#BEMLeeds Review: Jennie Fisher at Provident Financial

Jennie Fisher, Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Provident Financial, shares her own unique experience from attending last week’s Brand & Audience Engagement Masterclass #BEMLeeds, which was hosted at Elmwood’s office in Leeds.

We’re Marketers and we like to delight our customer by giving them tailored messages and products and services! Oh and we know everything about Marketing!

No. No we don’t.

We think we know everything and we like to put people in boxes and give *groups* of people tailored messages and products.

Identifying those groups used to be quite straightforward and I thought I really understood who I was looking at until I listened to a presentation by Dan Monteith and Tim Leonard from Elmwood.  Now I am questioning everything. And. It’s. Awesome.

No really!

I work in Financial Services.  We have one service (a short-term loan) which we provide to around a million people across the UK and Republic of Ireland.  Now whilst there are some similarities between customers they are not robots or clones.  They are all individuals and it was good to be reminded of that.

Just like it was good to be reminded that despite the numerous spreadsheets I look at, Marketing is still not a pure science.  Every day, regardless of which sector you are in, we are constantly trying to make people like us. Yes you can ask customers to say out of 10 how much they like you or trust you or feel something fluffy and warm inside about your brand and produce a lovely chart, but that’s just a snapshot of that moment in time.  Maintaining and building that fluffy feeling i.e. getting people to feel engaged with your brand takes time, data and a bit of a gut instinct, it seems.

Getting these reminders can be difficult though, especially if you happen to work and live in the North of England.  If you are in London, there are tons of opportunities to go and listen to a new viewpoint and discuss the latest trends or ideas with your peers.  If you are in Bradford, those opportunities generally come with a 6.30am train departure.

Not anymore!

I have had the opportunity to attend both Masterclasses hosted by John and I have come away from both with that “I knew that but I never thought of it like that…” a feeling which is great.  The last thing you want is to sit through three hours of PowerPoint and feel like you haven’t gained anything.  Ok so nothing that I’ve heard has been new to my ears.  Frankly, I’d be a bit worried if it was but each speaker has given me a new perspective on a topic that maybe I’ve not really thought about for a while. It’s been the inspiration for me to question not just why we are doing something but why we are not doing something.

And I didn’t have to get up at 5am to get it.

If you’d like to attend the Digital Leaders Masterclass, which takes place in Leeds on Tuesday 3rd November 2015, please click here to book your seat.

Digital Word Of Mouth Marketing: Social Bookmarking

A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs (Part 4)

Social Bookmarking sites provide a fantastic viral marketing weapon and like traditional word of mouth – plays an instrumental role in marketing effectiveness.

So far in my Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs, we have touched on the practical applications and benefits of using Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs – In this post, we will briefly look at some of the social bookmarking sites that you should be using as part of your integrated social media strategy.

Spreading the word…
Social bookmarks provide a fantastic route to market for your business and should be used to promote your brand communications, thought leadership articles and special reports in addition to any other information that you feel is quite useful to share. The way in which we communicate and share knowledge really has evolved over the last 5 years and social bookmarking sites have played a key role in how we now do things.

Blast from the past…
I remember in the old days (a few years back), when you had a feature report that was published online – basic practice would have included: getting the report on your website, adding it to your email signature and using it as a special feature in your client newsletter. However today, we live in a world where information can be global within minutes – creating an enormous opportunity for how we share knowledge/communications.

The benefits of bookmarking…

Social bookmarking sites should not just be viewed as a handy little tool for allowing you to manage your own information online, but should be embraced as a powerful media weapon that can play a major part in your social media strategy. In many ways social bookmarking sites operate like a marketing distribution channel for your business and like any distribution partner – you need to select the most relevant partner/s that will provide you with the greatest market reach for what you provide.

Add the WOW factor…
Remember, developing/selecting the content that you wish to promote and identifying the most effective channel for sharing this content is just the starting point – you must invest time/resource into how the end product will look (so that your content has the WOW factor) and will stand out. If you don’t already have an in-house creative/multimedia designer, then it is a good idea to look at getting support in this area as presenting reports etc using audio/visual effects can make a massive difference!

Key players…

For the purpose of this blog post , I have not included Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogging sites below as we have already covered these in detail in parts 1-3 of my guide to social media marketing (and we already know that we should be using them as part of our marketing strategy). The below are some of the most popular bookmarking/information share sites:

YouTube
Facebook
Digg
StumbleUpon
Reddit
Delicious

If you enjoyed reading this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or colleagues using any of options below.

10 Basic Tips For Negotiating More Effectively

Blog Post Published on Kent Business TV (May 2011)

Last week’s third episode of The Apprentice (UK) left me amazed at how poor the candidates were at negotiating. Apart from one candidate called Jim (who actually looks a possible winner) – the others did not appear to understand the basic principles of how to get a better deal when negotiating.

This short blog aims to provide a number of practical tips on how to get a better deal when negotiating and draws upon my own experience of working across a number of challenging market sectors: retail, fmcg, electronics, distribution, market research and media.

Know what you want…

Identify exactly what it is you want to buy/source and find out where you can get it. There are many supplier directories now available online and your industry media partner’s magazine or website will help point you in the right direction. Don’t forget to use WOM (word of mouth) – ask your personal business contacts who they are using and get some background on their experiences in dealing with certain suppliers.

Know your budget…
This is common sense, but it is perhaps the most important variable – there is no point wasting your time trying to source suppliers and items which are clearly too expensive. It is critical that you keep in mind the budget that you have available and try to use your negotiational skills to maximise it. If you are quoted a price, never leave it on the table without a challenge – you have to work hard to get a good price, so be prepared to put the effort in.

Do your homework…
Establish the market cost structures for the service/products that you wish to source. A good marketer will always have an excellent knowledge of how much it will cost for advertising, event sponsorship, promotional items, printing collateral, design labour costs etc – using their previous experiences to help provide them with clear market benchmarks for negotiating. The price you pay for anything will always be dictated by the market value (what people are prepared to pay for it). It is important to get at least 3 competitive quotes from different suppliers as this will give you an idea of the price differences.

Know the market conditions…
The current economic climate means that buyers are in a very powerful position to negotiate and suppliers are under more pressure than ever to get that order. The rise of social media marketing is clearly putting pressure on industry media partners as brands’ can now implement PR and marketing campaigns without any cost to their business – this means that marketers are in a strong position to get a good bargain when negotiating advertising, events, webinars, advertorial and contact lists to name but a few (this should be used to your advantage).

Look at the bigger picture…
When looking for a special deal, always remember that building a long-term relationship with your supplier will enable you to secure a better price – make sure you emphasize this when negotiating. Suppliers will want to work with you on a price if they believe there is going to be a long-term relationship at stake. Even if this is not the immediate case, you can still sell the idea that you are working towards the selection of a number of partners for the future.

Ask for what you want…

Too many people skirt around the issues when trying to haggle over a price, make sure you ask exactly for what you want and make it clear up-front what you are prepared to pay for.

Timing is everything…
If the supplier thinks that you will be able to do a deal quickly, they will try harder to get the right price for you. Everyone is trying to get an order on the books and if they can see that something will be agreed today/tomorrow – you might just get that great price!

Use charm with integrity…
Use your personality, enthusiasm and charm to give you an advantage when negotiating. Getting a fantastic price on something really can be influenced by the emotional/rapport factors in play – being polite, friendly, genuine and direct can work, but do it with integrity.

Stay in touch…
A good marketer will stay in touch with all his/her existing/potential suppliers as part of the relationship building exercise. This will serve 2 basic purposes: it allows you to stay up-to-date with all commercial market opportunities/pricing points and it will always help you develop a better long-term relationship (which helps every negotiation for the future). It is also worth catching-up with your contacts near the end of the month to see if there are any last-minute opportunities as most sales professionals will have a monthly target to achieve (your chances of getting a better price will be improved if they need a quick sale to help them out).

Draw upon experience…

Demonstrating that you are a good buyer will help promote your credibility within the negotiation process i.e. if you have spent £xx in the past 12-months sponsoring a number of events, then you will be in a stronger position to negotiate on that next event.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog entry and remember this post is just a basic outline of the key variables which I believe to be important – there will be others! Feel free to add your own comments and suggestions.

If you found this blog interesting – please feel free to share it!

Get Connected, Get LinkedIn

A Guide To Social Media Marketing (Part 2)

Launched in 2003 and with over 100m registered users worldwide, LinkedIn has become the fastest growing and most popular professional networking website around. LinkedIn is a tool that most professional marketers are aware of and using to great effect – and as a free resource (is a must for SMEs)!

In this blog, I will share with you some of the best practical applications of LinkedIn for SMEs and the key benefits it can deliver, however the first thing you need to do (right now) is to create an account on Linkedin.

Getting Started: The Basics
To get the most from LinkedIn, I recommend that you put time and effort into creating a strong profile. This will be the first thing that potential contacts will look at in deciding whether they wish to become a connection. I have seen a number of examples of very poor profiles on LinkedIn, where people have not filled in the most basic detail about their expertise/background or in taking the time needed to build a profile which looks credible. In my opinion, you will have little success with LinkedIn if you do not bother to work on developing a strong profile. The profile is your online CV – therefore, make it stand out!

Now you have an account, created a great profile – start using LinkedIn to find contacts for existing and former clients, colleagues, media partners, suppliers and off-course for identifying potential new contacts as part of developing your business development pipeline. Like anything, once you start using this site, it is important that your build it into your daily to-do-list as to really utilise the benefits it offers, you need to use it as a business support tool everyday.

Brand Communications: Maximising Your PR
What makes LinkedIn such a fantastic business tool for brand communications is its sheer ability to provide real-time communications with a market reach of over 100m. One of the most practical tools available on LinkedIn is the status bar on your profile – the status function should be used by all your employees (who have an account) to share company news/updates. As soon as you update your status, your connections will see it on their updates page and this is a great way of providing additional reach for your brand communications. The beauty about the status function is that you can add links to published articles, presentations, video clips and press releases that are either hosted on your own website or a media partner’s website. To get the most from LinkedIn as a PR tool – use the Groups available to also add your latest PR and thought leadership content. Doing this simple activity will ensure that your message reaches a targeted audience and in return help drive traffic to your website. Over the last 3 years, LinkedIn generated up-to 20% of all unique web visitors for my previous agency – and helped raise brand profile along the way.

Thought Leadership: Sharing Knowledge
If you have a presentation that was recently delivered at an industry conference, make sure to upload it on LinkedIn using the Google presentation application – this will provide another great way of enhancing your profile whilst offering a targeted/extended route for sharing your knowledge which will support your company’s brand position as an industry expert.

Get Prospecting: Lead Generation Development
As a social site that has over 100m registered accounts, LinkedIn provides marketers and business development professionals with a fantastic prospecting resource – you can use the people and company search functions to easily identify possible prospects. Now you have found a possible prospect/contact – you have a few options available i.e.invite them to become a connection or use the information that you now have at your disposal to create a foundation for the next stage of your prospecting/lead generation strategy. Another great benefit of LinkedIn is that you are able to view most of the contacts who view your profile, and again this is a powerful lead generation tool which should be acted upon!

The Power of Groups: Enhancing Your Industry Expertise
Using the groups directory and search function, make sure you are a member of all relevant groups for your business. This will allow you to follow key industry/group issues, track contact level activity, whilst providing you with a golden opportunity to get involved in on-going group discussions. It also provides another avenue for brand positioning and developing your company profile at group level – as most of your existing clients and key targets will already be members. There are many examples of clients finding suppliers using groups as handy industry resource. Don’t forget – you can also set-up your own group and this option will support your lead generation strategy as you will be able to monitor all leads who register to your group.

Better SEO: Letting Clients Find You
Creating a company profile on LinkedIn will ensure that potential clients and prospects will find you easily and this is becoming a popular search tool. Make sure you keep the company profile up-to-date and get all your employees to set-up their own accounts on LinkedIn – but make sure they develop their profile pages, so that they are as impactful as possible. The company page is something that a lot of people now browse to get a feel for your organisation and also to get an overview of your team and latest activity/updates. LinkedIn is similar in nature to Twitter and provides a follow option – therefore make sure to follow all companies that are relevant to your business as this will keep you up-to-date with their activity on LinkedIn i.e. new hires, employees, latest news etc.

Remember, the more content you add to your profile, the more groups you join, the more discussions you get involved in, the more connections you make – the better your SEO will be on LinkedIn (meaning more people will be able to find you).

Talent Management: Find Your Next Employee
If you are spending a lot of money on recruitment agencies to support your talent management strategy, then look no further than LinkedIn as your perfect HR partner. LinkedIn offers you the perfect free solution to filling that next vacancy. Simply using the advanced people/company search options – you can identify potential employees and make direct contact with them (cutting out the middle man).

Working Smarter: Handy Apps
There are a number of handy apps on LinkedIn which will help you work smarter and also provide yet more benefits for lead generation and marketing activities. Take the time to explore all the applications available and define the most appropriate for your business. To give you a head start on apps, here are a few which you should be using: Google Presentation, SlideShare, WordPress, Blog Link, Events and Company Buzz.

Summary
This blog has covered some of the most basic applications of how LinkedIn can help your business and if used effectively – it will deliver a cost-effective route to market. The benefits it will yield will depend on the time and effort you put into the resource (so make sure you use it on a daily basis and embed it into your marketing and business development strategy).

In part 3 of my “Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs”, I will be looking at Blogging, so keep an eye out for my next installment.

Twitter as an effective marketing weapon

A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs (Part 1)

Twitter has been around since 2006 and today boasts over 200 million account registrations with over 65 million tweets being recorded every day – if used effectively, it can provide SME marketeers with a powerful brand, sales and communications touchpoint.

Whilst Twitter is something that millions use on a daily basis as a way of staying in touch, sharing knowledge and embracing technology – it can be quite a useful marketing vehicle (with an added bonus of providing something for free, in real-time, engaging and with fantastic marketing reach).

This blog is not intended to tell you in minute detail how to do things – it is simply to advise you how it can be used at a basic and yet practical level. You will have to invest a little time doing your own research into using Twitter for your business.

How you achieve maximum reach for your tweets will depend on a number of simple things (your account followers and how you use hashtags in your tweets). There is no point boasting over 1000 followers if indeed these people are in no way connected to your business; what is important is that you are marketing to the right people – therefore having 50-100 quality client/prospect followers is more important and effective). Make sure you check who your followers are and assess whether they are the type of people who you feel would add value to your Twitter approach. You can also boost your followers by inviting people to follow you (click here to find a few other ways for getting more followers on Twitter).

As a brand marketing professional who has spent the last 6 years working agency side, the below are just a few practical examples of how Twitter can be used in an SME environment.

Free PR
Twitter is a great way for sharing useful information with your target market. If you have a press release, published article, best practice feature, new product update, upcoming event or indeed anything that is interesting enough to shout about – use your Twitter account as an additional means of doing this. To gain more exposure on your tweets use relevant hashtags which will allow your tweets to be viewed by anyone following a specific trend/topic or subject matter. Click here to find out more about hashtags.

Keeping your Twitter account topical, interesting and up-to-date is important. Putting a little effort and time into this area is needed at the start, but once you are up and running – the rest will be easy enough and quite low maintenance.

Account Management

In my opinion, nothing beats face-to-face dialog and your business should always strive to achieve this at all costs via effective account management. Twitter should never replace your traditional account management but can and should be used as an integrated tool for staying up-to-date with your clients/prospects, industry news/media partners and the key movers and shakers within your industry.

Example:
If company (A) is a target for your business – then try following the official company twitter account for company (A). To complement this further – establish the key decision makers at company (A) and follow their own personal feeds as this can provide you with a real-time status on what they are tweeting about as this can also enhance your account intelligence for the next stage of your follow-up.

Industry/Competitor Intelligence

Twitter is a great way of staying abreast of key trends and updates within your marketplace – so make sure to follow your competitors and the key media/news partners (as this will develop your market awareness of what is happening now!). To make this easier, you can create bespoke lists on Twitter i.e. create a list for competitors and in one view – you can monitor all competitor activity in real-time.

Customer Insight
Twitter is a great source of real-time customer insight and with the trend/search settings available on the social media site.Simply monitor what is being said about your company, competitors or stay abreast of any comments on a topical industry issue by using the search or trend settings available. You can create a number of simple lists which will allow you to follow specific tweeters and/or you can save a trend which may be relevant to your company – saving this trend using the appropriate hashtag available i.e. #iPad (you will be able to track all comments across Twitter for any mention of iPad.

Promote your Twitter Account
There are a number of ways this can be achieved and the following are a few examples: promote your Twitter account on your website (make it easy for clients/prospects to follow you); add your Twitter icon on your company e-newsletter; add to your company email signature and have all your employees who are using LinkedIn promote your Twitter account (I will cover LinkedIn in my next blog).

The next installment in my blog on “A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs” will look at how you can use LinkedIn as part of an integrated marketing approach for your business.

A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs (Preview)

The current economic uncertainty means that sales and marketing professionals are under more pressure than before to deliver greater commercial results, whilst having to continually demonstrate the ROI effectiveness of their business development strategies.

Whilst traditional marketing tactics such as PR, direct marketing, trade events, brand sponsorship, experiential marketing, face-to-face meetings, list purchasing, telesales and advertising still have a role to play in many modern marketing plans – the rise of social media marketing means that a new powerful marketing weapon exists; one that can be quite cost-effective with the added benefits of real-time customer engagement and measurability.

This blog will consist of a series of 7 installments (each looking at a simple and yet practical social media marketing tool) which can be used cost effectively by SME marketing professionals.

The first installment to be published tomorrow will look at: “Twitter as an effective marketing weapon” and will offer practical examples of how it can be used within the SME marketplace to support brand awareness and lead generation.

Hope you enjoy my blog!

Developing An Effective Social Media Strategy (A Guide For Beginners)

Social media has developed into a powerful sales and marketing weapon. An estimated 200 million people use Facebook, 70 million use LinkedIn and 18 million use Twitter – reaching customers has never been easier.

Used well, social media tools can provide brands with a customer touchpoint that allows real-time communication in a cost effective way. But getting it wrong can be costly, so before embarking on any social media campaign, marketers and brand owners must plan their implementation strategy carefully.

What are you trying to achieve?

Common sense is not always common practice, and it is vital to start thinking about what you want to achieve before you begin. Are you simply aiming to communicate cost effectively with your customers? Or to looking to generate more web visits? Do you need to boost sales bookings? Or raise brand awareness? These are just a few of the many questions that must feed into your action plan. Once you have mapped out what you want to achieve from your social media strategy, you can move to the second stage of the process.

Research is everything…

Before you start developing a social media approach, find out which social media channels your customers are using. There is no point putting resources into a marketing campaign that will never reach your target audience. Gathering statistics and web user information about your existing customer base online, or by buying a specialist report on your market area. If you are thinking of carrying out market research, consider outsourcing to a specialist agency.

Have something worth shouting about…

Make sure you have content for your social network of choice that is going to serve the purpose. There is no point driving customers to copy that is not relevant, visually poor, out of date or that is not beneficial to your customers. Keeping your social media communications alive and fresh will help keep people interested in what you are saying. Use the content you generate to position your brand either as an expert in its field, an innovator, friendly to do business with or simply more cost effective than your competitors. Potential customers have not chosen to view your content to find out what you had for breakfast or what you did last weekend; make sure you are speaking in the language of your customers and that you demonstrate how your brand is different, and can benefit them. The best campaigns add a high level of engagement by using interactive elements such as video, polling, blogs, community forums and useful special reports.

Constantly Measure…

Once you have created your social media campaign, it is vital that you monitor and measure its effectiveness. There are a number of ways you can do this, but if your goal was to generate more web visitors, using free basic software such as Google Analytics allows you to track how many visitors your site is getting and where that traffic is coming from.

John McCambley is head of brand marketing and communications, McCallum Layton