How to Create a Marketing Strategy When You’re Not a Marketer

While most small businesses invest in marketing, they rarely have a marketing team on staff. Or even have one person whose entire job is dedicated to marketing for the company. Usually, marketing falls to one or two employees whose primary job allows them the small amount of time they need to send out social media posts and emails every so often.

Often, those who take on the marketing role are volunteers genuinely interested in making marketing work for their company. But without training, it can be challenging to make the most out of the little time they have to market effectively.

While sending out weekly posts on social media or monthly emails is a great start, without a coordinated effort, you’re going to lose a real opportunity to grow your online brand.

The good news is, you don’t need to be highly trained in marketing to increase the effectiveness of your efforts. With just a little added time and effort, you can make the work you’re already doing reach a whole lot farther.

Time to plan

To make the most out of your efforts, take a step back and consider your marketing from a distance. Start by breaking up your business year into sections. The sections will be different depending on your industry. For retailers, you’ll break it down by season. For insurance agencies, by quarter, and so on.

Then, take a look at your business’s activities during each section. Identify any special events, meaningful goals, or company initiatives relevant to each section. These will be the centerpiece for your section themes.

For reference, Memorial Day weekend will be a theme centerpiece for most retail stores, as there are always large sales and increased traffic during this time. For insurance agencies, fourth quarter will center around open enrollment and employer-employee communications.

If there is a month or section that doesn’t have a specific event or theme, you can have fun and come up with the theme yourself! Choose something about your company you want your customers to know about.

  • Do you offer any special services or products you think could use some extra promotion?
  • Do you feel your audience has a clear idea of your company culture and brand image?
  • How well does your audience understand the services you offer?
  • Is your audience comprised of everyone who would benefit from your services? Or could you expand your communication to more people?

Break it down

Using your chosen theme, come up with a monthly, weekly, and daily communication strategy that ties into it. Consider the different types of content your company can offer.

If your company has social media, email lists, and a website, each of those platforms supports varying types of content.

Break up your content into hierarchies. Start by identifying the main event/theme/product. Then consider tiers of supporting content:

  • Daily or weekly communications: These will look like social posts or short emails.
  • Content offers: These are educational content offers that support your central theme, such as checklists, eBooks, or blogs).
  • Events: If you want (or have the capacity) to take it a step further, consider offering a special opportunity like a webinar, seminar, or pop-up shop.

Plan out how often each piece of content gets pushed out, and on what platforms. Consider how they support and play off each other. Think of it as a puzzle! Each piece plays its part to create one cohesive picture.

Tying it together 

By creating content themes that tie each piece of your content together, you’ll start to build awareness among your audience of each topic and increase the effectiveness of your message.

It’s common sense, really. The more coordinated your efforts, the easier it will be for your audience to follow along and consume the message you’re communicating.

The time it takes to create a yearly marketing strategy is well worth the effort. By picking a message and sticking with it, you’re also making it easier on yourself to come up with new, relevant content. Whether you’re marketing for your company because you’re trained, or because someone needed to do it and you stepped up, strategy is the number-one tool you want in your belt.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by ammentorp

Navigating Marketing During a Crisis: Q&A

In the wake of COVID-19, marketers are scrambling to figure out how to talk to their audience.  You need to continue marketing, but how do you do so in a way that feels right during a time when everyone is scared, nothing is certain, and people aren’t buying? 

If you’re feeling at a loss and unsure how to continue talking to your audience, you’re not alone. We’ve compiled answers to some common questions companies are struggling with.  

Should we drop our regular content plan altogether to focus solely on COVID-19? 

The short answer is no. People are overwhelmed already. Continuing to post your regular content may help your audience preserve a much needed sense of normalcy. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of articles and resources shared every day that pertain to COVID-19. The front pages of every major news organization are covered with COVIDrelated content. So posting about it just to feel like your content seems relevant isn’t the most helpful approach.  

However, if you have resources that are unique to your business/industry and will be specifically helpful to your audience, then absolutely share them.  

The key here is to make sure you’re providing something useful to your audience.  

I need to be marketing a product/service, but I don’t want to sound insensitive.  

This can be a tricky one because it all depends on your ability to navigate tone through writing. The best thing you can do is be honest and authentic. People will pick up on anything that feels like you’re taking advantage of the crisis.  

Be direct. If referring to the crisis feels relevant and necessary, speak to the specific needs and anxieties of your audience. Acknowledge them and explain how your product can help them. 

If your product has nothing to do with COVID, adding a simple statement at the end of your copy may be all you need. Here are some examples:  

  • Stay safe! 
  • Take care of yourself! 
  • Stay healthy! 
  • Sending our wishes for your health during this time! 

We had an event scheduled that we had to cancel. How do we go about telling our audience?  

First, before you decide to scrap the whole event, consider whether it’s possible to convert your event into a virtual experience.  

  • Can you livestream your event? 
  • Can you host it on a video meeting platform like Zoom? 
  • If you can’t hold the whole event online, how about setting up a virtual round-table discussion based on the theme of your event?
  • If you were going to share materials, can you share them on your website? 
  • If it was a networking event, how can you connect your attendees virtually?  

There are numerous platforms you can use to help you convert your event to a virtual experience. Make sure you’re not losing out on the opportunities they offer before you decide to cancel.  

If, however, you need to cancel the entire thing, you’re not alone. Communicate changes clearly and quickly with your audience. Try not to spend too long talking about the circumstances that are forcing you to cancel. They don’t need to know that you don’t have the team resources or virtual hosting capabilities. Keep your explanation simple and direct. Here’s an example: “We regret to inform you that due to the circumstances created by the pandemic, we are canceling our event.”  

Give them the necessary information they need about what to do, and be sure to end on a positive message. Your audience will understand. The whole world is adjusting their lives around the virus, so it’s not going to shock or deeply disappoint them if you need to cancel.  

Be intentional. 

Above all, be intentional. Make sure your message is honest and direct, and your audience will appreciate it. Be ready to make adjustments as circumstances change. Keep an ear to the ground as you listen to what your community, competitors, and audience are sayingWe are in this together, and we can all support each other through the many challenges if we stay connected and open.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Andrey Alyukhin

Reduce the Noise: Improving Customer Experience

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, you’ve got customers and an audience. And it’s their happiness, satisfaction, and loyalty that will ensure your long-term success. You’ve got a great product that they love and great sales and services teams, but that isn’t enough to ensure your customer has a good experience with your company.

All too often, the person on the other side of the phone, screen, or table is inundated with information that is unnecessary, complicated, confusing, and overwhelming. And this can happen without you ever knowing it. Scary!

The difficulty for companies is understanding what’s most important to the client. What seems important and relevant to you doesn’t necessarily track for the customer or client. When you think about it, it’s obvious why. When you’re embedded in a system or project, you can see it from all angles and need as much information as you can get to understand how best to execute. But when you just need a functional product, you don’t need to know how it’s made, or why it was made with a particular part—you just need it to work.

The happiest customer isn’t necessarily the one with the most amount of information. Happy customers are a result of a successful customer experience that is clear, easy to execute, and personalized.

Reduce noise

The human brain burns 11 calories an hour, and as a survival technique, will start to tune out superfluous information that isn’t necessary for its survival so as to conserve calories. So what does that mean for your company? It means that everything your customer receives from you should be relevant to their specific needs and provided at the time those needs arise.

This concept continues to be critical throughout the customer experience, from the first time they visit your website to receiving the final product from you. It can be applied to literally every interaction you have, both internally and externally.

As an example, think about your website for a minute. What is the first thing it says about you? If it says anything like We’ve been in business for over 30 years and are trusted advisors, then you’re already giving the viewer information that isn’t critical and doesn’t speak to their needs. The visitor doesn’t need to know how long you’ve been in business; they need to know if you have a solution to their problem.

Additionally, if your customer has to slough through a bunch of information they don’t yet need to find out if your solution works for them, they’ll lose interest and move on. And this isn’t just relevant to prospects. It can become even more cloudy once they begin working with you.

If you’re working on a project for a client, there are countless ways you can drown out the critical parts of your communications. Overloading them with too many choices, for instance. Or inundating their inbox with overly detailed progress reports. Or hijacking your review meetings to go over topics that aren’t relevant or essential. The list goes on and on.

Chances are, somewhere down the line of your customer experience, your company is guilty of one or more of these. Don’t freak out though, you’re definitely not alone. Refining your customer experience is hard. So how do you mitigate this problem?

Choose one point of contact

Once a client is on board, designate a single person on your team to be in charge of all communication. This will help clarify your voice and streamline communication efficiencies. It will also help your client develop a more personal relationship with your company and help them to build confidence around how to communicate with you.

Identify the preferred communication channel

These days, companies often work on multiple platforms. One company may use Slack, Trello, and email to communicate about projects and across teams. This may be fine internally, but if you’re asking your client to move between communication channels to talk to you, you’re asking too much. Make it as simple as possible. Pick one, and stick with it.

Set clear expectations

When you start a project with a client, take time to set clear expectations for them around how they should communicate with you, when they should expect a response, and what the communication will look like. This will help build trust between your client and business, and provide them with a clear understanding of what they’ll get from you as you work together. Setting clear expectations will also reduce the risk of frustrating, confusing, or disappointing your customer. That is, as long as you stick to what you tell them.

Always be learning 

In the end, the best thing you can do is to ensure you never get too comfortable. The world of communication is constantly evolving and it’s up to you to stay on top of the changing expectations and needs of your clients and prospects. Take the time to ask them how you could improve their experience, listen to the feedback you get from your team, do your research, and don’t be afraid to change up your tactics. It’s a never-ending process, but it’s worth its weight in gold.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by nd3000

Think Brand Doesn’t Play a Role in the Hiring Process? Think Again.

In today’s world of online expansion, many aspects of business success have changed dramatically, influencing the way companies compete with each other, connect with their customers, and even make sales. Companies have had to adjust their priorities, setting their online presence and customer experience at a much higher bar. It isn’t far-fetched to say that brand image is a major source of life blood to a company, playing a massive role in attracting new customers and filling the pipeline. 

These days, customers have access to an immense amount of information about your brand, from reviews of products to price comparisons between your competitors. People trust each other’s online reviews nearly as much as they trust personal recommendations. More than half of consumers will only purchase from a company with a star rating of four or more. It’s up to your business to stay ahead of the curve and ensure that what’s being said about it online is beneficial to the company.   

There are countless B2B services based on this idea. Marketing agencies, website developers, customer outreach teams, and data analysists all working to build and maintain a healthy brand image. But there’s a whole part of building a brand image that isn’t talked about nearly enoughemployee and candidate experience.  

Everyone matters 

It goes without saying that what people say about you online matters. But when was the last time you checked to see how candidatefriendly your hiring processes are? Have you ever looked up employee reviews of your company on sites like Glassdoor? What about internal surveys to gauge the employee onboarding experience  

Unfortunately, candidates are often the last priority on the long list of people companies are worried about. But this is a mistake, especially now when the employment rate is at a record high. Companies have to compete with each other for talent and stand out as a preferred place of employment to potential candidates. And anyone who comes in contact with your company has the potential to influence your brand image through online reviews. 

So how do you make sure your candidates (whether or not they become employees) walk away feeling good about their experience with your company? 

Call them back 

A common mistake that many businesses make is failing to communicate with candidates. Making sure to call them back, whether or not they’re getting an interview or moving to the next step in the application process, isn’t just polite, it’s respectful.  

If someone has taken the time out of their day to apply to work at your company, they deserve the two minutes it will take to call and acknowledge their effort. Remember, everyone who interacts with your company should have a positive experience. They may be a future customer, or reviewer, or even a candidate for a different position. Treating them with respect by taking the time to call them back and tell them where they are in the process is paramount to ensuring they walk away having had a good experience.  

Be transparent 

An informed candidate is a higher quality candidate. Think about it. If a candidate has to jump through hoops to submit their resumeor doesn’t know if the position is offering the salary they need, or can’t easily find the job description, they’re going to be frustrated at best. 

Being transparent about everything from the application process to the starting salary and benefits allows candidates to ensure they aren’t wasting their time applying for a job they don’t want, or that isn’t right for them. If you provide them with clear expectations around how they will move through the process, you remove confusion and increase ease. Its better for them, and you.

Be Timely  

Just because someone is applying to work for you doesn’t mean you should prioritize your time over theirs. More often than not, candidates are already employed and have to take time out of their workday to come to an interview. So it’s costing them money and/or time to arrive for an interview. Make sure your interview process reflects your understanding of the time and effort needed on their end. Don’t show up late or cancel last minute.   

Additionally, companies often make the mistake of thinking their candidates are only in competition with each other, when in fact, your company is in competition for the best candidate. Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long before reaching out to them. Or you’ll lose them to a company that beat you to them. Plus, there’s nothing worse than to be left hanging. Let them know whether or not they got the job or are being moved to the next round. Even if you call to let them know they didn’t make the cut, at least they won’t be left wondering.  

Take the opportunity 

Every time your company interacts with someone, you have an opportunity to make a positive impact on your brand image. Each person who walks away from your company is a potential brand ambassador, customer, or reviewer. If your company is really about creating a positive experience, then every interaction, internal and external, should play into those values.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by grki

The Webinar: A Lesson Learned

Last week I did something professionals do all the time. I attended a webinar. It was advertised by an HR company I follow and the ad was effective and engaging. It highlighted three HR professionals who would be hosting the webinar and the core topics they were covering.  

It seemed like it was set up to be an extremely informative webinar where I could learn from HR leaders about core challenges and concepts relevant to HR professionals around the world today. So it’s not surprising that I was expecting to walk away from the webinar with new ideas and direction for how to approach the challenges facing HR.   

Sadly, I was both mistaken and disappointed. What could have been a great opportunity to learn, turned into what I can only describe as listening in on a loose and freeflowing conversation between all three hosts that was not only hard to track, but that lacked clear direction. Although the conversation was lively, it covered very basic topics that I come across every day in my reading but without the structure you’d get in an article.  

R.E.S.P.E.C.T 

You can have as many brilliant and successful people on your webinar (or presentation) as you’d like, but if you skip over what’s needed to prepare, you’re going to disappoint your audience.  

If you plan to host a webinar, presentation, panel, or anything that has people taking time out of their day to sit down and listen to you, you’ve got to take steps to prepare. Respect the time your audience has dedicated to listening to you, hoping to learning something.  

Define your goal 

You may have a great topic for your presentation, but if you don’t define your goalyou’re going to have a hard time untangling your topic into a clear story that your listeners can follow. This is especially true if you’re presenting with multiple people.  

You may all be experienced leaders with informed opinions, but without sitting down and defining your goal as a group, everyone is going to come to the presentation with a different goal in mind. This lack of structure is guaranteed to come across in your conversation.  

So sit down, and hash it out. Figure out what you want your listeners to walk away with. Is it a list of actionables they can use in their practice? Or a new way of thinking about an old topic? Or a better understanding of the drivers behind an issue? Whatever it is, figure it out beforehand and structure your presentation to support your goals.  

Visuals, visuals, visuals 

It may seem like a lot of work, but a webinar without visuals is like a foreign movie without subtitles. You may be able to follow along with the plot, but you’re going to lose a lot of the subtext at the very least.  

It takes work to capture and maintain people’s attention. You aren’t going to get it just by putting a few slides together with bright pictures and the questions you’ll be talking about on them.  

Break down your talking points. Go back to your goals and trace them into what you want people to take away from your presentation. Then write it down and put it on their screen. This will help your listeners process what you’re talking about and it will help you to stay on track as you talk. Listeners truly appreciate useful and informative slides. I have yet to attend a webinar and not had someone ask if the slides will be available after the presentation.   

Practice! 

Ok, you may be rolling your eyes at this one, but it can’t be stressed enough. I felt as though I was listening in on a phone conversation between three people who wanted to chat about their jobs. They interrupted one another, went on tangents, and it was hard to follow them 

Practice the presentation all the way through multiple times. Ask yourself at the end of each run-through what you think your audience walked away with. Ask yourself if it was clear and concise or if you went on unnecessary tangents that should be cut out of the actual presentation.  

This is a great opportunity for you to parse away any extra material that might clog the flow of the presentation and muddy your talking points and common goal. Figure out who is going to talk and when so you’re not interrupting each other and can step in for support if someone strays off topic.  

Even if it’s just you presenting, practice will help you clarify in your mind how you want to talk about the subject and what parts of it matter the most. When it is clear for the presenters, it’s clear for the listeners.   

If you’re going to ask people to take time out of their day to listen to you, you owe it to them (and you) to come prepared. You know you’ve got something worth talking about, otherwise you wouldn’t be there.  So show it! Treat your presentation like the valuable offer it is. Your audience will thank you, I promise.  

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Teeramet Thanomkiat