Q: I have had my website for a while and have noticed that whilst I get quite a few people looking at my home page there are very few that go further into the site. Why could this be?
A: There are lots of reasons for this but my instinct is that there will be 3 main ones. 1 - Navigation issues/clarity of how to go further into the site. 2 - Branding/design. 3 - Content not applicable. Taking this one at a time, first of all the navigation must be very easy and clear - remember the 3 click rule. Secondly, the look and feel of the site must exude professionalism. Keep it simple and again, clear. Try not to have too many ‘whizzy’ things as it is distracting. Thirdly, and some of this is applicable to the first 2 points, the content. It is vital that you know who your target audience is and you write it specifically for them. If you don't you will miss them and everyone else too! I suspect that this is your main issue. You need to understand your target market, their needs and buying cycles in order to design a site that they can relate to and therefore will be interested in. I hope this helps.
Q: I am not sure if this is a marketing question or not. I am having a few issues with the staff not saying the 'right things' externally and as a result have had a few calls from confused customers. I am worried that I will lose business and am not sure what to do about this.
A: This is absolutely a marketing question! Internal marketing (to your own people) is as important as external marketing in this day and age. Your employees are another marketing channel, out there in the marketplace, and it is vital that they are 'on message'. You do not say whether you have regular meetings or formal internal communications or not but both of these, whatever size your company is, are very important. You can use them to get over the messages that you want the staff to portray - as well as using them as a way of raising staff morale. This will also help to make sure that the right messages get out! When staff feel that they understand what is going on and are really a valued part of the company then they will generally give off more positive vibes and will also proactively give out the company message.
April/May 2010 Issue
Q: As a very small business - just me at the moment, I am finding it really hard to know how to make myself look like a larger business but get the amount of work that I can cope with - if that makes sense.
A: It makes perfect sense. Marketing is about supply and demand and you need to generate the amount of demand that you can comfortably supply - if not a bit more so that you can grow the business (if it is sustained demand). Be careful not to grow too fast as I have seen many small companies fail because of this. Remember that cash is king and you need to keep it flowing in order to give your business the base it needs from which to move forwards. So grow a little, consolidate and grow again.
As for looking bigger than you are, this is about having the right branding and image. For most IT companies this hinges around the website and my advice is to get this right. Clean, professional image, easy to navigate, business language - and most of all, benefits led for your customers. Concentrate on the business benefits to them for using you, not the technical ones and you should be OK. Hope this helps and good luck.
Q: My company has 10 employees - mainly technical staff - and until last year was growing nicely. We are now really struggling to get business and have already cut prices to the bone in order to stay afloat. I can't keep everyone busy but don't want to lose people as I am conscious that things will get better in the future and I want to be positioned for this. Do you have any ideas of how we can get through this and generate more business?
A: Well, this is a tricky one - something that many businesses are facing. You don't say exactly what products and services you provide and to what sectors so it is hard to be specific. My advice would be to look hard at who your customers are and what benefits they get from you. Try and understand their position in the marketplace and how the recession has affected them. From there you will have a better understanding of their potential purchase behaviour. Is there anything that you can do to help them drive more business from their customers?
Getting closer to your customers in this way will mean that you will get whatever business they can afford now and position yourself as their partner of choice in the good times. If your staff are not busy give them some market research tasks to do to find all of this out. Give them each a customer (or set of customers) to look after and generate closer relationships. This is likely to drive more business - but remember to concentrate on the customers that have the potential for greater profit or you will be wasting your valuable resources. Good luck.
February/March 2010 Issue
Q: At the moment my main way of getting and servicing customers is through my team of two sales people and a sales manager. However, they are not producing enough business to pay for themselves and the business. This isn't totally their fault but just the way things are at the moment. Our customers seem to be cutting back and business just isn't going as well as it could be. I don't want to get rid of anyone, but do need to get more business in that is profitable.
A: I think this is a problem everywhere at the moment. Sales people are high expense to revenue and so need to be kept for the key accounts and for acquiring high revenue customers. Manage the potential channels to market that you have by matching the lower revenue customers to lower cost channels such as the Internet and phone. Perhaps for the moment have one of your sales team back in the office on the phone to customers keeping contact in this way and recruiting a greater number of lower value sales.
Once the contact is firmly made then the others in the team can visit when they’re passing (or if you want to keep the same person as contact then he/she could have 1 day a week out on customer calls).
Unfortunately channel balancing and management takes more explanation than can be covered here but this should give you something to start with. Make sure though that you do not upset any good customers by removing contact that they value - and do not upset your great sales people by de-motivating them to the point that they leave. It is all about balance and compromise to get the best long and short term profits.
Q: I have had a few local sports people and teams asking if we will sponsor them. Up to now I have always said no as I can't think of anything that we will get for our money. However, I am having some doubts as my son's football team is looking for someone to pay for new kit etc. I could easily do it but want to do it based on good business decisions rather than just as a doting mum. What do you think?
A: Well, what you get out depends on the business. If it is a local one then you could get a fair return. Of course it would have to be coupled with other marketing to get the best results but local teams often get in the local press and if the team does well, a small ad with 'Well Done from ABC company' accompanying the press release can make sure that you are linked well to them. This also helps your corporate social responsibilities which can mean a lot to some companies and customers.
Again, you would have to put a campaign plan together to get the most out of the opportunity. Even if all you do is have your name on shirts, as long as there is a logo that is used elsewhere and can be linked to you and what you do then it should be of some benefit. Also, remember that you can claim for this as part of your marketing outgoings.
December 2009/January 2010 Issue
Q. My marketing manager keeps telling me that we need to capture more data on our customers that is personal. I am not sure how to do this or even why it is relevant.
A. First of all this data is highly relevant as it will help you to build closer relationships with your customers. Once this happens you can lock out the competition more effectively and they will become less price sensitive. Collecting it is as simple as having discussions that cover wider issues than business. Ask how they got on at the weekend and encourage them to talk about themselves. Keep this information on the customer database for the sales and marketing teams to use in the future, both personally and for events. For example you may discover that a high percentage of your customers like golf and therefore a golf day may bring high returns in the form of a marketing event.
Q. I am looking to send out a direct mailer to the local business community offering some great support packages that I have recently put together. I have a database that the previous marketing assistant of the company used so I thought I would use that. I have put together a letter with some information on the offer but it looks a bit bland. Can you please give some advice?
A. Of course. First of all make sure that your database is the right one to use - don't just use it because it is there. If it is more than a year old it is probably out of date now and it may not cover your target market. First of all you need to decide what the objectives of the mailer are; then what benefits your target market will get. From there you can confirm your target market and make sure that you have the right database. Make sure that you can measure response so you need to have the right 'call to action' or response mechanism in place. Finally make sure that your message is crisp and understandable.
Once you have all of this in place put together something that fits with your brand image. If you are sending to a business audience make sure that it is professional and clean looking - a covering letter will give more information but keep it to one page. Try to follow up with a phone call a few days later but not on a Monday or Friday!
I hope this helps you. If you don't think you are getting the right image across call in a design agency - that's what they are there for.
October / November 2009 Issue
Q: How important is it for everything I send out to have the same look? I hear so much about branding but don’t really understand why it is so important on everything. Isn’t it just a logo?
R: Great question. Branding is VERY important and it is more than just a logo (although that is a good start). Whatever goes out to your audience gives an impression about your business. Individuals (including those in businesses) get thousands of marketing messages every day and it is important that any you send out not only stand out in the crowd of other messages, but also get reinforced by any other media that goes out from your company. For instance, you may have a yellow pages ad, a yell.com ad, something in the local paper, website and send out a flyer. If all of these have the same logo, colour scheme, font and theme they will be reinforcing the others, giving your company a lot more chance of being recognised when your audience are in the market for whatever your services are. You will get the opportunity over rivals who fade into the background because their image or brand isn’t so strong. So the short answer is that it is very important for everything to have the same look and feel.