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Marketing Tactics

Start with a Strategy

Without a clear marketing strategy – or ‘big plan’ – you won’t know what to communicate to your customers. Here’s how to get started.

Nadine Todd

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While business can be divided into boxes (planning, admin, HR, sales, marketing, financial management, strategy, accounts), the truth is that no areas of business function in isolation. Some of the biggest organisations in the world are successful precisely because of an understanding that each section is a part of the whole.

The same is true of marketing. Marketing is the product of good business planning and strategising. It’s what drives sales, and ultimately what makes profits. But it cannot exist in a bubble. The days of designing a campaign and shouting it to consumers is over. Technology has redefined the way the world works, and marketing is no different.

“Today’s consumers are empowered,” says Ivan Moroke, group managing director of TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris. “They are informed, they expect transparency and they want to interact with brands at different levels. Traditional ‘push’ marketing still has a role to play, but it needs to be combined with other forms of marketing as well.”

Reaching consumers

In order to reach informed consumers who care about the world, businesses cannot ignore the social, political and economic landscape either. Marketing is about creating a message and then reaching consumers. To do that, it’s important to understand what consumers react to or are looking for — and then aligning this with the company’s own goals and identity.

“South Africa is particularly interesting in this regard,” says Moroke. “We are a relatively new and fast developing country. South African consumers are looking for an identity. Their fingers are on the pulse of change and there is a lot of class mobility. Companies that fail to realise this and react to it will not communicate with their target audience.”

For an example of how consumerism has changed, look at trends that have emerged in the current recession. A tightened economic environment has affected consumer and business buying behaviour. “Pre-recession emotion was a key driver in consumer decision-making,” says Moroke. “People were using money they didn’t have to buy things they didn’t need to impress people they didn’t know.

“And marketing followed suit. Marketing campaigns focused on communicating messages to the heart. The recession has changed that. South Africa may have been largely sheltered from the storm, but we were still affected. There has been a shift from the heart to the mind, from consumers on the street, to SMEs right through to large corporates. Everyone is evaluating price and informing themselves on the products and services on offer.”

This does not mean that companies and brands should no longer appeal to the heart and emotions at all, but it does mean that bad products and services can no longer be hidden with frills. “People are interrogating brands. As a company you need to ask yourself: Can we stand up to scrutiny? And if you can’t, what are you going to change to make sure you can?” asks Moroke.

Communication is key

According to Moroke, the first question every company should consider before even looking at marketing is what value their customers derive from their product or service. Grant Leishman, CEO of PenQuin International, agrees.

Working backwards from the ultimate objective of business (to sell products or services), and using marketing to achieve this goal, companies must come up with their ‘big idea’. To do that, they need to know what their message is, and to do that, they need to know what they are selling, who they are selling it to, and how much they need to sell. “Without strong company objectives, it’s almost impossible to come up with that big idea,” Leishman says.

“Marketing can’t cover up fundamental wrongs in a product or service,” says Moroke. “To put it bluntly, a pig with lipstick is still a pig. If you want people to choose your brand, you need a proposition they can buy into. Marketing is simply the way you communicate that proposition. Never just make things up. Your customers will eventually realise what you are doing and your brand will be damaged. Sit down and really figure out what your proposition is, and what your differentiators are from your competitors. If you find you don’t have a strong proposition, perhaps you need to go back to your product and service and relook your business model.”

1. What is your business selling?

Ask yourself the questions: What do I do? What am I selling? How much do I need/want to sell?

2. Find your customer

Who is your product or service for? The more specific you are about your target audience, the better your value proposition will be, and the more success you will have with your message. Remember: today’s consumers want to have a conversation with you and your brand, but in order to do that, your message needs to be something they care about.

3. Find your brand truth

Moroke’s advice is simple: Write on a matchbox what you are selling. “No matter how sophisticated your product or service, the first step is to be able to communicate what you do in one simple sentence that will fit on a matchbox — no frills,” he says. “The sentence should communicate one simple message: This is why people should buy my product or service.

“No brand can be everything to everyone. If you try and create a message that appeals to too many people, you will end up with nothing. This is why it’s so important to know who your customer is.”

4. The idea

Once you know what your business is selling, who it is selling to and what your brand truth is, you can develop your ‘big idea’, which is basically the message that your marketing campaign wants to project in order to start a conversation. “That big idea should have nothing to do with the company’s budget,” says Leishman. “Many companies, especially SMEs, shy away from conceptualising big ideas because they don’t want to allocate too much of their budget to a big marketing campaign,” he says. “Don’t let your budget hinder the idea. Rather have the idea, and then find creative ways to implement that idea based on your budget.”

5. Implementing that idea

In today’s marketing world there are a host of different ways to get a brand message across, from traditional to digital platforms, print ads to social media. An integrated marketing strategy is vital, but it’s up to the company to determine which platforms make the most sense for what they are selling, and who they are selling it to. “Not all platforms suit everyone,” says Leishman. “Every company should have a strategy and a website as a starting point, but not everyone should be on Facebook, for example. It depends on what you are trying to communicate and who you are talking to. The vehicle for your message is as important as the message itself, but don’t be restricted by which platforms you should use. The idea is to create a conversation. What is the best way for you to do that?”

6. Stay focused

Know who you are targeting and stick with it. Marketing does not have to be complicated. The rules are the same for everyone, from SMEs to large corporates. The budgets may differ, but the goal is the same: create the right message, reach your target audience and convince them to not only buy what you are selling, but tell other potential customers to do the same.

“What you ultimately want is to find the evangelists in your consumer group,” says Leishman. “Once you have them sold on your message, they will push the product or service for you — and people trust other people.” The secret to evangelists is that in order to earn that kind of loyalty, brands need to deliver appropriately and consistently. “You can’t make promises at one level and then not deliver,” he says. “This goes back to the fact that you need a strong proposition to begin with, and a clear idea of what value your brand is offering.”

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Marketing Tactics

6 Things To Consider For Putting Together Your Best Holiday Marketing Plan Yet

When autumn starts, will you be ready for the holidays, having already created a gift guide, email and social media strategies and more?

Syed Balkhi

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‘Tis the season for online shopping. Well, not quite yet, but it’ll be here before you know it. In fact, according to CPC Strategy’s survey results, 35.5 percent of shoppers surveyed planned on starting their holiday gift shopping before Thanksgiving. That’s why you need to start putting together your holiday marketing plan now.

As soon as autumn hits, shoppers are bombarded with stunning holiday advertising and jaw-dropping deals from companies that will be fighting for their attention during that busy season.

But how will your company break through the noise and get consumers to make holiday memories with your business?

Let’s get festive, then, and think about seven things you might consider when putting together your holiday marketing plan.

Create an email marketing strategy

There’s no better way to boost your holiday sales than to send deals straight into shoppers’ inboxes. Email still converts the best for online holiday shopping. According to Shopify, a staggering 8.8 billion data points were collected on Black Friday in 2017, in the form of email sign-ups and other lead-generation tactics.

Since holiday shopping starts as early as November, you’ll want to craft your email marketing messages now and schedule them to be sent automatically.

Not all customers are created equal, either, so use your customer data to segment your email marketing. For example, if a large proportion of your customer base are busy moms, don’t send a broad, generic email; instead, send them one with products and tips to ease their stress during the holiday season. Personalised emails will make you stand out from the rest.

Related: 5 Ways to Dazzle and Delight Your Customers This Holiday Season

Have a countdown timer for sales

holiday-store-open

Ever heard of FOMO (a.k.a. “the fear of missing out”)? Creating a sense of urgency is one of the most effective strategies to make consumers feel that something valuable is being offered that they don’t want to miss out on. An eye-catching way to create urgency is to display countdown timers for sales.

For example, American Express displayed a countdown to the expiration of a special Amazon deal it offered its customers.

You can easily add a countdown timer to your website for free using the T(-) Countdown plug-in for WordPress. Seeing a visual symbol, like a countdown timer ticking down the minutes, pushes consumers into action by raising the urgency level to high.

Think about a “free” shipping strategy

Since consumers today are spoiled with Amazon Prime and same-day shipping, your business needs to offer awesome shipping deals this holiday season in order to compete. By reducing shipping costs for your customers, you’ll increase your chances of shoppers buying from you instead of from a big-box retailer.

Want to offer free shipping but afraid of losing money? Set a minimum order amount – for instance, customers must spend $50 to unlock free shipping – or offer free shipping on select items, like your lightest items only.

That way, you can offer customers free shipping without cutting into your profits.

And remember to account for realistic shipping times and cutoffs throughout the season to ensure your customers receive their orders in time for the holidays.

Craft holiday-themed content

Content marketing is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site, so add a little holiday cheer to your blog.

Crafting holiday-themed content will get your business in front of a ton of consumers searching Google for holiday-based and buyer keywords. Make sure your content is valuable to the reader; if it helps solve their holiday problems, they’ll be more likely to share it.

Lululemon does this well by creating holiday-themed lifestyle blog posts as well as posts about gift ideas for your loved ones.

Start thinking about content ideas now so you won’t have to scramble at the last minute. Brainstorm some fun holiday topics and plan out your content using a content calendar. CoSchedule offers free content calendar templates that will help keep you organised during this hectic season.

Related: Gear Up your Marketing for the Holiday Season

Devise a social media strategy

Getting festive on social media is a great way to capture the attention of shoppers on the lookout for deals, and to inspire a cheerful connection between consumers and your brand.

A great tip to avoid becoming overwhelmed come November is to create all your social media graphics ahead of time.

Don’t have a graphic designer? Don’t worry. Canva is a free tool where you can easily create all the stunning graphics you need to advertise your products with high gross margins and your free shipping holiday deal. You can also find fun images to use to wish your customers a happy holiday.

Schedule all your posts with a tool like Buffer, to make your life even easier. And consider enabling a Facebook retargeting pixel, too. It’s a highly effective strategy to recapture those shoppers who left your site without buying. When users abandon your site in search of other deals across the web, a retargeting ad will “follow” them and display specific ads to encourage them to return to you.

Create a holiday gift guide

Finding the perfect gift can be stressful, so make things easy for your customers by creating a holiday gift guide. With a gift guide, you’ll be able to showcase your best products and increase organic traffic by taking advantage of the shoppers searching “gift guides” on Google.

Etsy curates stunning products for a gift guide its shoppers can easily browse.

You don’t have to be a computer wiz to add a gift guide to your site, a clever hack to create your own is to use a free menu plugin for WordPress like Restaurant Menu by MotoPress. Instead of food photos, add photos of your products and product descriptions; your customers will now have a convenient way to see what items you recommend.

You can also reach out to other websites or publications that will feature your products in their gift guide so that even more people will discover you.

Don’t wait any longer: The holiday season is right around the corner. With these simple strategies, your holiday marketing will turn jaded shoppers into jolly customers, and the boost in your revenue will be the best gift you’ve ever received.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Related: 8 Shopping Habits Of Millennials All Retailers Need To Know About

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Marketing Tactics

Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget

Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.

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As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.

First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.

For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.

Related: 5 Ways To Market Your Business On A Limited Budget

3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter

Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)

1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns

It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.

2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly

(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.

Related: 4 Unique Marketing Ideas For SMEs On A Budget

3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe

Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.

Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.

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Marketing Tactics

Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?

How do you market your company to this generation?

Stuart Scanlon

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According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.

They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.

So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?

1. By being transparent

Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.

Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs

Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.

Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.

2. By offering options

A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.

That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.

3. By being forward thinking

We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.

On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.

1. By being transparent

As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.

2. By offering options

Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.

Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.

Related: The Z Generation

3. By being forward thinking

They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.

The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.

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