13 Ways to Boost Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn

We’re all familiar with branding our business, but what about branding ourselves?

The past 18 months have been a turning point for many business leaders. No longer interacting at trade fairs and conferences, CEOs suddenly had a laser-sharp focus on their personal brand – and how that was represented online.

Working on your personal brand is an excellent idea if your offline reputation took a hit due to the pandemic. It helps sell and market you and offers a human element to your business. LinkedIn is by far the best platform for establishing your brand, but with so many people brand building, how do you get it right without getting lost in the sea of content?

A good strategy is essential, so here are our top 13 tips to start brand-building.

Getting the Basics Right

To start thinking about your personal brand, begin with the basics. Once you nail these elements, you can go on to think about content and outreach, but it all starts here.

  1. Remember – LinkedIn is your Living CV

Your LinkedIn profile is not something you fill out one day and then walk away from. Instead, it’s a living, breathing record of your achievements and career successes. So the first thing to remember when trying to ace your personal brand is to keep your profile updated – whenever you make a career move, speak at a conference or publish an article.

  1. Optimise Your Profile for Search

Did you know you can optimise your LinkedIn page for SEO?

Understanding your relevant keywords is a crucial aspect of understanding your personal brand. Determine the keywords you want to be found for when potential clients of employers search LinkedIn and use them in your headline, summary, and job descriptions. All the work you do to optimise your profile will be lost if you don’t choose the right keywords, as no one will discover your profile.

  1. Sell Yourself

Just as you would when talking about your business, it’s essential to sell yourself in your description. Again, be specific – include facts and figures to demonstrate your accomplishments, but keep it concise and to the point.

  1. Choose the Right Profile Photo

As with any branding, images are key. When people are skimming through your profile, the first thing they will spot is your profile photo, so it’s essential that the picture represents your brand.

Ensure your photo includes a clear view of your face and shoulders and is clear, crisp, and well-lit. You should be dressed professionally, and remember, a smile goes a long way!

  1. Don’t Forget Your Cover Photo

LinkedIn cover photos are another opportunity for you to shape your personal brand, so be sure to take advantage of this feature. Consider including your company’s logo or an image that reflects your profession. We’ve seen some great examples of company pages that include a CTA in the banner to engage visitors further.

  1. Make Your Headline Count

LinkedIn profile headlines are limited to 120 characters, so you need to get creative to make this prime real estate as effective as possible. Your headline needs to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to stick around. Once you’ve chosen your headline, test it on a mobile device too to make sure it works across devices.

Think Content

Now we’ve got the basics sorted, let’s take a look at how content can help shape your brand on LinkedIn.

  1. Write Articles

To have a chance of standing out in the crowded field of LinkedIn, you need to be creating your rich content. We know you’ve heard this over and over – that’s because it’s one of the best ways to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise and develop your brand on LinkedIn.

Most companies are sitting on a goldmine of information and data that would be interesting to your customers and/or peers; creating content is just about getting that information out there.

Even if you have a blog on your website, publishing on LinkedIn has specific advantages. All your connections get notified whenever you publish on the network, and you can choose to feature these articles on your LinkedIn profile.

  1. Create Brilliant and Diverse Content

The thing that will differentiate you from everyone else on LinkedIn is providing exceptional content that people simply cannot resist. Try to ensure this content is a diverse mix that represents all sides of your personal brand – videos, infographics, free ebooks, and live webinars are all great ideas.

  1. Reshare your top-performing posts

Keep a close eye on what posts perform best, and repurpose or reuse that content. They resonated with your audience, so take your own lead and let them inspire other content, and reshare those super-successful posts to get more traction.

Your Network
  1. Leverage Industry Influencers

Influencers are crucial to your personal brand – establishing relationships with influencers in your industry by mentioning them in posts can help boost your visibility on LinkedIn and affirm your personal brand for other users.

  1. Participate in Groups

LinkedIn groups are a powerful resource, especially as you develop your personal brand. Groups allow you to meet and mingle with other professionals in your industry and offer the potential of powerful connections and working relationships down the line.

There’s one crucial part to being part of these groups: participation. Comment, share content, offer advice and start conversation threads – this kind of engagement will mean you reap a lot more of the benefits of groups than if you sit on the sidelines.

  1. Keep an Eye on Connections

A huge part of LinkedIn is making and maintaining connections. Accept all requests that come in, even if you don’t know the person. The more connections you have, the higher LinkedIn will rank you, and the more others will see your profile.

  1. Engage

Crucially, you must continue to engage with LinkedIn for it to be an up-to-date authority on you and your personal brand. So regularly post, share, engage and keep your profile up to date. The more present you are, the more benefits you will get from the network.

LinkedIn is one of the most critical networks for personal branding; it’s a powerhouse tool to have at your fingertips, so we hope these strategies help you to make the most of personal branding on LinkedIn.

Top Tips on Utilising Email Marketing and LinkedIn for SMEs

In our hyper-digital world, there are a handful of essential digital marketing outputs that every business must embrace.

Even the smallest of SMEs can benefit from a solid digital presence, so we’d thought we’d do a rundown of two of the most important platforms out there – email marketing and LinkedIn.

We often hear that SME leaders assume that these tools are suited to the big firms, but no matter the size or industry of your business, both email marketing and LinkedIn can help you foster better client relationships, help establish your brand, and develop your customer base. Firstly, let’s take a look at how email marketing can work wonders for your business.

Leveraging Email Marketing for your SME

Email marketing is frequently cited as the most fruitful form of digital marketing – 80% of business professionals consider email a vital aspect of customer retention. Furthermore, when used correctly, email has the potential to deliver the greatest ROI of any marketing channel.

However, inboxes are a battlefield for marketers, so it’s crucial to remember the core strategies that make email marketing effective and ensure you stand out from the crowd.

One of the most important practices to remember with email marketing today is to be as transparent and open as possible with your customers. Generic emails won’t get you far, and an unsolicited approach is not only a violation of GDPR but also a sure-fire way to annoy potential customers.

So, in that spirit, focus on getting customers to subscribe to your newsletters, and build a powerful and robust email list by remembering the following tips.

Timing is everything

The optimum time to send emails will depend on your audience – so take advantage of research available online to get some advice for your firm. The day of the week matters too – Tuesday is reportedly the best day by far.

Provide one clear call to action

Don’t be tempted to fill your campaign with calls to action. Instead, keep things simple – emails with one call to action can increase clicks by 371%. To ensure maximum clickability, keep your call to action between 2 – 4 words and place it near the top of your email.

Keep things personal

Personalised emails have 6x higher transaction rates, so if you’re not already segmenting your audiences, then get to it! However, sending fewer, more relevant emails that recommend products based on past purchases, browsing history or include the recipient’s location can achieve better results than mass mailouts.

Don’t forget to test

Regular testing and measuring will ensure you are staying on top of your evolving customer base. First, find out what devices and email clients your subscribers are using and optimise these formats. Tools like Litmus let you test your email messages on various clients so you can fix any problems that might occur across devices.

Embracing LinkedIn for your SME

Companies of almost any kind can benefit from maintaining a LinkedIn presence, and although it does require a dedicated, platform-specific approach, the stats speak for themselves. In 2020, 94% of marketers were using LinkedIn to publish content; so, if you’ve not embraced LinkedIn yet – now is the time!

First things first, you need to start thinking up some ideas for brilliant content. Here are a few of our favourite ideas:

Publish how-to blogs or list posts

Writing informative articles is a great way to raise your visibility and start conversations on LinkedIn. It demonstrates your industry expertise and positions you as a thought leader. How-to blogs and list posts receive the most attention on LinkedIn and given their easily digestible formatting, it’s easy to see why.

Share industry-adjacent content

The key to LinkedIn articles is to consistently share information that interests your clients. Customers remember smart people who offer up reliable advice, so sharing industry-adjacent content helps keep you top of their minds in the long run.

Create screencast tutorials and presentations

A screencast is simply a video recording of your computer screen accompanied by audio narration. For example, use a PowerPoint presentation or high-quality visuals, and narrate as if you were giving a presentation. Screencasts are one of the most cost-effective techniques for producing video content and are the perfect place to start if you’re camera shy or don’t have a video camera.

Content is king, but it’s not the only thing you need to pay attention to if you’re trying to get a leg up on LinkedIn.

Building your following is a sure-fire way to gain traction on the platform, but you want to make sure those connections are relevant and add value to your network. So read on for our tips.

Add a page link in your email signature

If you’re already emailing someone professionally, it’s likely your page will interest them.

Add the follow company plugin to your website

This drives visitors from your website to your LinkedIn, increasing your reach.

Mention companies and pages in page updates

By mentioning companies with the @ symbol, it’s easier for them to reshare your content in front of your audience. Think about the companies you admire and have solid followings and mention them in your updates.

Keep it up

Post consistently – according to LinkedIn, pages that post daily get twice the member engagement. Try the 3, 2,1 technique to keep your content varied- every week, aim to post three pieces of industry-related content, two pieces of ‘proud’ content (content that makes your employees and followers feel good) and just one piece of product-related content.

Remember to engage promptly – reply, comment and ask questions and keep your business details and photos up to date. Building a community on LinkedIn requires attention.

LinkedIn and email marketing are crucial facets of any company’s digital marketing efforts, whatever size the business is. We hope these tips help you take advantage of these brilliant tools to reach your current and potential customers.

5 Minutes with Caroline Carr

Caroline Carr is the Director of CC Marketing Communications and Communications & Client Director at workplace mental health organisation This Can Happen.

In this role, Caroline works across sales and marketing to achieve the company’s aims of supporting employers and employees to create a positive environment for good mental health.

Hi Caroline, thanks for chatting with Colour Me Social! Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background?

My background has always been in events marketing. I am events through and through – any type of events, awards, conferences, big consumer exhibitions – in every sort of industry. I’ve done everything from finance, retail, and consumer. I was the Marketing Director of the Ideal Home Show for about six years, which was the massive big event that happened at Earls Court, and on the Ski Show, women’s health events; a real mixture! 

And then, about seven years ago, I set up my own consultancy, and it was very much a lifestyle choice. I wanted to be a mum to my kids and run my own business as well, and I haven’t looked back. This Can Happen is one of my clients, so I juggle them along with a few other clients as well. I love the variety. 

What do you like about running your own company? 

I love the flexibility, and I love being my own boss. The fact that it’s in marketing is exciting, as things are constantly evolving in the industry. I had learned more new skills in the last five years than ever before because suddenly, I didn’t have a team around me, and I had to do it myself. I’ve really become an expert at WordPress and MailChimp and HubSpot, and so much more. Previously I was working at a much more senior, strategic level, but now I’m managing strategy plus all the hands-on elements of marketing too.

What does your role at This Can Happen entail? 

Well, I’m an early riser. So you’ll always find me at my computer by half-past five in the morning, and that gives me an hour and a half to get ahead of everybody. In my role at This Can Happen, I head up all the content and the sales side, so I’m really spinning two plates. On the content side, I’m looking after our social channels and email, all of our content, be that video articles, blogs on which I work with the brilliant Colour Me Social! 

Within my role, I am responsible for marketing our different products and pushing them out appropriately, and also, I’m a brand ambassador – it’s up to me to make sure that everything we put out represents the brand.

Then on the flip side, I also look after the sales team. So it’s my responsibility to bring in the revenue that allows us to do what we do to continue growing. So that’s revenues across everything from ticket sales, our friends’ programmes, the webinars we sell, speakers –  everything, and we’re a really small team! Although everybody gets involved and helps, which makes it lovely.

What was it that appealed to you about This Can Happen?

So much, you’re not gonna be able to stop me! The company is all about workplace mental health. I can honestly say for the first time in 25 years of being in the event space, I feel like I’m working on a brand that is making a difference – quite simply making a simple difference to people’s lives, and that is so refreshing, and motivating, and so rewarding. I just love it. 

Everything we put out as a brand is there to offer solutions and support to people to help them with their mental health, and if one thing I do can make a difference to someone’s mental health, then that’s just brilliant. 

It’s also really exciting to be part of a brand that is growing rapidly. We started as a conference three years ago, and now we’re much more than that – we’ve got about seven or eight different products. So the pandemic really challenged us to look at changing our model and how we operate and offer resources all year round, not just sporadically. 

The people you meet come into this mental health space because they have a personal experience of some sort. It might be their own personal experience or colleagues or a family member. Still, they’ve all somehow indirectly or directly been involved in witnessing someone with poor mental health, and it’s made them want to make a difference. 

What are the unique marketing challenges for an organisation like This Can Happen?

I think the challenging thing for us is that in the last 18 months, mental health has really come to the top of the workplace agenda. With that comes 3000 companies offering apps and solutions of some sort to people. So it’s suddenly become a very crowded space – there are a lot more conferences, a lot more awards, a lot more experts, and a lot more services being offered. So that’s a real challenge, trying to make This Can Happen’s brand stand out amongst all the support out there. 

Ultimately, the fact that there is so much support and that it has come up to the top of the agenda is brilliant. But we as a brand have got to make sure that we get our voice out there, and we’ve also got to make sure that we are constantly innovating to stay ahead of the competition. So it certainly keeps us on our toes!

How has the role of marketing at This Can Happen changed in the Covid-era?

Of course, the biggest shift is that nearly everything is now digital. I’ve seen LinkedIn explode. I think that’s due to a mixture of people having a bit more time, people being furloughed, job hunting, people supporting each other and struggling industries more – there’s a real sense of camaraderie. However, LinkedIn has been saturated on the flip side, so trying to get your voice and your message across has become almost impossible. 

Another change is the shift to virtual events and webinars, and I think there’s real fatigue for that now. People are consuming media on the go – there’s been an explosion of podcasts, which is great because you can listen to them as you’re walking. And I think the way to stay ahead is just being really innovative with your approach in terms of digital, particularly on LinkedIn. 

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

You know, there’s only one brand that I absolutely love. And I don’t know if it’s because my mum was Irish, but it’s Guinness. I absolutely love the Guinness marketing – I think it’s so clever. But, of course, I also enjoy a pint of the black stuff myself! So I just think it’s brilliant: it’s simple, striking and funny – the adverts make me smile. And if something makes me smile, it sticks in my head. So to me, it’s genius marketing. 

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.

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 Lucy Paine

Welcome to the third instalment in our series of blogs that look at all aspects of the challenges facing small businesses. For our third edition, we sat down with Lucy Paine from TechSpark who is leading their Tech Swindon ecosystem development project.

What was your background prior to Tech Swindon?

Very varied, I have worked for Pre IPO start-ups in Silicon Valley, within tech and education companies in sales, partner management and marketing, run my own business and most recently spent almost five years at Sussex Innovation Centre putting all my knowledge, experience and connections into helping other people grow their companies, or take their idea into reality.

Most of my roles have been around people and collaboration looking back but I can’t claim that there was a plan.

How do you help support small businesses in your role?

Tech Swindon is a new initiative focussed upon glueing together all the great tech scene in Swindon to then nurture and develop into a community able to challenge for talent against the shiny lights of cities like Bristol and Brighton.

The support we offer ranges from creating a peer-driven Swindon Founders meet up through to one to one strategy workshops – I’m a resource for the SME tech community and what that looks like is flexible as we evolve the proposition and meet more companies.

What inspires you about working with small businesses?

Helping them progress, as a neutral resource I offer can a sounding board, challenge strategy, help them test assumptions, build a team – we are a not for profit and I am not trying to upsell services. The success of Tech Swindon will be reflected by the growth of our small business community, and I hope some of that will come from the confidence and intelligence of the support delivered.

In your opinion how important is growing your small business network, building relationships and nurturing connections to help grow a business compared to other sales/marketing activities?

There are two angles to this question – firstly running a business can be really hard, lonely and having a network of fellow founders means you can share your issues/ highs and lows with a group of peers who understand and can help.

Secondly, the old cliché of people buying people is still true even in 2020 – and through networking, you’ll meet clients, partners and connectors you’d never build any depth of credible relationship with on LinkedIn. Just be picky with your networking, but when you find a group that works commit, go each month and build meaningful engagement, don’t expect a sale, hope for an interesting conversation and it will be worth your time.

You can also use this networking to support your sales and marketing, get onto social, take a photo of the group, tag the organiser, attendees you met etc and add an intelligent comment that they will all share – again do this with integrity and they’ll start sharing your message.

What are the main challenges you see SMEs face in doing this?

Time v perceived value – I have seen some companies go to every networking event going for two months, then decide none are worth it so don’t leave the office for the rest of the year. Research a meeting, check out the attendee list and if no one there is remotely in your space don’t go – find your tribe but also throw in a random one with an interesting speaker.

I think a lot of people worry about how false networking can be, and the first time is always awkward, but the second time you’ll recognise the faces and the conversations will develop from weather to something more meaningful.

I am avoiding the word useful, just sounds too manipulative – if you only look for useful you’ll miss interesting and genuine connections are more to lead to a referral than useful ones. We’ve all met the person who starts with asking what do you do, and looks over your shoulder as soon as he/she has decided you’re not going to buy what he is selling – don’t be that person.

How do you see small business networking, building relationships and nurturing connections changing in the future? Will Tech play a bigger role?

Tech hasn’t mastered the complexities of an in-person networking connection, LinkedIn is great to keep in touch, and webinars for quick calls or training, but we get so much more done in person.

It’s just like dating, apps and matchmaking platforms all sound great, but you only know when you meet someone if it’s going to work. And while business is a different transaction the trust you build in those first meetings is why you buy/ sell/ recommend/ partner with someone.

What is the most powerful networking event you have been involved with?

Powerful networking to me is a group where I feel comfortable, with familiar faces and new ones, in a non-sales environment where the room wants to hear more about you without judgement and who are themselves well connected and able to help you make connections that impact your business – that’s the utopia of networking and very rare.

In Brighton that was the Brighton Chamber Breakfast and their success was underpinned by the team and the culture of the Chamber – there was the odd salesperson but they didn’t tend to come back, they’d missed the point!

Do you have any final words of advice for small business owners wanting to improve their network and their networking skills?

Make time for networking, research the groups around you and try a few. Prepare your 30 second “What does your business do” reply, make it natural and interesting – and then listen to all the replies you get.

LinkedIn with the people you enjoyed meeting, ignore the invitations of the ones you didn’t and commit to going to the group that has the most relevance for at least 6 months, offer to talk, offer to sponsor a lunch/ charity event and see this time as a business and personal investment.

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.