Low-Budget Digital Marketing Ideas for SMEs

Most SMEs are cost-conscious. 

We have to be. We’re good at finding ways to trim budgets while boosting the bottom line and making the money we have go far.

But how do you harness that savvy thinking when it comes to the ever-changing world of digital marketing? 

Thankfully, we’re here to help! 

Read on to find our top tips for rolling out brilliant digital marketing that will reach customers and convert leads without costing you a fortune. So long as you have some time and are willing, you can still achieve great success with digital marketing, even on a shoestring.

CREATE CONTENT 

Give Your Content Some Love

Creating brilliant content around your USP is one of the most powerful things you can do for free to get your brand out there. Remember that old marketing saying – Content is King? Well, it’s as true today as it has ever been. Despite the huge economy around content marketing, 

you don’t need to run ad campaigns or sponsored posts to get traction on social posts, and you just have to be posting the right content.

Here’s the advice we always come back to when helping clients think about what content will work for them:

  • Write content specific to your business goals
  • Ensure your content is written with your audience in mind
  • Set your own writing goals and principles (is your company tone friendly, approachable, formal or educational?)

Your choice of content will depend on what type of business you are, and where you have the greatest successes will be affected by many different factors. For most start-ups and SMEs, LinkedIn is the perfect starting point for sharing content, but most companies can also find great success with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok.

Create Multi-Purpose Content 

A great ‘cheat’ when it comes to content marketing is to remember that one piece of content can be leveraged in several ways. For example, perhaps you have published a white paper on your blog. Firstly, make sure you share it across your social channels, but then have a think about how you can extrude other content from it – could you make an infographic from the findings? Is there a great quote you could pull out and make into a graphic tile? Free resources such as Canva are great for creating simple graphics that can make your content work harder and go further.

Record Videos

We say it over and over – video is one of the best formats for sharing content online. Facebook alone boasts more than 4 billion video views per day, and all you have to do is look at the success of video platforms to understand that it’s the most effective and digestible way to present content in 2021.

Many startups and SMEs are nervous about producing their own video content, but it doesn’t need to be daunting. Videos do not need to be professionally recorded to be successful – a smartphone can work well to create short, engaging videos that entice customers. Showing the face behind the business is a really effective way to build trust in your company, so don’t shy away from putting yourself out there and heading up some video content.

THINK SEO

Smaller companies are often put off by SEO, and we get it. It can seem like an overwhelming task to optimize your web presence, but it is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase traffic to your site and improve your organic reach.

Keep It Local

An approachable way to tackle SEO is to focus on local SEO. While national SEO is driven by ranking in searches across the country, local SEO prioritises appearing in specific locations, making it more relevant to your base of local customers; plus, it’s free!

Local SEO can be time-consuming. However, the benefits over time can be huge, so it’s well worth investing some time into these SEO must-dos:

  • Add location-based keywords to the titles, headings, and body of your main website pages (think: “Oxford accountant”)
  • Get your company listed in online directories, ensuring your information is identical across platforms.
  • Create content on your blog specific to the neighbourhood you serve. 

Leverage Online Review Sites 

User-generated content is win-win. It’s great because it increases trust and confidence in your brand, and it also requires very little work from you! Oh, and it’s brilliant for SEO.

Encourage reviews on Google or Trustpilot, and (if the feedback is positive) leverage those testimonials by using them on your website and in your digital marketing content. 

Create a free Google My Business Profile

For local businesses especially, a Google Business Profile is one of the most effective free marketing strategies available. Taking advantage of this free listing allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches.

GET CREATIVE

Small budgets often require out-of-the-box thinking, so why not consider some of these creative ideas to take your marketing to the next level without splurging your budget?

Produce Your Own Podcast

The popularity of podcasts shows no sign of slowing down, and they can be a great way to connect with your audience. Why not think about reusing content, and record your first podcasts using old blog content? Promote through your social channels and respond to your audience’s needs and interests to create a cost-effective marketing product that your customers enjoy.

Run Webinars

If the last 16 months have taught us anything, it’s that video conferencing is a very powerful tool. Webinars are a free way to promote your business by providing helpful information to a wide potential customer base, no matter their location. In addition, they can be used to boost conversions, improve brand awareness and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Ensure you promote your webinar through your social media channels ahead of time and send reminder emails to registrants, so they don’t miss it. As a bonus, webinars will help you build your email list. 

Enter Awards

You’ll find that most industries have business awards that you can enter. Some charge, but many are free. If you win or are even shortlisted, you can shout about your accolade on social media, giving your customers even more reasons to trust your company. You also may gain some press coverage if you win, so it’s well worth taking the time to fill out the application form to highlight the work you are most proud of.

Shoestring Digital Marketing

Ultimately, marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are hundreds of tactics out there that can be really effective with a small budget, you just need to commit some time and energy, and you’ll soon be seeing results.

for loads more small business marketing tips, click here.

5 Minutes with Kathy Koomson

We sat down (virtually) with Kathy Koomson, Head of Brand and Marketing at Core Talent, to find out more about marketing in the world of recruitment, the changes the industry has seen over the past ten years, and what the future holds.

Hi Kathy, thanks for chatting with Colour Me Social! Tell us about your background before joining Core Talent?

I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and just been elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Before I joined Core Talent, I worked as a Commercial Manager and Head of Product for an English manufacturer – that role gave me an excellent insight into Engineering & Manufacturing. Before that, I was at Bank of America/MBNA for 10 years and held various positions in marketing. During my last role, I was Head of Retail Strategy and managed the Retail Strategy Team, which was financially results-driven and creative.

What prompted you to move into recruitment marketing?

Core Talent asked me to come in on a contract basis and help initially as they wanted a new website. However, the further I got into the business, it became clear that it was an exciting growing business. A new website would not do it justice, so we completely rebranded and repositioned the company with a new logo, colour palette, and imagery. We even developed our values with input from clients, candidates, and employees. I have been with Core Talent for almost five years now. Recruitment Marketing is exciting and fast-paced; you need to be creative to appeal to candidates with job opportunities, informative to clients, and persuasive to potential employees. It’s a very stimulating company to be part of.

How does Core Talent help businesses?

We’re a specialist, engineering & manufacturing, construction, and consultancy business, and now we work globally across the UK, Europe, the USA and China. Our Directors actually transitioned from engineering and purchasing into recruitment, so they worked in the industries we recruit, adding significant value to technical knowledge and ability. We’re not a generalist recruiter – we really understand our clients’ needs.

We have consultants working in very niche markets, and they get to understand the client, the candidates, and the actual market incredibly well, so we’ve got some excellent knowledge. 

We recently developed our consultancy division, Tactical Consultancy. So we offer more than a recruitment service. We can re-engineer recruitment processes, manage a temporary workforce down to the payroll, provide competitor intelligence, support social media activity all support and improve our client’s recruitment processes. So we help clients in a lot of different ways. 

What does your role entail? 

My remit is the internal and external brand. So I’m looking at anything related to communications, branding, our messages, external brand, and internally. I am also responsible for introducing new products and innovation in the business and managing performance and spend on job boards and advertising platforms. As our consultancy division grows, I support clients with their social media and marketing, which is an exciting new angle to my role.

What does an average day as Head of Brand and Marketing look like?

On a typical day for me, I’ll come in and check my emails, and then I develop social media posts. I will also review the current performance of Core Talent and our client’s social media activities. As I manage the website and job boards, I will also analyse performance and ensure the consultants are supported with any queries.

I will also produce collateral, presentations, and pitches for new clients. Or I could be briefing our creative agencies or be speaking to Phil at Colour Me Social about social media activity. I often attend various meetings with consultants or the Directors who’ve got a particular challenge or particular piece of support they need. 

So, it’s pretty well rounded – it’s not just about the marketing. It’s about supporting the business, clients, and candidates using my expertise and experience. 

How would you say recruitment differs from other industries when it comes to marketing?

With recruitment, three key audiences are always at the centre of what we do – candidates, clients and employees/ potential employees.

We moved from a candidate-rich, job-short market to a job-rich, candidate-short market, so we have to work even harder to get exactly the right people for our top jobs.

With clients – it’s about bringing new ones in and supporting the clients we have. For the other audiences, our people, it’s essential to keep them engaged and happy at work. We are on a recruitment drive and always looking for new employees. This could be experienced recruitment consultants, trainees, or graduates – we want to attract those kinds of people into the business, so we need to demonstrate what it’s like to work for us. Everything we do needs to ensure that all of those audiences are considered.

How has the role of marketing within recruitment changed in the last ten years?

Years ago, you could put a job on a job board, and you’d probably more or less fill that job from that advert. But now, it’s about a lot more than that. You can’t just put a job on a job board and think it’s gonna drive people; you have to have an online presence, offer a variety of services and have an extensive network. So it’s critical, now, I think, to have a marketer within a recruitment business to support recruitment activities and the company. So it’s a lot more popular now to find experienced marketers and agencies than ever because recruitment really does need it. 

What marketing trends can you see happening in recruitment?

LinkedIn has become more and more popular for many recruiters; I see a lot of firms invest a lot more in terms of LinkedIn. They’re also changing how they communicate on social platforms – it’s much more creative, whether it’s white papers or explainer videos. This is true of Twitter, as well, but to a lesser degree. So there’s a lot more investment going into social media now than there was before. 

Also, as we see in other industries, a lot more digital technology is coming into the recruitment market that supports consultants and candidates. Video interviews, for example, have been invaluable over the last 15 months. However, I don’t think human contact should or will ever be replaced in the processes, but there will be many more shifts in the next few years with these great new technologies being introduced.

How has Core Talent changed in the Covid-era?

It has been difficult, as it has for everyone. We had to rebuild our workforce and restructure to enhance our offering in the US and Europe. Business areas like international construction and data centre construction continued to perform really well, as mission-critical projects were still ongoing. In contrast, other markets went a lot quieter during the first lockdown. So as a business, we’ve spent the last 12 months really looking at our markets, expanding further in the areas where we see more significant growth, like E-mobility, autonomous vehicles and AI, and dealing with our usual fields of construction and manufacturing.

Finally, what is the best marketing campaign you’ve seen?

There have been so many excellent campaigns I have seen and experienced over the years. I admire the teams who have created the current public health campaigns we have all been exposed to over the last 15 months. They have had to get the information and strategy out to the whole country in a short space of time and ensure that the core message is memorable and easy to follow.

There are also two above-the-line advertising campaigns that I have always loved. The Guinness Surfer/Horses advert and the Dairy Milk Gorilla advert. The mix of cinematography, the characters, the straplines ‘good things come to those who wait’ and ‘a glass and a half full of joy’ set against the musical score all contribute to these adverts being some of the greatest and most memorable of all time.

33 blogging tips for beginners

Although we know the value of regular, fresh, informative content, the mere idea of blogging can be intimidating for a lot of people.  

If writing blogs constantly falls to the bottom of your to-do list, then we’re here to help. Our top 33 tips will help you form your ideas, keep your mind focused on the task and produce brilliant, captivating content that will help boost your SEO, build traffic to your site and establish brand awareness. 

Let’s dive in…

  1. Begin with an outline

If you find yourself staring at a blank page when you sit down to write a blog, you’re making your life harder than it needs to be. Start by creating a framework rather than launching straight into writing. This outline will be your guide to writing your blog and will make the whole process much easier as you tackle each part section by section

  1.  Answer questions

Your reader will have questions, so set out by answering them. Why are you reading this blog? Probably because you are starting out blogging, and we promised to share our top tips! Provide a solution to a problem, and you’re off to a great start.

  1. Aim for 1500 words

This may be daunting, but studies show that longer posts attract more links, likes and shares. Ensure you are hitting a minimum of 500 words, but aim for higher, and then watch the likes roll in.

  1. Keep the format friendly

Bullet points and numbered lists will make your blog easy to skim through and more accessible for the reader. Big blocks of endless text are far less appealing to read.

  1. Make it evergreen

An evergreen blog post maintains its relevance over several years. Although responsive up to the minute blog posts can be incredibly effective, if you are stretched for time, an evergreen blog will give much more bang for its buck. These consist of issues that people consistently need help with (like this one), so think about how-to blogs and top-tip lists.

  1. Tell a story

Storytelling can be incorporated into every element of your branding, especially your blog. Keep the reader captivated by learning from the world’s greatest storytellers.

  1. Write to one reader

Imagine you are addressing your blog to one specific reader. This is a helpful exercise when you are faced with writer’s block or feel uninspired. What does that one person need help with? How can you share your knowledge with them? Write to an individual, and you’ll find your writing will flow better, and you’ll secure a more in-depth relationship with your audience. 

  1. Don’t shy away from passion

You may be writing about a business, but that doesn’t mean your writing should be cold and stale. Show your passion for your work through the informal context of a blog; people respond well to emotion and genuine passion.

  1. Get your blog down, and then go back to edit

Jumping back and forth between writing and editing can make the process of writing a blog slow and frustrating. Try getting everything down first, and then go back to edit your work. 

  1. Don’t focus on yourself

This is a common slip up in blog writing – don’t make it all about you. You are trying to connect to a reader, so try to understand what makes them tick and keep your focus on your audience, not yourself. 

  1. Set a timer

If blog writing is falling to the bottom of your to-do list constantly, it may be because it is a time-consuming experience. It doesn’t need to be. Use a kitchen timer or unplug your laptop to create a sense of urgency. Having the pressure of a deadline works really well for a lot of writers. 

  1. Be humble and honest

Ok, so you are writing a blog because you have knowledge to share, that’s great! But remember, no one likes a know-it-all. You’re not writing for your English professor, so don’t feel the need to show off your extensive knowledge; share what you know, but keep it human and genuine.

  1. Write for your audience, not for Google

It’s incredibly tempting to focus on keywords, titles and headings when you’re writing a blog in the hopes that Google will rank you for a specific keyword. This is not invaluable work to do. However, it’s not where you should start. Focus on your audience. Introduce keywords as you see fit, only once you have delivered a piece of content that works for you and your readers.

  1. Understand your niche

Once you get in the swing of writing, you might be tempted to tell the world about your enthusiasm for other topics – please try and resist! Your audience is with you because they care about your niche, so this must always sit at the heart of what you write about.

  1. Make commenting easy

It’s important to encourage comments, making it as easy as possible for readers to engage in the topic you are discussing. Requiring users to sign in, complete two-step authentication or pick out all the crosswalks they can see is just going to interfere with that process!

  1. Give your blogs punchy titles

Your title is your shop front, so ensure you draw readers in with exciting, intriguing titles. 

  1. Maintain a regular schedule

Sporadic posting is one of the biggest issues with blog posting; if it’s not consistent, it’s not going to get the attention it deserves. Try and carve out time every week to create new blog content, ideally aim to write two a week for the best results. If you’re going on holiday, take advantage of scheduling tools to ensure your posting regime doesn’t slip.

  1. Know your audience

A crucial rule when writing – you need to know who you’re writing for. Is this content for prospective customers or long-term clients? Are they male, female, in the C-suite or working in junior roles? The more specific you can make the persona, the better.

  1. Use spell check

Before you hit publish, ensure you have checked your spelling and proofread your blog. Bad spelling will not only dent your credibility but will also damage your SEO. Double-check everything before going live.

  1. Let your readers help you form ideas

You need to write what you know, but it’s well worth trying to understand exactly what within your niche people are going to want to read. 51% of website traffic comes from organic search, so you need to be writing about things people are searching for your blog to perform well. You can use keyword research tools to help here.

  1. Set goals

Your blog is part of your business, so it’s important to set goals and KPIs, as you would with any other business endeavour. Setting goals will help you monitor your progress, which will also help you to understand what works and what doesn’t. Goals could be page views, comments, subscribers or any other metric that reflects your ambitions. 

  1. Use a blog topic generator tool

If you are struggling to consistently come up with topic ideas, take a look at HubSpot’s blog topic generator. It’s an interesting way to get ideas based on a few keywords that you type in.

  1. Use an editorial calendar

Once you have a solid list of topic ideas, use a calendar to keep on top of your content. With two or more blogs going out each week it’s easy to get bogged down; even a simple excel spreadsheet can help. Include your publish date, keyword, topic, title, link to the working document and a column for every avenue you promote it on.

  1. Write blogs focused on case studies

People love learning from real life experiences, so consider writing about case studies that evidence your product or service working with real customers. It’s the best kind of social proof.

  1. Fact check

When you publish any content, your reputation is at stake. Go through your whole post and check it for accuracy before hitting publish. 

  1. Post your blog on Monday or Thursday mornings

Peak times do vary by industry, and you will have the best insight into your target audience’s behaviour over time by looking at your website’s traffic signals with analytics; however, Monday and Thursday are proven to be the best days to get the most traction. 

  1. Send your blog post to people that are mentioned

Referencing an influential figure in your industry? Be sure to share your blog with them. They might share it to their circles, expanding your reach exponentially. 

  1. Pay attention to your foundation

Your first few months of blogging are an important time. Dedicate time to honing the basic skills of writing, SEO, and social media marketing, then these skills will work as a foundation for your success when you grow.

  1. It’s not writer’s block, it’s writers procrastination

Don’t use excuses.Take responsibility for your inability to get the blog written and use the techniques we advise to get your focus back and get the job done!

  1. Test your blog in different browsers

Ensure your blog looks great in every browser, and that it is optimised for mobile reading. 

  1. Always reply to comments

If your readers are invested enough in your blog to comment, it’s important that you take the time to reply. It will promote a thriving blog community and will keep your readers coming back to comment again. 

  1. Use data to reinforce your points

Good writing offers the main argument, establishes proof and then ends with a clear takeaway for your audience. Use data to introduce your main argument and show its relevance to your readers or as proof of your argument throughout.

  1. Have fun!

Finally, it’s worth remembering that a good attitude will make you a better writer. It will make the process more enjoyable and make your blogs more engaging to read. A positive attitude will turn blogging from a dreaded task to an enjoyable and creative part of your day-to-day. Good luck and happy writing!

4 Ways to Follow Your Audience, Not Marketing Trends

The key to any successful marketing strategy, nay, any successful business, is a clear understanding of your target audience.

We know this isn’t news to anyone, but we think it’s worth remembering when you’re trying to get more leads, customers and referrals in a fast-paced, trend-driven environment.

Don’t get us wrong. Following marketing, trends can get your company’s name out there and position you as a progressive organisation. However, unless you conscientiously integrate these trends into an established and well-researched marketing strategy, it’s unlikely they will lead to significant growth.

Although new popular platforms, ideas and techniques may attract attention and raise short-term revenue, ultimately, following a trend means following someone else’s lead. Doing this can cause you to stray from your own brand identity and values, and move you further away from your own customers needs.

Remember, customers can see right through phonies, so jumping onto TikTok because it’s ‘what everyone else is doing and not because you have a genuine potential to develop leads on the platform could make your company look foolish and out of touch. It could also dent your reputation and cause customers to lose trust in your organisation.

While recent years have brought marketers a load of new and innovative ways to reach out to and connect with their customers, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to marketing, and whilst it’s easy to be susceptible to new trends – not least because they appear a dime a dozen in the marketing world – we urge you to begin with your audience, not the trends. Once you know what they need, you’ll have a clearer perspective on which of those novel fads (if any!) could actually play a relevant role in your efforts to boost conversions and improve customer loyalty.

In this blog, we’ll take things back to the essentials of brilliant marketing, dismissing the fads for a deep-dive look at 4 techniques for effectively listening to and learning from your audience, proving that you should be led by your audience, not overhyped marketing trends.

Do a Deep Dive on Your Analytics

When setting out to gain a greater understanding of your audience, begin by reviewing the current data you have. This includes all analyses your company has conducted about your customers since you’ve been in business, such as focus groups and figures you can gather from your marketing outputs, including website traffic, social media data, email open rates and click-throughs. Use this invaluable data to pinpoint where your customers are engaging the most and to inform the rest of your marketing activities.

This gives you a starting point to work from when learning about your audience on a deeper level — you already have some understanding of the real pain points and challenges they experience and what they need from your product or service.

From there, consider the other types of audience-related information you’re missing and need to obtain.

Ask Your Audience

Surveys are an effective way to listen to both current customers and a prospective audience; it’s the most direct way to understand their needs, as it comes directly from the source. Surveys allow you to continually improve and amend your services in line with your customers’ expectations, increasing retention rates.

Try Social Listening

To really get to know your audience and find out what they are saying about your industry and your brand online, try social listening. It gives you a useful context to see where your brand lies amongst competitors and will go a long way to inform your marketing strategy.

Social listening is not about looking at numbers of followers or likes but about how audiences react to your content and brand and reading their mood. Whether it’s positive or negative, knowing when and how your audience reacts to your brand online is crucial to truly understand your customers.

Create Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research. They can help you focus your time on qualified prospects and guide product development to suit the needs of your target customers.

When done well, buyer personas can be really helpful. They can make it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, and services to meet the specific needs of your target audience.

You can build your buyer personas through research, surveys and interviews. They usually consist of information about a prospects age, job, salary and education – now this information can prove useful. However, the best buyer personas include more detail about what actually matters.

What are the tasks they struggle with day to day?

Where are their frustrations?

What work do they love doing?

The answers to these questions are a lot more helpful to marketers, so try to build them into your buyer personas.

As copywriter Gary Bencivenga said: “Emotions are the fire of human motivation, the combustible force that secretly drives most decisions to buy. When your marketing harnesses those forces correctly, you will generate explosive increases in response.”

Listen to Your Audience, Not Trends

Getting to know your audience isn’t always a simple process, but it’s a crucial one. Conducting this work and doing it often will ensure you know what resonates with your audience to create the content and products, and services that your buyer personas and target customers want to buy.

Having a strong understanding of your potential customers will help you convert them into long-term, paying customers. So, start working through these steps to getting to know your audience better and begin building a customer-led strategy rather than letting trends direct your decision making.

5 Minutes with John Ashton

John Ashton spent his time writing for national newspapers and authoring books before coming up with an idea for a company in 2012 that put his talents to exceptionally good use.

Write Arm is a flexible writing resource for marketers. They provide companies with writers when they need them to create any type of written content – from exquisitely crafted straplines to blogs, scripts and books.

In 2020 he set up The KitchenTable Community, which is a peer-to-peer support community and marketplace for the owners and would-be owners of small creative agencies.

We spoke to John Ashton to find out more about the company, and to get his top tips on brilliant copywriting.

Hi John, thanks for chatting with Colour Me Social! What inspired you to start Write Arm?

I started the company in 2012 – I was thinking at the time, what’s my next career move? I thought about becoming a freelance writer again and I realised I wanted to build something bigger and flexible and more of the moment.

I hadn’t worked in the marketing world before then, so I knew nothing of it. I just took the plunge, with no idea whether it would float or not, but it did – much to my amazement and delight!

We started with just a small handful of writers; more and more have found us along the way, and we go out and find writers too – we’ve got scores of them now!

How do you work with businesses?

We do everything with the written word – broadly it breaks down into two types: on the one hand you’ve got content marketing such as articles, whitepapers, case studies, e-books; the other side is creative copywriting, things like static web copy, brochures and email sequences – anything that has a more overt marketing function than content marketing.

What type of businesses do you work with?

Anything from a small SME to multinational giants – we’ll work with any sizes of business, but we prefer to work with those with a marketing department. We work in numerous sectors; the ones that have been particularly strong for us have been tech, financial services and HR/recruitment.

What’s the motivation for businesses to come to you?

It’s very often the case that they just don’t have the resources internally. We work on an ad hoc basis, we don’t tend to charge retainers, which works for us because the clients don’t need us all the time. They often have people in-house who do some of the writing, but then they just get swamped.

What would you say are the main challenges you see your clients facing when it comes to content and copywriting?

The chief challenge is finding the right person to do the work. There are millions of freelancers out there but actually sourcing them and managing them is the real challenge. We’ve got where we are today by answering that need, by solving that problem.

How has your business changed in the Covid-era?

Well, we’ve always been remote. That’s the beauty of Write Arm. The staff work remotely, as do I, and all the writers work remotely. So we were geared up for it.

At the start COVID, everything went quiet for a week, but then it got very, very busy, and we’ve never been busier. I think it’s largely a legacy of working in tech – so many tech niches are buoyant at the moment, and we’re a beneficiary of that.

What’s your top tip for brilliant copywriting?

Great copywriting has to spell out the benefits of a product or service. Or if it’s not a product or service, then drive the message in a way that appeals to the heart, the head, and do so in as few words as possible.

Finally, what advice would you offer to small business owners to help them tell their story?

Invest in copy – it can make all the difference.

5 Minutes with Michael Gegg

What was your background prior to South Thames Marketing?

Immediately prior to setting up South Thames Marketing, I was head of global marketing for two of Hay Group’s (a management consulting firm) four business divisions. I left Hay after four wonderful years following its acquisition by Korn Ferry. Prior to that, I was head of international marketing and events for several years at Kenexa (now part of IBM). And back in the early days, I held marketing roles at a couple of psychometric testing and recruitment firms. So, my background has always been within the professional services space.

What inspired you to set up South Thames Marketing?

As with a lot of things in life, it was circumstance! I’d left Korn Ferry and was weighing up my next move. I’d always passionately wanted to launch my own consultancy and it felt this was the right time. Three years on, I wouldn’t look back. What inspired me? Having worked my entire career in professional services, I wanted to give back; supporting firms to just get better at their marketing. Working with clients of all different sizes gives me some great diversity, but actually working with an independent consultant or a big four management consulting firm, they have similar marketing challenges, just on a different scale.

How does South Thames Marketing help professional services businesses?

We support firms in several ways. Firstly from a strategy and planning perspective. Getting under the skin of what they are currently doing, assessing what they want to achieve brand and lead-gen wise and developing a strategy accordingly. From there we either hand that over for them to implement, or clients may ask us to support in certain areas (content creation, social media, creative design, campaign development etc) because they haven’t the internal resource themselves, or in some instances outsource their marketing in its entirety to us. We also support several international firms with European expansion or expansion into Asia. But in the first instance, we get to know the client and what they are looking to achieve and build from there.

What are the main marketing challenges professional services companies face?

Great question. There are several. But I think for me the biggest is staying relevant. The web is awash with content: white papers, blogs, videos all addressing a topic – it could be Brexit, it could be productivity, it could be attracting and retaining the best talent. The challenge is getting their voice heard over everyone else who is trying to have a say on that topic. Relevance is so important.

How can professional services professionals/companies stand out from the crowd?

Being human. Too many firms will try and cram every buzzword they know into a piece because they believe it adds credence. But at the end of the day you are writing (or presenting to) another human being –  I guess it could be a robot in the future! – so you need to write accordingly. My biggest tip always is when you’ve written something, read it back to yourself and then ask the question ‘if you’re sitting opposite that person in a business meeting or pitch’ is that how you would speak? If not, then start again. We’re all humans, including your clients!

How would you say professional services companies differ from other industries when it comes to marketing?

I’m probably biased here, but I think if you can succeed in professional services marketing, you can succeed in any industry. Working in professional services you are challenged every day. That could be with the quality of content/materials you have to produce to stay relevant or stakeholders you have to manage in-house, who all have an opinion that is apparently right! Succeed in this market and you’ll succeed in others. Yes, I know every sector will probably say similar, but come and spend a month in professional services and let’s have a conversation after!

What trends can you see happening in professional services marketing?

It’s already happening. More and more firms are adopting the new exciting digital technologies that are out there. The key is integrating your tech stack and maximising the insights you gain from the data.

What’s the best marketing campaign you have been involved in?

One of the last campaigns we rolled out at Hay Group was a campaign that explored the connection between employee and customer engagement. At its core was a report, where we’d undertaken an in-depth survey, but we’d then managed to interview and involve several of our clients from around the world. This was important as it added credence to our voice, but also allowed us to offer some incredibly interesting global insights plus the opportunity to create a number of supporting assets: extended case studies, blogs, videos etc. We rolled out the campaign in a crazy number of countries around the world, working with our local marketing colleagues, who we had to influence that this campaign would work in their particular market. In our planning we fully involved our local marketers, so we adapted versions of the report for different markets – this is so important. We held webinars together with in-person Forums in a number of cities. I attended the London, New York, Madrid and Sao Paulo Forums in person and seeing the report in multiple languages, speakers talking so passionately and importantly just seeing it resonate with every audience member was fantastic. The ROI we achieved was outstanding. Because we had involved clients and worked closely with them in the final report, we also managed to partner with the internal PR departments of some of them, which gave us huge traction when approaching the media. But, I cannot take the full credit, my marketing manager at the time, Louise Shaw, who is now doing fantastic stuff at Deloitte in Australia – I’m really, really proud of her, drove it and the success was 100 per cent down to her. As a leader, there is no better feeling than seeing someone on your team really thrive.

What is the best marketing campaign you’ve seen?

I’m not sure the best, but I love the Adobe marketing cloud ads – if you’ve not seen them definitely check them out!

Do you have any final words of advice for professional services companies wanting to tell their story/better their marketing efforts?

I just refer to what I said earlier, please, please remember your clients and prospective clients are human beings!

The future of B2B marketing

We all know that cold-calling is very much a thing of the past and this will affect the status of B2B marketing. We all hate to be cold-called and are most likely going to ignore anybody who tries to do it. Most of all, it does not inspire trust and confidence in a company. Nowadays two thirds of a buying decision are achieved through online research.

According to recent research quoted by LinkedIn about 75% of B2B buyers use social media as part of their buying decision. 50% use LinkedIn as a source for gathering information on who to buy from, whilst 76% of them prefer to follow recommendations from within their professional network.

LinkedIn Prospecting

Selling your business and services to prospective customers has never been so easy as it is now with LinkedIn. At the click of a button people can look at a list of businesses that provide what it is they need. Therefore, you have to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch and gives customers the first impression you want them to have of you.
Make sure that your profile is always up to date and links up with your website, Twitter, Facebook and contact pages.

Due to our constant information overload and fear of data breaches by social media companies, consumers want to find straightforward advice and solutions to their queries. So, while businesses might find you on LinkedIn and do their research on you, it is far more important that your website is search engine optimised and provides customers with clear information that is relevant to them.

The simplest way to get more B2B connections inside your industry is by being active online. Join LinkedIn groups for joint interests and discussions. This is an area where you can engage with likeminded people within the relevant industry, answer questions and establish relationships. This is not hard selling, it is speaking about your specialist topic and gaining others’ trust in your abilities.

Widen your prospecting scope

When you trawl through the profiles of users you interact with, you can widen your network even more by engaging with their secondary contacts. The more connections and interactions you have online, the more engagement you will receive back.

This exposure will gain trust in your brand and make customers more familiar with you. Any of the connections you have made through groups or by adding your bit to a discussion will mean that these contacts will also come and look at your profile.

If you have pictures, positive feedback or any upcoming events, let them know. In the same way that you might look at a profile and try and figure out who leads the sales team or what services are available, put yourself into a potential customer’s shoes and think about what it is that you would want to find on your profile.

What are the most commonly asked questions you get asked and can visitors find the answers easily on your website? Transparency and ease of use are the buzzwords when it comes to customer experience nowadays.

Put your name on the Pulse

If you have something to say about a topic, why not write a short article and publish it via LinkedIn Pulse? All your connections will receive a notification and in no time,  you will establish yourself as a professional persona that is seen to be trustworthy, in-the-know and proactive. This will increase your authority and your posts can easily be shared by users for even wider reach.

None of these tactics feels like the pushy sales scripts of yore that make people shut off immediately. You are not required to say, ‘You should buy X because we believe that we are the best in this industry, with 20 years of experience’.

This is much subtler than that. You answer genuine questions with genuine knowledge, have conversations about topics that are relevant to you and your clients and build relationships based on trust, hopefully turning strangers into customers and then loyal customers who will be the backbone of your business for years to come.

LinkedIn Ads vs. Facebook Ads: How do they compare, and which one is right for you?

LinkedIn and Facebook

We will tell you why 2019 is expected to be huge for LinkedIn marketing whilst many companies turn away from Facebook Ads. It is not because one is better than the other, but brands now understand which platform is best suited to target the right audience for them.

Facebook is currently losing a lot of business to other social media platforms, especially LinkedIn who have seen a 212 percent growth in the money spent on ads with them. It seems 2019 is their year, but how can you decide where your money is best spent?

How do LinkedIn and Facebook compare when it comes to Ads?

LinkedIn Ads are the preferred choice for B2B marketers, 71 percent of them currently use it as part of their strategy, which is only going to increase, according to the before mentioned statistics. As every marketer knows, rule number one of marketing is to know who your customers are. Next, you need to figure out how to reach them. Age, gender and location are the basic demographics that you will get from LinkedIn and Facebook alike.

However, LinkedIn can also tell you about their users’ education, skillset, profession, and the industry they work in. That is powerful extra data you won’t find on other platforms.
LinkedIn has become essential to any brand wanting to increase brand awareness, network with the right people, and achieve growth.

Being a platform that has been created purely for professional use, LinkedIn is seen to provide reliable content. Its content’s nature is neutral, sober, professional – a lot of users access LinkedIn daily for making business decisions.

When it comes to advertising, it is popular with B2B companies who will most benefit from investing their money here. It allows them to target a specific industry and the kind of companies they need to reach.

LinkedIn has a range of options for how you want to advertise on it and its professional brand image means that adverts appear generally more trustworthy. They look a lot like natural content – which results in more engagement than on other platforms.

Similar ads on Facebook feel more like spam, because of the different environment in which they are presented.

One big drawback of LinkedIn Ads, however, is the cost. They are quite pricey compared to Facebook – who also have a lot more active users – 2.2 billion users in fact, compared to LinkedIn’s 550+ million.

Despite those numbers, LinkedIn Ads still achieve a higher return on your investment – possibly because it is the right platform for B2B marketing and mainly used in that way. The adverts on there have always been more targeted and a good fit for the audience, purely due to the nature of what LinkedIn is all about.

The purpose of LinkedIn is to be a network of work and business users, which makes it, in turn, a weak contender for B2C marketing. It is very unlikely to reach the end customer, Joe Bloggs if you will, by advertising on a business platform.

Facebook is much better placed for B2C marketing. If your company’s target audience is end customers, then promoting your goods on Facebook will create more engagement than on LinkedIn.

If there ever was a time when you are weak and willing to buy, say – that jumper that allows you to carry your cat around or some obscure gadget that you never knew you wanted, or a really ‘fashionable’ green/purple coat, you most likely do that in a weak moment at home, after a couple of glasses of wine and you are scrolling through Facebook, dressed in your pajamas, in front of the TV.

The odds will fall drastically when you are dressed in your smart work clothes in the office, looking for companies that might be able to help you with your current project or looking for a new job opportunity.

It would, therefore, be unfair to say that companies are leaving Facebook Ads because LinkedIn or other platforms are better. It’s more likely that marketers now have more choice, know their customers better, and advertise on the platforms that are the most suitable for their business.

How to boost reach and engagement for your LinkedIn Sponsored Content

Social media

So you’ve dedicated a chunk of your social media advertising budget towards Sponsored content on LinkedIn, hoping to see engagement, and ultimately, results

LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content is a great way of getting your brand in front of your target audience at the right time. If used effectively, it can be used to build brand awareness, engage with your audience, nurture key relationships and finally, generate those much-needed leads.

Sounds great but how exactly can you use it to strengthen your company’s profile on the professional networking site. It can be challenging to put out steady stream of diverse content which aims to inspire and engage your followers. At other times, you are able to put out regular content, but it isn’t really resulting in much engagement or an increase in followers

To address some of these challenges, we’ve come up with some tips on how you can increase your reach and drive engagement for your LinkedIn Sponsored updates.

Set clear goals to drive content

What do you ultimately need to achieve with your LinkedIn Sponsored updates? Perhaps you want to build a community and increase engagement with prospects or leads. Or you want to focus on lead generation.

Your content creation strategy should be driven by your end goals and this will influence every aspect of your content.

Are you trying to create brand awareness? Then videos, infographics,  informative blogs can help to keep your company at the forefront of people’s minds. Do you want to position yourself as a leader in your field? Then post links to long-form content such as whitepapers, case studies or eBooks.  If you wish to increase conversation or generate leads, you can link to gated eBooks or webinars with a strong call-to-action encouraging sign-ups. If your aim is to nurture your leads, you can share articles, guides and articles which educate your target base.

Focus on pleasing your audience

To make the best of your Sponsored content, make sure you know who your target audience is. And use this information to guide the type of content you post. The more targeted your campaigns, the higher you are likely to convert.

Think about their jobs and and which industries/sectors do they work in? What are their needs and pain points? How can the content you share directly address this?

While setting up campaigns, you can create targeted campaigns that speak to the needs of each type of your buyer persona. If your buyer person is the upper management team such as CEOs and VPs, for instance, you could perhaps share leadership articles or content highlighting management trends, which may be particularly appealing to the,

Unlike other social networking sites, people usually browse LinkedIn to network, look for jobs, or learn more about their industry. Tap into this ‘professional mindset’ by giving your target audience plenty of content that can help them learn something new, increase knowledge and be productive in their jobs. In addition, sharing your opinion or providing a critical analysis or insight into something can also help to drive engagement

That said, don’t forget that people love an inspiring or uplifting story or a piece of news that can add a new perspective or give them a new lease of life.

Use diverse content types to grab attention

Not all content is quality content. So it might be wise to invest in creating powerful content that are likely to strike a chord with your audience.

Images and videos are a sure-fire way to capture attention in a time when people just don’t seem to have it. Images that have interesting stats or an infographic image is a great way to present information and strike up a conversation.

LinkedIn allows videos from Vimeo, YouTube and Slideshare to play natively within the newsfeed, so use this functionality to share some interesting video content. Keep your videos short (under 2 minutes) and make sure you use subtitles so that people can watch at work  or on a commute without the volume.

Text updates, especially if they are from the CEO or member of the C-suite usually demand your reader’s attention. An effective text update is short, intriguing and should make the reader want to know more (which you can follow with a link for instance. You can ask a question, comment on an trending news story from the day or say something thought-provoking aiming at encouraging a discussion.

LinkedIn has identified the following  ways to make your Sponsored Content stand out.

  • Ask questions
  • Aim to inspire
  • Capitalise on trends
  • Use imagery

Track performance and measure results

As is with any kind of advertising, testing results is crucial way to uncover key insights and identify issues.

There’s no point simply sharing content without tracking the performance of posts and its impact towards your overall goal. Apart from engaging audiences, you can use LinkedIn’s Conversion Tracking to see how your ads are helping you achieve your goals, be it lead generation, conversions or purchases. To track conversions, go to Conversion Tracking options in Campaign Manager and add the Insight Tag to the website pages you wish to track.

You can then identify a conversion action (newsletter subscription, webinar sign-up or demo registration) and link it to your campaign to track the performance of your content.

Additionally, you can gain a deeper understanding of your audience using website demographics to get data on industries, sectors, job titles and company names. This in turn, can help you customise content tailored to their unique needs and interests.

Test and optimise for success

To make the most of your efforts with Sponsored Content, you need to review, monitor and experiment to ensure success.

You can use A/B testing for example, to compare multiple campaigns. Create a duplicate campaign to show the same post to different target audience and see which performed better. You could even run the test on varied versions of the same post to see which performed the best.

Choose the right metrics to track, and this usually depends on your campaign goals. For instance, if you want to track ROI, you could track the number of conversions and the cost per conversions. If your goal was to generate more leads, track the number of sign-ups/registrations.  For brand awareness, you could track the number of new followers and engagements.

To make your LinkedIn marketing efforts successful, you need to have clarity on your goals, cater to your target audience with compelling content, and then finally test and measure performance for optimum results.

To discuss any of the points above or if you need help with executing any of these tactics, do email us at [email protected]