Strapline

Ideas and Words for all Business Communications

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Business development in an uncertain marketplace

Towards the end of 2015 and for the 1st quarter of 2016 I've been working with a team of entrepreneurs setting up a B2B service offering.

Nothing I haven't had the privilege of doing before, but what was so surprising was the way they viewed the short to medium term and how they were building in "uncertainty" into their business development model.

There has always been a degree of not knowing exactly what was going to happen in the future and the need to have "a plan" if things change. But working with these people and some additional research I've undertaken over the past 3 months have revealed 7 key changes that are going to happen which will create and sustain an "uncertain" marketplace for the foreseeable future. This is primarily in the UK marketplace but I've found parallels in the US and Germany.

The 7 key changes are;

  • Labour costs are going to rise significantly
  • Margins are going to reduce
  • Some prices will rise - mainly on professional services
  • Business owners will be forced to take less from their businesses
  • Experience will become more important than youthful exuberance
  • Real time face to face business communications will start to replace basic telephony
  • Investment in IT will be more important than investment in marketing
All the above just make the very uncertain world we wake up to every morning just that little more difficult to be confident in.

Confidence is going to be very important in every aspect of how business owners grow and maintain their competitive advantage.

Over the coming weeks I intend on focussing on how owners of VSB's (Very Small Businesses), and SME's (Small and Medium Enterprises) will need to radically change the way they think about how they invest in marketing and what they must do to give themselves the best chance of survival.

The next 2-5 years will see a dramatic change in the UK and possibly other international markets concerning  the impending changes that have already begun.  Those who sit on their hands might survive just as well as those who grasp some of the above. What I can guarantee is that if you get stuck in the middle ground with a half hearted response to just a few of these major changes you and your business will be in trouble.



Thursday, 24 December 2015

Thoughts for marketing in 2016

Broken ankle time off has now come to an end and I’m back out and about after a 3 month quiet time.

This time has been really useful to take stock of my current marketing thoughts and concerns and hopefully be in a position to now offer clients views and direction as they prepare for a very uncertain future.

Are you ready for the marketing challenges of 2016?
Across all market sectors there are going to be some seismic shifts in the fundamentals that underpin the stability of each marketplace during the next 2 to 5 years. I used to be overly concerned with identifiable and individual incidents, such as macro and micro fiscal changes, the EU debate and demographic change. 

But now I’m more concerned with the organic flight and fight response that I think consumers will start to exhibit in light of a toxic combination of lack of job security, rises in inflation, removal of some differentials in wages of lower paid employees, reduction and removal of many social security benefits, rises in homelessness, more and more violent terrorist activity, and the inability of any government to manage the views and values of the majority in society.

The individual in my view will soon become just that – an individual. Sounds great, but after a short time, any reference to shared and common values will dissipate.  I predict a move to individual and national protectionism, linked to increased suspicion of others, fear of authority, and a need to reduce risk.

If you’re in business today, I suggest you start to plan for:
  • ·         A 30% reduction in non-essential spending
  • ·         Lower property values
  • ·         Increase in company insolvency as interest rates rise
  • ·         Lower rents in the long term
  • ·         Lower food costs – but also less choice and increased home cooking/baking
  • ·         Reduction in car ownership in real terms
  • ·         Less foreign travel
  • ·         Increased pressure on wages to maintain essential services
  • ·         More crime and just as worrying an increase in the perception that we live in a more lawless environment
  • ·         Changes to how we trade with Europe

In short marketing folk need to start to stop worrying about increasing market share and improving brand value and start worrying about finding new customers.

The good news is that for many the internet will help. Many companies still regard a fifty miles radius from their base as there market – not anymore. I know of a lawn company who recently started an online advice line and now provides clients around the world access to their considerable expertise.

There are thousands of potential customers who are happy to pay for knowledge, expertise and guidance.


In short the UK market is heading for prolonged stagnation – so create a global proposition and start finding income from beyond or current horizons.

Image courtesy of Anoop Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

What can a broken ankle teach you about marketing? Part 3

Well this broken ankle malarkey has taken more out of me than I thought it would - healing when you're a bit older takes time. But it has given me the time to really review how I've generated new business for myself and for my clients and here are some of my conclusions.
When was the last time you thought about why clients love or hate you?
The primary reason why businesses struggle, falter, and fail is not because of failures in marketing, or finance, or even effort. They fail because the idea behind the product or service was crap in the first place. Sorry but you can't polish a turd and eventually the market finds you out.

So lesson number one - if you can't generate new and repeat business, ask yourself if you have something worthwhile to offer, or are you just pissing in the wind and wasting your time.

Lesson number two - if you are making clients happy and they are paying with real money then find out why. You probably think you know, but in my experience you might not. I used to think clients used my services to generate more business - but I found out that clients used me to challenge them about what the future for their market might look like. My natural instinct to create space in a marketplace that has yet to be filled, led me to ask questions other marketing folk just ignored. 

Lesson number three - when you find out what you do that others will pay for - just get on with doing it. The time I've wasted doing everything else but getting on with doing what I do has cost me thousands. You don't have to have the best website, or nice business cards, or a new brochure - you really don't. Just find a client and do what you do - and then ask that satisfied client if they can help you grow your business by giving you an introduction to someone else. If you sell a product rather than a service you can do the same. Get your customers to become advocates for you. And when I say ask them, I don’t mean email them, I mean sitting with them eyeball to eyeball and asking them directly. In all the years I’ve been doing this, not once has a happy client said no!

Lesson number four - marketing and selling are two different skills, but increasingly forget the selling bit. Customers will come to you when they are ready. Selling is very old fashioned. Having excellent negotiation skills and being able to build a relationship with a stranger on the phone in less than 30 seconds are more valuable than learning how to handle a few objections!

The fastest way of growing your business is to make your clients genuine advocates for what you do – part 4 will focus on how this can be achieved.

Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 12 October 2015

What can a broken ankle teach you about marketing? Part 2

Enforced stillness and the requirement to slow down as a consequence of breaking my ankle has been both frustrating and surprisingly enlightening.

I've learnt that a portion of my working day was just wasted with "doing things".

Now I can't do so many activities and have to focus on stuff I can do, it's really clear I've been wasting time. I don't think 1 shall be as unfocused as I was, and I suggest that if you get to the end of the day and have missed your objectives you might want to reflect on what got in the way.

Practically speaking the old busted ankle has given me the time to take a long look at what I do and what I want to do over the next few years. But part of that process was a little bit scary.
When was the last time you did a bit of planning?
My Marketing and Business Development Plan was 3 years out of date and most of the action points and milestones I so carefully crafted were just not hit. How the hell did that happen?

Do you have a plan for marketing your business? How's it going?

Well don't break your ankle to find out! - If like mine it's out of date and just a forgotten wish list then do yourself and business a favour and make it a priority to fix.

There are loads of ideas on the web about how to build a marketing and business development plan - if you want to know where to look just email me and I'll send you a list of places that have always inspired me.

It's taken me the best part of 10 hours to get my ideas down on paper and now I'm putting the milestones into my Google Calendar so I get a kick every month. They say if you don't plan you're planning for failure - well I'm not sure. But what I've have learnt is that if you do plan you really should take it out every week and see if you're on track and not leave it in a drawer hidden away.

Next up on the list is a review on the return I have managed to get on the various different marketing comms activities I've used over the past 5 years. The initial results surprised me.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

What can a broken ankle teach you about marketing? Part 1

I've broken my ankle.

Take my advice - don't do this!

Completely my own fault even though I've tried to include the dog as part of the incident!

I'm back from hospital and have to be non weightbearing for at least another 4 to 6 weeks, so you can expect a few more blogs, as I have more time.

And as I've been lying in bed reading and reflecting some ideas are developing concerning time and marketing.

With a busted ankle I can assure you EVERYTHING takes a lot longer and you need HELP to get even the most basic things done. ( I won't go into all the details, but be under no illusion not be able to get around with speed and precision is a real problem).

Speed, precision, and flexibility are all aspects of today's marketing communications activity - so we all think, but are they really? When you only have one good leg and have to plan carefully just getting from the office to the loo, things start to slow down.

You also can't make meetings without a struggle, and you get tired and have to take rest when normally you would be expected to running around doing doing doing.

But 10 days into this, even though I'm not loving it, I'm doing some great work and have come to an understanding that we might think we have to be doing doing doing, and have to react with ever shortening timescales, but WE REALLY DON'T.

Because all of us actually respond better if we can consider and reflect before we make a decision, just like I have to pause and reflect before I decide to hop into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. We think we can make up our minds faster and faster, but we can't and we don't like when we have to.

I'm developing ideas on how this has an impact on inertia and its relationship with the decision making progress. Eliminating friction and inertia for our customers to make a purchase decisions is often linked to pricing strategy and third party recommendations - and it is, but I'm convinced it's also linked to our innate "slow processing" capacity which has been part of our mindset for generations.

Over the next few weeks I hope to show that taking time over marketing strategy and tactics and understanding that our customers prefer to take time, should be something to consider.

Image courtesy of sippakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 7 September 2015

A fundamental change in purchasing decision behaviour is taking place - are you ready?

We all worry about what other people think. It's in our nature. We are concerned that other people might have a better insight or appreciation of a given situation and none of us like to find out after the event when it's too late.

The internet ensures we don't have to rely on salespeople to sell us goods and services until we want to buy them, but that means we are now faced with having to make our purchase decisions on our own.

And the truth is we're not very good at it.
No reviews or testimonials tells a very negative story

This has led to the critically important "review".

If your goods or services have no reviews or third party testimonials then you are in big trouble.

Forget all the rubbish you read of tracking the customers journey and enticing them with enriched content. If at the point of purchase there are no reviews or testimonials then I can guarantee the best you're going to get is a call to find out more - and in the majority of cases you're just going to be ignored.

If what you sell is crap then stop selling it. You can no longer polish a turd and expect it to outshine the competition.

Encourage reviews, ask for them when you feel it appropriate, have a reviews system built into your post sales communications process.

If you get a bad one - deal with it in real time and for all to see. Prospective customers understand that things go wrong sometimes and that problems crop up. If they can see you have dealt with the issue quickly and resolved the issue it builds confidence.

Bottom line is NO Reviews No Sales!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The first sale is not the hardest

Traditionally new customers are thought of as the hardest to gain. New business development is still seen as one of the most important jobs in any company and is usually staffed by hard nosed professional communicators with an eye for a good margin.
How are you going to earn that second sale?
But like everything else - times have changed and are continuing to change as customers learn that they are in complete control of the buying process. Customers are slowly realising that they can buy when they want, at a price point of their choice, new or secondhand without any help from a smooth or not so smooth talking salesperson.

So the first sale you make is going to be very much like the second sale you make to that customer - not really under your influence.

But there are 4 things you should consider when trying to get that second sale:

  1. Thank your new customer for the first sale. Not in an email. By way of a "thank you" postcard. No offer, no special deal, just a plain old thank you and perhaps some handy customer service details.
  2. Having established postcards as a media calculate the most probable next order date and 2 weeks before hand send another postcard with a discount code of say 15% off everything you have on your website
  3. If that fails and you have an email try the same with an email
  4. Change the offer - if practicable try a buy 1 get one Free, or a related product or service add-on 
If you can get the second sale - you have a significantly higher chance of hanging on to your new customer - that's why the second sale can be the hardest.

But the good news is that most companies still work on the assumption that new customers are more important, and don't really care about them after they get the first order. If you do, and put the investment into chasing down those second orders, growth will be more sustainable and competitive advantage improved.

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net