business_linkYou have worked hard and spent a lot of money developing your marketing, so can you now sit back and wait for customers to come to you?

Probably not.

If you are a purely an internet retailer your website is your shop window and trading vehicle, so you will put most of your marketing effort into website development and maintenance i.e. optimising the site, merchandising, and keeping your image, product content and the messages fresh. You will no doubt have a digital marketing strategy including blogs, newsletters etc.

Read more: Marketing Strategies

business_linkIn the last newsletter we introduced digital marketing and took a look at blogging. This month we will look at email marketing and a few legal rules.

So what is it?
It is an effective and cheap way of keeping in touch with and updating your customers. Email marketing can range from a quick, simple, email to update on say product information to a professionally designed newsletter. But let's establish an important point early on: Spam is a nuisance, can damage the sender's reputation and is illegal. Ensure that people on your contact list have opted to receive emails from you and are given the opportunity to opt out, more on this later.

Read more: Digital Marketing Email Marketing

business_linkIn the last newsletter we looked at PR. This month we will introduce digital marketing generally, and look at blogging in a bit more detail.

What is digital marketing?
Put simply it is using the internet and other digital tools to promote your business. Digital marketing is fast developing and very dynamic. There is a term, Web 2.0, which is essentially a new era of web marketing which has moved on from the static webpage into something far more interactive allowing you to have a dialogue with potential as well as existing customers, as well as using multi media promotional tools.

Read more: Digital Marketing Blogging

business_linkIn the last newsletter we looked at advertising and direct mail. This month we will look at PR, explain what it is and why you should consider it as part of your marketing strategy.

What is it?
“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Most business people think PR is associated with press releases, which is largely true and many people think PR is only useful for large companies, which is untrue.

PR or Public Relations is about getting you and your products & services noticed by a wide audience as cost-effectively as possible. Free, positive publicity is the point of the exercise. The basic principle is that 3rd party endorsements are good for your business. The 3rd parties could be media such as local, regional even national press, trade magazines, on-line bloggers etc.

But PR is not just about writing press releases, it is about businesses looking for or creating and making the most of any opportunity for good publicity.

So where do I start?
As always it begins with customers and how best to reach them. A few questions to ask are:
 

  • How do customers find out about products and services like yours?
  • Generally what do they read, listen to, and view?
  • Are there specific media such as trade journals?
  • Any on-line sources of information they would look for?

PR isn't just aimed at potential customers. PR specialists use the term Publics, which sounds odd but which means any audience that is important to the business: potential customers; suppliers; banks; other businesses that you may actually, or wish to, collaborate with; people who influence the opinions of your customers, the wider community - to name just a few.

Even if you only have a narrow range of customers there is value in raising a wider awareness of your business.

Media coverage is the key to achieving good PR.
So make a list of the target media i.e. paid for and free press, local council & county council newsletters, local and regional free glossy publications, trade press and journals. Don't forget other more local media such as local newsletters and parish magazines.

Think about radio and TV local to your customers and also online information sources.

Customer's opinions and perceptions are often be formed by reading experts views and opinions online in blogs as well as in printed media etc.

Whether your target audience is local, regional or national will affect the list of media that you could list.

So how is it done?
Firstly PR does not mean making a blatant sales pitch!

You are aiming to build a good reputation and increase and widen recognition of your business and PR needs to be part of an integrated marketing strategy.

Think of any positive changes you have made to the business: introduced new product and services; something interesting that you and or your business have done or are about to do; statistics or any results relating to performance or customer feedback; any expert thoughts, opinions, ideas, advice that you are able to offer that would be interesting to media readers, viewers, listeners and that would raise your profile, and position you as an expert and a reputable provider.

But don't be tempted to give away your trade secrets!

At its simplest, PR can be an informative and interesting (not whinging) letter to newspapers. Other useful PR routes include:
 

  • Issuing a press release to local national news media and hoping one or more will print it;
  • Persuading a newspaper journalist or a radio / TV producer to run a feature on you;
  • Persuading influential bloggers or other online opinion leaders to mention you;
  • Writing articles for newspapers, trade journals online newsletter;
  • Offering to answer readers / listeners questions on your specialist subject;
  • Starting your own regular blog;
  • Organising and publicising special events;
  • Undertaking speaking engagements;
  • Sponsorship;
  • Having good employee relations is good PR;
  • Raising your profile by community good works and relations.

Writing and issuing press releases is an art in itself, there are specialists who can do this for you. If you would like a free copy of a factsheet on writing a press release please email me.

To find out more about using PR as part of your marketing toolkit speak to your Business Link adviser or go to our website.

For free marketing workshops and seminars see: http://www.bookevents.org/

That's all for this month.

 Peter Mulhall

Business Adviser

Business Link - the place to go for business support

Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk

BUSINESS LINK ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS

business link

I met someone at a networking event recently and we have decided that our companies should work together. Do you think that business co-operation or collaboration is a good idea?

In short: you can't be good at everything, so yes it may well be a good idea.

However, let's look at a few of the things that would be involved.

What opportunities do we want to capitalise on?

You will need to identify an opportunity. This might be submitting a joint bid on a tender, or entering another market sector, or a particularly large customer to target which otherwise you would not have the credibility, skill or the resources to convert into a customer. You may not identify a specific opportunity at the early stage, but all parties should have a purpose for wanting to collaborate.

Choose your partners - but choose wisely!

The choice of collaborative partner is critical. Sometimes the criteria for partner selection are woefully inadequate and more suitable to choosing a golf partner than a business partner. Getting on with business partners is essential, but more is needed.

Taking it on trust

Trust; this is a difficult one as it only truly forms with experience. There will be issues possibly, for some, on intellectual property and the need for confidentiality and confidentiality agreements. But ultimately you will need to trust partners, sometimes with sensitive information about your own business as you proceed to collaborate. Not only that, you will need to trust that the other parties will fulfil their responsibilities on the projects or ventures that you undertake; there will inevitably be division of labour and you are unlikely to be in a position to supervise, hands-on, the things that others are accountable for.

Skills match

One of the big advantages of business collaboration is that you gain access to skills and competencies not available in your own business i.e. the other party excels in areas where you are weak and vice versa. This doesn't happen automatically; drawing up a skills map and skills-auditing each potential partner in order to match skills required with skills available is a crucial part of the preparation stage.

Cultural match

If you, as a sole trader, are wanting to collaborate with other sole traders, understanding the other party's style of doing business, vision, view of the world around them, their values and beliefs and behaviours will be important for effective collaboration.

If you are a larger business with staff and even possibly a management team, how you go about understanding each other's business culture will need a lot of careful thought. Each MD spending time at the other's business getting to know people and processes is a good place to start.

Process matching

This is about how you or your company actually works from end to end. How you sell, market your products & services, communicate internally, & externally, deal with suppliers, customer relationship management; how you actually make the products and provide the service, how you run your admin and finance functions etc. Don't assume that because your own business runs effectively and smoothly that there will be no difficulties when you collaborate with others even if they too have a smooth running business.

Legal & structural aspects

Collaborative agreements or even legal entities may be needed depending on the depth of the relationship and complexity of the work being undertaken. Seek specialist advice.

So yes it is definitely an option to consider...

It is widely accepted that business cooperation / collaboration is a valid strategy for growing a business. There are huge benefits to be had from utilising the synergy of complementary businesses as well as potential economies of scale.

...but don't go into it blindfolded

We have only scratched the surface and looked at a few aspects, but even so it should be clear that some form of due diligence is needed before any decision is made. Good advice is essential for each party separately and, if the idea progresses, possibly a facilitator, either internal, or external to mediate and to project manage the formation and early stages of the partnership or joint-venture.

A sobering thought is that the majority of collaborative business relationships fail. So do your groundwork first, be prepared to put the time and effort into making the partnership work and you stand a chance of being one of those businesses that succeed with collaborative cooperative relationships.

In a nutshell:

  • Identify the business opportunity
  • Choose your partner carefully
  • Spend time getting to know them and their business
  • Take advice
  • Be clear about the risks and benefits

If you think that collaborative co-operative working is a possible strategy for you but you're not sure where to start, talk to one of our business advisers.

That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser
tel: 07717 290309

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Business Link - the place to go for business support

Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk/east

 

Last month we looked at advertising and direct mail. This month we will look briefly at some key points to be aware of about customer databases and then look at telemarketing.

Databases

This assumes that you keep information about your customers in an electronic or paper database.

A database should allow you to:
 

Read more: Customer Databases & Telemarketing

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