Building an effective marketing database

How do you build and manage one of the most important business assets you have?

Your marketing database is perhaps one of the most critical parts of your business. Of course, as a small business owner, you could argue that you are the most important asset of your business. Still, we’re assuming you don’t want to work on your own forever and can’t remember everything about your customers. Therefore, your database becomes the lifeblood of your business and you can’t effectively run your marketing without it.

Building your own database will help you directly and regularly communicate with your contacts, network better, and allow employees to grow and manage your business.

 

What is a marketing database?

The term ‘database’ is relatively ambiguous, so here’s what we mean when talking about it in relation to marketing.

In its most basic form, a marketing database is where you store all of your contact information. In marketing, perhaps the most common link or association with the term marketing database is a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).

Your database doesn’t have to be a fancy system, it could be an Excel Spreadsheet with a list of names and contact information, but it’s usually better if it’s a dedicated system – we’ll explain why later.

 

Why is YOUR database important?

You may do all of your business through Facebook, LinkedIn or even through re-sellers. So, why do you need to keep a database of customers and prospects?

Remember, these contacts aren’t yours. If Facebook goes down, or you’re LinkedIn account gets blocked or hacked, how are you going to communicate with your customers? These services are communication tools, NOT your database.

Example: Say you want to launch a product through Facebook advertising. Then, suddenly, your Facebook ads account gets automatically blocked because of an unknown ad’s violation – this happens all the time, and you may not have done anything wrong, but it can take days to resolve.

Without Facebook, how are you going to promote your sale? Hopefully, you have been busy building your own email marketing database in the background and can launch a supporting email campaign to announce the promotion yourself.

 

What should be on a marketing database?

The type of information on your database is dependent on the business. Typically, you’ll want to use your database to store contact details, such as:

  • Full name
  • Telephone number
  • Business address
  • Email address

You may also want to group different contact types in line with your customer segments. To learn more about customer segments, please read the second in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.

 

What is a CRM system?

A Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) is a place where you can store your contact information. Typically, these systems have tools and processes to help you record interactions with clients, such as recording when you last sent them an email; helping you nurture your relationships with your contacts.

CRM systems can help you automate processes and set tasks related to contacts. In addition, you can record marketing and sales information for each contact and assign lead scoring for a prospect. CRMs also allow you to share connections with others in your business.

If you haven’t already invested in a CRM system, here are some free systems to consider*:

A lot of CRM systems can also be integrated with other platforms, such as an email or SMS marketing service. Combined, you can harness the power of your contact data with communication tools to deliver a sophisticated, efficient marketing campaign with relative ease.

 

Database marketing: making the most out of your database

Database marketing is about making the most of all your customer data to deliver more personalised, relevant and effective marketing messages to your customers.

Combining all the previous learning from our How to market your small business series, you can populate your database with more than just the standard contact information.

Think about how the likes of Tesco and Amazon promote their goods and services to you? They know precisely what you’ve bought and can tailor their communications specifically to you. This type of communication greatly increases the chance of future sales and gives you plenty of reasons to stay in touch with your contact.

 

Manage your data wisely

As detailed throughout this article, collecting customer information is essential. However, you need to be wise in how you collect data. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Build up as many ‘relevant’ contacts as possible
    Imagine you’re delivering a presentation on stage at Wembly, and you invite everyone in your database to come and watch. Your presentation has taken you 10 hours to put together. Everyone in your database turns up. Now, have 100 people turned up or have 12,500? The hours you invested are the same, but how many relevant people listen depends on your database.
  1. Relevance is key
    Don’t confuse quantity with quality. 10,000 people may have turned up to your presentation, but was it only relevant to 500 people? Could you have given those 9,500 seats to people who were in a better position to receive that message?
  1. Respect your data
    Imagine if one of your employees stole your database, set up their own company and used the information to poach your clients. You would be pretty annoyed they used your data to do this! As businesses, we need to think the same way for the people who have given us their personal data. Did they give it to us, or did we ‘steal’ (take) it from somewhere else. Respect the importance of the data you have, and your clients will be more willing to share their information with you.

If you don’t already, make sure you understand The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), especially the differences between communication types. Can you only email them directly? Have they agreed to be part of a marketing list, or are they a new contact and you’re using legitimate interest?

 

How ETC can help

If you need help creating an efficient database to successfully implement your marketing plan, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

 

*ETC is not affiliated or connected with any of the CRMs listed in this article. We do not endorse a particular CRM. For a complete list, please use your preferred search engine to find other CRM alternatives and conduct your own research.

Creating a successful marketing plan

A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines how an organisation will communicate and promote its products or services to its target markets.

A good marketing plan capitalises on the business’s market research and understanding of its unique selling points to better promote and communicate its products and services to a target audience.

Or, to put it simply: It’s a simple step-by-step guide on how and where to market/promote your business.

Remember, depending on your business, it can take 3-6 months for your activity to produce outcomes. Planning will ensure you’re not missing out on time-based opportunities, help you allocate resources, and prepare for quieter business periods.

Marketing plans needn’t be an overwhelming, complex document full of clever marketing terms. However, not having one could be detrimental to your business.

Here are three steps to help you create a successful marketing plan:

 

1) Create an annual, calendar-based plan

While it’s good for a business to be flexible and adapt quickly to unexpected changes, you still need to have a structured plan for when things do go as expected. Running all your marketing on an ad-hoc basis just won’t cut it.

First, create an annual plan. Outline all the critical dates in the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day and Halloween. While some of these events might not affect you directly, they may have an impact on your suppliers and customers.

Next, take a look at previous sales information and see if there are any trends. For example, do you need to account for the school holidays? Is August typically a slow month for sales?

Using this information, you can allocate resources and plan when key marketing activities need to happen. For example, as a flower shop, Valentine’s Day is typically an important event. Therefore, your plan for this event might look something like this:

  • Adjusted stock order complete by 1st December to accommodate increased demand
  • Temporary sales staff interviewed and employed by 25th January
  • Update website 1st February
    • New products loaded to the website by 25th January
    • Promotion codes loaded to the website by 25th January
  • Advertising should start on 1st February
    • Message approved 11th January
    • Designs approved 18th January
    • Printed materials ordered 19th January
    • Digital adverts scheduled for 1st February
  • Email campaign sent on 1st February
    • Email design by 29th January

As you can see, there’s plenty to plan for this event. What you might consider being a simple leaflet, webpage or promotion might require multiple steps that need to start months before the actual event.

In addition to this, if you’re using external resources, such as a design or web agency, you may need to factor in their workload too. Technically, it might only take them a day to create the things you need for your marketing, but they may need a week’s notice for that day. Planning will ensure your marketing activity can be delivered on time.

 

2) Keep your marketing plan strategic

While you might like to include tactical elements such as ‘social media post published to Facebook on 12th February‘, within your Marketing plan, it’s essential to link all your activity back to your core objectives.

Thinking strategically will help ensure all your tactical marketing activities are focused and support the larger business goals.

For more information on identifying your target customer, please read the first in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.

 

3) Take action

As with all planning, it will be a waste of time if you don’t take action on what you plan to do.

Once you better understand your annual plan, you can begin to break this down into more manageable chunks. First, create a rolling quarterly plan, then assign actions and responsibilities each month.

Scheduling monthly planning meetings to assign responsibilities is a great way to keep activity moving. If two or more people are in your team, you could define roles for each task. For example, you may be accountable for the social media post that needs to be published on Facebook on 12th February, but your marketing assistant is responsible for creating the post.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help creating a successful marketing plan, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Creating a clear, strong marketing message

Your marketing message – how you talk about your business, product or service is what’s going to get feet through the door and sales on the ledger. It’s an essential part of your marketing process, as it’s likely to be the first thing a potential customer will see.

A marketing message can be defined as: the words (or communication) used to motivate people to take the action you want.

Your marketing communications need to be straightforward and easy for people to understand. If you’ve put in all the foundation work;

then creating a clear, strong marketing message should be relatively straightforward.

However, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s a few hours of work to create an advert, leaflet or website that’ll generate hundreds of leads. There are many things to consider when developing a strong marketing message.

Here are our top three considerations for writing a clear, strong marketing message.

 

Focus on outcomes?

When writing a marketing message, remember to keep the customer at the forefront. It’s not about how great you are or what you do, but about the most desirable outcome for the customer.

For example, a florist shouldn’t focus on how unique or difficult a bouquet is to arrange, but how fragrant the flowers are and how pleased the person receiving them will be.

Not: “We spent hours making this; it’s a unique, complicated bouquet, so enjoy it.”
More: “Imagine the look on their face when you hand them these.”

As another example, a heating engineer shouldn’t focus on how the pipes from the boiler are laid to ensure they run efficiently and are hidden from sight – these things are expected (and can be covered in supporting material). Instead, the leading marketing message should be about reliable heating that’ll give you a cosy warm house with hot water when you need it.

Remember, it’s about addressing your customers problems. Make sure your message shows that you know the problem and how your solution can help. It may be that different messages are needed for different segments of your customer base. To learn more about customer segments, please read the second in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.

 

Make your USP clear

In most industries, customers have a wide variety of choices. At the research stage, potential customers can be overwhelmed by various companies outlining how their solution meets their needs. So, how do they decide which brand to use? The answer is your USP.

Your marketing message needs to communicate why your solution is different. Your USPs should be woven throughout your messages and supporting materials. You’ll need to convince potential customers you are the better solution continually.

Top tip: Remember, your USP might not be directly related to the product or service itself. Your USP might be your experience, exceptional customer service, market trust, or your businesses’ core values (your sustainable, philanthropic or welfare approach).

 

Avoid jargon

Now more than ever, it is essential to create messages that align with the natural way consumers talk. Whenever possible, avoid business or technical jargon. Keep it simple.

Creating a great marketing message isn’t about sounding intelligent but how intelligently you convey your brand’s abilities to make customers take action.

You can still use technical terms in your message if it’s necessary, but try and keep your initial communications simple, clear and concise. For example, can you explain your brand, product and service to a stranger in a 30-second lift journey? (the elevator pitch).

Top tip: When writing your marketing message, ask yourself, can the average 14-year-old understand the words I’m using?

 

Other marketing message considerations

  • Break down your message – You don’t need to include everything in one starting sentence; you can take users on a journey by prioritising your message and breaking it down into easy to digest segments. Start with your strongest point.
  • Research your competitors – learn from their successes and their mistakes.
  • Create an emotional connection – create an emotional bond that stays with customers. This has been proven to be a powerful driving force in making purchasing decisions.
  • Experiment with different approaches – do you have to be professional all the time, or will a more casual, humorous message work?
  • Create a network of supporting materials – include links to customer stories, testimonials, online articles that support your message (guide those users who need to research on a journey).
  • Apply the “So what?” test – after you write something, read it back and if you think the audience will respond with “so what?”, re-write it until they say, “that’s exactly what I’m looking for”.
  • Hear your message through others – once you’ve finished your message, ask others to read it and then recall their understanding of your message without your words in front of them. They may not have remembered everything, but they should be able to recall the key points. You never know, they may present your message back to you in a way you hadn’t considered.

 

How ETC can help

If you need further help creating a clear, strong marketing message to attract new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Understand yourself: developing your USP

Understanding what makes your business stand out from the competition, your USP, is vital in creating a compelling marketing message.

In today’s online world, most people are incredibly adept at researching and comparing product and service benefits. Therefore, you need to ensure your differences (your USP) can be quickly understood by prospective customers. Many businesses will jump straight into selling their product or service, talking about what makes it great. However, not including what makes you different from your direct competitors or alternatives could cost you sales.

Do you know what makes you different from your competitors?

 

What is a USP?

Your USP is your Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point. It’s what makes your business stand out from the crowd and tells your customers what is special about you.

If you can’t identify your USP, you’re going to have a hard time convincing prospective customers to buy from you instead of your competitors. In addition, without a clear USP, you will find it challenging to create a clear marketing message.

When you think about your USP, it’s crucial to think about it from your customer’s perspective, not your own. What makes you different in their eyes, not yours?

 

How to find your USP?

Finding your USP involves having a good understanding of your business, your target audience, your competition and your industry.

For more information on understanding your target audience, please read the first in our How to market your small business series: The importance of understanding your customer.

New businesses
As a new business, you will need to rely on competitor research, prospective customer questionnaires, and your own story (the reason you got into business).

  • Create a competitor research document and outline their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) compared to yourself
  • Ask friends, family, ex-colleagues and your network for their views on the service or product you want to provide – you can even use paid for online services if you can’t afford a market research agency
  • Understand and document your ‘WHY’ – why are you doing what you’re doing and what are you trying to achieve?

Established businesses
If you are an existing business, make sure you’ve done everything outlined for new business first, as this will give you a solid foundation. However, as an existing business, you have an additional resource from which you can draw marketing intelligence – your customers.

Speak to your current clients and understand two things:

  • Why did they buy from you in the first place?
  • Why are they continuing to buy from you?

Most company questionnaires will focus on the current situation. However, if you’re trying to attract new customers, you need to know why your current customers chose you over alternatives at the start of their journey.

 

The importance of a USP

Understanding what your USPs are will help you create a compelling message to target new customers. Whether you’re creating a website or advertising campaign, always ask yourself if your message communicates the benefits you know people are looking for.

Top tip: Writing this information down and including it in your business strategy will also help you communicate your unique benefits to key business stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, and partners.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help understanding what your USPs are, or creating a compelling marketing message to attract new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Organising your customers to grow your business

Customer segmentation is a critical step in organising how you promote your products and services to your customers. Once you know who your customers are, you can start understanding how best to talk to your different customer types.

Think about the different types of people you interact with through your life: family, friends, coworkers and strangers. Chances are you don’t speak to them in the same way. You also probably understand that they respond to you and your actions differently.

This works the same for your business customers too. Different types of customers have different needs, pain points, and expectations on how they expect you to communicate. For example, a customer spending £1m with your business will expect to be treated differently to someone spending £100.

The key to creating and sustaining successful relationships with all your customer types is to understand their uniqueness and tailor your communications to exceed their expectations. However, treating each customer individually can be time-consuming and expensive. This is why customer segmentation is so important.

 

What is customer segmentation? 

Customer segmentation is the process of grouping your customers (and potential customers) based on shared characteristics. For example, this grouping could be based on:

  • Geography
  • Demographics (age, gender, occupation)
  • Behaviour (loyalty, readiness to buy)

In understanding who your customer is, you will have created a customer avatar (an image of what your ideal customer looks like). Segmentation expands on this by allowing you to link and group similar customers types together.

 

Why is segmentation important?

Segmenting your customers provides a simple way of organising and managing relationships with your customers. This process also makes it easy to tailor and personalise your marketing and promotional efforts to the needs of specific groups. This can help boost customer loyalty and conversions – you’re no longer using a broad brush approach; instead, you are speaking directly to the customer.

Following on from our example in The importance of understanding your customer, where we look at a flower company. Flower customer A who wants to show appreciation/sympathy to someone else (occasional/circumstantial purchase) – let’s say Valentine’s Day.

With segmentation, we can add this customer to a group called: Valentine’s Day customers. Next year, before Valentine’s Day, you can send them personalised information about any Valentine’s Day offers – increasing the probability of them buying from you again.

In fact, most companies with loyalty schemes will use segmentation to show you personalised offers. Think about Tesco, each time you buy a product; they know you like it. When that product is next on offer, they can tell you about it and encourage you back to the store.

 

How can small businesses use segmentation?

Segmenting your audience can seem like a lot of time-consuming work for a busy small business. However, think of segmentation as working smarter, not harder. In fact, today, segmentation can make you appear like you’ve done more work than you probably have.

One of the simplest ways a small business can see the benefits of segmentation is through email campaigns. Email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp, allow you to create different customer segments so that you can send tailored emails to customers. You can even send one email to your whole database with sections that will change based on the recipient’s segment – meaning you only need to create one template for everyone, but it looks like you’ve sent a personal email.

Sending personalised emails based on segmentation can increase your email open rates by 203%, and according to Campaign Monitor, marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.

Segmentation can also work for paid advertising campaigns on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Your detailed customer information will help you narrow down your audience, allowing you to create more focused marketing communications and spend less money.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and understanding who your target customer is and how to group them into meaningful segments, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

The importance of understanding your customer

Can you answer who is your customer? in detail and with up-to-date information?

As a business owner, the answer to who is your customer? should be as easy to recall as your own name. After all, the customer is why you’re in business, so everything you do should be about them.

Most new businesses start by knowing who their customer is and what solution they want to offer them. However, as time goes on, many companies can forget to check if their more profitable customers have changed. Not having this information can lead to decreased sales and inefficient business operations.

The following guide is here to help new businesses identify their target customer and ensure existing businesses have an up to date profile.

 

Why is understanding your customer important?

Knowing who your customers are forms an essential foundation for all your business, marketing and sales planning.
This understanding will help you structure your business and better communicate with your target audience to help convince them to use your products and services over your competitors. This information will also help you retain profitable customers and help you find more like them.

Regularly checking in and keeping this information up-to-date will also help identify new opportunities and allow you to have more informed conversations within your business. For example, when you started your business, a physical store on the high street might have been the best place for your customers. Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and a general preference for online sales, an e-commerce website might be a more profitable sales platform.

Knowing who your customers are is the key to adapting your business to become more efficient, increasing sales and improving profitability.

 

How to identify your target customers

When identifying your target customer, it’s essential to start broad and then narrow it down. Starting too narrow might mean you miss more profitable opportunities.

You may need to split customers into different audiences. This segmentation is sometimes necessary to help create specific messages later in your marketing planning process.

For example, you may need to start as broad as separating UK customers from international customers. You can then follow this line of discovery down – are you targeting businesses or consumers; are they affluent or low price point; are they buying for themselves or someone else?

Asking these types of questions will help give you a range of customer types. Your next step is to identify who your primary target should be. This should be based on who will buy the most from you and who is the most profitable (which might not be the same customer type).

 

Creating target customer avatars

Once you understand all your customer types and have a clear target customer, many people like to build a customer avatar (an image of what their ideal customer looks like). Let’s use a flower shop as an example:

Step one: Identifying the customer goals and targets
Flower customer A wants to show appreciation/sympathy to someone else (occasional/circumstantial purchase). Customer B wants to buy flowers for themselves (regular purchase).

Step two: Find their influences
Flower customer A will typically search online and be heavily influenced by imagery, delivery availability and customer reviews. Customer B wants a tactile experience to ensure the flowers are fresh and will last (florist knowledge and advice is critical).

Step three: Their demographic information
Flower customer A will statistically be male buying flowers online for someone else. Flower customer B will statistically be female buying flowers in the store.

 

How to keep your information up-to-date

Things inevitably change, and it’s important to keep checking in on your target customers to ensure you’re meeting their needs.

Over the course of your business career, customer buying behaviours will change. Continually profiling and understanding your customers will help you adapt your business structure, marketing message and sales process to help meet their needs.

To keep your information up-to-date, you can:

  • Regularly review top-performing customers, understanding why they continue to purchase from you – a case study can be a great way to obtain their information and document it for others to read
  • Ask new customers where they found you and why they chose you over your competitors – an introduction meeting can be a great way to establish the relationship and gain a fresh perspective of what marketing/sale message is working
  • Understand why customers leave you – assuming you maintain a good relationship, this can be a great way to identify areas to improve and maintain a connection for potential future business

 

How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and understanding who your target customer is, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

How to market your small business

In a highly competitive market, promoting a small business can be a real struggle. Owners and entrepreneurs can face an overwhelming amount of marketing information and advice, and with limited budgets, it can be hard to know where to invest your time and resources.

In this guide, we’ll look at the top eight things a small business can do to successfully promote its products, services and brand.

 

Step one: Who is your customer?

Market research is essential in understanding who your target customer is. This research will also help you identify market trends and keep an eye on what your competition is doing.

Understanding who your customer is, forms the basis of all your other marketing efforts. Even if you think you know who they are, it never hurts to do some research every now and again; things might have changed.

Learn more about the importance of understanding your audience.

 

Step two: Organising your customers

Once you understand who your customer is, you will need to learn a bit more about them so that you can organise them into groups (segments).

Trying to promote your products and services to absolutely everyone on your target customer list will be extremely expensive and ineffective – even if you believe everyone can use or benefit from your product/service.

Grouping or segmenting your potential customer based on particular characteristics will allow you to focus your marketing efforts – and find that low hanging fruit. This grouping could be based on:

  • Geography
  • Demographics (age, gender, occupation)
  • Behaviour (loyalty, readiness to buy)

Learn more about organising your customers to grow your business.

 

Step three: Understand yourself

Once you know a bit more about your customer, it’s easy to assume you can jump straight in and start cleverly marketing your business in all the right places. But why should someone buy from you? What makes you different to your competitors?

Sounds simple, but formalising this ‘Know thyself’ stage is often overlooked.

To do this, you need to clearly understand what your unique selling propositions (USPs) are. What makes your business stand out from the crowd. Why do your customers buy from you instead of your competitors?

Once you understand this, you can then develop your marketing message.

Learn more about developing your USP.

 

Step four: Create a clear message

Your business offering needs to be straightforward and easy for people to understand.

All your communications with clients and prospects should include how your business can solve a particular problem. If you’ve done the research and successfully segmented your customer base, you can start tailoring messages based on each group’s needs.

You should always try to avoid industry jargon and assume the reader is relatively new to the market. For example, we’re business and management consultants. However, we can’t assume everyone knows what that means. So, following this business classification, we elaborate by saying, “we help small businesses grow and become more profitable”.

Learn more about creating a clear, strong marketing message.

 

Step five: Create a marketing plan

A marketing plan needn’t be an overwhelming, complex document full of clever marketing terms. A good marketing plan outlines:

  • Where you’re spending resources
  • Why you’re spending resources – applying it to your customer research
  • What you’re going to say (message and design)
  • Where you’re going to say it (online, in a magazine, via email)
  • What you expect the outcome to be

For example, your marketing budget might be small, so competing against larger competitors on social media, Google, or on billboards might be too expensive. Therefore, you might want to construct a guerrilla marketing campaign – a low budget means of being creative and an unconventional way of sharing your message. View HubSpot for more information on guerrilla marketing.

 

Step six: Build a database

Your database is the lifeblood of all your marketing (and sales). Building your own database will help you directly and regularly communicate with your contacts.

Remember, all those contacts you have on LinkedIn or Facebook aren’t yours. If LinkedIn stopped tomorrow, could you still speak to your connections?

Your own database allows you to send things like monthly email newsletters and promotions that will help nurture prospective clients into leads, and ideally, customers.

 

Step seven: Build loyalty

Your customers are the key to your success, so it’s essential you look after them and encourage loyalty.

Typically, someone who uses your business for the first time isn’t particularly loyal. Their first-time experience with your company determines their return. Developing loyalty and trust with that customer can transform them into advocates, someone who is willing to refer your business to others. And ultimately, you want to develop all your customers into brand ambassadors; those who believe in your business so much they act as an unofficial sales team.

Loyalty is usually earned by focusing on delivering exceptional customer service and exceeding their expectations on multiple occasions. However, you can encourage loyalty by rewarding customers for their repeat business by creating a loyalty scheme (like Costa, Boots, Ikea and Tesco).

 

Step eight: Monitor, review and learn

It is important to regularly monitor and review your marketing activities to ensure they achieve the desired outcome, such as increased sales.

Ideally, you should review your marketing plan every three months. Today, it can be relatively easy to determine what marketing activity has lead to a sale. Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) can track customer’s behaviour and identify what information they saw before a sale.

Continually monitoring and reviewing your marketing will allow you to build on what is working and change what isn’t.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and obtaining new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Virtual Meetings Vs Face-to-Face Meetings

Video calls with colleagues, clients and even family members have become a standard way of life since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual meetings are flexible, time-saving and environmentally friendly. Many businesses have thrived as a result of reducing their office overheads and travel expenses.

So, as businesses plan for a post-pandemic ‘new normal’, will face-to-face meetings return, or should we encourage the continuation of the virtual meeting?

 

The impact of lockdown

At the start of the pandemic – once we figured out how to use Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts – it could be easy to assume that face-to-face meetings would die out.

Setting up a meeting with a colleague, client, or prospect is now easier than ever. Generally, people now have access to their own diary (fewer gate-keepers), and you don’t have to factor in any travel time. You can now arrange to see a client on the other side of the country or world in a matter of minutes.

However, now that restrictions are easing, businesses should be asking themselves: should we continue with a virtual approach?

The convenience of a virtual meeting doesn’t always outweigh the value of meeting someone in person. Few calls are without their technical challenges. How many of us have uttered the phrase “you’re still on mute”. We’re also asking a lot of virtual meeting participants to remain 100% focused when they’re using the same device they work from – it’s so easy to become distracted by other things on the screen.

And after weeks of lockdown and social isolation, most of us are craving face-to-face communication.

 

The benefits of face-to-face interaction

Meeting someone in person can be an essential step in building positive relationships with our clients and prospects.

According to a recent study by Great Business Schools, 84% of people still say they prefer in-person meetings.

Having a conversation with someone face-to-face allows for a more fluid and dynamic exchange of ideas and collaboration. Unlike in a virtual meeting, we’re not subject to time delays that can make the responder seem less friendly or focused, and it’s harder to misinterpret essential non-verbal cues. 

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, once said; “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”.

To support this, think about your personal life. Virtual connections aren’t new. Facebook has been widely available in the UK since 2005, and there is an estimated 3.96 billion people who use social media worldwide, according to Backlinko. Yet, despite this overwhelming access to virtual connection alternatives, we still meet our friends in pubs, clubs and at the park.

 

Getting back out to business

Many businesses will soon face increased expectations of meeting in person, whether that expectation comes from a client, prospect or your staff.

Restrictions as a result of COVID-19 will likely be in place for a while yet, so it’s inadvisable to rush straight back into in-person meetings. We should all be careful and ease back into them to keep us and others safe. This is particularly important for owners of SMEs who stand to lose a lot if they become unwell.

However, all businesses should anticipate an increase in expenses. As restrictions ease, it’s unlikely remote working and video meetings will disappear overnight. However, any decisions to keep virtual working will need to be weighed against your wellbeing and the value of relationship building.

Those businesses looking to remain completely as a home working environment should seriously consider their employees’ mental wellbeing and the consequences of not having organic, free-flowing conversations.

Businesses who gave up offices at the start of the pandemic, but are now looking to move back, should consider a more hybrid working function (office/home-based working). This will help minimise overheads and maintain social distancing. You should also take into consideration your new office size, to ensure you can maintain social distancing – what used to be called a small office space or meeting room might now be too small.

 

How ETC can help

Over the past year, throughout the various stages of the pandemic, we’ve worked with businesses to help them create comprehensive ‘bounce back’ plans that outline how best to return to work and take advantage of new opportunities.

All the businesses we support found that an external, experienced consultant added real value to their return to work plans. Let us help you get back to business; please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Getting back to business

Again, thanks to the NHS’s stellar efforts and the vaccination programme, the UK is slowly reducing restrictions and ending lockdown.

From Monday 29th March, the stay at home rule will end, meaning offices can start to re-open and allow more staff to return to the office.

From Monday 12th April, depending on the infection rate, we’ll see all shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres all open again. Pubs and restaurants will also be allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors.

As we saw last year, reducing restrictions creates massive opportunities for all types of businesses.

Those in the service industry who have been closed for most of 2020 should expect a massive and sudden rush. Make sure you’re prepared and have thought about efficiently meeting demand inline social distancing and Covid-safe regulations.

For those businesses who have stayed open throughout lockdown, peoples habits are about to change; think about what fewer restrictions mean for your business. For example, we may see less online traffic, and disposable income might now be spent on outdoor activities instead of at home-services.

Your number one priority at this time is to prepare for change and a safe return to work. To help prepare you for a return to business, we have created an essential three-step guide:

 

1) Prepare for a change in behaviour

As restrictions reduce, more people are going to want to travel. Therefore every business needs to ensure it can accommodate change while operating safely.

At this stage, preparation and communication is essential. Here are some information points you should consider making available to staff and customers:

  • Are you reopening the office fully, continuing to work remotely or adapting to a hybrid model?
  • How many people can you safely have in your office/store at the same time?
  • Do you have sufficient cleaning and PPE available?- it goes down faster than you think.

Top tip: If you haven’t already, start consulting with your employees about returning to work. Consider that personal circumstances might have changed. For example, an employees’ child-care situation may be affected.

 

2) Invest in marketing and PR

Marketing is an essential element of bouncing back from lockdown. 75% of consumers say that brands should inform people of what they’re doing.

Whether you have a big or a small budget, there are plenty of marketing options for promoting your business. For larger budgets, we recommend you invest in content creation and advertising. This can include:

  • Google Ads
  • Remarketing (Retargeting) – Getting people back to your website
  • Targeted Facebook and LinkedIn advertising

In addition, and for those with smaller budgets, we recommend you focus on Social Media and Guerrilla Marketing. This can include:

  • Social meida marketing
  • Competitions
  • Email marketing (think about email automation)
  • Content marketing

Again, think about people’s changing behaviours. People are likely to be spending less time online and more of their disposable income in-person rather than online. Be on the lookout for changes in behaviour and prepare to adapt your marketing communications.

 

3) Be consistent and clear

After you’ve invested in PR and worked with your staff to return safely, you must ensure you follow through. It’s great to have handwashing stations and social distancing in place, but people may become anxious about what the protocols are if they aren’t clearly visible.

Messages about ‘safe’ have become more important as lockdown has eased. Larger brands are opting for a clear, positive, inspirational, and helpful tone over humorous, witty, or casual.

According to a study by Econsultancy: one in five consumers have actively stopped purchasing from a brand because of its response to the coronavirus outbreak. This included not providing a safe working environment for its employees.

In the same study, 62% stated that they were more likely to spend money with companies that prioritise the health and safety of their staff.

The full study can be found here: coronavirus impact on marketing, ecommerce & advertising

Without noticeable, tangible changes to improve safety, all your PR and messages will be wasted – and potentially counterproductive as it may appear disingenuous.

Finally, on a more serious note, the importance of these Covid-safe measures cannot be stressed enough. If COVID-19 gets into the workplace, everyone exposed will need to isolate, which may include some difficult conversations with customers.

To protect your business, get your cashflow going again and rebuild customer trust, don’t just give COVID-19 safe the lip service – it’s the key to ending your business lockdown.

 

How ETC can help

Over the past year, throughout the various stages of the pandemic, we’ve worked with various businesses to help them create a comprehensive ‘bounce back’ plan that reduces recovery time and identifies ways to take advantage of new opportunities.

All the businesses we support found that an external, experienced consultant added real value to their return to work plans. Let us help you get back to business; please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

The TRUE value of holding onto clients – PART TWO

A few years ago, we wrote an article on the value of client retention. Part one outlined some common reasons companies lose customers and how to keep hold of customers if you’re losing them on a regular basis.

In part two, we want to expand on client retention’s true value and give you four simple to implement retention strategies to inspire loyalty, maintain your client list and increase profits.

 

New vs Retained Clients

New clients are exciting, and depending on the service, you could be justified in charging more money than you do existing clients for similar work. So, why not go after new clients all the time?

The answer: It’s because the cost of acquisition is so much higher. The actual cost of obtaining a new client is often overlooked. A typical new client acquisition might include:

  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Networking
  • Introduction meetings
  • Proposal creation
  • Sales meetings
  • Briefing meetings
  • Project management meetings (reviews)

And what’s your sales conversion rate? – how many times do you need to do all this to win one new client?

Some studies suggest client retention can cost 2-25 times less than client acquisition. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

If you haven’t already, spend time working out how much it costs you to obtain a new client – you’ll be surprised.

For more information on the value of holding onto clients, read part one.

 

Four client retention strategies

 

1) Onboarding

Onboarding is all about teaching your customers how to get the best from your product or service. When users first start working with your product or service, they may get frustrated if they don’t understand how to get the best from it. Deadlines and external pressures may lead them to discount your solution over the smallest detail. Onboarding helps users learn intricacies and how to problem solve challenges themselves.

As an example, if your company build websites. First, your onboarding strategy might include a guide for someone who has no idea how to build a website – this could consist of a technical jargoon breakdown to help ease any language barriers.

Next, once the website is built, spend time with your client teaching them how to use the website, update their content and add new features.

As a result, you’ll have fewer support requests, and they’ll feel more ownership and pride. At the very least, they’ll know what’s possible and how to ask for it in a language you both understand.

 

2) Customer feedback loop

Although we also covered this in part one, we wanted to elaborate further on the importance of Feedback.

It’s hard to know what you’re doing right or wrong if you don’t ask. If you get feedback, it should always be looked at in two ways.

Say, Mrs Jones hates the flowers you sent her because they died within 3-days. First, address the individual needs of Mrs Jones and ensure that the client is happy – or at least answered. Following this, take a step back and look at the broader picture – removing all individuality – is this a bigger problem, and only Mrs Jones is speaking out?

More often than not, one person’s voice is an indication of how others might be feeling. Mrs Jones’ flowers might have died after 3-days because they were sitting over a radiator. How many other people are doing that, not telling you and thinking it’s your flowers. Why not use this as an onboarding process and include a handy ‘get the best from your flowers’ guide with every purchase.

The same goes for positive feedback. If someone loves your services, how can you get the most from it- is there an opportunity for a new product or service?

After this comes the ‘loop’ part: When you implement a new idea based on feedback, pay attention to customers’ responses and follow the same steps of gathering feedback and implementing new ideas.

Customers love to be heard. If you’re open and transparent with your feedback, you’ll not only increase loyalty, but your product and services will improve – helping you attracts new clients and retain the clients you have.

 

3)Lapsed client communication calendar

Keeping track of all your customers (past and present) can be challenging. Smaller clients who only worked with you once and contributed a small amount to the bottom line can be overlooked. While it might take some project management time to get lapsed clients on board again, it’s still more cost-effective than attracting a brand new (cold) client.

Create a date in the diary each month/quarter to review lapsed clients in a batch can reduce the overall time expenditure. Include details of new products and services that weren’t around the last time you worked with them or a case study of a successful project.

 

4) Newsletter

A company newsletter is a simple and cost-effective way of reminding customers of your brand, products and services – helping to retain customers.

Today, sending, scheduling and automating these emails is simple. Platforms like Mailchimp can help you create personalised, dynamic content that looks like the email was written specifically for the individual, not the masses.

 

Hold onto clients

Following these four steps will not only help hold onto clients, but it will help you deliver a better service.

  1. Onboarding customers will build relationships and help promote brand advocacy.
  2. Feedback will help you deliver a better service. You’ll build better relationships with your customers and demonstrate your willingness to progress.
  3. Keeping in contact with lapsed clients will dramatically reduce ‘client churn’; you’ll also build a specific target marketing segment for new products as you know these clients are interested in what you can deliver (low hanging fruit).
  4. Newsletters will remind customers of your brand every time they open their inbox. They may not need you all the time, but your brand will be remembered when they do.

 

How can ETC help

If you need help in retaining more clients or understanding the cost of obtaining new clients, please get in touch

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.