[Guest Blog] Is your marketing a cost or an investment?

Guest Blog by Jon Davies of MJF Accountancy

Jon Davies of MJF AccountancyI’ve lost count of the times that people have said to me that they’re looking to reduce costs and that they’re cutting their marketing spend. You see, I’m an accountant, so they think that’s what I want to hear.

But I don’t. I think the opposite. To me, marketing is an investment, not a cost, and is essential to any business that wants to grow and be successful. The problem is that bad marketing is a cost, and that most businesses just don’t know whether their marketing is good or bad.

That’s why it’s essential to measure the results of all of your marketing. By tracking these results, you can see what’s working and what isn’t. You can then stop the bad stuff (“the costs”) and do more of the good (“the investments”).

So how do you do this?

At its simplest, you just need to keep a record of three numbers for every piece of marketing you do. That could be a flyer, your website, a networking group, an advert, or any other marketing activity. So what are the three numbers?

  1. Cost of the marketing activity – what have you spent? For example, a mailshot might include the design cost, printing and postage. You might also include the cost of your own time but don’t worry if you can’t put a price on that right now.
  2. Income brought in – the sales that come directly from this piece of marketing.
  3. Profit brought in – sales are good, but what’s the profit? If you can’t work it out exactly, use you gross profit percentage multiplied by the sales figure above.

And with those three figures, you can decide whether each piece of marketing has made or lost money……and whether it’s worth doing again.

But how do you know where the sales came from?

There’s a famous saying that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”. And that was true when John Wanamaker said it over 100 years ago. But it isn’t now. Everything is trackable and measurable…..if you know how, and put a bit of effort in.

Some sources are easy to track – for example, a new customer might tell you that one of your current customers recommended you – but others can be a bit trickier. Did that new customer come from the flyer, or the website, or the advert, etc?

So here are some ideas for tracking the exact source of income:

  • The Internet – without getting too technical, there are lots of ways that the internet can help. For example, you can get different sources to send customers to different webpages where they can order from you, e.g. the flyer sends them to www.yourname.co.uk/flyer so you know it came from the flyer. Google Ads and Google Analytics are also much easier to master than you might think.
  • Tracking Numbers – did you know that, for a few pounds each month, you can get a lot of different local phone numbers (ie all 0151, etc) that all ring through to your main office number? You can then put different phone numbers on your website, advert, business card, etc. At the end of the month, you get a statement that says exactly where each phone call came from, so you know exactly where those sales came from. Check out Invoco for tracking numbers and give the code KOOGAR to receive 3 months for FREE!
  • “Ask for Jon” – a really simple but effective method is to put “Ask for Jon/Amanda/Sarah” on each piece of marketing, using a different name for each. Of course, there is no “Jon” -they’re always “not in the office right now, but can I help with that?” – but you now know exactly where the lead came from!

So, using the steps above, you can track the success of all of your marketing.

It’s great to try different things, but you need to measure and stop the costs, so you can use your cash for investments.

And, as an accountant, that’s what I really want to hear from all of my clients.

[Guest Blog] Marketing – method or madness!

Heather Hobden from BHH ProgressAs business advisors, we spend our working lives where sometimes angels fear to tread – working with company owners on how to leverage greater profitability (and pleasure) from their businesses.

It’s both a privilege and a potential minefield, but we are what we are, so we take our own advice.

There are plenty of business advisors, consultants, coaches or whoever out there, ready and able to work at the turnaround end of the market. We don’t. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that work – we’ve done our fair share and earned our spurs on the battlefield. But what we do is focused at SME owners and leaders who are already doing well and are at the point where they can see that there is more they could achieve, recognising that it’s time for support. In other words, we have a clear target market.

So, in Koogar’s valuable space, why am I talking about business advice?  Simply, because what Koogar do is immensely valuable in the right time and the right place. I’m an enthusiastic (and occasionally quite good) clay pigeon shooter.  So my shotgun is useful – in the right place.  Not so popular in the supermarket!  In other words, the right tools in the right time and place.

And it’s the same with marketing – it’s an essential, valuable and flexible tool when used well and for clearly identified ends. And that’s where a lot of companies go off track. It’s too easy to call for marketing activity because sales are down.  But why are they down?  When did it start?  Are we sure of the causes?  Did our target market change?  Is our database dead on its feet?

Our strapline is Analyse, Act, Advance, and it applies to every area of a business.  So let’s take a look at how this applies to a company’s thinking on marketing…

Sales are down, or we want to increase sales for growth.

So, some key questions;

  1. Do we have clarity as to our target client base? Have we identified the client characteristics we do want, as well as the ones we don’t? (No point in working our socks off to service lots of clients who make us 10p each in profit, as opposed to a more select number who each give us £1,000 in profit.)
  2. Is our planned target base the same as the present client one, or is there a planned shift?
  3. Have we worked the numbers – how many extra clients can we deal with before we need additional staff and materials?
  4. Are we able to provide our marketing expert with lots of data and information on our target clients? This increases their ability to make a real difference. Of course, they’ll help with this, but they’ll be reassured and greatly helped by you knowing your own detail.

Once we can, robustly, answer yes to all of these, we’re ready to talk to the marketing experts. If not, we’re going to be shooting at the moon…..

[Guest Blog] 2014 Get-It Goals by Sue Evans

Sue Evans from Fast and Lasting ChangeAt this time of year, we round off the festivities and take a good look at the year to come. Many of us realise that things are not entirely as we want them, and whether that’s hugely energising or a bit daunting, it means there’s work to be done….. but maybe much less than you think…..

Over the years of supporting people to achieve success, I’ve noticed a few key themes when they start out

  1. Often when they take a closer look at how they’re seeing it in their mind’s eye, the goal is outside them, often far away – something they’re aiming towards rather than something they’re already living and being; and it’s just not compelling enough
  2. The benefits come at the end, not on the way, so there’s nothing to enjoy en-route
  3. And sometimes, they simply haven’t thought through the steps they need to take, and obstacles they might need to overcome

And yet some people seem to naturally achieve their goals without the slog. With a tendency towards impatience, I’m for taking the easiest, fastest route possible; so how they do it? After all, if there’s already something out there which is working, we’d be daft not to try it for ourselves.

What many of them share is a really good imagination, which gives them access the parts of their thinking outside the normal awareness (the parts which really determine your experience of the world), so they’re using the whole of their brain power not just willpower.

So try this out

Close your eyes, and take a few moments to breathe slowly and deeply, and relax. Now, imagine the you that you want to be standing in front of you – the you who’s achieved what you want. How does that you look? How are they standing or moving, how do they sound, what’s the expression on their face?

Imagine walking all the way round that you, fine tuning all the details until it’s exactly as you want it to be – maybe they’re not looking quite radiant (or smug) enough – remember, this you has achieved exactly what you set out to do. Make any adjustments you need, then when you have it perfect, step into that you. How does it feel to be standing that way, moving that way, wearing that expression on your face? How does it feel to know what you’ve achieved? Really immerse in all those good feelings.

Now turn and look back towards the you of the present time. From this position of already having had achieved your goal, look back on the steps you took. We often say that hind sight’s invaluable, so why wait? Look at the milestones you passed on the way, and how you celebrated. What will make that journey to this new you even easier?

And when you have a good sense of all it means to have achieved your goal, and how to do it, step back into the you of the present, bringing with you all the experience and good feeling. Things are always easier to do the second time: Ask any performer, and nerves are always highest on opening night, it settles once they’ve done it once.

This little bit of imagination sets your mental sat-nav – giving the parts of your thinking outside your awareness clear instructions about what you want; and it tunes your noticing to what’s already working, shrinking the change and keeping you moving.

If you’d like me to talk you through this technique, click here to get my 5 minute mind makeover, and your copy of ‘Get-It Goals: Your Personal Guide’. Use it to make 2014 your most smoothly successful year yet.

[Guest Blog] How to Make 2014 your Best Year Yet in Business! by Robyn Robertson

Robyn Robertson from Robertson Fox Coaching LtdWe’re getting to that time of year when people typically start to reflect on how the past 12 months have gone. Many businesses have their year-end in December. Others have until March to spend any surplus budget and start to focus on ways they might do that. And then there are those of us who simply feel that the Christmas holiday is a good time to take stock.

How far ahead do you typically plan? Is it three months, three years, seven years or even ten? If you’re required to submit business plans, then the need for long-term planning is greater. Personally though, I don’t plan much beyond the next twelve months. Why, because circumstances change; the environment in which we operate shifts and often what we want from the business changes too.

Change is happening constantly and if you want to make progress as a business owner then you will need to become change-ready so that you can respond appropriately to the evolving needs of your clients and the fluid environment we’re operating within.

To do that you need to know where this year has fallen short of your expectations and how to plug those gaps in 2014. Use the following 5 pointers as benchmarks to help you do this:

#1 – Challenge the factors that have led to your success to date: what worked initially may no longer be relevant, particularly with fluctuating market demands and changing times

#2 – Identify what you’re best at: endeavour to deliver that to the same high standard, time and time again. Find a way to delegate or simplify the rest

#3 – Develop a clear picture of success: once you know what the destination goal looks like, set your long-term goals in support of this

#4 – Understand and effectively communicate what you’re selling: this is work in progress and that’s okay. Use customer feedback to recognise whether your target audience is connecting with what you’re saying

#5 – Run a tight ship: To serve your customers well, you have to focus on quality, delivery, follow through, and follow-up. Determine how many you can service whilst maintaining your standards – and their expectations – and don’t step over that threshold.

Measuring your progress as a business owner needs to be a regular exercise and reviewing these 5 core areas, year-on-year will help your business to grow and improve. Even better, you could choose one item quarterly and take stock of your progress in that area to date. That would enable you to nip any oversights in the bud and steer you back on track if you find yourself wandering.

To grow your business means actively working on it and that includes staying prepared for change. When you master that you’ll find you can meet new business challenges head-on, reassured in the knowledge you are doing the right thing.

Now that’s Customer Service! by Jo Beevers

Jo Beevers from Kokonoir ChocolatesI was quite surprised when Amanda asked me to write an article about said Customer Service, surely she meant chocolate tempering or truffle rolling. But when I stopped and thought about it, this was a subject that I knew a lot about. Both Toby and I have worked in the Hospitality Industry from a young age and of course running your own business depends a lot on how you treat your customers.

In one of the companies we both worked for we were told to “choose your mood”.

This was already something I practiced but it soon became my mantra. I would shout it at all the glum faced staff that turned up to worked on my shifts. Why not come into work and have a great time, it made the time go quicker and really improved customer service. I soon had a following of regular customers who would come in just to be served by me and it was easy to up sell them extra goods and increase the average spend.

People will go where they feel valued and welcomed and will choose great service over great food.

A personal example of this is our recent trip to Las Vegas for our wedding anniversary. Now the Americans really know how to do customer service as that is how they make most of their wages. They have a basic wage and then they make up the extra with their tips.

Our big anniversary meal was booked in at the 3 Michelin Star Joel Robuchon Restaurant in the MGM Grand. We had booked it before we flew and were super excited about the 16 course tasting menu priced at $435 dollars (it was a special occasion).

Well the night before we stumbled across the Gordon Ramsey Steak Restaurant and went for dinner. Now let me just say we went with no expectations, we knew Ramsey could cook, but we thought that this was another one of these celebrity restaurants that just carries the chef’s name, with him only visiting twice a year. Well we couldn’t be more wrong we were blown away.

The food was fantastic and the service was some of the best I have ever experienced anywhere. The waiter who served made a real connection with us without being intrusive. He noticed that we were struggling to choose from the wine list that was given to us on an iPad and came to help us without any prompting. He brought out the raw cuts of meat on a trolley and talked us through each one. He then choose a bottle of wine to match the food we had ordered showing he had a great knowledge of the wine and the food. When I got up to use the ladies he scooped up my napkin that had fallen to floor and refolded it. He kept both our wine and water glasses topped up. Now this was not a stuffy restaurant it was packed in there and with the open kitchen and all the people it was a buzzing atmosphere. Our waiter made our evening and even though he had other tables he never looked rushed and took plenty of time to talk to us. Of course we left him a generous tip and spent the walk back to the hotel raving about it.

The following night we went to the Joel Robuchon Restaurant. We had booked this months earlier and were super excited. The restaurant was super formal and the food and service was impeccable, but there was no “chat”. The staff were almost scared to engage in conversation. Toby and I are both very chatty and will attempt to engage everyone we meet in conversation. These waiters were unbreakable, we asked questions and commented on things, but they were straight faced and sombre.

Surely to key to good service is to match the personality of the person you are serving.

I appreciate that some people wish to be left alone and that is fine but when customers are chatty, you need to chatty back.

The food was some of the best I have ever had. The trolley that was presented with coffee had 50 different chocolates and petit fours on it, and was amazing. But because of the service we received, the meal that will stick in my mind will be the one at the Gordon Ramsey restaurant and it will be there that I rush back to when I return.

If you deliver fantastic customer service then your customers will return to you. Many people buy my chocolate just because they have met me and we had a great conversation about something random.

The saying is very true, People buy People.

And… Action! Enhance on and offline marketing

Marketing is about keeping ourselves in the customer’s mind’s eye, making sure that they know we are the people to come to when they have a problem that we can potentially fix.

Digital marketing as a whole has helped move the small businesses to the same level as large organisations by allowing us to target more people on a smaller budget. Social media isn’t the key to marketing, it is just one aspect. You need a good mix of different marketing components that will help trigger responses. The result is getting people to take action.

I’d like to give you 4 elements to think about when creating, designing or implementing online and offline marketing. Here is the third element:

#3: Treat them like they are VIPs (Alfie – everyone who gets in his car is treated like royalty)

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