards and make sure you collect cards from useful contacts and then follow them up post event. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-for-successful-networking/
9. Host your own event. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate as long as the purpose and/or content pulls people in. Seminars with good content and no oversell will position you well. Customers are more likely to come for the content and as a result follow up with enquiries.
10. Email marketing. As long as your database is complete and up-to-date, then email marketing can be low cost and effective. Targeting the right customers or leads with the relevant message will produce the best results. Email can be used for promotions, feedback, competitions and even surveys. Design and delivery is dependent on your in-house capability and resource but in no way has to be expensive if you need to outsource. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/common-email-marketing-mistakes/
11. PR. Write a press release about your business or product/service, giving it as much unique individuality and then circulate to all local media. You never know you could strike lucky and one of the local press or websites will choose it as it relates to other content or they are in need of some local business information and news. Or, offer to write for a trade magazine or website that relates to your business giving your expert view, opinion or market update. This will certainly give you credibility and exposure. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-writing-a-press-release/
12. Related partnerships. Working with complimentary and non-competitive companies can have a mutual benefit. It gives you exposure to other customers and allows cross-promotion. By each company referring the other, you can only stand as a win win.
13. Business cards. We may no longer need glossy brochures and can afford elaborate literature, but the basic business card is one essential that any company still needs. They are functional and can be distributed throughout your company to give out to useful contacts in the field. Make sure they are fit for purpose, include all important details including website/contact numbers and have clear branding with strapline if applicable. Don’t overcrowd the card. If you have more information to include, then you may require a postcard or flyer to supplement the card.
14. Go local. Maximise what is on your doorstep. Use your local community and contacts. Do you have local social media and press you can use to promote your company? Are there local events, trade fairs, community gatherings and business groups you can tap into and take a stand or just network? Consider where your target customers may go in and around the area and hand out flyers in these places for them to find and pick up such as shopping centres, the library, leisure centres etc.
15. Try before you buy. Some people just need a little trial or taster before they commit to a purchase. An easy idea is to offer a small freebie or discount coupon. Everyone likes a bargain and if it persuades the customer and as a result they like your product, then you may have a new sale.
Lead nurturing is all about how you build a relationship between your business and your prospect. There will of course be certain business cases where it is applicable to make a quick sale to a new or existing lead. Maybe there is little decision making involved and the reason to purchase is simple and instant.
However, most of us live in the business world where we need to spend more time in convincing our target market about the features and benefits of our products/services, but moreover, about why they should choose our company over the competition.
This is where lead nurturing plays a crucial role.
Here are our top tips in the lead nurturing process:
1. Build and analyse your leads. This goes beyond the basic demographics. Data collection from leads who have expressed an initial interest will be critical in deciding how you target and nurture them. Some leads may have arrived at your website with little or no knowledge about your business, while others may know a lot more but still need advice. Some leads may have several enquiries but are much ‘warmer’ as a lead in order to convert to a sale. Your job is to capture as much detail as possible, through progressive information gathering. Using these data you can then build different profiles and personas, and segment them accordingly, so that you can optimise your various nurture communications.
2. Be information ready. This means that as your lead generation campaign starts building new prospects, as well as including your existing leads, you need to have the answers in place to deal with any enquiries. Leads will go on a fact finding mission until they are satisfied they are ready to purchase. So ensure all touch points are equipped to deal with their requirements and respond as soon as possible. That means online, in print, via text, by email, on the phone and in person. An audit check across all information points is great way to ensure that no prospects are lost because they could not find your product details they were looking for.
3. Build the relationship. The word nurture means to promote, develop, encourage and support. All these are totally in line with how you should be treating your prospects so that they feel a sense of trust and confidence with your brand. What you tell them is important. How you tell them is just as important. Whether interaction occurs on the phone or online, be mindful that you are representing the brand and consider this as an opportunity to progress the prospect towards the sales ready status. Ask yourself following any interaction, whether your customer is totally satisfied with the response you have provided.
4. Multimedia content. Leads will go in search of what they need via all types of media so you have to have all the possibilities covered. Content is king as we all know, so make sure yours stands out among all the other ‘noise’ fighting for attention. Think of original ways to promote and convey your message. Use social media as appropriate for your brand, be creative with video if applicable and be authoritative with blogs and articles. Content should deliver unique, valuable information as well as reflect on the brand position of your company. Make your prospects believe that you are the right choice for them because you have communicated in the right way to them.
5. Monitor and target. To be totally effective and use your resources efficiently, stay close to how your prospects are responding to the nurture process. You will then be able to identify those who are reacting well and spend time focusing efforts on encouraging those who seem most likely to become ‘sales ready’. This will mean keeping your prospect database or CRM system up-to-date at all times and knowing when to make contact, with the appropriate message to the selected type of prospect. Marketing automation is a great way of sending a series of messages which can trigger different responses and help you funnel and filter your leads. However, you choose to ‘progress’ your leads, make sure your sales team are primed and ready when the final time comes to convert to a sale.
As a brand marketer I obviously understand the value of great brands. But then as a consumer, I feel I betray the marketer in me, with my frivolous flitting between companies across a number of markets. And there lies the dichotomy and reality between today’s marketing and society’s purchasing behaviour.
Of course, there are so many ways in which we as marketers can boost the brand and reach out to our audiences. See my blog http://www.vgandassociates.com/key-attributes-for-great-brands/. We must still engage and nurture relationships. We must ensure we are accessible and open to our customers. We must make their whole buying experience easy and hassle-free. We need to keep front-of-mind and ahead of the competition. All this, having ticked all the good brand values and service attributes, we do in the vain hope that our consumers will come back to us and stay loyal.
But will they? So many surveys are now showing the decline of customer loyalty and the 20%/80% rule of customers accounting for turnover is fast becoming 50%/50%. Brand switching is on the increase and costing companies a small fortune.
Below shows an infographic by Marketing Week of consumer behaviour in switching brands based on customer service. Note the £116 billion brands are losing from people switching each year!
A recent Readers Digest survey shows the results of a European Survey for prompts in switching brands and once again poor service ranks as one of the highest reasons: http://www.rdtrustedbrands.com/tables/brand-switching.shtml
An increase in price is more likely than anything to prompt consumers to switch brands. People are more likely to react negatively to poor service than a reduction in the quality of a product.
Average agreement Very often / often Sometimes / Never The price increases 52% 40% Poor service 48% 43% Product quality reduces 41% 51% Unable to communicate with anyone who can help me 37% 54% Want to try something new 36% 57%
All the stated ‘prompts’ resonate with me as a consumer. Once I’ve experienced poor service, I find it very hard to give that company a second chance. And when it comes to something like car insurance for example, it becomes all about the best price and a quick and easy decision. And then for other purchases such as holidays and household goods, I go and look at online reviews from people I’ve never met, instead of researching what the company says and does!
So if I as a marketer can ignore a company’s marketing details and messages, we have to think that this is probably how a lot of today’s society are thinking and acting. We are all too busy and hectic to spend too long about certain purchases. We also have to accept that we live in a commoditised market where price comparison sites have a huge influence.
Consumers are using mobile devices to research prices in shops, home or even in the office.
The emphasis and power has shifted over to the customer and their high expectations. Not only do they/we want value for money at the best prices, but there is also the demand for real added value where companies deliver over and above what they used to. If you ask a customer to ‘like’ your facebook page, they will expect something in return.
And of course, social media itself has added a whole world of comment and influence from peers and previous customers who share their opinions and experiences, which can override any marketing communications you may have spent ages planning. Add to this, the manic, high pressured, fast pace of life and customers want all the above, plus the ability to make quick purchasing decisions without any stress.
Having said all the above, in terms of customer loyalty, when I think of my own consumer behaviour, I do have a few brands I stick with and go back to on a regular basis. Why? Because I trust them, enjoy the experience and they seem to be on my wavelength which suits me and my life.
So what can brands do to strive for the all important engagement and affinity which shows that their customers actually care about their brand? Well, first, you have to be realistic about what your company provides and how much people can genuinely care about your brand. How much impact does it have on a consumer’s life and to what degree can your company offer a true ‘brand experience’?
This is where I think marketing has to pull together the whole company and realise that the successful top brands these days are those who can:
a. relate to their audience
b. be totally relevant to people and culture
c. have an impact on their life.
This means understanding what is most important to the target audience and their life right now. Do you know what really makes them tick and what their looking for? Is it a bargain, some added value, or a completely new proposition which somehow makes their life just that little bit better? It may not just about making the best product, but the product that has real positive impact on people’s life.
And whatever your product or service, make sure you know how to capture attention. Where are your customers consuming information about your market and who is influencing them? Mobiles cannot be ignored. Important details should be placed in the right channels. List all the good and maybe not-so-good reviews about your company on your website. Push out useful and unique content via social media with key hooks to pull in the leads. Consider the need to reinvent your positioning so that you stand out from the crowd, are more current or even ahead of the curve.
It’s taking marketing and the company vision, to another level. People will still care about brands, but we have to put brands into today’s life context and culture to make the most of how we plan our marketing and communications.
I’ll leave you with a recent article by Marketing Week about a study on the ‘happiest brands’, which explains:
The study clearly suggests that both emotional and rational attributes are valid ways to leave an imprint with a consumer and brands that have a measure of both prove popular with consumers.
According to the research, the way to jump up the happy rankings is not in ‘poisoning the world with message-driven advertising’ but through employing good old-fashioned charm: using a carefully tailored tone of voice and showing that the brand owner is ‘human’.
You know your audience don’t you? Basic demographics are all covered, maybe even some useful segmentation. But of course with the need for more personalised targeting and marketing, there is a need to go deeper and really get to know your customers.
Marketing personas have become a great way to develop real identities for some of your key customers. By building a profile and even a name and face, gives a company the focus of a real person who they are talking to and how they need to communicate and interact with that specific type of customer.
Once created, really and truly the personas should then be at the core of the company’s strategy, whether it is product development, content delivery or account management, the personas should give the exact required insight.
So where to begin? Every company has some useful data which allows them to start building profiles. How many personas you create, is down to the intelligence you extract from this data. Basic demographics are a good start, but then add in previous purchasing behaviour, influences, motivations, lifestyles and attributes.
Surveys and interviews are great ways to ascertain a bit more depth. Online or email surveys are cheaper than face to face interviews, but make sure you get a true representation of your audience. You need to know details about your best advocates, but you can’t ignore customers who have had bad experiences. This is the opportunity to investigate where poor relations have developed for some customers with your brand and for you to understand and learn how to rectify particular issues. So make sure you include loyal customers, referrals, prospects and lapsed customers.
Recruitment of interviewees should be selected carefully, questions planned to fill any specific data gaps as well as build deeper customer knowledge and incentives in place to entice and convince participation. Research experts can help in designing questionnaires, but also in conducting the interviews. There is a skill in knowing how to ask the right questions in the right way in order to ascertain key findings, great quotations and uncover potential opportunities and/or issues.
Analysis of data is critical to discover particular patterns of behaviour, common threads within segments of your audience and similar attributes and motivators. Again, research experts can help investigate information collated and present overall findings.
When researching and investigating information to build your profiles, the key point to bear in mind is that you are trying to find out precious gems of insight into how you can get closer to your customer and ultimately deliver the solution they are looking for. If you can perfectly match their needs and make them feel as though you are talking to them personally, both through clever communications and product delivery, then you can beat your competitors every time!
See also our blog on: How to write content for your audience: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/