Search This Blog

Friday, 20 December 2013

Surprise! How to delight your customers.

Watch the video above to see WestJet airlines, a Canadian low cost carrier, playing Santa to their customers.  I challenge you not to have a warm fuzzy feeling by the end and surely that's what Christmas is all about.

Who knows how much this ultimate marketing stunt may have cost, but let's look at the benefits.

1. Surprised and delighted customers

What a story.  An experience like this gives customers something to tell their family and friends.  They want to talk about you and will continue to share the unexpectedness of this experience for a long time to come, both off and online.

2. Loyalty

If you were one of the passengers on this flight, how keen would you be to book WestJet again?  I'm guessing they'd be your first choice.  It's human nature - someone does something nice for you and you feel the need to reciprocate.  Beyond this though, the WestJet brand has just given itself a rather wonderful personality, helping customers to link it with generosity, imagination and heart.  Fabulous differentiators, especially in a market where choice is often dictated by price.

3. WestJet team building

Watching those WestJet employees take a break from their normal routine, to rush round a store buying and wrapping presents, you could tell they were having fun.  Everyone felt part of the passenger secret, and proud to work for a brand which was exceeding all expectations.  Often marketing is so focused on gaining and retaining customers, that it forgets the employees who make it all happen.  This event will also be shared by employees, keen to show how they helped deliver Christmas.

4. International visibility

I live in Scotland which is rather a long way from the Calgary based WestJet.  Had they not performed this act of genius, I might never have known they existed, but now I do. We spend so much time trying to get eyeballs on our content, clicks on our links and engagement on our social media and this five minute youtube video has now been watched by almost 30 million people worldwide.  Quite a return on investment.

Happy holidays.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Do you know your social demographics?


I read a great blog post recently, by the Fast Company, which listed some surprising statistics around social media. Who knew that

  • the fastest growing group on Twitter is 55-64 years olds
  • 45-54 year olds rule on Facebook and Google+
  • average age of a LinkedIn user is 44, with 2 new members joining every second
  • YouTube exceeds Cable network views for 18-34 year olds in the US

It's surprisingly easy to forget that over the last decade the demographics of the key social media tools have shifted considerably.  Has your marketing strategy kept pace?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Why should you care about the collaborative economy?

In case you hadn't noticed, there's a sharing revolution going on.

Social media has established itself in our psyche over the last decade. It's changed our behaviour enough that we're turning our backs on company websites, in favour of the “truth” we can find by asking the world for their views.

Now that we're comfortable with talking to strangers, the next step is working with them. The crowd is becoming a company, or rather a whole series of companies, where the line between customers and employees is blurred.

Jeremiah Owyang is a man to watch. He's currently seeding the idea of the collaborative economy to corporations big and small. Many others, such as Shane Hughes (in the video below), show how this notion of access, rather than ownership is changing the economy.

Co-operation between people to link those who want something with those who already have it, is not a new thing, but the movement now gaining pace, encourages us to share and use resources only as we need them.  A concept that sounds like a hippie throw back, might just be the future of business.

So if you'd like ...

- more efficient sales, marketing and staffing processes
- deeper relationships with consumers and suppliers
- to be able to add value to the relationships between customers

... then the early adopter opportunities are just waiting to be had.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Employer Branding or why HR & Marketing should be friends

Once upon a time the Marketing department were in complete charge of a companies brand.  They designed, produced and communicated it, jumping on those who used the wrong colour combo, logo size or typeface and all was well with the world.

The HR team incorporated what they needed into job descriptions and internal policy documents, occasionally visiting the branding gurus for promotional products and event invites.  Everyone was happy.  Companies told us what we should think of them and we, in the main, believed it.

Skip forward a decade and social media has changed the game.  Now the fight is on not just to attract customers, but to engage the best talent in the market and this means that employers are having to work hard to prove themselves different and desirable through employer branding.

Proctor and Gamble are doing a great job here with their dedicated site and consistent brand messaging on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

You see, future employees can now use social media to test company and recruiter claims, checking that the vision they're being sold, matches the reality of current employees.  What people think, feel and share about your company as a place to work, is now a fundamental part of HR and Marketing strategy, so it's about time these teams started sitting together at lunch.

Of course, for employer branding to work it needs to truly differentiate a company from its competitors and be measurable. Without the Marketing team this won't be possible, but without HR, there will be no-one in the marketing team ......

Friday, 20 September 2013

The 5 point blogging cheat sheet


I'm still quite new to the wonderful world of blogging, and often I think that my dog (pictured above), is the only one who gets the benefit of my musings.  That said, even those who don't consider themselves marketers now seem ready to put their thoughts on paper, so what follows is my cheat sheet of advice to get that first post out there - go on ....

1. Have goals

What are you trying to achieve with your blog?  Who is your audience likely to be?  Which format works best to communicate with that audience? These may seem like easy questions, but unless you answer them in advance, you'll never be able to justify the time and effort that a blog takes to produce and maintain.  Establish topic or market credibility by addressing subjects your audience cares about and responds to, then carefully choose layout, images, content and timing.

2. Provide valuable content

Successful bloggers write a lot.  They are passionate about their subject matter.  They work on getting people's attention quickly and keeping it through easily digestible posts.  These posts typically
- answer questions
- provide hints and tips
- show behind the scenes footage
- tell a story
- cover events for those who can't attend
- create regular features
- highlight success stories
- share photographs
You get the idea.

3. Be authentic, be transparent, be you

Just as the opening page of a book switches you on or off, a blog needs to reward the reader for their attention.  People like to know who's behind the prose.  Write as though you're explaining something to your neighbour. Don't be afraid to show who you are and what you do. Tell true stories well.

4. Use your best assets

A lone blogger is generally their own best asset, but if you're thinking of starting a company blog, it's worth remembering that your employees know your company better than anyone else and customers want to hear that inside scoop.  That said, it's also great if you can engage by blogging customer testimonials, including guest blogs from suppliers and distributors and sharing those experiences which might otherwise go unnoticed.

5. Listen, respond, repeat

With an estimated 300 million blogs currently in existence, blogging is now a regular source of information and part of everyday life.  It's time to join the conversation, educate, inspire, challenge, motivate, but most of all share. Encourage feedback and respond to it, showing that you hear rather than deleting anything negative.  Over time your analytics will show those posts which are enjoyed most so you can hone your new found skills and join the ranks of the greats or at least get a thrill from providing a window into your world.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Which web works?

I'm a woman of a certain age - let's just say generation X.  Recently I've been struck by the gulf that's developing in how my peers and generation Y's (also known as millennials), perceive and use websites.

Ah, websites.  In the early days they were a billboard to the world.  Function over form and a sure sign that your company was at the cutting edge of technology.  Back in the dark ages of 2005, (to give it it's full title as we did in the day), looked like this. Retro huh?

Further back, in 1996, even Apple was an ugly duckling.

For those of us who've lived through the early evolution of the internet, websites have become the trusted face of a company, so it's easy to forget that a mere decade ago, while generation X were embracing the joys of technology, baby boomers were suspicious of this passing fad.  

Earlier this year eMarketer ran an article showing the differences in behavioural internet usage by age range. The results confirm that those born in the age of social media are far more likely to turn to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for help and advice than they are to visit a company website.  Web pages which once had a monthly and in some cases yearly shelf life, just can't keep pace with the immediate need for answers that visitors now have.

This all means that knowing your target audience is key when defining how your website looks and the content it contains.  You can start by answering three simple questions, as you try to put yourself into your customers shoes.

1. What key problem is the visitor trying to solve or which burning question do they need to answer?  
This might be as simple as finding the phone number, address or opening hours of your company if you're aiming at generation X.

2. Does your website tell visitors who you are and what you do?
Do the colours used engage or distract?  Are you expecting your visitor to read text or providing the simplicity of a video? Does it load quickly and function correctly whether it's viewed on a tablet or a mobile or a laptop? (try it).

3. Are you making it simple for visitors to find what they need?
Each page of your website should have one clear call to action.  Make it easy for the visitor to do what you want them to do.  How many times have you clicked a link for a particular offer only to find yourself on the homepage scrambling around to find the offer all over again?  Equally, if a discount code can be applied, take visitors not only to that page, but preferably pre-populate the discount code for them as well. 

There are loads of great articles on designing your website from your customers point of view. These are some of my current favourites

What does your website do to bridge the generation gap?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

7 ways to be a better tweep (twitter user) today

Every felt like you're tweeting in slow motion? Or that the rest of the twittersphere knows something you don't?  Here are a few tips you can follow today to make you look like an expert, even if you're still learning on the job.

1. Decide why you're on twitter

I know this sounds like a no brainer, but often I hear people say they're on twitter because they feel they have to be, rather than through any particular plan to engage potential customers, build a brand, share ideas, gather news - the possibilities are endless.  Having a purpose in mind, directs who you follow, what you tweet and how much time you need to devote to this addictive little tool.  What's yours?

2. Make your twitter presence visible

How many people know that you're on twitter?  If your twitter name doesn't appear on your business card, email signature, website, LinkedIn page, voicemail message etc. etc. etc. then you're missing some great opportunities.  Helping people to know you're there also adds a little personal pressure to keep your twitter stream active .....

3. Be more interesting

This is a note to self as much as anything else, but tweeting about the same old subjects in the same old way, can take all the fun out of twitter. Broaden your horizons, look for trending topics (change country for even more variety), or search for complementary ideas that are likely to be interesting to your followers.  The more you inform, engage and entertain, the more your following will grow.

4. Rerun past tweets

Twitter is more like TV than blogging. People don't tend to read a twitter stream from beginning to end, so you shouldn't be afraid to intersperse your new tweets, with old ones.  Good content is always worth revisiting and if you don't recycle once in a while, your newest followers won't get the full benefit of your tweeting skills.  Rerun your best tweets, but not so often that you sound like a broken record. Not sure what your best tweets are? Take a look at My Top Tweet.

5. Aim for retweets

It's not about how many followers you have, but rather how much they value your input. Getting a retweet is like an endorsement.  It shows that others agree with your stance enough to share it with their followers.  This is how authority is built. Think about how and what you like to retweet and fill your stream with similar nuggets.  Hubspot have a great post on how to get retweets.

6. Use hashtags

Hashtags (which look like this # - see the trend boxes above for ideas), let twitter know what your tweet is about and help categorise it for others to find. If you type a word or phrase into the twitter search box and prefix it with a hashtag, you'll see who's talking about a particular topic and that can help you decide on the conversations you'd like to join. My own rule of thumb is no more than two hashtags per tweet - more makes it difficult to read.

7. Fake it 'til you make it

Part of the joy of this social media world is knowing that we're all still learning.  Like any new skill, the more you practise the better you'll be and there's a wealth of information out there to help you.  Here are some of my favourites.

Enjoy, oh and follow me on twitter @vlindsay.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Buying Cycle (in a nutshell)

You can also think about the buying cycle as

1. The customer realizes they have a problem
2. They set out to gather information about their problem
3. They start evaluating the solutions that might solve their problem
4. They choose a product/service
5. They implement their chosen solution and are satisfied or begin the process again

Marketers who shape their content to deliver answers to their customers at each stage, have a far higher conversion rate than those who ignore human logic.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Create, Curate or Syndicate?

It's all about content.
Content is King.
Generating enough content is the top issue on our little business brains, according to any statistics you'd ever like to quote.

I define content as the stories your company shares with it's various audiences, to help them understand what makes you unique and why they should spend their time and money supporting your brand.  Content is not a substitute for marketing, but it is the information you supply, to form an emotional connection with your customers - it gets them involved.

There are really only 3 ways to go.

1. You create fresh, original content

This is by far the hardest and most time consuming route, but as with anything in life, all that effort can lead to maximum returns if done well. Content creation puts you in control, lets you add your own personality and project images and stories that resonate with your distinct groups. You have the ideas, you produce a post/article/whitepaper and you share it.
See Red Bull content marketing.

2. You summarize and curate the content that's already out there

The time poor consumer is happy to do their own research, but anyone who can shorten their decision making process is a friend.  Companies who pull together the best content available, be that blog posts, articles, infographics, podcasts etc. around a particular industry/market/topic to share with their audience, immediately add value by saving them the trouble of finding these gems themselves.
IBM have a great curation example on tumblr.

3. You find key allies and syndicate content

Syndication is about getting your content in front of different audiences, often creating new revenue sources along the way.  You can either join forces with those already making a noise in the markets you want to reach and find a way to work with them, (guest blog, co-produced white paper etc.) or distribute third party information, usually be quoting links back to the original work, (or paying to republish as necessary). Newspapers are a great example of syndication, with several different journalists, puzzle makers, cartoonists etc contributing to the final product.
Take a look at the following sites to see more on this model
Social Media Today
Sustainable Business Forum
My Venture Pad

I suspect that the day is near when we won't even talk about content as a separate subject, since social media has now put the consumer firmly in control of the stories behind each brand.  Let coca-cola's content 2020 program lead the way .......

Friday, 2 August 2013

Why Content Needs To Be Authentic

I recently discovered the fabulous blog 1000 Awesome things by Neil Pasricha and it reminded me how often we overlook the simple, wonderful things right before our eyes, in our pursuit to create great marketing content.

The enormous success of Neil's blog is testament to how much we humans love to relate to one another.  His blog is a series of anecdotes. - they're observations.  Small stories, which make us nod our heads in empathy and think back to the last time we experienced the same feelings, first hand.

All marketing needs honesty if it's to connect with its audience.  

We want to think that every company is a person and understands us.  

We're interested in the reasons why a company does what it does rather than the products they produce.  

We buy into the emotion and the story of a brand and that shapes our perception and ultimately our purchase decisions.

We want content that confirms our view of the world, helping us to immediately feel part of a wider community.

If you stripped back the industry jargon, business speak and hype around your company, what would you have left to say?  It just might be what your customers want to hear.

Friday, 26 July 2013

9 Marketing Lessons from Disney

I've recently returned from a family holiday in tropical storm soaked Florida. I kept my promise to stay offline during those two fun filled weeks, but my marketing brain couldn't help itself.  Here are my observations from countless hours in the Magic Kingdom, on what makes Disney one of the worlds most successful marketing machines.  How many of them could you apply to your business?

1. Make your internal marketing as strong as you external marketing

When is an employee not an employee?  When they're a Disney “cast member”.  Oh yes, from the moment a person decides they want to work for the dream maker, they understand that their job is a performance.  Disney runs auditions rather than interviews. There's a Disney university to make sure staff not only know the brand, but can be the brand, in each and every circumstance.  Disney knows that its brand reputation relies on the 60,000+ cast members it employs and just like good actors, they need to know the script.

2. Understand that the journey is as important as the destination

People go to Disney World to be entertained, but with more visitors than rides, inevitably that entertainment is traded against long queues.  Having captured your attention to actually join the wait, Disney rewards your patience with numerous props and distractions, to keep the spirits high and take your mind off the snaking, (so you never know exactly how many people are in front of you), line ahead.  Often we rush to sell our products or services and all but ignore the journey the consumer takes to get to that point.  As a marketer, the more deeply you understand your customers motivation and their decision making journey, the more effectively you can sell your offering.

3. Choreograph the buying cycle

Talk about upsell/cross sell,  Disney never misses an opportunity to raid your wallet. Every ride ends in a gift shop, with merchandise directly related to the experience you've just had.  Rather than feeling mugged, you're grateful for the chance of instant retail gratification and bouyed by the buzz of the ride, you give no thought to how that 4 foot stuffed toy will ever fit on the plane home.  Retailers know the impulse buys to stock by the tills, what could you be doing to make your customer spend just that little bit more in the rush of their initial sale?

4. Mass market individuals

Throughout the park, visitors queue to have their picture taken with the Disney characters and somehow, despite the crowds of other people waiting to tick that box, when you finally get your turn, the experience is all about you - not rushed or processed, just as authentic as any meeting with a grown up in an animal costume can be.  We all crave personal service.  We want to be served and feel valued.  Today, brands need to act like people and be accountable to their audiences.  One size no longer fits all.

5. Move with the times

Disney know their audiences and realise that there are a whole new generation of users waiting to don those mouse ears.  There are now a host of apps to help you navigate your day, (useful when the rain has turned your paper map to pulp).  While an app might not be right for your business, your future customers are likely to be digital natives who expect the brands they endorse to keep up with the evolving market.

7. Fairytale customer service

I spent 20 minutes stuck on what should have been a 4 minute ride and was instantly given a queue jump ticket to make sure I got to try it again or move on to something new. Grumbles were turned to grins before myself and my fellow hostages had made it through the gift shop.  Customer service is all about turning dissatisfied consumers to their original state of trust in a brand, and ideally making them feel even more loyal with a great story to tell their friends.  In this social media age where companies can gain insight to the thoughts, feelings and reactions that result from our experiences, there's no excuse for poor customer service.

8. Build communities

First visit, birthday, wedding day, anniversary - Disney has a badge for every occasion and will encourage you to wear it with pride so that each cast member can acknowledge how special you, (and several thousand other people wearing the same badge), really are.  Belonging is a trait of human nature which is often overlooked by marketing departments, but sharing commonalities encourages us to be more open to possibilities because we feel safe in our tribe.

9. Keep in touch

Returning home I found two emails from Disney - one sharing photographs taken in the park and the other asking for feedback on my experience. They know that as my tan fades, I can relive the memories and once again feel the happy glow of the brand.  This follow up is not designed to sell, but rather to keep me engaged.  It's back to that personal relationship thing, which helps me believe that Disney cares about my input.  Customers love to give opinions and these shape the perception of your brand in the minds of others. Influence or be influenced.

I wonder if I'm too old to apply for that internship ......

Friday, 5 July 2013

Ghosts of Social Media Future (Guest Post by Eileen MacCallum)

For the next few weeks, my blog is going to feel unloved, as I pack my bags and head for a wifi free zone, but since it's always good to end on a high, this week's post is a real treat by my guest, the copywriting star that is Eileen MacCallum.  You can read more about her at  Enjoy!


One of my favourite pastimes is to imagine which hot SM gizmo currently enthralling us all will be mocked by my kids in twenty – no, make that ten – years time.

Those of us aged 40-plus have witnessed such a massive leap forward in communication methods during our lifetimes.  The giant black-screen-green-text computer monitor I used in my first-ever job (in the 90s) made such a loud humming noise that whenever I called my Dad from work, he knew it was me before I spoke.  These days it’d go straight back to the (online) shop.

The 24/7 me-me-me hail of social media commentary bouncing off our heads wherever we go has taken time to get used to.  The kids have grown up with it; it’s like breathing to them. Many folk from generations older than ours simply refuse.  Never having worked with it, they know they’ll never truly understand it. It’s an add-on they don’t feel they really need.

So which of our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (and the rest) addictions will be joked about and which remembered fondly? As fondly as the boxy plastic phones of our childhood homes and student flats, dragged into bedrooms in a desperate bid for privacy, cord straining at the socket? It’s almost unthinkable now for us to have to share phones.  Or be unreachable – in a practical rather than, uh, emotional sense obviously.

Back in 2000 I felt quite edgy about getting my first mobile phone because it meant I’d always be contactable.  (My 15 year-old niece once asked me why I call it a mobile. To her it’s just a phone – they’ve always been mobile.) But at the time, I’d just broken up with an overly possessive boyfriend and the horrors of that kind of relationship PLUS constant contact were not to be contemplated. 

But I relented because I’d gone freelance and it was ‘for work’.  Ha. Hahahaha. Everyone knows mobile phones are FOR LIFE. Luckily I didn’t repeat my romantic car crash.

So. What shall I hear? “Oooooh God Mum, you must be the LAST person on earth still tweeting away to yourself!” *Nudges sibling, rolls eyes, pats maternal shoulder pityingly* #loserparent


Friday, 28 June 2013

How to grab attention and make your audience care

We are the audience. Our mantra is “make us care and do it quickly”. I'd say this Central American boutique has nailed it.

Assuming your customers/legal departments have more of an issue with privacy than those showcased, how can you cut through the noise?

Create content that works for your audience.

1. Make a story worth sharing.
This might mean being controversial, going that extra mile or simply finding a new way to be remarkable (think Seth Godin's purple cow).  Worth sharing should also be teamed with easy to share.  In this wonderful world of social media, you have no excuses - include the icons, wherever and whenever you communicate with your audience.

2. Address the audience your audience already look to for advice.
Influencing the influencers is a sure fire way to get attention.  If you're not sure who the influencers are, search the blogs, google keywords and see who's mentioned most.

3. Be where your audience are.
This means not changing their behaviour, but helping them to find you in the places they already go and from the people they already relate to.  Your content should be so in tune with your market, that it appears wherever they are.

4. Is consistent.
Your style, your voice, your personality needs to be recognizable, so even if the brand logo is covered over, it's unmistakable to your audience.  Erika Napoletano is a great example of this.

5. Remember, above all, you're trying to reach fellow humans.
For each piece of content you produce, ask yourself ‘so what?’ Is this message worth interrupting someones day for?  Would I read this and if I did, how would it make me feel? If more companies asked these questions before posting, (virtually or physically) my recycle bins would be easier to close.

We care about brands and content that reaches us on an emotional level. Brands that connect, create loyal fans and make money.  Those who don't, don't.

Friday, 21 June 2013

How to tell your SEO from your PPC?

Today I've decided to decipher some marketing speak, with a simple comparison table.  

For those who don't know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation or how visible your website is to the rest of the world.  Since the holy grail for companies is to appear on the first page of any Google search (and ideally in the top 5 results on that page), SEO is a term that keeps marketers awake at night.

PPC, Pay Per Click is a way of directing traffic to your website, by letting you, the frenzied marketer, buy your way onto that elusive Google search front page.

Ideally you want to use both tools to complement your outreach, but understanding the basics is always a good start.


Organic search
Paid search

Keywords are embedded into your web content.  The search engine brings back results based on visitors search query. Fingers crossed they type your keywords
Visitors search query triggers an advert associated with a designated keyword, paid for by each company

Long term tool.  Keyword rich content must gradually climb the search charts.  This can take weeks or months to achieve
Faster for drawing customer attention.  Good short-term tool.  Ideally for those in the market to buy right now and for informing potential new customers

Uses location specific keywords but tends to be less attuned to geographic location especially when the searcher hasn't specified a geographic term in the search
Uses location specific keywords.  More effective at targetting local areas because you can designate where your advert  appears in certain geographic locations

Keywords must be used in the test or HTML headers of the page, which makes writing for search and readers challenging.  Overuse of keywords can actually make a site or page, drop in search engine rankings
You can designate multiple keywords in your PPC adverts without having to actually include them in the text of the advert

If your content isn't displayed on the first page of results, users may never see it
Adverts are positioned prominently at the top or right hand side of search results

Achieves highest potential when used to build brand recognition over a long period
Not every click is a conversion.  You pay for the click but they may bounce from your landing page or ignore the CTA

You might be outbid by a company with larger finances pushing your advert lower down the page or onto the next one

Make sure you have a landing page that matches your advert, showing they are exactly in the right place, with a clear call to action tested on different browsers

My best advice to SMEs is to get some professional help with this area. Customers need to know you're out there before the sales can start rolling in and many a great company has been lost in the noise of the internet because no-one could find them.

Friday, 14 June 2013

A Quick Way To Establish Your Brand And Its Values

Branding is generally associated with external audiences e.g. customers, prospects, partners, investors and press. Everything your company does, communicates your brand to the waiting world. From website to letterhead, receptionist to location, it all helps potential customers to decide how to respond to your outreach.

Branding is just as important for your internal audience (existing and future staff), but more often than not, when I speak to a new client, there's a lack of agreement between employees, around who their company is and what it does for its customers.

If you find yourself struggling to reach consensus across your organisation, answering the following questions can really help.
  1. What words would you use to describe [insert company name] today?
  2. What words would you like to be using to describe [insert company name] 5 years from now?
  3. Who or what do you regard as your main competitors?
  4. Which words would you use to describe the competitors mentioned in question 3?
  5. Why do/would customers choose [insert company name] over the alternatives available?
  6. Which one attribute would you want [insert company name] to be known for?
  7. In your own words, what does [insert company name] do?
There are no right or wrong answers in this exercise.  Think of it as structured brain storming.  Ideally you should gather as many responses as possible - you can keep it to employees only or invite customer and distributor input too.  Look for patterns in the replies that you collect.  What sort of language is being used - descriptive, market jargon, active or passive voice?  Where are the gaps i.e. which questions did respondents struggle with most?

As a rough rule of thumb, your brand values, are the words which you'd use to describe yourself now and in the future, (the overlap in answers between questions 1 and 2). They are the essence of what your company stands for and should help potential customers to form expectations of service, quality, credibility etc.

Questions 3 and 4 help you define the market that you're in and let you compare the alternatives, just as your potential customers will, when making a purchase decision.  Make sure to include the internet and apathy alongside your named competitors, because todays endless choices often result in people making no decision at all.

Question 5 is designed to make you think about the benefits your product/service supplies, in the minds of your potential customers. Often companies present benefits in terms of product features rather than the actual value that customers gain from buying or using your product.  Think about how your product makes people feel, as well as what they actually get.  Knowing why people choose your brand makes messaging and content creation much easier.

Question 6 cuts to the core value.  What do you stand for?  If you say Volvo, people think of safety, and this trait has been stated in every marketing message that they produce, to convince us of its truth.  Brands need to  have a purpose.  None of us want to buy from faceless corporations.  What's at the heart of your organisation?

Question 7 tests whether you have a value proposition or not.  It's amazing how even people in the same department will paint a very different picture of their brand, when asked what their company does.  This is hardly surprising since we tend to define a company by our role in it, however, building your brand is about clearly and consistently sharing what you stand for, to position your offering in the hearts and minds of potential customers. If it seems like I've now looped back to the first paragraph in this post, then you can see how this all fits together.

In this age of social sharing, understanding your brand and its values, let's you define and reach your audience in ever more granularity.  Knowing who you appeal to and why, gives you the best chance of return on your marketing budget and there's no longer any excuse to mass market and hope something sticks.   As the saying goes, if you aim at nothing, you're bound to hit it.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Customer Choice - Getting them to choose you

Marketing human to human image

Every decision we make is based on personal knowledge. What we know and what we believe (real or imagined), drives our choice, supports our decision-making and carves out our loyalty to brands. The most obvious example being Mac versus PC users, but this also holds true in choosing your sandwich filling. We all think we’re right.

As a marketer, my job is largely about persuading people to make their choice in favour of the company or product I’m representing at the time, but typically, little energy is allocated to working out prospect preferences, before battering them with thinly disguised sales messages, (aka content).

What can you do to help customers choose you?

1. Listen

What is their world-view? Google keywords to see what they’ll see, follow existing market influencers on twitter, scan blogs (especially the comments sections), to see what people really think about your brand or your market and the terminology they use. We have two ears and one mouth, so perhaps we should listen twice as much as we speak.

2. Consider that your prospect doesn’t believe your marketing because their experience of ‘you’ doesn’t match your hype

What if your prospect knows something about your brand that you didn’t tell them? Of course we all do, thanks to the wonder of social media and our always-on culture, so what are others saying/doing/using your product for, that might be shaping the perception of your prospects and what are you going to do about it?

3. Direct your marketing budget to tactics that will help your prospects know what you know

None of us want to be told we’re wrong, yet increasingly, marketing is aimed at questioning our judgement in a bid to woo us from the competition. Think about how you can address the ‘why change?’ question in your messaging, rather than expecting prospects to make a leap of faith. We’re often wedded to brands out of laziness/familiarity and we fear change and the uncertainty that that brings. Armed with such knowledge, your marketing needs to encourage and reassure, making the status-quo a pain far larger than any worries we might have about trying something new.

As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart once said,“There is only one boss - the customer. He can fire everybody in the company from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Friday, 31 May 2013

6 Good reasons to have a blog

My blog is relatively new. I'm still finding my way, much like the 100 million other bloggers who have created web log's in the last decade - but week by week I feel compelled to share whatever's going on in my world, regardless of readership.

There's a therapy to writing a blog, like filling a journal, but now it seems that blogs have become a rather influential part of the marketing mix, so not quite the self-less act they once were.

Technorati, recently published their 2013 Digital Influence report . It's free and well worth a download. It shows that blogs consistently rank higher than LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter, as trusted resources and additionally outstrip the most obvious social media, when it comes to sharing and influencing purchase decisions.

For those of you who haven't joined the party yet, (you know who you are), here are a few reasons why blogging is such a great resource.

1. It's practically free

Log onto wordpress or blogger or tumblr and have something up and running in your lunchtime. The only long-term cost is your time. Blogs need love and attention to keep them alive, so decide how much time you can regularly give to updating one at the outset.

2. Your blog is always on

Want to respond to a breaking news item? Need to update your audience on behind the scenes footage as an event unfolds? Your blog is just the place. While most marketing takes time to develop and implement, your blog gives you immediate access to readers eager to hear what you have to say and perhaps more importantly gives your audience a chance to reply, assuming you have a comments section. It's all about engagement.

3. Links online and offline marketing

Talk about your plans and products, invite feedback, test ideas, showcase results. Your blog is the perfect bridge between on and offline marketing activities, engaging with your audience and inviting feedback. Use your blog to explain how your firm came into being, outline product features and benefits, post case studies, discuss your vision. Blogging makes your business a person and everybody knows that people buy from people ........

4. Demonstrate knowledge

Your blog let's you drill down into a topic that is only partially covered on your website, likewise it can showcase your point of view and your understanding of the market. Since blogs are personal opinions, they're the ideal tool to demonstrate your knowledge and show some personality at the same time.

5. Builds brand visibility

People share blog posts. You only have to look at Twitter or Facebook for evidence. Creating valuable content on your blog builds brand visibility that far outweighs what can be achieved through a website. There's something about the accountability of a blog post that makes it far more believable than if the same message had come via your website.

6. Boosts SEO success

OK, this last one is only really true if you remember to include keywords in your posts, but nonetheless, search engine optimisation needs all the help it can get and blogging is a great way to create additional keyword rich text, which all contributes to getting you found online.

Since we all love sharing our stories, blogging seems here to stay.  Yet, for every ying there is a yang, so I thought I'd end with the flip side in the form of a catchy little number called "I hate your blog".  There's two sides to every story.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Marketing tips from unlikely sources - the cinema

With half term looming (school holidays for those of you without children), a constant niggling distraction is how to keep the cherubs entertained. Since we live in Scotland, where even the summer weather can't be guaranteed to be kind, a cinema visit is sure to feature, which got me thinking about this post (see, you knew there was a point to all this).

Cinemas are really just distribution chains. Routes to market, which let us consume a third party product (the film). Just as video was meant to kill the radio star, the dawn of the internet and the rapidity with which media streaming took off, should have rendered cinemas to the realms of history. Yet, there seem to be more than ever before. How did this happen?


In marketing terms differentiation is "what matters to the buyer". It's a way of positioning your product or service so that the experience your customer has, matches their world view. Over the years, cinemas have evolved from stand alone, single purpose destinations, to entertainment hubs. Cinemas have become experiences and customers happy with their experience tend to be repeat customers buying memberships that guarantee their stake in that community.

The last decade has seen cinemas get smart about attracting the right kind of customers for their venue, through differentiators - a wall of pick'n'mix or thai rice crackers, leather seats with footrests or slightly sticky standard, shown to your seat or left to stagger around in the dark - they all shape a customers choice of which venue to visit. These differentiators have become almost as important as the film itself, especially for those of us still grappling with the nuances of HD versus lazor IMAX, (I know which venue does the best popcorn though).


Cinemas have had to adapt to the brave new world, by meeting their potential audience online and before they've even started to consider a visit. My local cinema has a twitter account and a facebook page, a membership program and a Pinterest board.

You no longer just see a film. Cinemas are now engaging their customers ahead of their visit through trailers, behind the scenes footage, special offers and the like, delivered directly to your inbox or your social media feed. Post film you're encouraged to share your experience, put questions to the production team, take part in a competition to see the next release and all from the comfort of your mobile app. We're hooked.


Customer perception is reality, so while the film being screened is the same wherever you watch it, the factors supporting your decision to visit the cinema in the first place, really matter. When customers buy a cinema ticket, they are really testing the brand to see if it delivers on it's promises. Was the surround sound as good as the hype?, was the premium seat worth paying extra for? etc. Meeting expectations keeps customers coming back for more, safe in the knowledge that they know (and like) the experience that they get there. 

Of course you could just stay at home and watch on your laptop, tv, home cinema, ipad ..........

Friday, 17 May 2013

5 Ways To Use Video in Your Marketing Mix

This week has been all about video.

If a picture paints a thousand words, then video redecorates.  It's the content we all want to consume and share and every marketing report we read sends us scurrying for our camcorders, (with varying degrees of success).

Before spending next years budget on your big picture production, it's worth considering a few key questions, namely
- what do you have to show your customers?
- what sort of customers are you trying to reach?
- what do you want your viewer to do as result of watching?  (Be careful with this last one, calls to action in video form won't be your usual "buy now" pitch)

So, what kind of video is right for you?

A commencement address with a difference.  This video is all about choice and decision making and reminds us that we're human.  A real inspiration.

Community engaging
With the explosion of Vine usage, it was inevitable that brands would incorporate it into their marketing mix.  Asos have cleverly put content production into the hands of their audience, asking them to showcase their orders.  It's a social media gift.

ASOS Unbox campaign using customer generated Vine footage

Showing personality - Poking fun at your competition
Here Samsung draw on the Apple following, to show how their audience are really the smart ones.  In doing so, they add personality to their electronics brand and become instantly more persuasive.

Creating visibility
The travel industry has always been keen to sell us the dream in pictures.  There are now annual awards for the countries who make the biggest impression.  Video is a great way to tell your story by letting your viewers picture themselves using your product and experiencing your service.

Educate by entertaining
Promoting rail safety could have been dull, but the cartoon nature and catchy music made this a Youtube success - there are now over 80 variations on this theme.  Praise indeed.

For all those not quite ready to make the video leap, remember there's always slideshare. Jenny and the Chicken is every bit as engaging in my book .......

Friday, 10 May 2013

What's a brand?

This week it's been all about branding.  Finding product names, reviewing company websites and generally assessing the impact that brands make on the world.  It got me thinking about how often the term 'brand' is used and misused.

Let's talk definitions
A brand is that distinctive mark that sets your company or product apart from all others in the market.  Car brands are a good example.  Think Rolls Royce, Fiat and Prius and though they're all cars, the image, colours and logos that come to mind are completely different.  Often companies have a single brand name like Adobe and several branded products (or sub brands) that build from that recognizable entity e.g Adobe Acrobat.

Branding is the process of building a brand, that is, defining the physical traits, such as how a logo might look and feel and the emotions we want to conjure up in our customers (Are you a Mac or a PC?).

Companies decide on their brand(s) and branding, but ultimately it's your customers who decide what a brand stands for and whether it meets their expectations or not.  Customer perception sustains brands, keeping entire families buying the same product across generations.  This in turn, affects the brands effectiveness in the market and any subsequent valuations (aka brand equity).

Customers loyal to a brand, spend more
This doesn't just mean financially, though this is often the case.  Loyal customers have experienced your brand for themselves and decided that you deliver on the promises your brand makes.  They are now more likely to invest time and indeed their reputations on telling others about your greatness.  This loyalty is also referred to as brand commitment.

Who do you want your brand to be?
We all think of brands as people, after all, no-one ever wants to buy from a faceless corporation.  Often our relationship with a brand is formed through direct people interaction.  The sales assistant, the call centre operator, the tour guide etc.  They help us to decide how a brand 'feels' and whether it resonates with our own world views.  Often this is know as brand personality and it plays a large part in helping us choose one brand over another.

Everything your company does will reflect on your brand
Think of Tiffany and you immediately picture small blue boxes, diamonds and exclusivity.  This brand association didn't happen overnight (they founded in 1837).  It took time to craft the story and imagery so synonymous with them today.  They thought carefully about the people who promoted their products, the locations for their stores, the experience that they wanted their customers to have and the result is an enduring brand which resonates world-wide.

Contrast this with Pret A Manger. or Pret as they're now known.  This brand is based around ethics.  All sandwiches are freshly made on the premises, using locally sourced produce and any unsold food is given to the homeless at the end of each day.  Their packaging is recyclable, their staff are always happy to see you.  Customers have endless lunch possibilities, but choose Pret because it makes them feel like they're also contributing to a better society.

Take time to build and nurture your brand and it should be one of your greatest assets. What's your favourite brand?

Friday, 3 May 2013

Why Do You Need A Company Facebook Page? (Top 5 Reasons)

According to a recent social media report by Technorati, over 90% of brands have a presence on Facebook - pretty astonishing for a tool designed not for selling, but for keeping in touch with friends and family.

So, what is all the fuss about and why should companies have a Facebook page?

This is the no brainer.  Having a company Facebook page is a positive step towards building your brand and community.  It's a way of showing your brand has personality and inviting your customers to interact on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

24/7 Customer Service
Perception, (which is 99% reality in customer minds), sees a company Facebook page as an instant access, free from elevator music, connection with a brand.  Thrilled by those sunglasses you just bought?  Look for the company Facebook page and share the love.  Discover you've paid more than you needed to?  Find that Facebook page and have a rant.  Like it or not, Facebook gives a very clear view of how well your products or services are doing, in realtime.  Be warned though, your customer expects a response, just as they would had they called your help-line, so make sure there is a dedicated resource monitoring and replying to each comment.

Daily Research and Development Opportunities
With the rapidly evolving new feature set, you can reach out to your audience for feedback on a regular basis.  Ask them questions.  Invite them to rate photos of yet to be released product.  Poll for suggestions. Offer free samples or behind the scenes sneak peaks, to gauge reaction to and interest in, your future plans.  The possibilities are endless.

We all know that an engaged audience is a revenue generating audience.  While Facebook is not primarily a sales tool, fans are well used to receiving offers and even getting access to exclusive content from the brands they support.  Lead generation may not be the first thing that comes to mind when setting up your Facebook page, but ask yourself how many spending decisions you've taken, based on something a friend shared on social media.

Facebook insights is a great way to measure the success of your Facebook page.  At the click of a button (or two) you'll have the numbers needed to show how engaged your audience is, how your fan base is growing, how people found your page and most importantly reach (how far your content can be shared through friends of your fans). Facebook insight stats are complimentary to those provided on your website by Google Analytics and together they give a picture of how well your marketing is performing.

Still not convinced?  Here are some great examples of company Facebook pages.

Sigmar Recruitment
The Honest Company
Godiva Boutique