Building the Digital Marketing Plan

Putting together an effective digital marketing plan is about understanding your channels and how and when they are searching for your content. It is also about being realistic about the cost and to allocate an effective budget that can be tracked and adjusted based on results. 

So, where to start? You need to look at your existing marketing budget and rethink this as a comprehensive digital plan. This needs expert support to help you assess what you need and each of the elements required to deliver it.

Budget and Resourcing

You need to think about the timing of your campaigns, messaging and how this fits into new products, alliances or offerings you will make to the market over a 12-24 month period. This will help build your communications plan. View it as a set of “breadcrumbs” laid out that build awareness and respect for your calibre, quality and innovation over time.

You also need to assign management resource– is it well set up to accommodate an expansion in marketing – do you have existing experienced marketing skills in house?  Do you need to hire in a permanent head? That could be expensive and you won’t get a rapid payback. Do you outsource? Well, more are doing so, as long as you define a really tight programme.

You also need to agree what success will look like as a management team and assemble some meaningful measures around response, lead generation/conversion and cross sell across each campaign.

First Job: A Free Local Presence

Google My Business is one of the simplest ways to get a initial digital footprint at no cost. It gets your business location on Google Maps, together with links to your site, descriptions of what you do, a show case of photos and videos and your opening hours.

It will also give you access to keyword map searches as well so that your business shows up alongside your competitors that are already there. What are you waiting for?

Make your content relevant

Then it’s time to define what will be in your digital marketing mix. This is determined by the audience, its interests and the geographies you want to reach. You may have a niche specialism in your practice that you want to exploit and this is where search marketing kicks in.

By putting your in-house expert at the centre of your content and ensuring your website, blogs and features shared with other sites and networks are all optimised with keyword tags, it will make the act of searching for you that much easier and therefore the practice will be more visible.

Having a Content Plan (and sticking to it!)

The main problem that firms find is that in-house staff tend to be busy with their day job. Early enthusiasm gives way monthly or less attempts at posting something.

Content has to be consistent and persistent – weekly or bi-weekly is the absolute minimum and you need to develop a strict comms plan to make it happen. At this point, it makes sense to get external support to ensure the plan stays rolling out.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO can be a bit of dark art and there are plenty of charlatans out there, who say they will get you a front page listing on search engines on an organic basis – i.e. not paid for via adwords. The key thing is to make sure that everything that you write and publish gets tagged for SEO.

If tools like WordPress aare used they have effcetoce and proven tools like Yoast that give you a good steer on effective content structures for SEO:

  • Keywords well defined with related keyphrase
  • Keywords early in introductory text and headings
  • Keywords feature in Intro snippet that appears in organic listings
  • Links to other relevant pages on your website and to other external sites
  • Images have a clear alt-text description that supports your keywords
  • Page descriptions have a clear hierarchy of keywords

Having a secure site (SSL certificate, marked by the padlock and/or the https prefix to your web address) will be a massive factor with Google Search visibility – and that is another win. But SEO is also about the deeper code on the site so it does need expertise beyond just adding the above tips on page content.

Also, the more you share your content with others – especially guest blogs and syndication, the more the organic visibility.

You want to place SEO in the context of all other media you distribute content through, including social media.

More on the role of SEO will be revealed in future posts. 

Cost per Click ads

Many a business has had a mailshot of a £75 adwords voucher and has found it very easy to get set up and have a play but quickly realise how fast that £75 gets burnt up.

If you choose to invest in Google Adwords promotions, you want to make sure firstly that you have accurate keywords linked to your specialism and geography.

Adwords, remarketing and Bing campaigns will be the subject of another future post. Just to say that you need to understand that the cost per click for popular and simple search terms will be large! Beware the money pit!

Social and Video

We will cover off social media in later posts but the main thing here is to again make sure it is resourced, well policed with clear policies on risk management and customer engagement.

Different channels will have different audiences at different times, so you need to think about how your presence will be maintained persistently – and that you are ready to respond to potential and future clients.

Video is also the primary search for the younger audience so how are you going to manage this demand effectively?

Get Tailored Support

We will go over many of these topics in the future – but as a basis for your first drafts of a digital marketing plan. Some you can do yourself, there are others that really does require outside expertise.

Clear Edge has a comprehensive suite of digital marketing services – from developing the digital strategy, through to delivery through each of the main search and social channels.

Contact us for more information on how we can tailor a programme to suit your needs and budget.

Lidl and The Irresistible Power of Love

i love lidl

As humans, we are united in an appreciation of the need for love (and not just on Valentines Weekend, people!).

We also understand that “The Power of Love” is more than 3 songs released in the same year (1985) and at a push, we can name the three separate music artists and have our preference. (It’s Frankie, no brainer).

Love is dangerous, confusing and sometimes shortlived. Love can also be enduring, all-consuming and total. Every day, we employ degrees of “Love” to our routines and attachments – our partners, our children, the car we like to step into – the list could go on.

We also love to affiliate ourselves easily to lots of activity – much of it peripheral – but no less consuming. And for devotees of social media this is writ large for all that we stand for: our “besties”, our music, our achievements in games, etc.

So, this weekend while we consciously think of love in all its more obvious forms, think how powerful it would be to be able to make similar (non-physical) connections with customers. How do we create that Love?

Going beyond liking

Social media has made the act of endorsement (a “like” instead of a love, really) an act of spontaneity, something of the moment – but to build brand loyalty, this has to be earned from more than just a fling.

Brands have that almost unique power to segment and divide people, to separate them into tribes (such as sports teams) or expressions of wealth – real or otherwise (like real/fake designer clothing). Others, of course, don’t give them a second thought. It’s not the driver for their purchase.

The key for business is to understand that customers want to express their good sense and taste through choosing your brand when they had many other choices thrown at them. Some are exclusive and aspirational and you reach out to them to flatter and massage their already exquisite decision making. For others, it’s more of a battle to demonstrate that the brand means more and that you can start to love them among others.

The Love of Lidl

Without getting tawdry, this is exactly what Lidl have done. Recognising that lifestyles have driven changes in shopping patterns, they have made a stunning and deliberate swoop for the middle classes – understanding the things they love and playing in it to woo them through the doors – the warmed wine that reminds them of the ski trip, the surprisingly good champagne and the attractive plate of crustaceans, like they had in France this summer.

Too much and it could be patronising and result in the slap round the face – but I haven’t seen it yet. There are still plenty of 4X4s squeezing into my local Lidl car park.

Lidl have reached out to the lucrative middle classes and there is a chemistry happening, for sure.

So brands can make that journey and reach out to find new lovers. The secret is to recognise that everyone has different views on what is attractive – the art is to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, so that it is a love shared.

 

PS – For the record, I have not been seduced by Lidl yet, but could be open to a cheeky flirt….

 

 

 

 

Why digital marketing matters

digital marketing

Embracing digital is the first step in dusting off pre-conceived notions of marketing by the non-marketer. It’s encouraging to see this happening more across Legal Services, one of our specialist sectors, but like other industries, it is highly variable in its approach.

Venture capital funding is now pouring into targeted areas of law such as personal injury, where there is a ready, consumable and ever litigious market. Digital marketing has been embraced by internet and marketing savvy firms, backed by non-lawyers who are building growth on mergers & acquisitions, smart branding and market reach.

The traditional law firm is not fishing with the same equipment and has “made do” for too long. They have not invested in the right skill sets in-house – they are lawyers after all – and marketing is anathema to many. You could also easily stereotype lawyers as commercial dinosaurs, staring into the oncoming headlights of aggressive competitors, but that would be highly unfair.

There are many firms out there imaginatively connecting with their markets and business channels and some use social media to great effect with proven lead generation and conversion.

Equally, some still don’t have websites and those that do aren’t mobile compatible in the main. But with new competition, conveyancing panel squeezes, drastic legal aid and personal injury work reduction, there is recognition that they have to invest to market, defend and grow their client base. And digital is where it’s at.

Digital gets measured

Law as an industry is not unique in facing this situation. Regardless of your sector, ask yourself:

  • Is your firm set up for digital marketing?
  • Who is doing “marketing” now?
  • What are the results?
  • What could you do better?
  • Are you competitors doing it already?

Simple questions but it helps define if the activity is earning real income from the effort.

You may have a small ring fenced marketing budget engaged on modestly successful “traditional” marketing within your local area, whether its community sponsorship or a regular legal column on a variety of topics in the local rag, but it is hard to measure any of it. It’s a reputation and opinion builder and may enable recall of your firm versus others, but you can’t really see its impact in numbers.

This is where digital marketing comes up trumps. In fact, it scores over other media for 6 reasons:

  • It’s cheaper, not just to trial and test response, but also every time a campaign is deployed – relative to fixed print and direct mail.
  • It reaches a far wider audience more regularly than one off print media
  • You can measure every part of the process to capture a lead and adjust your campaign based on clear results.
  • You have 24/7 access – your shop stays open even when your office does not.
  • It allows you to be highly specific in terms of your search. There is great scope to show your niche expertise.
  • There is a demographic shift. Digital and mobile media is the only way younger people consume and seek content.

An integrated, structured and persistent digital marketing plan will create more powerful and relevant connections with clients. You can build and grow your professional network, new business channels and convey your thought leadership and engagement with clients and the community far easier. People get easily distracted by the idea of tweeting, but social media has to work alongside search marketing, good content and not least, the human touch – face to face presence.

Let’s make a plan today!

We have many years’ experience in building market presence and creating impactful digital communications for our clients – why not discuss how we could help you today?

Call us on 07780 455635 or email info@clearedgecomms.co.uk

Engineering Your Customer Focus

A truly customer centric organisation is displaying three behaviours effectively and persistently:

  • Gaining deep insight on customer interactions, satisfiers and needs.
  • Offering great products fulfilling immediate needs, with other well penetrated value added services.
  • Delivering great service and communication through knowledgeable customer support, sales and marketing teams.

With this combination in place you may earn trust, which reinforces positive brand values and makes engagement habit forming. At this point, you may consider yourself as the class leader in your market.

In tune with your market?

So what does “class leading” look like?:

  • Are you ahead of the curve: innovating where others follow? Are you learning what the market wants, assessing competitors’ mistakes and improving the experience?
  • Are you operating at optimal service quality? Are your customers delighted by the basics every day, so that it is natural to talk about deeper, richer relationships?
  • Are you the authoritative voice in your market? When you offer an opinion via an article, at a seminar or perhaps social media, does it create a reaction? Are you part of your customer’s intelligence as it works through its own business plan?

All essential questions to answer as you pass through each stage of your business evolution.

As we grow, we risk losing focus

A young, energetic business runs around storming and forming, responding rapidly to client needs just because it can. Growth at any (relatively small) cost is fine for now. But as it gets bigger, more procedures and complexity impact on flexibility and it becomes focused on control, rigour and standardisation – and that way danger lies for the customer-centric organisation.

That’s not to say control and rigour goes out the window, but you run the risk of introspection, trying to create an optimal margin engine that is fine in theory, but you lose sight of what is needed to make it tick over – the customer and their, often very human, needs.

Should your business ever fall into this trap, you must remove complexity and think simplicity, at least, in front of the customer. Work out how to overcome the barriers behind the scenes. This “clear the decks for the customer” mindset that ensures you think of what will satisfy their differential needs first. Yes, it may need more investment, but it has pay back.

Always place yourself in their shoes when looking for successful outcomes. For example, a business keen on acquiring a client but doesn’t offer the service, could go and buy it from someone who does to cement the relationship. You ‘fess up that you don’t do it, but you give them a solution and get them to your core service – customer centric, not “We Don’t Do That”.

Customers and satisfiers are all different

    • Think about your customer touch points. Not just the service centre, but finance, suppliers, channel partners too. Recognise what’s most important but at least prioritise being open and engaged with them all. Question the preference for management cost reduction vs. customer delight and the long term value of retaining them.
    • Segment your market so you understand the satisfiers – these vary by different customer values and the outputs needed (price, efficiency, quality). You can’t be all things to all people, but you should recognise what it costs (to gain or to lose) if you get most of the way there.
    • Track customer satisfaction through regular user groups, a simple e-shot with an online survey tool, or a Net Promoter Score for peer to peer engagement. Above all, keep a dialogue of customer service engagement ongoing with your customers.
  • Follow the “You Said, We Did” model. Receive feedback, act on it by delivering product or service enhancements and then communicate the proof to reinforce your customer focus message.

Remember – engines run with fuel. You can build a great engine that ticks the optimal performance box, but it won’t go anywhere without the element that creates the spark – the customer. Understand how this can be a catalyst for growth by tuning in to their needs.

 

Trust: That most sensitive ingredient

The emotion created by the discovery of horse meat in wrongly labelled food is a great example of how the bond of trust is so easily broken – and with it, brand reputation.

At the heart of this is the simple economics of brand segmentation within the supermarket. By having three streams of the same product under one roof, the logic runs that you can sell differential value based on price. Unfortunately, the “value” brand doesn’t necessarily extend the same promise of quality that the consumer believes is consistent – and the supermarket have been found out – finally.

You cannot pay a premium up the chain for great quality and differentiate the finest and classic brands without being uncompetitive. It always seems to follow that the financially disadvantaged are the ones that fall foul – hence the wailing and gnashing by the media and government on their behalf.

But this isn’t new and extends to the quality of clothes, holidays, electrical items among others. You really do pay your money and take your choice.

It’s the reputation impact on the consumer that brands will be concerned about – and how long it lingers. If you are a big brand, you could be cynical and say that in the long term the customer will come back because of other benefits – but in the short term, it’s all hands to the PR pumps to calm and reassure.

Horse meat will become this year’s salmonella and BSE and, frankly is far less of a real concern than those specific health threats – and actually, horse meat is pretty good, if you have been at all experimental on holiday in France.

Things move on, though,  and the public are directed to the next media “Bete Noire” to wail and gnash about.

Another recent story typifies something equally as troubling for brands – the arrest of Oscar Pistorious for the alleged shooting of his girlfriend. Nike have been quick to position themselves against Brand Oscar and seek alternatives for the relevant markets, having responded to the lessons they learnt from Lance Armstrong. The strap line they had used for a recent ad featuring Pistorius only serves to show how dangerous it can be placing your brand in the hands of individuals and the real or alleged decisions they have made.

This shows how the power of sport and branding forms some of the tightest reputation bonds and how the image and character of the star is indelibly linked to their strength and success. It will be hard now for many to look at their 2012 Paralympics DVD, crystallising an almost mythical summer of goodwill, without thinking of recent events.

Whether it’s personal notoriety or just the bad management of suppliers, the power of trust is undeniable. It is the intangible reward for an experience or history of connections the consumer makes with a product. It is so hard to win and so quick to lose.

Brands must understand the complex nature of trust – linked to quality, service and consistency – and apply these throughout their operations, messaging and offers.

It goes beyond the basics of delivery – it’s about the promise, the feeling of success through the interaction (two -way) and the enduring power of habit forming purchase and recommendation. Understand this intimately and guard it with a passion.

 

 

Clicks with Bricks: The Fine Art of Reach

Touching your customer has changed. The traditional reach that brands enjoyed through generations of their retail shops managed to keep in step with the internet for ten years or so, until the tipping point of the tablet arrived.

2012’s fastest selling consumer good serves to demonstrate how mass technology adoption creates the unstoppable momentum that changes how people engage with brands to buy services.

Sure, smart phones have also been around for a while, but if you’ve suffered a Blackberry as long as I have, you’ll know the limitations. If a consumer has a rich PC-equivalent experience on the move, they engage as if they were settled at a desk and focused on shopping – almost as if they were browsing the shelves in Aisle 12.

Tablets are democratized to the many now and consumers of all ages are now embracing rich user environments that meet and exceed the sometimes dubious benefits of getting in a car, paying for parking and browsing only to find your size isn’t available.

If you’re an internet pure play, it’s about reach and filling the basket, while minimizing your distribution cost and passing on scale economies – Amazon wrote the book on this.

Getting the mix right

However, we are seeing a highly successful complementary mix of rich website and store integration – the click and collect if you will – that is powering the success of John Lewis and Argos at the expense of others like Morrisons or, as proved with their recent demise, Comet.

Successful retailers have been quick to grasp the two way nature of engagement between clicks and bricks. If you direct people to the store to collect, they rarely go there just to collect and will be distracted by all the usual point of sale for cross selling.

Equally, if you can capture those who browse in store and then give them a rich, best value environment to get the best deal on-line, then your brand is reinforced. But you have to stay price competitive – and this is where you have to get it absolutely right, or else you fall into the Jessops pit.

Reposition the High Street

Perhaps many high street stores that offer a pure bricks environment will ultimately fail unless they are a destination store that makes it hard to get the item on-line. The high street could well become a “leisure-centred” hub of a town – restaurants, coffee shops, hairdressers, gyms,  larger scale entertainment – that is impossible to replicate online or is diminished if it does so (like the theatre or cinema experience).

I don’t think the consumer wants to sit and home and never interact with a stranger ever again. People still want to interact with people, but for many items they are low-value and transactional in nature. Better to free up time for quality interactions and use “physical shopping” to enjoy where they live and seek the destination stores that fulfill their leisure and research interests.

Perhaps the retail ideas of the future will think about imaginative new experiences involving other senses rather than using the fingers, so that bricks and clicks co-exist with their own strengths in the future.

Time – enemy of the hand wringers

To a child, each day can seem to stretch on forever – they have the gift of seemingly being able to slow down time and luxuriate in the here and now. As adults, we lose this uncanny ability and each day hurtles past seemingly quicker than the last, as we wrestle with routines and commitments in life.

Even with February offering an extra day this year, we are at the back end of Quarter 1 before you know it. Trouble is, in the business year, this is the quarter that provides the bedrock to the year end figures, otherwise it’s all catch up.

Time presents huge challenges for businesses who need to take or retain competitive advantage in the market. While executives desire rapid action, they are are can be paralysed by failing to act quick enough, mired in committee and procedure which just sucks time away. I agree that concensus is important, but all too often business operations revert to risk averse, time-hungry processes and fail to take advantage of the limited time available.

It’s easier, perhaps, for an entrepreneur or small start up to dive in, act – make mistakes maybe (but learn quickly), than it is for the maturing or mid-size business, but it doesn’t change the fact that time is constant and as business structures grow you need to guard against overcomplexity and procrastination.

So – how nimble and efficient are your decision processes? How effective are your marketing and product development teams in delivering and executing to plan – to communicate new value? How ready and focussed are your sales and support teams to seek customer growth in the (still newish) year?

Crucially – how nimble are your competitors? How come they seem to get stuff out of the door quicker than you?

The moments need to count – much will stand in the way of gaining people’s attention this year. You need to deliver precise value messages at a time without distractions – and by the way, that means now until Easter (6 weeks), then May (4 weeks), then 3 weeks in June (thanks to the Jubilee), 2 weeks in July (thanks to the Olympics) and a nice clear run between Sept and the end of November, after which forget it as its now xmas for a month.

I speak generally from a B2B context – B2C and retail play to their own programme of seasons, oversupply, new stock in, etc – but it’s a wonder there’s any time to capture the decision maker, make a sale or build brand awareness.

You have to plan ruthlessly ahead for when these peak moments will be and aggressively use that time when it counts, having marshalled the resources to deliver new products, services or value to exceed your competitors and raise the bar.

By the way, if you’re still in planning mode for this year, or agonising over when to execute, you’ve blown the first quarter already.

Food for thought this weekend – which I am sure you will use the time wisely for!

Bye for now

David

The Power of Three

As the legendary (now rapidly ageing) song goes: “Three is the Magic Number”.

I am not telling you this because its about time that song by De La Soul was immortalised (which it should be) or that my favourite Thunderbird was Thunderbird 3 (which it was, by the way) – it’s because it’s the best way for our brains to process a list or a set of things well.

This extends to most things in life – you stand a good chance of remembering three things without a list in your head, before the curveball of the fourth item means you’ve forgotten the first thing that was on the list.

This just happens to be a golden rule in marketing and PR communications too. Go to any half decent media training session and they will tell you that to make the most of your (likely) 30 seconds that ends up after the edit, you need to get across the three things you most want to leave the audience with.

Just as the “30 second lift conversation” has become the cliche of the “tell me that you do” sales pitch, so it follows for clear, concise and persuasive marketing communications that summarises the value that you and your organisation represents.

Did you notice the list of three in the last paragraph?

The trap that most non-marketing managers do when wrestling with copy or communications is to get carried away and try to tell the world everything they know about the company or topic – cue boredom within 31 seconds. Better to be pithy, honed, focussed in what you want to get across – deliver your core benefits and value for the client, and support this with great service that underpin your brand values.

For Clear Edge Communications, these are on the home page, encapsulated within three words “Creating Brand Clarity”. 3 words, 3 statements:

Creating – powerful marketing strategies that deliver impact and fuel growth
Brand – enabling business identity and brand value to build market share
Clarity – pitch perfect communications to give you the clear edge (on your competitors)

So, think of three things that sum up the value of your client offering today, put them at the heart of your business operation and client focus and get them in your marketing communications.

Three – powerful stuff.

Have a good weekend & bye for now.

David

Building from the base

Hello and first of all welcome to Clear Edge Communications – I’m naturally delighted that you’ve found me and hope that, over time, I can stimulate some new thinking and approaches to your brand, market development and communications.

In fact, it’s going to be “practise what you preach”, as I now set out to build my own market presence – so, you can be sure I am working to the blueprint!

Following my decision to take “The Big Step” and leave a comfortable, permanent job in PAYE world just before Christmas, it’s all been about falling in with my new best friends – lawyer, accountant, web designer and little black book (also known as Linked In). I have been in business construction mode – so that Clear Edge works properly from the outset and that people can feel that from the start.

It’s a case of building from the base – getting the basics right about what your business is, what your core expertise (your value) is, who you approach to discover their needs and how you can deliver against them.

While I have spent the last 7 years in the legal services and property markets (and this is an area of domain expertise), I am not tied to any sector.

The beauty of the core principles of marketing strategy, brand building and commuication, is that they are universal, and should be at the heart of every business plan, linked to a customer-centered approach. I will be talking a lot about strategies for this in upcoming blogs.

But I wanted you, dear reader, to be assured, that what I say is what I do, my word is my bond, and the quality control never drops. This will be as true a philosophy with how I help my clients grow their markets, as it is for me to grow my own business.

It’s going to be an exciting journey and I am delighted that I have picked up some great passengers already to work with, understand and grow to mutual success.

I look forward to sharing it with you also.

Why not follow us on Twitter at @clearedgecomms or email me at david@clearedgecomms.co.uk, or just check in again soon.

Bye for now

David