Tag Archives: Marketing

How the internet is changing customer behaviour

Often when people talk about start-up businesses what they really mean are new technology companies. Or, more specifically, a venture capitalist funding website or app based out of Tech City or Silicon Valley. While these kind of new businesses attract a lot of media attention they are not representative of the thousands of sole traders and limited companies registering their new businesses on a daily basis. Most new businesses are not tech based or tech focussed. However it is becoming increasingly important for all new businesses to have some kind of online presence and to know how they can use websites, social media and other online tools to grow their business.

As our infographic shows the UK online economy is now worth around £600 million per week. But online presence also drives traffic into bricks and mortar shops with 74% of people using online searches as their primary method for finding local businesses and 80% of people researching products online before buying them. So even if you do not want to sell online (or have a product or service which cannot be sold online) it is vital to have an online strategy to attract those customers. With 48% of consumers combining social media and online searches to make buying decisions the online strategy for your business should go beyond just having a website.

UK internet usage and business

If you need help developing an online strategy for your new business give our consultants a call on 01245 492777 or contact us via our website.

Experiential Marketing for Startups

Does your marketing strategy include experiential interactionsIn the simplest terms, experiential marketing is a strategy which allows your customers the opportunity to experience your product or service before they purchase it. According to the Experiential Marketing Forum “It’s the difference between telling people about the features of a product or service, and letting them experience the benefits for themselves”.

Though experiential marketing campaigns often include something free for customers to take away after the experience, it is not to be confused with offers which promise a free-trial period. The customer interacts with the product or service and a host such as a brand ambassador, leafleter or demonstrator guides the customer through the experience.

Media and print marketing can be expensive because success relies on volume, and it’s very difficult to track success. This is especially true now that you can mute or fast forward the adverts on TV, and bin the copious amounts of fliers through your letterbox.

Experiential marketing allows customers to engage and interact with brands, products, and services in sensory ways that provide the icing on the cake of providing information. Personal experiences help people connect with a brand, and make intelligent and informed purchasing decisions. When done right, it’s the most powerful tool available to win brand loyalty.

Enormous amounts of time and money go into researching product and brand development. Without strategic marketing the product sits on the shelf hoping to be purchased, and the service just waits on the web eager to be discovered. Marketing strategies create a link between the product or service and the consumer and this link can be created in various ways.

Acccording to MarketingWeek, “customers don’t necessarily follow the lowest price, but return to trusted brands that have proved their worth over time”. Active marketing ensures your brand is noticed by the customer who it’s intended for.

Any marketing campaign will include a brand message which customers can take with them and help them remember the brand, its benefits and features. When the brand message is accompanied by something the customer can feel, hear, see, taste or smell then the chances of remembering the message increase. The experience could be anything which allows to customer interact with the product and may include leafleting, sampling, interactive games or activities, immersive theatre and competitions.

New brands take advantage of experiential marketing because their customers need to be educated on all aspects of their brand. Businesses that are re-branding make use of experiential marketing to equal effect because their existing, happy customers will need to know that the same brilliant product or service is being offered, and less than happy customers will need to know what has been improved.

Likewise, this is a great opportunity to pick up new customers and allow them to experience the brand. Similarly, brands that haven’t seen as many sales as initially hoped for can also use experiential marketing to great effect.

Expert experiential marketing agencies will provide everything from staffing and uniforms to venue hire and an end of campaign report. These are worth the pennies you pay, as Shaz Smilansky, author of Experiential Marketing: A practical guide to interactive brand experiences, explains, “experiential marketing provides better ROI than other marketing activities in use”.

It can however be very expensive, especially if your business is small, and doesn’t have the seemingly limitless marketing budget that large corporations have. Making experiential marketing work for your business can be really simple and affordable. As each business is unique, the way to engage with your consumer needs to be unique too.

Think about the following, and then get creative. Remember that the most important thing is to allow your customer to experience your product or service before they hand over their cash.

  • Distribute fliers either in the town centre (permission from the Local Authority may be required), or through letter boxes. The fliers could include a money-off coupon.
  • Offer free samples in store. Make sure you display any warnings which would usually be on the packaging – contains nuts, hot content, etc.
  • Create a friend referral scheme. This can be as simple as offering a % of both parties’ next transaction for free.
  • Offer low introductory rates. For example you could offer 3 services or products for the price of 2 for a limited period.
  • Host an open event. Invite customers and their friends to visit your new office or shop, find out about what your business offers. Include light refreshments and a freebee to take away.

Don’t miss out on sales opportunities because your product is unknown or new. Give your customers every opportunity to gain trust, build conviction, and remain loyal. Be creative, engaging and informative. Find out more about the services we offer and other ways to build your brand at www.thecompanywarehouse.co.uk

Easy Ways to Promote Offline Shops Online

Online promotion for physical storesAs news of the latest big high street name to go bust rolls in the finger of blame is often pointed towards the internet. Online shopping is blamed for undercutting physical stores on price while new technology such as digital downloads and ebooks removes the need for physical shops in the first place.

However the internet also offers a wide range of tools to help shop owners promote their businesses many of which can be used free of charge.

Websites – It sounds obvious to many people that having a business website is a good idea but there are still many small shops who do not have their own site. 74% of people use internet search as their first port of call when looking for local businesses and 80% of people report researching products and services online before buying them from a local business. Not having a website for is an almost guaranteed way to reduce footfall into a shop. You do not have to spend thousands of pounds on bespoke web design to get your store an online presence. Free blogging tools such as WordPress can be used to create simple, engaging business sites.

Maps – As traditional advertising routes such as the Yellow Pages fade into the collective memory internet search becomes ever more important in attracting customers. Google Maps and Bing Maps both give you the ability to create a business listing. Your shop will appear on their maps, improving your chances of showing up in searches. These listings allow you to describe your services, post opening hours and contact details so that people know what you sell and when you are open. This is especially useful as consumers increasingly use their smart phones to find businesses while they are out and about.

Location Services – As well as getting your business on maps there are a range of location based services which can be used to promote your business. Services such as Foursquare allow you to list your business location and offer rewards to people who visit regularly. Your most regular visitor in a given period can be crowned as the ‘Mayor’ of your shop and receive a free coffee, cake or a discount in return. There are various competitors to Foursquare including Facebook Places which are also trying to move in on this territory.

Social Media – A free, and relatively simple, way to build awareness of your business is to use social media. For instance a new restaurant near our offices currently has over 1000 followers on Twitter and they are not due to open for business for another couple of weeks. When they do open they will have a readymade customer base. Different social networks, such as Pinterest or Linkedin, may be more suitable for your business but building a social following will help to attract customers and keep them engaged in your business.

Email – Done well email can be a very effective way of retaining customers and getting them back into your shop on a regular basis. Letting people know on a weekly or monthly basis what is going on in your store, what new products you have or special events you are putting on allows you to get the word out quickly and easily. Email addresses can be collected easily through point of sale systems or through a clipboard and pen on your counter. Services such as Mail Chimp and Constant Contact allow you to turn these addresses into an active mailing list and to create and manage mailing campaigns.

Ecommerce – One reason often cited for the death of the high street is competition from online retailers. 12% of all retail spending now happens online at an estimated value of £77 billion in 2012 yet only around 33% of SMEs sell online. Having an online operation can increase stock turnover and open up new markets. Building your own ecommerce website is easier than ever but many businesses do well by operating on eBay, Amazon and other online marketplaces. eBay in particular can be an excellent way to clear dead stock or to try out a new product line without having to put a big investment into an ecommerce solution.

If you would like to discuss how internet tools can be used to promote your business, or to order a business website or full ecommerce package then why not contact one of our Business Consultants. Or why not read our review of Dee Blick’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book or Dave Kerpen’s Likeable Social Media for more ideas on promoting your business.

Where do Small Businesses get their Sales Leads?

We took a look at the Success in Challenging Times: Key Lessons for UK SMEs report from the University of Surrey a couple of days ago. We have already written a blog post on its findings about how start-ups and small businesses finance themselves. But the research covers some other interesting areas including the networks that small businesses in the UK use to generate leads and grow their profile.

It is easy to spend a lot of money very quickly on advertising and marketing without getting much of a return. For many businesses the key to success is getting their products and services in front of the right people at the right time. While there are lots of excellent marketing books out there it is also useful to know what real small businesses think are the best ways to promote their businesses. The University of Surrey research asked people to grade different types of networking activity on a scale from ‘Not Important at All’ to ‘Extremely Important’. Taking the figures from the important side of this scale we can see that small businesses consider a wide range of networking activities to have some importance. By far the most important networking activity was found to be earning direct referrals to their business through personal contacts. This supports what most marketing research says in that face to face referrals are the best form of advertising any business could have. The fact that SEO shows up as the second most important factor shows the continuing importance websites as a marketing tool for small businesses.

Networking for small businesses

The rest of the networking activities that small businesses found to be important were a mix of online and offline activities. Chambers of Commerce meetings and Business Mentors were both seen as important (although the researchers point out that a large proportion of their survey sample were Chambers of Commerce members, perhaps distorting the figures). It is interesting that different online social networks varied in importance with Linkedin being seen as important by 44% of small businesses but Facebook seen as important by only 24% of small businesses.

However when we look at the networking activities that small businesses felt were ‘Extremely Important’ we can see that the ratings for all of the social networks drop below 10%. In fact the only networking activities that are really seen as being Extremely Important are direct personal referrals and website marketing through Search Engine Optimization. The University of Surrey research also found that creating websites is one of the most common things for small businesses to outsource.

Networking Activities for small Business

So if you are starting or trying to build a small business then getting a website built is going to be important. However the most important thing that you can do to promote your business is encourage your network to make direct referrals to your business.

Social Networking for Business: Beyond Facebook

Social Media LogosSocial Media has been one of the highest growth areas for marketing in the last few years. It is particularly attractive to start-ups and small businesses because it has virtually no start-up costs and enables you to reach a global audience. Social Media can be an excellent way of connecting with customers and driving traffic to your main website.

A lot of the discussion of social media for business marketing has tended to focus on a few services, mainly Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, with Facebook receiving the most attention. However these are not the only social media sites out there, they may not contain your target audience and they may not suit your business. With the continuing collapse of confidence in Facebook as a platform now is a good time to look at other social media networks.

Google +

Google + is Google’s main social network. It works almost as a mix between Facebook and Twitter, you can follow friends and brands but can also search through it to see what other people are looking at. With over 100 million members Google + has a large audience which includes lots of businesses. And of course it can’t hurt your Google search rankings to have a strong presence on their in-house social network.


Pinterest has been around for a couple of years but has really taken off in the last 12 months. It now attracts upwards of 12 million visitors per month and is valued at around $1.5 billion. Pinterest is largely used as a platform for people to share pictures they like. Estimates put the Pinterest user base at, at least, 80%. female. Many of the businesses that use it are focussed on hair and beauty, clothes, jewellery and weddings. A number of studies have found that Pinterest can generate high returns for brands. Typically it is used to post images of new products or work which users can then share. Done correctly this will include a link back to your business’s website so any users who really like the product can make a purchase.


Like Pinterest, Tumblr is mainly used for image sharing, although it can be used to share writing or videos as well. The major difference is that Pinterest users largely share images within the site or which they have found on other websites. On Tumblr the focus is much more on sharing work you have created yourself. You can also customise the way your work is seen, presenting it as lists, a magazine or a custom arrangement of your choice. Unlike Pinterest you can also build ecommerce stores within Tumblr, something which works best for visual businesses like fashion or photography.

Digg & Reddit

Digg and Reddit have both been around for a while. They operate in a very similar way. People post a link and brief summary of a news story, article, video or picture. If other users like this they vote it up, if they don’t like it they vote it down. The most popular links make it to the top of the front page. If you can get a link to your site to the top of the front page then you can expect a flood of visitors numbering in their thousands and a significant boost to your search engine rankings.

Goodreads, Behance, Last FM

There are a whole range of specialist social networks for sharing and networking on specific topics. For example, there is Goodreads for books, Behance for design and Last FM for music. The advantage of using these sites is that you are getting a highly targeted audience so it is a great way to reach potential customers for your business.


One of the earliest uses of the internet was text based discussion forums. There are still thousands of them around with tens of thousands of active members. They tend to be highly specialist so, for instance, there are dozens of forums in the UK dedicated to different types of cycling. Like the specialist social networks, forums are a good way to reach your target market. Tread carefully though, read the rules and stick to them. It is best not to actively push your business until you have developed a good reputation on a particular forum. This takes time and patience.

Go Gaga

Lady Gaga is often cited as one of the celebrities who have most successfully embraced social media to build her brand. She has 22 million Twitter followers and 50 million Facebook friends. Not satisfied with this she is now building her own social network so that she can connect with her fans on her own terms rather than through a third party service.


If you tried to build a meaningful network for your business on all of the social networks out there you would have no time to speak to any of your customers. Social networks are a great way to connect with customers but they are also time consuming. It is worth spending some time researching which networks are going to be most suitable for your customers and your business model. This may mean you have a Twitter account, a Tumblr and a strong presence on a particular forum. Alternatively Pinterest and Behance may be perfect for you. Remember, though, that social networks tend not to last forever. MySpace, Bebo and Friends Reunited were once the kings of the social media world. Now they are bought and sold for fractions of their former valuations having lost millions of pounds, and millions of users. If one of your chosen networks starts to slide, your business needs to be able to adapt, and adopt a new platform.

Book Review – Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen

The book’s full title, Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks), is pretty self explanatory.

Social Media for BusinessesThis is a book about promoting your business using social media tools. The author, Dave Kerpen, runs a social media agency in America and the book is full of examples from his clients. Likable focuses on how to target customers online, get them to follow or like you and then buy your products or services.

One of the principles Likable is based on is that each member of Facebook has on average 130 Facebook friends. If you can get 1 person to ‘like’ your company on Facebook they are, in effect, personally recommending you to 130 of their friends. Get 100 people to like you and you could potentially have personal recommendations from customers reaching 13000 people. It is basically about using good old fashioned word of mouth recommendations but driving them through Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

If you can get your company to be a, positive, part of the conversations people are having online then you can earn these recommendations. Kerpen’s book covers the main social media sites (although he focuses heavily on Facebook) and discusses how each one can be used. Most of his focus, though, is on how to craft what you are going to say rather than where you say it. Kerpen discusses how to engage with people on social media on their terms, not trying to sell to them, but to have an interesting conversation. He gives examples of how companies have successfully done this already and suggestions of how companies could do it in the future. Throughout the book Kerpen emphasizes the need for companies to be authentic, transparent and honest in everything they do online.

Because of the fast moving nature of social media the book, which was published in 2011, is already starting to date a little. Pinterest, for instance, is only mentioned in passing but is now a big force in social media. Likewise a couple of Kerpen’s suggestions for tools to use to measure and attract visitors are now slightly out of date because the social media networks have changed how they work. There have also been complaints about the response to customer’s problems through social media (or lack of it) of one of the companies Kerpen showcases. However this doesn’t really have an impact on the advice in the book, you may just need to treat it with a pinch of salt.

Verdict 8/10

Rapidly dating, and perhaps not entirely unbiased about the success of some of the strategies discussed. Having said that Likeable offers a comprehensive introduction to the world of social media and how to use it for businesses.

Should you let customers make business decisions for you?

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.

That bit of advice comes from Steve Jobs, one of the most successful makers of consumer products ever. Often it gets shorted down to simply “customers don’t know what they want”.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from this approach to business is the idea of Connected Marketing. One of the classic examples used to describe the power of Connected Marketing is the Post-it Note.

The Story goes that 3M had been trying to design a super sticky new type of glue. Their research failed and instead they came up with glue that wouldn’t permanently stick to anything. Someone had the idea that bits of paper with weak glue on would make good bookmarks. This was tried out but proved not to be popular with customers. Just as the whole project was about to be scrapped the decision was made to send out a box of Post-it Notes to senior secretaries in major American companies. Along with their box of Post-it Notes the secretaries got a letter asking for their help. In particular they were asked to come up with uses for these little bits of paper with weak glue on them. Within a very short time Post-it Notes had become a must have office accessory and turned into a multi-million dollar product.

So I should design a product which fails?

Boosting Sales through Connected MarketingThe lesson which supporters of Connected Marketing take from the Post-it Note story is not the bit about the glue failing. Instead they prefer to focus on the bit about the secretaries. The idea is that because they were senior secretaries they were ‘influencers’ in their network. In other words people listened to them and trusted them. Because they had been asked for their opinion the secretaries felt flattered. More than feeling flattered they felt a connection to the product and became ‘brand advocates’. They began to tell all of their friends and colleagues about the Post-It Note trial and all the uses they had found for them. Their position as influencers meant that they were also in a position within the company to place an order for more Post-it Notes when they ran out. Very soon all the secretaries in a company would be using Post-its.

How does this help me to run my business?

Some companies go down the Connected Marketing route wholesale and develop all of their products jointly with their customers. This is the extreme. A more popular tactic is one used by people like Google. They will release a new product to select group of influential bloggers and journalists on an invitation only basis for them to test. The people who have been invited feel flattered so they have a positive outlook on the new product. They then write positive articles about it and, because Google picks influential people to start with, ordinary consumers trust them and want to use the product as well.

Another popular, and low tech, solution is to perform targeted customer surveys. For instance if you are opening a new fishing shop you could survey the members of a local fishing club and ask them what times they would like the shop to open. Similarly if you are a butcher you could do a tasting session for your new sausages and then ask your customers what to call them. Alternatively a women’s fashion boutique could invite their most stylish customers to a private viewing of the new season’s clothes and ask them what they ought to stock. These people will then, in theory, go and tell all of their friends and co-workers about how great your dresses, sausages or fishing rods are. They become your unpaid sales team.

Key points for action

If you want to give connected marketing a try there a few key points to remember

  • The customers or potential customers you pick need to be key influencers in their field.
  • You need to be genuine about asking for their help.
  • Show that you are listening and that you are putting their advice into action
  • Don’t ask them to go out and influence their friends. If you make a good impression they will do it anyway.

Book Review – The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book by Dee Blick

Ultimate Small Business Marketing BookAll too often businesses launch a website or have a bit of fanfare about a shop opening and then sit back and wait for the customers to roll in. When the customers don’t arrive they start doing mail shots and placing adverts in newspapers. Often these efforts are untargeted and can be very expensive. And, unfortunately they often don’t work.

One of the best things about Dee Blick’s book is that she does not treat marketing as something you bolt onto a company. Rather she sees it as something that should be built in from the ground up.

Early on in The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book Dee Blick quotes the marketing expert Peter Doyle on the difference between marketing and sales. He said that:

Selling tries to push the customer to buy what the business has. Marketing, on the other hand, tries to get the organisation to develop and offer what the customer will find is of real value.

In the first chapter of her book Dee Blick gives an example of a new start-up business, in this case a dog walking business. She details how, by thinking about what their customers might want, they were able to create services that customers would want to buy.

This is the general tone of much of Dee Blick’s book. It is heavy on real world examples of how good marketing can help new and growing businesses attract customers. Most of the examples that she uses are of marketing tactics that cost little or no money. Dee Blick does go a little bit into some of the basic theory behind the marketing strategies cover things like AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action). But she does so in an easy to understand way.

The book covers a wide range of marketing strategies including up to date topics such as social media, blogs, email and websites, as well as traditional marketing techniques. While the book can be read in one go it is equally good to use as a reference with chapter summaries, checklists and Q & A sections.

Verdict – 10/10

This is a must read book for any new or growing business. It is full of practical ways to attract customers without breaking the bank and will set you on the right course to establishing a trusted and respected brand.

Do you need a Strap Line, Slogan, Tagline or Mission Statement?

Slogans, Mission Statements, Strap Lines and Tag LinesIf you want to establish a strong brand for a new company experts recommend that you can do two things. First you need a clear idea of who your customers are and what products or services you provide. Secondly you need to be able to clearly state why customers should buy your products or services.

Once you know what these two statements are, they can be a powerful way to tell new customer about your company and inspire your staff.  There are basically two ideas you need to come up with.

Mission Statement

Mission statements were all the rage in business circles a couple of years ago. They get less press these days but are still a useful tool. Mission statements tend to be for internal use. They set out the principles the company will be run on. Some good examples are:

Google - Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Amazon – Amazon’s vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

McDonalds – McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.

These mission statements set out what the company is trying to achieve and say something about how they want to do it. Both the Amazon and McDonalds mission statements explicitly mention customers while the importance of the end user is implied in the Google one.

Strap Line, Slogan or Tagline

Strap lines, Slogans and taglines are all basically the same thing. What a strap line does is to quickly sum up what the company is about. It may be incorporated into the company logo or feature in advertising. It is meant to be catchy and make the customer think positively about the company. Some good examples are:

Nike – Just do it

DeBeers – Diamonds are forever

HSBC – The world’s local bank

These slogans are short and snappy. They do not sum up everything about the company but they do give a general idea about the company’s philosophy. Nike is all about action while HSBC is a global bank with a friendly service.

Even if you don’t want to go down the route of having a formal mission statement or slogan it is a good idea to have a quick summary of your company prepared. Many people believe in the elevator pitch, a 30 second to 2 minute explanation of what your company is all about and why people should give you money. With the growing influence of social media the 160 characters Twitter gives you to write your profile might be an equally good test. If it takes you more than 160 characters or 2 minutes to describe your business perhaps then perhaps you need a rethink.

Ultimately this can be the main benefit of writing a mission statement or slogan. The process of doing it makes you thinks more clearly about your business and its benefits.