Small businesses and start-ups are tight on resource, especially on marketing resource, so what’s important in bringing in business? It’s crucial that you clearly articulate your proposition to your target market and that people can readily access information about your products and services, but how do you stay relevant, how do you attract and retain customers?
Websites, brochures and presentations tend to be the largest proportion of physical materials that a small company will produce initially. This should always be the start point for any company wanting to market itself; after all, any new and existing customer will ask “What can you offer me?”
But once they’ve read the brochure or visited the website, how do you keep your audience coming back and seeing you as first choice? How do you stay front of mind?
The answer is a steady drip feed of messages, relevant to your target audience. I don’t mean regular adverts (although these are a useful tool), I mean targeted messages, which tell your story or spark a conversation with your customers. The information you put out there needs to be:
There are various ways of achieving this, but if reaching several customers at once is a priority, there needs to be an element of automation. This is where social networking sites or subscription platforms are useful.
Regular blogs, technical articles, seasonal offers and opinion pieces are all great at keeping your audience interested. Ensuring that the information adds value is crucial to building your brand and customer loyalty. Yes, articles and other forms of regular communication can be time consuming, but are a valuable way of opening a dialogue with customers. The investment in nurturing relationships in this way is worthwhile and when planned effectively, can become an efficient and cost-effective part of your marketing strategy.
What should your regular communications strategy look like?
Everyone plans differently, but there are some core components that you should consider and include in your plan.
Who is your audience and how can you deliver your message?
What sort of information would be useful to them? – think about advice, product information, value added information, opinions, comments, loyalty offers.
What do you want to share with them?
Do you have a website and a blog area/ article area?
Do you capture contact information to enable you to email/post information to them, or is it better for customers to choose to ‘subscribe’ to posts and links via twitter/Facebook?
How can you communicate with potential customers?
How much time can you set aside to produce regular communications?
What do your competitors do?
Great planning leads to great execution.
Sit down and take the time to plan out your communications. Think about frequency, length, production times and topics. You want to be able to plan as much of the detail as possible up front. This will ensure that your plan is achievable.
Decide on a communications platform and do some research. This doesn’t need to take long, but it is a worthwhile exercise. Look at what your competitors are doing as a start point, but look further – what communications do you respond to?
Set yourself up – whether it’s with a twitter account, Facebook business page, blogging site, or a simple email subscription service.
You’re all set up and ready to go, remember, you don’t need to send out huge amounts. Remember the golden rules:
Quality not quantity – take your time and only send communications you’re proud of. Great, regular short blog entries are just as valuable as full-blown newsletters.
Stick to the plan – yes, it’s great to send out timely communications when something happens that you feel you need to capitalise/comment on, but ensure that this is in addition to your planned activity.
Re-evaluate your planned communications regularly – check they are still relevant and useful to the audience.
Ask for feedback and act on it. Your plan should be organic and move with the needs of your audience.
Stick to what you know – capitalise on your area of expertise, share your knowledge.
Offer great incentives for loyalty – it’s not all about pure information/opinion. You can weave in timely offers for subscribers into the plan rather than adhere to purely informative pieces.
Be clear on what each piece of communication is doing. Keep the messaging clear and concise. Don’t try and make one piece do too many things.
Think about using a professional – you’re great at what you do, is your time spent better concentrating on that rather than sweating over regular articles/blog posts? The answer’s probably yes. I’m not saying you need to get a professional for every communication, but it is definitely worth thinking about for longer pieces such as articles. They can take your technical copy and rework it to capture the audience, ensure it is fit for purpose and drives traffic to your website or to the call to action.
Start with the basics and grow at your own pace. Great communication doesn’t need to be complicated, just choose the best tools for the job, look to add value to your audience and craft each release with care.
If you want to discuss how I can help you with your communications strategy, planning or execution, just drop me a line or give me a call.