The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2018 held in Edinburgh on February 22nd. We presented the work we did on machine learning in marketing with Abertay University, Dundee. The audience gave us great feedback and some things to think about going forward. What problem are we trying to solve and how can we use machine learning in marketing as a solution?
What marketing challenges do SMEs have?
Most companies know that marketing has some impact on their business performance. But very few know the marketing activities have the most impact. The result is usually one of two extremes. Either the company spends on as many marketing activities as possible or they conclude that they don’t need marketing after all. Therefore, the challenges are two-fold: What works for my business? How do I prioritise these activities based on a tight budget?
What solution did YO! Marketing propose?
Machine learning in marketing is not widely used yet. It is a newish and exciting way of learning from the past and in real-time. We collaborated with Abertay University to device a model that could identify patterns in data in a supervised way. Using experience and data gathered from 35 companies, we identified critical relationships in the data that could predict the impact (or ROI) of specific marketing activities on overall business outcomes. This means that SMEs can quickly discover what is working to grow their business and focus marketing investment on that. They optimise how they allocate resources and time, and make effective use of a limited budget. Did our solution work?
Was Machine Learning in Marketing a Good Idea?
Abertay University has extensive in cyber-security and data analytics. By working with one of its lecturers, Dr Xavier Bellekens, we combined our marketing experience with machine learning expertise. That was a great idea with many benefits.
We successfully built a model that works, an achievement that is a first in our industry. However, we are limited by data. For a model like this to provide the cutting-edge capabilities that we envisage, we need lots of data. Our current model is a start, and we have a handful of companies working with us to gather more data. If you are interested in what we have built and you would like to support us, contact us for an informal chat.
We’d like to welcome Mike Alawi to our team. He joined us last month as Marketing Project Executive. Here is a blog that he put together for you. Who else wants to be a more successful business? We know we do!
1. Provide outstanding customer service
To excel in customer service, you and your staff need to know the ins and outs of your product or service. You should know common questions that your customers ask and how to respond competently and effectively. Staff training in this area is important. Listen and be responsive. Ask for feedback, ensuring that you use feedback positively. Identify areas for improvement and make specific changes in your business. Let your customers know that you implemented their suggestions and/or acted on feedback. I recently read an article about a Starbucks customer that called into the company’s corporate offices after a mix up with a branch. Instead of simply giving him a refund, the customer service representative told Jason that they needed to “make him whole and give him an experience nothing short of fantastic.” They then filled his rewards card with $50 of store credit. Way to go Starbucks!
It’s a good idea to test different pricing brackets. Let’s say you offer three prices for different levels of a product or service. One priced low, another with all the bells and whistles, and a mid-market price. This range widens the reach of your audience and opens a gateway to new customers, or a premium price on the other end of the scale for those who want the full package. Amazon nailed this strategy with their shipping options. They offer express next day delivery for £4.49, standard 3-day delivery for £1.99 or free no rush delivery in 3-5 days. Each price is aimed at customers with different requirements, expectations and budgets.
4. Be the first to inform your customers of new trends
Everyone wants to be kept in the loop with latest trends. Being first to inform your customers of new trends will increase your credibility as a source of relevant, up-to-date information. It attracts more potential customers to your online and offline channels and results in a positive impression of your brand. People will then regularly look to you for new content making you stand out from the crowd as a successful business.
5. Give your brand a human face by having conversations
Giving your brand a personality that people can relate to allows you to reach more people effectively. Talk about your products, talk about your industry and latest trends. People appreciate content that engages with their interests and makes them feel at ease with a brand. Grüum, a company that specialises in custom shaving kits tell their brand story well. They write about how four friends from Manchester decide to quit their jobs, invest their savings and take on a multi-billion dollar industry. When you buy from Grüum, your first purchase comes with a small note from the founders themselves thanking you for your purchase.
6. Develop multiple ways to get in touch with you
In addition to picking up the phone, maximise the use of multiple channels such as social media, chatbots and events to provide potential customers with more touchpoints with your business. You will also reach a wider audience. Use your website as a hub but engage with your target audience on relevant social media platforms, through networking and selected events.
7. Focus on being the best at the ONE thing that really matters to your target market
Whatever you specialise in, ensure that you can be the best at it so that your stand out from your competitors. It could be your customer service, your cutting edge technology, your flexible pricing or the great events that you host. It might even be your deliberate and continued support for your local community. Being fantastic is one aspect of your service gives you a distinct competitive advantage that becomes difficult for others to copy. These are just some of the ways that you could build a better, more successful business that you can be proud of.
There is a lot to do when you run your own business. Writing your marketing plan is one of those niggly things that can cause some anxiety. They are often completely avoided. But marketing plans are a necessary tool for driving your business forward. Particularly if you are applying for loans, grants or investment into your business, it’s unlikely that you will get away with not having a plan for marketing your products/services. What is the structure of a marketing plan and how can you write yours simply and quickly?
Sections in a marketing plan
It’s a good idea to have a summary at the start of your marketing plan. The trick is to write this summary after you have written the rest of the plan. Here are the key sections of a marketing plan.
This is a summary of your marketing plan and should include your target customer groups, an overview of your product/service, your objectives, how you will reach your customers and your action plan (with budget).
Introduce your business and your objective for your marketing plan.
State the mission of your business. What do you exist to do?
Your Market (Customers)
Write down who your customer is. Why would they use your product/service?
Your Market (Competitors)
Identify your top competitors and why their customers buy from them.
Critical Success Factors
Put down the factors that affect your customers choice of providers. How do you rank?
Perform an analysis of your market. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your business? Are they opportunities and threats in your industry/sector that influence your business goals?
Set financial goals for your business. How much revenue should come from your marketing activities?
It is important for you to set some non-financial goals. These could be focused on the types of customers that you want to attract or personal goals such as personal branding on social media.
Provide details about your target market. What are their challenges, job titles, and key drivers?
Your Product & Services
What is your product/service and how will it address your potential customers challenges?
Strategy for Attracting Customers
How will you get your potential customers to take up your offer? Free trials, discounts?
Key Communication Channels
Which channels will you use to reach your potential customers so that you can tell them about your offering? Is it social media, website, local events, networking, brochures or Google Ads?
Write clear actions that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). Add action owners, dates, and when you will review the performance of each action item.
Video: Marketing Plans Simplified
In the video below, I discuss how to complete each of the sections in a marketing plan.
Facebook changes are coming. These changes have a significant impact on business pages on Facebook. For small businesses, it could be frustrating. But it could also be a call to step up on valuable, relevant content.
Facebook wants to give users a more personalised experience
Based on feedback from Facebook users. people see too many pieces of content from businesses
Facebook wants to increase the quality of content on the platform
There is a stronger focus on real engagement and interaction
This could mean less exposure for business pages as these pages move to a secondary news feed, first piloted in October last year. Facebook users will see news from family and friends in a primary newsfeed. The changes also mean that businesses might need to spend more on ads to be seen by their target audience. Small businesses without deep pockets will feel the pinch the most.
Facebook Changes: Don’t Give Up
But small businesses mustn’t give up. 62% of consumers on Facebook say that it is the most important platform for them. A bigger metric is the 80% of users who say that they are more inclined to buy from you if you have a credible, authentic Facebook page associated with your business. Business decision-makers are also keen Facebook users according to a recent article by HootSuite on Facebook Statistics. Therefore, the objective of small businesses should be safeguarding the top one or two spots on the secondary news feed in order to be seen by their target audience.
Spend time identifying your audience, grab their attention and build relationships
Create motivational and inspirational posts
Value offers (how-to videos, PDF cheat sheets, advice, demos)
Promote local businesses
[pb_call_to_action component_description=”like our facebook page”][pb_call_to_action_first_line]Join us on Facebook[/pb_call_to_action_first_line][pb_call_to_action_second_line]Small business marketing tips[/pb_call_to_action_second_line][pb_call_to_action_button src=”https://www.facebook.com/yomarketingco/” src_target=”_blank”]Get in![/pb_call_to_action_button][/pb_call_to_action]
You won’t forgive me if I said I didn’t have a marketing strategy. And your grudge would be fair. After all, I’m a marketing consultant. My 2018 marketing strategy exists and it makes a lot of sense i.e. I’ll do more of what worked and less of what didn’t. That’s all, right? Well, no. This year, I’ve taken a brutal approach to my traditional planning. Everything I do has to link back to clear KPIs, in particular, MONEY. Yes, the dirty word that few people can discuss.
As a business owner, you probably know how much you want to make this year. It’ll be a percentage increase from last year. Or you might want to generate similar revenues but improve your profit margins. If your marketing strategy doesn’t help you make the money and margins, don’t bother. I mean it. What you have is another to-do list that you will soon forget.
Ask these questions as you develop your marketing strategy
Is your mission for this year the same as last? Why?
Are you planning to serve a different kind of customer? If you are targeting larger companies, do you have the credibility, resources and competencies? If not, how will you get it?
Do you have a different value proposition for each customer group? Have you understood what each care about so that your product resonates?
What is your overall business promise to your customers? To be the best or the cheapest or the most reliable?
How much of your revenue will come from marketing efforts?
How much will you spend on marketing to get this revenue?
What proportion of your revenue will come from repeat customers?
Can you get referrals to new customers from existing or previous customers? How will you ask for these referrals?
How much of your business will come from referrals e.g. 40%?
Which marketing activities will help you achieve these goals e.g. ads, events, SEO, networking etc?
How much will you spend on each activity?
How will you know that it is working?
What kind of content do you need to create to attract and engage new and existing customers?
Will you create these materials internally or will you engage an external company?
What changes do you need to make to your processes and systems to allow you effectively track and maintain a healthy sales pipeline e.g. CRM, email marketing?
What are your non-financial goals e.g. award to win, public speaking engagements, adopting a charity?
These questions will really focus your strategy. If you don’t ever look at your strategy again then it’s unlikely that you are meeting your goals.
To help you keep focused, consider hiring a marketing consultant who understands your industry, not just marketing. An hour or two a month with the consultant can be invaluable in reviewing your marketing efforts against business goals, and making changes if necessary. You are running your business on limited time, resources and budget. Can you afford to spend time on strategies that don’t take you forward?
Like most new businesses, we struggled to get the right tools in place. We used Excel to track revenue, clients and projects. When it came to proposals, a Microsoft Word template was all we had. But we have now found better, more efficient ways. Bidsketch is a proposal writing platform that cuts the time and effort it takes to write proposals. We tried it for recent marketing proposals and we have to say we are hooked.
It’s amazing how much time you could spend doing admin in a small business. Yes, admin is important. It supports the overall business and keeps you right. But it takes up valuable time that we could spend on business development, strategy and delivering high-quality client work.
At YO! Marketing, we realised that we needed better tools once we started to grow. That’s why we took a trial version of Bidsketch a few weeks ago. We used it to write one of our most important marketing proposals yet – a high-value project that we wanted to add to our growing portfolio of content marketing gigs.
Here are 10 things we love about using Bidsketch for YO! Marketing proposals:
It is easy to start a free trial – just one click and you are all set
You get a customised domain – ours is https://yomarketing.bidsketch.com. You can customise it further if you wish!
There are built-in templates that cover various types of proposals such as content marketing, social media management, project management, IT consulting, mobile app development etc
The templates are customisable so you can add and remove sections depending on your project needs
Your marketing proposal contains sections where you can sell the value of the project and your team
There is existing text in each section that provides inspiration for you to create your own text. For instance, the value of the project is a key section where you need to think about why your potential client should consider such a project in the first place
Our favourite feature is probably how Bidsketch allows you to break down the client fees in our marketing proposals. We itemise each work task and define them as one-time fees, monthly fees or yearly fees. You can also add optional add-ons separately. This is hugely valuable for us as we always want to be completely transparent so that there are no hidden fees. Our proposals provide the whole picture of what our clients could get depending on their budget
You can add your own logo to the proposal as well as an image on the cover page. Therefore, our marketing proposals have our brand and feel like us!
Once you’re done, you can simply send the proposal to your client within Bidsketch. Within Bidsketch, you can see when the client has viewed the proposal and how long they viewed it – cool, eh?
And finally, there are a number of actions the client can take via the Bidsketch link. The client can accept the proposal or request changes/revisions
For our proposal, we often make changes based on client requests. It was easy to do this within Bidsketch and resend the proposal to the client
We not only cut proposal writing time but we could be really clear about the project scope. We love how easy it is to present our clients with high-quality proposals that communicate our expertise and the impact that the project will have on their business.
A couple of things that we would like to see in Bidsketch:
Incorporating our brand colours and preferred fonts
Adding more information about the client e.g. industry, location and key contacts
Overall, we love Bidsketch! We have incorporated it into our process and we know that can upgrade as our team grows. Thank you, Bidsketch for giving us our YO time back – whew!
[pb_call_to_action component_description=”subscribe to our email list”][pb_call_to_action_first_line]Subscribe to the YO! Blog[/pb_call_to_action_first_line][pb_call_to_action_second_line]For the latest in content, strategy and marketing planning, subscribe today [/pb_call_to_action_second_line][pb_call_to_action_button src=”http://eepurl.com/c67ZaT” src_target=”_blank” text_color=”FFFFFF” bg_color=”2E3192″]Subscribe[/pb_call_to_action_button][/pb_call_to_action]