Monday, 10 November 2014

How to gain business exposure on a small budget

When you first start out in business your budget might be small for marketing (or non-existent) so gaining that traction you know you deserve can be tough. Here are a few ideas I recommend to get you started, they’re easy to put together and won’t cost you a fortune.

Referral systems

Little coupons or referral cards are great to hand out to customers. Once you have sold a few products or services offer your customers an incentive for spreading the word. Think about what u can spare, can you discount your product or service easily? Perhaps offer 50% off your next order if they sign a friend up to spend with you. Offer 75% if 2 friends spend and offer something free for more. Depending on what your product is decide what you can give out and what the value of a new customer would be. The higher your offer the more likely people will talk about you (so don’t even think about offering 5% - that’s laughable). You may feel like you are being taken advantage of by some people getting your services for free but try and see the bigger picture. Yes you may lose some profit at first, give things away at cost or even less, but you are setting yourself up for higher exposure when you provide more value than the customer expected. Always let the customer feel like they got the better deal. It is the oldest trick in the sales book, always over deliver.

HTML Emails

If you have been diligent and collected previous customer email addresses well done – you’re sitting on something good! Newsletter/brochure pdf pages are good for handing out in print format, but as a mail out I wouldn’t recommend. People receive way too much spam every day, and if your email requires more effort than just opening the email you can guarantee they aren’t going to open your newsletter if they haven’t requested the information.
Instead plant information in the body of the email using HTML (if you don't have a way of doing this yourself MailChimp is free and has bucketloads of great templates!). You only need an interesting subject for people to open it and the information is ready available in their face. As for subjects; stay away from spammy headings like “special offer” and “huge discount”, and instead offer people something specific e.g “40% off your next cut and blow wave at My Awesome Hair Salon”. Don’t forget to let them know who you are and how you got their email address so they don’t end up blocking you.

Social Media

Set up that Facebook page with an awesome profile and cover graphic. Mix up posts with information, offers and deals, funny/interesting industry related posts and personal stuff. People love to see who is behind a company, your business needs a ‘voice’ so people can connect - selling is becoming less B2B and B2C but H2H – human to human.

Social Media is a great free way to get people sharing and talking about your product/services but be ready for negative feedback; it does make it easy for people to share bad experiences they might have had with you. Do not delete them, do not be angry, it’s all part of business - instead find a constructive way to resolve the issue. Everyone has negative feedback at some stage it is how you handle it that shows what kind of company you are to others who see it. Respond to everything – good and bad!

Tell your friends and family and get networking!

Share, share, share. Let everyone know who you are and what you are offering. You’ll find a lot of people are willing to help out. BNZ hold free networking events on the first Tuesday of every month, so get along to those and start talking. Everyone is there for the same reason - don’t be shy about telling people what you do. Chamber of Commerce and BNI are also networking companies, but you do have to pay to be involved with them.

Give products or services away for free

If you can afford it, sponsor an event. Offer up products or services to a charity auction. Some places will print your logo for free or give you a plug at the event, and this can be worthwhile to pick up new customers. You might be wary about giving away free stuff, but if you truly do believe you have a great product people need to see it and it’s better you take the risk than them.

If you’re not big on picking up the phone and cold calling (I cringe even just thinking about it) then try some of these safer tactics to gain traction amongst your market. It’s not all about giving away stuff for free but it’s about letting people experience what you have to offer without them feeling like they are taking the risk on you, if they love it you will have found yourself a customer for life who will gladly tell all of their friends.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Social Media By Design

Social media doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it have to cost you an exorbitant amount of money, but what you do need to do, is commit. Commit to a concept, commit to a design and commit to the ongoing updates and engagement with your community.

One of my favourite social media campaigns that I worked on is from Amnesty International in New Zealand. Trial by Timeline is an app that connects to your Facebook page and by conducting [insert complicated algorithm details] is able to predict how many times you would have been flayed, stoned or killed just because you were you – whether it was because you were part of the ‘wrong’ religion, socialised with the wrong people, or were just the wrong gender. Sorry ladies.

The app followed the Amnesty brand guidelines in terms of colour scheme and the black against the yellow ensured the gripping visuals were noticed. While there was nothing particularly violent about the colour scheme, it was amazing to see how the designers shaped it into some quite menacing backgrounds at times.

Design is funny like that. Working in PR has always meant that I have a natural affinity for words, rather than images (although you may want to hold on judgement until you finish this blog), so I always enjoy seeing a successful social media play born from a simple visual.

One brand that seemingly has this aspect sorted is Oreo. A couple of years ago the company posted an image of an Oreo cookie with rainbow icing on its Facebook page in support of equality. This netted the company thousands more followers, but also cost them a few customers.  The following year saw the company react instantaneously (34 minutes) to a power cut with this tweet – something that essentially meant that Oreo won the Super Bowl.

It’s not just tweets and posts either, Facebook, and subsequently Twitter and LinkedIn have made it very easy for brands to interact with consumers. Ignoring the fact that Twitter and LinkedIn have redesigned to such an extent that they are practically Facebook replicas, the launch of the cover photo was probably the time where most designers gave up a silent prayer of thanks, because it is a sitter for consumer engagement. 

Looking at how big brands (and those with the most amount of money) use these visual features actually reinforces the concept that social media doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, Starbucks uses its cover photo to highlight its customer of the week, while Nike uses its cover photo to inspire. On Twitter, Spotify keeps its branding simple, standout images and very little copy, while McDonalds uses its background to promote a current marketing campaign.

Ultimately, however you do it; it’s about engaging with people and creating meaningful conversations within an online community. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive campaign, and it doesn’t need to be the one you spent years planning – all it takes is a clever design, a willingness to engage and a readiness to commit.

Written by Natalie Benning.
Senior Account Manager, Axicom
London, UK

Natalie is a PR Consultant and Digital Communications Specialist. New Zealand born and bred, she is currently working in London as a Senior Account Manager at Axicom, a technology PR consultancy. Natalie has worked for a number of high profile clients including Microsoft, Dell, Visa and Vodafone.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

What does your website say about you?

How people perceive your company just by looking at the design of your website.

Although I could start by giving you an example of a poorly designed website that some magnificent company unfortunately has, I have decided to work backwards and describe to you how even poorly managed companies can succeed with a brilliant looking website.

I recently got myself a puppy. I haven’t owned a pet myself before, but one of the first things I knew I had to do was find a vet to book my new pooch into to receive his puppy shots. I got straight onto Google, as we all do now and started searching local practices. I came across a website of a local vet, the website was well designed and informative, it was clean and simple, no broken links or disjointed areas; there were good looking animals with smiling doctors and nurses in very sterile looking rooms. Prices were reasonable so I booked my pup in… Here is part of the website (I’ve hidden the brand name, purely because naming and shaming companies is not what I want to be a part of):

I felt pretty positive about what I was heading in to, but when I actually came to the practice I was quite surprised! It was this cramped, shabby little shop with clutter of pet products everywhere, no smiling doctors and nurses from the pictures, no sterile white rooms with happy golden retrievers and ragdoll kitties like on the website. It wasn’t a big deal, the vet was nice enough and my puppy got his shots and is healthy; but I couldn’t believe how I had felt about the practice just from looking at their website, vs how different the actual practice looked (think examination table inside a dark, dingy $2 shop).

I thought… these guys have done something right. They have put effort into the marketing area they needed to gain customers with. The way the website makes you feel vs the way the practice makes you feel doesn’t match at all but luckily for them first impressions count and after seeing their website they already had me. Yes I could have cancelled my appointment once I got in, but what a hassle that would be! And the actual Vet was just fine, she had her degree and knew what she was doing; I walked away feeling they could use some help from an interior designer to bring the shop up to the same standards as the website.

Your website is your visual brand, it is the first impression a potential customer has of you and the services you have to offer. It is important they feel positive and know what to expect when they hire you. A poorly designed website with bad fonts, colours, images and information as well as broken links and no SEO damages that first impression someone has of your company and could cause you to lose customers. If you are unsure what your website says about you please contact me and I will give you free advice in the areas I think your site could improve on to gain a lasting impression that counts.

(I did scold myself later for falling for such marketing hype, now I think about it I’m sure I have seen those stock photos of doctors and animals online before.)

Do you think it is unfair to use images of people on your website who clearly do not work at your company?