Marketing Basics – Contact Databases

Dear insert first nameYour contact database is critical to your marketing approach. Who you know – and who you need to know – can make or break your business communication. So it is worthwhile dedicating some time to get organised about your contacts lists so that sharing your story is as efficient and effective as possible.

Step 1 – Who Do You Know?

Think about all the people you know – professionally and personally. Do you have all the information you need to contact them reliably and regularly?

Take a blank piece of paper and start writing down all the contact lists you already have:

  • Contacts in your phone
  • Email lists
  • Facebook friends
  • LinkedIn contacts
  • Blog followers
  • Event attendees
  • Customer lists
  • Others?

You may already have hundreds of contacts and I’m sure you can already think of ways of increasing this number.

Step 2 – Database Options

Now you need to find a way to bring all your contacts together and manage them.

There are endless databases options available to suit the size and requirements of your business. From fully integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, cloud based solutions or just a simple Excel spreadsheet, you should choose a database that allows you to easily add and extract useful contact information.

Spend time to get the information ‘fields’ (i.e. title, first name, surname, email addresses, etc) and categories (i.e. clients, contacts, specific lists for newsletters, billing details, etc) right up front so you have all you need when you come to using the data for communication. Will you mostly be using email communication? Do you need postal addresses? Is there any purpose for capturing personal information such as birth dates or ages?

It is important to make sure you are across rules relating to privacy in your country or state – particularly for email and online communication – so you are not caught out sending unsolicited information. In Australia you need to provide a way for people to ‘opt-out’ or ‘unsubscribe’ from your mailing list if they no longer want to receive information from you.

Step 3 – Extending and Updating Information

A database is only as good as the information it contains – and it can quickly become outdated. Schedule some time each month to update your database and put processes in place to add new contacts as soon as possible.

Work out some simple strategies to ensure your database builds each month. Make sure you never lose an opportunity to get new data in so you can extend the reach of your communication, giving you access to even more potential clients and customers.

How are you managing contact information in your business?

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Marketing Basics – Finding Your Market

targetOne of the basics of marketing is to define who you are targeting – to be able to articulate the best market or audience for your product or service. Sometimes the market is obvious – but sometimes it takes a bit more work to identify who your best future customers or clients are. Also, sometimes the market is quite narrowly defined, for example an insurance product specifically designed for retirees, whereas in other cases the market definition is very broad, such as pitching a product to Mums.

For narrow markets you need to ensure you are not limiting the scope of your market. For broader markets, unless you have a huge marketing budget and existing avenues to reach the masses, it will be necessary to be quite specific about the definition and demographics of your market.

Let’s break this down using Mums as our example:

Which Mums?

  • Where do they live – international, Australia, which state, what types of suburbs?
  • How many children and at what ages?
  • What are the interests or hobbies of the Mums and/or their children?
  • Do the Mums work in the home and/or outside the home?
  • What income levels might be required to afford your product or service?
  • Will the price point affect the buying habits of some Mums? Is it a major investment, a small but regular investment or a one off cost?
  • What are the current fashions and/or trends in products for Mums?
  • Is your product or service familiar to Mums or will they need some education about its use?
  • Who are the competitors in your market space?
  • Where are your suppliers and are you selling online?
  • When might this offering be needed – or wanted – by Mums? Is it seasonal or relevant all year around?

This is just a sample of some of the questions you need to consider to specifically articulate your market. Large organisations can spend huge chunks of the marketing budget on research to get this step really right. For smaller businesses where this spend is not possible, much of this can be determined using online survey tools (like Survey Monkey), feedback from existing customers, simply asking people you know and plain old common sense.

Once you are reasonably clear who you are targeting, you should work out how to get to your market. What are the channels of promotion and communication to tell your story to your market? Take a big picture view and think laterally. There may be direct and indirect ways into your desired market.

  • Who are the voices your market is listening to in the media?
  • Are there identified influencers who are leading relevant discussions across social media?
  • Are there specific referrers, suppliers or stockists who provide could provide a channel directly to your market?
  • Are there other like-minded brands who you can form an alliance with for promotional purposes?
  • Who are your contacts, supporters and key customers? Can they help spread your message?
  • Are there other advocates or patrons working within the market who may provide positive feedback or speak highly of your product or service?

Finding the best way to reach your market can be tricky – particularly with limited resources. For best results, take the time up front to think widely about who you are targeting and how. The more specific you are in your planning, the more effective you can be in tailoring and delivering solid messages to your market and ultimately generating the sales you need.

If you need help defining and targeting your market, give me a call or email leah.taylor@straightshooter.com.au to discuss.

Have you been stumped by how to reach a particular market? How did you tackle this problem? Leave a comment below to tell me your story.

Put a bit of ‘You’ in the Marketing Mix

Here's me - following my own advice!

Here’s me – following my own advice!

For many of us it is natural to shy away from the spotlight. In life and in business we find ways to ensure that we are not the point of focus. We humbly play down our achievements or hide behind the products or services we offer. We flush and shake our head when complimented and use phrases like “It was a team effort” because feeling proud of ourselves and being open to positive feedback feels foreign or wrong or conceited.

Yet it is important to recognise that your individual efforts are making a difference. Day after day in your work you are contributing to your company, to your colleagues and to your customers.  Your contribution is unique, bolstered by your own experiences and knowledge and enhanced by your instincts and insights. Your strengths and your weaknesses all come into play. No one else contributes exactly like you.

With this in mind you need to consider how your contribution is directly linked to your marketing approach. How do you personify your brand? What difference would it make if a prospect could see your face or hear your messages or get a grasp of your ideas before you even broach the corporate spiel?

Think about this as an example, do you have a picture of yourself on your website? Before you get embarrassed and dismiss the idea, think about the benefits of allowing your clients to see your face online. How much information could they gather about you – the person they will actually be dealing with – just by seeing your face, your smile, what you are wearing, where you are standing or what you are doing in that image? How might this visual connection strengthen the experience when you meet face to face or as they contemplate purchasing your product?

These days, with so much information available to them, customers can afford to be curious about the creator of the goods or the services practitioner they are about to invest in. If a prospect cannot get a complete and compelling story about you, they may decide to keep looking until they find something or someone else that resonates. Don’t miss the opportunity to give them all the clues they need to get comfortable with you and your product as quickly and convincingly as possible.

This is why media such as online videos can be so powerful. We can see and hear someone on screen, getting a real read on what they would be like in person. We can gauge our reactions to their words and style of delivery to decide whether they are genuinely offering what we need and if we feel comfortable with their approach. This starts the process of establishing trust and building an ongoing business connection which – ultimately – is what we all work so hard to achieve.

In many cases, putting yourself forward and showing how you personify your brand can help to capture your customers’ attention and shorten the purchasing cycle so they decide to buy from you every time. Put yourself in the spotlight for a change and let your customers know who they are dealing with as early as possible. There’s no need to be shy. You and your contribution count more than you realise so show yourself off and be proud.

What can to do this week to put yourself in the spotlight?

What I’ve Learned About Great Stories

Once upon a timeIn my work I talk a lot about stories. But what exactly do I mean? Here are a few tips I have learned along the way about telling great stories and the benefits this approach can bring to you and your business:

  1. Great stories sell. Finding the great story in your organisation or about yourself is key first step in any marketing or communication plan. The story then tends to reveal inherent and obvious promotional opportunities.
  2. Great stories are genuine. The bonus of this approach is that the key selling points are authentic and the benefits are real. This instantly raises the comfort factor for the seller because they feel confident about what they are offering.
  3. Great stories are a delicate balance between fact and aspiration. You need to present who you are and what you have achieved as a case for where you want to go and who you want to be.
  4. Great stories are drafted from the audience’s perspective. What do your customers or potential clients want to hear about you? What will motivate them to act? What will stick in their minds about you or your organisation?

Stories can take different forms and can be drawn from a range of sources. A company needs internal stories to support staff development and culture plus external stories to sell organisational key messages to relevant audiences. The stories may focus on the achievement of one strong leader or on the commitment of many working towards a shared goal. In some cases the stories are obvious yet in others it may require more strategic questioning to tease out the threads and pull them together as effective messages.

In my view, a carefully crafted story with memorable key messages will always be a more effective form of communication than a list of services could ever be.

Can you think of organisations or people who are telling a great story? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Why Straight Shooter?

Melbourne Business Center

Melbourne Business Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you who have ever named a business you may agree that if can be a very difficult thing to do. The company name is a key component of your brand, so you want it to be authentically representative what the business is offering. You want it to be original and clever enough to be memorable for your audience. And practically speaking, it needs to be available for corporate registration.I registered Straight Shooter as a business around ten years ago. My husband and I had just moved from Sydney to Melbourne with our 7 month old, first-born son. Starting a consulting business seemed like an obvious option for me. I felt I had the knowledge and the confidence to work with clients and began ticking off all the tasks required to start a small business.

Deciding on the name was the hardest task. Because the consultancy was all based around me and my experience, it was really important to get a name that reflected who I am and what I stand for. It took a few weeks of discussion. Over this time I did all the things I now recommend to clients.

I thought about my skills to come with a list of words to describe myself. I considered what I wanted to achieve with the business and how I wanted to be perceived by potential clients. I added more and more words to the list.

For interests sake, I thought about Leah Taylor Consulting – an obvious choice yet one giving no actual indication of what my clients should expect. This name was discarded as I felt I could do better.

Straight Shooter was on the shortlist as it captured things about me which I perceive as valuable – and I hoped others would too:
• I am compulsively honest
• I am not afraid to share my opinions based on my experience
• I believe that simple solutions that get to the heart of a matter have more chance of succeeding than plans based on convoluted theory and rhetoric.

Armed with my shortlist of options I began to test market my ideas. I spoke to family members and friends to determine their ideas about me and how these might be translated into a business name. There is certainly a risk in approaching family for comments and criticism of your ideas and I’m sure some families can be worse in than others. Of course you need to be prepared to wait a few minutes as your nearest and dearest take the ‘give me’ opportunity to highlight your best and worst characteristics – sometimes in a not so constructive manner. But in the end you should break through to get heartfelt and valuable words and ideas from those who know you best. Thankfully my experience was positive and the feedback I received was useful.

Finally in a conversation with my older brother, the name of my business was decided when – unprompted by me – he said he thought I was a straight shooter. I trusted that his opinion matched my gut feel on the name. I felt sure enough to move forward. I held my breath until the final ASIC searches confirmed that the name was available and that the registration process could begin.

So I was all ready to roll with Straight Shooter Marketing and Communication Pty Ltd. Until I was offered a new in-house Marketing role that was too good to refuse and I rejoined the corporate world, shelving the consulting business indefinitely.

So ten years on from its instigation the Straight Shooter story continues. The intervening decade has taught me so much more about marketing and how it can be applied for different individuals and businesses. I have so much more to share now.

Whether you are just starting out in business or are decades into your career, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your story – and perhaps even tell you a little more of mine.

Life can take you where you least expect it, but it certainly makes the big picture story much less predictable.

What do you think of the name Straight Shooter? Leave your comments below.

Learn to Love Marketing

If I told you that there was something you could do to build your business or your profile – every time and without exception – would you do it? Of course, the answer is marketing. Marketing is one thing that you can do to actively build your business or your profile. I suspect you already knew this, right?

Now if I said there was a way of marketing that you could do without going too far out of your comfort zone, would you believe me? If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable about marketing, you need to know that there is a better way. There are simple activities and habits you can apply that plays to your particular strengths and they will work.

There are a lot of businesses that simply do not do enough marketing and there are even more people who will do everything to avoid marketing. There are lots of reasons for this and throughout a twenty year professional services marketing career I think I have heard most of them.

Have you ever thought or said one of these?:
• I don’t know anything about marketing so I wouldn’t know where to start
• I don’t have time for marketing – I am too busy running my business
• We’ve tried marketing in the past but it never seemed to work
• We don’t need to do any marketing because we already have enough work coming in
• I can’t afford marketing. I don’t have a marketing budget
• I pay a marketing manager to do it for me
• Marketing is not the sort of thing we do in this industry. It’s just not the done thing
• I can’t charge back marketing time to my clients so I can’t justify doing it
• I did some marketing at the start of the year and I’ll do a bit more next year
• My customers can find me so that’s all that matters
• I’m just too busy. Marketing is not a priority in my business.

For a long time as an in-house Marketing Manager I pushed my internal clients to use traditional marketing methods. For a long time I asked my clients to trust me and let me prove that if we stuck to the marketing plan, the results would be clear. I employed all the tenacity and creativity in my Marketing Manager Bag of Tricks. I came up with great marketing programs that I knew would work, did all the legwork, rolled them out and asked for support from my colleagues who seemed very enthusiastic. But when it came time for them to step up and do their bit, things fell flat.

I could see that my clients were uncomfortable. There were times when I saw colleagues avert their eyes as I passed them in the corridor in case I asked them to do something marketing-related. Some were upfront and told me marketing was not their thing. Others made half-hearted attempts to do their bit just so I would tick them off my follow up list. In organisations big and small, only a very small number of clients ever went the full distance, did what was required of them and boosted me as I battled through from one campaign to the next. To them I will always be grateful.

I have been lucky to work with brilliant, educated people throughout my career – successful businesspeople that had achieved great things. Yet these same people were clearly put off by marketing. They weren’t being lazy or rude towards me, they just couldn’t bring themselves to do these tasks that made them feel so out of their depth. Even small things like making a call or setting up a meeting with their clients seemed an insurmountable step for some to take.

I knew there had to be a better way. So I’ve given up the daily fight to push traditional marketing to the masses. I’ve set up Straight Shooter to teach a better, more comfortable way to market.

Through Straight Shooter I can show you how Marketing can be practiced as a series of ongoing habits or behaviours. These habits can minimise the stress and eliminate the “hard sell” that so many professionals dread.

And through this blog I hope you will teach me. Leave a comment and tell me what is working for you or what isn’t.

So let’s start this journey together as we get our story straight and learn to love marketing.