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.


This is a large and growing area full of jargon, and I am not going to attempt to explain it all here but we will look at a few digital marketing tools to give you a flavour.

Some of the digital marketing tools you may come across:
 

  • Search Engine Optimisation - using a variety of methods to attempt to move your website up the search engine rankings.
  • Pay per click - where you pay every time someone clicks on your sponsored link, often on search engines that would be the highlighted top two or three and those in the column to the right.
  • Banner marketing - where you pay other sites that display your banner every time a search topic is entered by a visitor, and where the visitor can click through to the relevant part of your site.
  • Blogging - more on this in a minute.
  • Email marketing - using email formats such as newsletters to promote and keep in touch with your audience.
  • SMS marketing to mobile phones.
  • Social networking and online forums.
  • Podcasting and videos.

We will pick off a few of these in future newsletters, but let's look at blogging in more detail.

So what is a blog?
Most of us are familiar with personal blogs which can range from a collection of random thoughts to a life journal. Business blogging allows you as a business owner to share your knowledge and expertise in your specialist subject, and to help build reputation and credibility. Apart from the opportunity to impress, blogs are a tool to direct and increase traffic to your website - although you don't need a website to blog.

Even without a website you can get a presence on the internet by using one of several free online tools as a platform for your blogs such as blogger.com, wordpress.org and others that are easily found on search engines.

Business blogs tend to be more structured and planned than a personal one, but personal style is important and will be much less formal than most of your marketing material.

In stark contrast to the days when material on the web was static information, blogs are far more dynamic and interactive and give you a chance of a dialogue with your customers.

Blogs once born need to be nurtured, so be prepared to feed your blog at least weekly.

So what makes an effective blog? Opinions vary but here are some:
 

  • The subject matter and content must be interesting and relevant to your audience.
  • You should know your stuff.
  • Enough and no more (no attempts at War and Peace).
  • Update your blog at least weekly to keep your audience coming back.
  • Develop your own style of writing, business blogs can be fun as well as informative, but watch the balance and remember why you are doing it; avoid talking about yourself.
  • Don't compromise on the quality of your writing - ensure good grammar and correct spelling.
  • Don't ramble; choose your topics and organise your content carefully. There are some high quality business blogs out there, yours will be found along with them and compared accordingly.
  • Research what other business bloggers are writing, but for inspiration not content as copyright laws apply.
  • Let people know who you are and how to contact you.
  • Don't try to sell: whilst the ultimate aim is promote your business and sell more to existing and new customers, blogs are not sales pitches.
  • Encourage readers to receive an RSS feed of your blog.
  • Use key search words in your blog because you want to be found.
  • Create links to your website if you have one and to other material you have written.
  • Encourage your audience to comment and give feedback.

Participate and comment on other bloggers' sites.

Happy blogging!

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

Next time we will start to look at email marketing and a few rules and regulations on digital marketing.

 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

 

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