Marketing your business plan into action

We’re getting more enquiries from businesses needing to do something fast . . . a sales letter, a blog, revised web site text. Unsurprisingly, businesses in every sector are having to work harder to attract and retain clients, and their marketing tools need to be in good shape to help them do this.

Before we can write a sales letter or blog, we ask questions so that we understand clients’ objectives and usually the answers are in their business plan, if they have one. A useful business plan is one used to direct the business, not an academic exercise to please banks or lenders, which can often bear little resemblance to reality. Even a brief plan of a page or two can be effective.

A good plan will remind a business about its core objectives, key markets, required level of sales and other important targets. In a challenging marketplace, it’s useful to review your business plan and objectives, and modify it to reflect changing circumstances. For example, with the difficulties being experienced by sectors such as financial services and car manufacturing, should an existing focus on one of these be switched to another sector? It’s also possible for difficulties in a specific sector to open up new opportunities and the business plan can be adapted if you want to take advantage of these.

Businesses with an understanding of current market conditions and an up-to-date business plan can monitor their progress easily to see what is working and how they are doing against their targets. They can also see what is not working and stop or modify unsuccessful activities.

When you have clear objectives, know your target audience and understand what they want, it’s much easier to develop marketing tools that will put your plan into action and help it succeed.

An obligation to entertain

When I write for pleasure, I write to entertain myself. There’s no point in doing it if my audience – me – is not entertained. If other people are entertained by my writing as well, that’s a bonus.

When writing for other people, either businesses or theatre audiences, I have an obligation to entertain them. If not, businesses won’t read what I write and audiences will lose interest and walk out of a show.

It doesn’t matter how factual or important content is, people need to be entertained to take note of the message that’s being communicated.

Often this gets lost in the scramble to use technology to communicate. It doesn’t matter whether the message is written in 140 characters on twitter or daubed on a plywood sign at the side of the road: if it isn’t entertaining, people won’t take notice.

So do you need a creative person to write for you? They certainly should be able to help, but there’s nothing to stop anyone writing entertaining copy.

Think of it as telling a story or joke to your friends or recounting your latest achievement in your favourite hobby or sport. If you can make these sound exciting and communicate your enthusiasm, then why not anything else? All right, I recently struggled to make a piece on sewers entertaining, so there are some topics where a little extra effort can be required.

Always remember that, whatever the format or delivery method, we are obliged to entertain our audience.

That’s all for now, folks!

Fresh is the marketing key to followers

There’s nothing new. There’s nothing original.

If social media and micro-blogging are blessings, the curse they bring is of endlessly recycled mediocre ramblings. With the need to feed search engines and provide a continuous supply of articles and content, today’s marketing challenge is how to remain interesting, useful, relevant or entertaining when the option to unfollow, switch off or ignore is so easy to choose.

When every business is scratching around for something original to say, the only realistic option is to relax and find another approach. Most media content – from adverts on television to gags used by comedians – is not new, but to be successful it has to appear fresh. Simply repeating the same unchanged story again and again, as many are doing, is an instant turn-off. It’s like meeting someone at a party who always tells the same joke, which wasn’t that funny the first time round: someone we try to avoid.

Give three people the same speech to read and each one will deliver it differently. Some will read woodenly and make the audience sleepy, others will be mildly interesting, while a few will project the words with the energy and emotion to hold the audience spellbound. That’s what we have to aim for: spectacular delivery.

Technology, tools and content are important, but it’s the manner of delivery that bind them to work together successfully. I’m sure that occasionally the new and original can be found, but much of what we say and read is based on or inspired by what exists already. We can choose to discard it in boredom, trot it out again flatly without enthusiasm or use our creativity to refresh it and relaunch it in a format that enables successful communication.

How do we do that?

By using our personality and creativity to add relevance and interest. What are our customers interested in? What will they find attractive? What will they take notice of? Strip away unnecessary words and details, adapt the story to our clients, our sector, the current climate. Use the tone of voice, language, cultural references with which people identify. The result will be the same story but fresh, relevant, targeted and useful: with more chance of people listening, following and taking notice.

Don’t throw your flimsy briefs at me!

One of the skills needed in any creative marketing role is to be able to see the world from the client’s point of view so that you can produce work that achieves their vision.

Last week Simon and I were discussing various briefs – the specifications for a copywriting or other creative project – provided by clients and how minimal some can be. Often a client can want something, but not know what that something is. Our response is to ask questions to identify what they want to help us create it.

Now, we wouldn’t expect everyone to specify a precise word count for an article or list technical production details, but what is important in a brief is to have a reason for the project. Even before any creative aspects are considered, what is the business aim of the project: to sell an identified product, to increase company awareness, to advertise an event, to attract visitors to a web site?

Identifying this reason, the target audience and required result is the starting point for any creative activity. From there we can establish the best way to achieve what the client requires. Whenever starting a project, we always ask what the client is looking to achieve: some can tell us precisely, while others have to be helped to define it.

We include it as part of our service to ask these questions so that we fully understand the client, their needs and the projects they commission us to complete, but it makes good sense for any business to know what it’s looking to achieve at all times.

Doing this doesn’t just mean we receive fewer flimsy briefs, but ensures businesses focus sharply on their commercial objectives. And if their commercial objectives are clearly defined, we think they’re more likely to achieve them.

If your web presence is your shop window, keep it fresh!

When we go into a greengrocer’s shop (or a supermarket) and see tired, dried-up fruit and vegetables, we usually pass by and go in search of a store with fresh produce. Well, if your web sites, blogs or other forms of online presence serve as shop windows for your business, it’s important to make sure they’re as freshly dressed as any food shop.

That’s not to say it’s always easy when you’ve got a million other things to do, but it’s good practice to remove or alter out-of-date information or offers and to correct anything that is wrong, such as prices.

The more we change our ‘shop windows’, the more passers-by are likely to take notice, not to mention search engines and the non-human agents at work on the internet.

It needn’t take long and is more a discipline than anything else to note down everywhere you have a presence – not just your own site and blogs, but profiles and other information on networking and other sites.

And just to prove that we’re practising what we preach, that’s what we’re doing at the moment.

Robert Zarywacz

Marketing for the phlegmatic

With the explosion of social networks, so many people promise to give away so many marketing secrets that I wonder how secret any of them can be if they are known by so many people.

It can only be a matter of time before someone invents the fact that you are never more than six feet away from a twitter expert.

But lets not deny the value of twitter and online services, just as other tools provided value in their time, from the telegraph to the typewriter to the fax machine.

What is probably more constant is the approach required for successful marketing, which remains neither secret nor exciting.

I would suggest that having an objective is a good start. This helps tailor activities to our target market by identifying what we want our customers to do, how we get them to do it and how we know when they’ve done it.

Next, it’s good to be interesting so that people notice that we are going on about something. It’s even better to offer something useful, even if it’s just entertainment value.

Generally, one-off activities are not enough and persistence is required so that people get to know us and our business without being annoyed by us. Add to this some consistency, so that over time people recognise our message and what we want them to do, eg make a purchase.

In simple terms, that’s about it. That’s not to say that research, planning, original ideas and hard work aren’t needed to put all this into practice, but it’s either that or knowing the winning lottery numbers.

And they are a secret that few manage to crack.

Follow me on twitter as I search for the winning lottery numbers @robertz

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