business_linkThere are a lot of ways that I could spend money on marketing my There are a lot of ways that I could spend money on marketing my business, but which is the most effective?

The first rule is to know your customers or potential customers; where would they typically look for information on your type of products or services and how do they prefer to buy?

For existing customers what are the most effective ways of keeping them informed?

But first let's break the subject down and look at some of the components.

Let's start with two general headings; mass marketing and direct marketing.

Mass marketing targets a wide audience regardless of who they are - sometimes known as undifferentiated marketing. Advertising falls into this category as do mass mailing, mass e-mailing and SMS messaging among others.

Mass marketing tools, such as advertising, can be used effectively for business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing where you want as many people as possible to know about your brand and or products & services i.e. a leaflet drop to 5000 households or an ad in the press.

Differentiated marketing is where you want to market to smaller and defined customer groups or market niches. For instance if you sell model aeroplanes you might still choose to advertise, but may well target the readership of one or more model aeroplane magazines.

Direct marketing lets you get a specific message across to defined groups or individuals.

This is often business-to-business, but can be business-to-consumer, and includes methods such as: telemarketing, direct mail, leaflet drops, email marketing, text, SMS marketing and highly targeted and specific marketing letters to an individual company.

So what will work for you? Let's look at some of the main ones.

Advertising is wide ranging and includes your website, the sign over your door, the writing on your van, marketing messages designed for and inserted into any number of print, digital and audiovisual media.

You can use advertising to sell one or a range of products, or more generally to build awareness about your brand.

Advertising, particularly media advertising, can be very expensive so before you take the plunge do your homework:

  • The media itself, how many readers (viewers and listeners if TV or radio);
  • Ask yourself if are they the right audience for your products;
  • Get the message and the look of the advert right. This is the clever bit and you may need help; it does take practice.

There is quite a bit of legislation about what can and cannot be said or written in an advertisement - check out the Business Link website for more on this.

Before you advertise:

  • Decide your cost budget, targeted response rate and target conversion to sales.
  • Decide your objectives for the advertisement; this will also influence the message content.
  • Know your target customers: what will grab their attention; what will get them interested enough in your product to prompt them to action i.e. email you to find out more, call you, visit your website or visit your premises?
  • Getting the message right is crucial - good copy is not easy to achieve. Read about the subject or get a copywriter to help.
  • Establish where your advertisement will be placed in printed media. There are those who say that the right-hand pages are the first ones to catch a reader's eye, more specifically that the best positions are on page one or page three in the bottom right-hand corner. Often though, a magazine or newspaper will have specific pages for different types of products and services and readers will be accustomed to looking at those sections for the information they want.
  • Make it easy for your customers to take action i.e. call us, go to our website, visit our shop.
  • Decide how you are going to measure the success of the advertisement i.e. a coupon to cut out and send back, or a promotion code that the customer needs to quote when they call or visit. If nothing else, ask enquirers how they heard about you.

Direct mail

Unfortunately often known as known as junk mail and justifiably so in many cases.

However, with direct mail as with other direct marketing tools you have the opportunity to take a far more targeted approach.

Direct mail is good for:

  • Building customer loyalty;
  • Increasing sales to existing customers;
  • Reintroducing yourself to lapsed customers;
  • Finding and converting new customers.

You can send the same letter addressed To Whom It May Concern to 50 addresses and sit back and wait for the calls to flood in, but have plenty of food and drink with you because it could be a long wait. Response rates to direct marketing particularly general mail shots can be very low - from zero to 7%. This is a numbers-game, so you need to target more prospects if it is a general mail shot, but if you are targeting specific businesses then do some research about your target customer: correct name, title, anything current about the business. Then beef up the message so that product and service benefits are meaningful to that business because the quality of the message has a big impact on response rates.

Preparation is the key - a poorly planned and targeted campaign will result in lower response rates. If you want me to send you a free factsheet on writing sales letters please email me.

Some things to consider therefore:

  • Decide your objectives for the mailing campaign;
  • Remember the message is crucial, research and segment your customers (even down to individuals if necessary) and target the message accordingly;
  • Test on small samples if necessary, learn from the results and look to improve the message with the next batch;
  • Do your costings and a budget;
  • What incentives will you include in the message to increase response rates?
  • Consider how you will follow-up with contact after you send the letter.

Next month we will continue with this theme looking at some other marketing tools. Agencies: Jobcentre Plus is a good source of recruits and may

That's all for this month.
Peter Mulhall

Business Adviser

Business Link - the place to go for business support



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

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Business Link - the place to go for business support