Business is as much about what you know, as who you know. At McQueenie Mulholland we know the value of building and maintaining relationships with our clients, and Being Human is at the heart of everything we do.
Read our top hints and tips on how to stay focussed and plan ahead during the quieter times of the year.
With everyone calling themselves an 'expert' in their field, how do you truly know who the experts are? At McQueenie Mulholland we start with the facts and work together with our clients to develop a successful communications strategy. Find out more and contact us today.
Being able to communicate directly with your customers is vital to any business. One of the ways that's become more and more popular with businesses, when keeping in touch with their customers, is email communication.
Whether it is through a monthly newsletter, or just a quick email to remind them that you are there, email marketing campaigns can be very successful in getting people to return to your company again and again.
But building up your email contact list takes time and tactics. Getting people to give you their information is getting increasingly harder, as people are more reluctant to give out information which they fear may result in a deluge of emails or letters.
For this reason, some businesses resort to buying lists from websites and other companies. The theory is that because these people have already signed and given consent for their information to be used by one company and third parties, it doesn’t matter if they haven’t given it to you directly. But things are not always what they seem... such recipients are highly likely to perceive your email as ‘spam’ and label it as such.
We recently came across an example of where a business had purchased a list of thousands of new email addresses to send their newsletter to – meaning they had more than doubled their contact database overnight. The company that they bought the list from, assured them that the respondents had genuinely signed up to receive emails from companies such as theirs, so they thought that they had nothing to lose. Sounds simple enough.
However, what they hadn’t realised is that buying email lists can have a negative effect on your business particularly if recipients have never heard of you. On this basis, such recipients are highly likely to perceive your email as ‘spam’ and label it as such.
Email marketing platforms, such as Mailchimp, are very strict when it comes to the people who use their service. If you send out a ‘spam’ email, then they can impose harsher restrictions on adding new and genuine subscribers, shut down your account or even fine you. Even if you may not have intentionally sent out a ‘spam’ email, if too many of the recipients label it as such, then providers will act against you.
Buying third-party lists can also create a negative perception of your business among the people purchased. If people see your brand associated with ‘spam’ emails, which they did not sign up to receive, then negativity will grow and potentially spread.
So, what do we recommend to increase your email contact database?
Grow your list yourself and do it organically. Increasing awareness of its existence and possibly spending money on incentivising people to sign up is far better than spending money to buy the contact details of people who are not warm to your organisation.
At a recent McQueenie Mulholland away day, we were asked to think about one brand that we’d love to work with – a fantasy client. Answers from our team were really varied, from Ecover to Land Rover and a good mix in-between, but one answer that stood out was from Sue McQueenie who would love to work with…Lego.
Why would somebody want to work with a business that is so well known and established?
Well, as we’ve been finding out, this hasn’t always been the case.
We often work with companies who are going through, or are thinking about going through a re-brand, or are diversifying their product range in some way. We’d probably ask them a number of questions to ascertain how much they know about the market that they have, and the new market that they’re hoping to move in to.
And from now on, we’ll also be likely to refer them to The Guardian article, “How Lego clicked: the super brand that reinvented itself” as seen in the paper on 4 June.
The article discusses that as recently as 2003, Lego, the internationally renowned Danish toy manufacturer was reporting a 30% loss year on year and was £800m in debt. Fast forward to 2015, and the company overtook Ferrari to become the world’s most powerful brand. So what happened between those years to change the fortune of Lego?
Consultant Vig Knudstorp was bought in to turn things around. According to the Guardian article:
“He slashed the inventory, halving the number of individual pieces Lego produces from 13,000 to 6,500 … He also encouraged interaction with Lego’s fans, something previously considered verboten”
So, rather than adding to its product portfolio, Lego started by taking things away, by simplifying it. And they also talked to their customers. They used the time to find out what worked and what didn’t.
This resulted in a clearer focus – on making the things that they knew they were good at, and that set them apart from other toy manufacturers. But they expanded this existing product range, to include ranges for girls, and for adults, instead of just those primarily aimed at boys. Another key success was partnering up with those who are also very good at what they do – an example being the films and TV programmes that grace screens worldwide on a daily basis.
The result? Lego has just announced the highest revenues in its 85-year-history. We’ll certainly be using them as one of the best examples of a company turnaround that we’ve come across and we hope they continue to do well for many years to come.
We recently came across a situation where one of our brilliant clients wanted to start up a social media strategy for the first time. They’d dipped their toe in the water of Facebook on a personal level, and had heard from another marketing agency that they absolutely had to have profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for their business too.
Which begs the question we asked them, why?
Why do you need profiles on all three social media platforms? We weren’t saying that they didn’t, but we were asking them to think about what they felt they would get out of them. When they told us that they didn’t really know, it got us thinking about what advice we can give people when they’re unused to social media.
We are the first people to recommend that clients use a variety of channels and platforms to get their message across, both to customers, to suppliers, to the media and to the wider public. But we also recommend that this is done in a targeted, planned manner, and that a schedule is written as part of a wider marketing strategy. But what should be included in this?
A few things to think about here:
- Do you know the differences (in terms of consumption and demography) between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat?
Do you know your local press and how best to interact with their readers?
Are you aware of who your current followers are on each channel? Depending on your product/service, it might be that it’s your suppliers who interact with you on Twitter, whilst it’s your customers who follow you on Instagram. Make sure that you’ve looked at the analytics of each channel – do your research!
If you have a newsletter, who is it that reads it?
Do your social media posts reflect the messages of your business / brand as a whole? Do they reflect the messages that you put out on your website? In your blog? In your newsletter? Consistency is key.
By all means, use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to schedule some of your social media posts. But don’t rely on this for all your social activity, we recently wrote a blog about how to keep your social media, social. You also need to be able to respond to comments, questions and opportunities as they crop up, and if you aren’t sure whether you are going to be able to manage this, it’s worth getting in some additional support to help you.
We love helping organisations interact with their customers, their suppliers, the media and their local community. We would always ensure that this is done with the support of a plan, so that messages are consistent, timely and aimed at the relevant audience.
If you need help with this or with any other marketing activity, please contact us today.
We often find that the first task for any organisation is to clarify their message. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? All you need to do is define exactly what it is that you’re trying to say. But so often, so many organisations get it wrong.
So how can you expect potential customers to understand what it is that you’re trying to say, if you don’t fully get it yourself?
Here’s our top five messaging do’s and don’t’s. They might seem obvious, but all too often we see organisations in the spotlight who haven’t quite got it right.
1. DO make sure your team knows what it is that you’re trying to say
And by this, we don’t really mean just the team responsible, but the whole organisation. Internal communications is absolutely key to getting accurate and consistent messages across. If one team is launching a new product or idea, the first task must be to ensure that everybody in the organisation knows exactly what they’re doing, and critically, why the organisation is doing it.
2. DO ensure digital (as well as traditional) channels reflect your new message
So often, an organisation will launch something new, only for their website to still be talking about last year’s offering. Or an organisation will adapt their messaging but forget to update their social media profile, directory listings and other digital accounts. Make sure that your messaging is consistent across all channels.
3. DON’T ignore existing customers
There is no point in undertaking an advertising campaign and promoting something, if it doesn’t fit with your 3 million customers. Think about what your existing customers and supporters tell you. Use the data you have on your customers to inform all these decisions.
4. DON’T lie in your messaging
If you’ve said something just to increase sales, without knowing whether you can actually deliver, you risk losing existing customers as well as new ones. Messaging must always be true and accurate.
5. DO believe in your core message
If you’re saying something just to get column inches, instead of actually believing what it is that you’re saying, you will soon get found out. You risk seriously damaging the reputation of your business. Also, it’s far harder to sell something that you don’t believe in than something you do!
At McQueenie Mulholland we represent clients from a multitude of sectors, from charities to retailers, from B2Bs to farms.
The one thing that our clients all have in common is that they have a story to tell. And telling that story is a major part of increasing awareness, sales, and ultimately, profits. But, how do you go about it? Where do you start?
Last week, we gave a workshop at the Institute of Fundraisers regional conference. We work with a number of charities and, in particular, their fundraising and communications teams and individuals. Our talk was all about using communications as part of a data-led fundraising strategy, all on a very limited budget. We had more than 70 people at our session, suggesting to us that there is a definite need for support in this area. Here are our top tips on making the most of your communications strategy. They are designed to help everybody, regardless of size, scale and scope of business, to communicate to key audiences.
Drumroll please ... the countdown begins ...
Tactic number 5 - Your core message is vital
Do people really understand what it is that you do/make/sell? How good are you at explaining it to others?We start this process with our clients by summarising their business in a statement, and make it as long as it needs to be. Then, reduce it down to something that you could explain to somebody in about 60 seconds - we call this the elevator pitch. From that, reduce it down further to about a ten word proposition. Explaining to others what you do is a key part of promoting your business, and you must make sure that your audience fully understands what sets you apart from the others. You also need to have every single member of your staff clear on what your core message and values are.
Tactic number 4 - Map stakeholders and contacts
Who do you work with? Who do you know? Who do they work with? In what capacity are they useful to you? Get all of your contacts down on a bit of paper and plan a strategy for what they can do for you and how you can get them to reach others for you. Contacts are incredibly useful to you (as are you to them) but you need to know how they work and how they are connected and can be used in helping your business.
Tactic number 3 - Channel selection
How do you talk to your audience? Is it appropriate for everyone? Have you tested it to know how many people read, listened to or watched your piece? Who were they?Lots of businesses use the same old methods for getting their messages out without ever really knowing who has seen it and whether they’ve acted upon it. If you use digital channels you can measure your impact and use this to formulate future messaging and strategies. Ask yourself a little bit about who you’d like to see your story? How do they access their information? Where do they go to for news? Do they use social media? Do they read local newspapers? A few basic questions could really help you to define how it is that you want to get your message across.
Tactic number 2 - Timing
Have a think about seasonality. What else is going on in the news world? Is there a related story in the press that you might be able to respond to? It’s important to stay agile and keep abreast of what’s going on in your sector, in your local region and in the world at large - using gravity from other organisations or issues can give you momentum quickly. What else might your customers be interested in? Avoid working in silos so that you can share knowledge and information with others in-house, and they in turn can help you. Think about when quiet months are for news stories - you may be more likely to achieve positive coverage if there isn’t so much going on elsewhere.
Our top number 1 tactic - Always see your creative output as a content asset
Once you’ve come up with your story, be prepared to keep it alive by adapting it and using it across different channels and therefore audiences too. The days are gone where somebody would write a press release and send it out to their local newspaper and then sit and wait to see what happens. Today, you can write a press release, and send to your local newspaper but also adapt it to use in a number of different ways. Maybe re-write it so that it appears as a blog on your website (look out for a future blog from us, about blogs!!). Create a series of short messages with images to appear on your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Use that same press release but with different images and a slightly different angle for different media. Adapt it for digital. Make it into a video. Do whatever your audience wants in the way that they want it, at the time that they want it!
Whether it’s Marks and Spencer, Tesco or VW - we are surrounded by “brands”. They are an integral part of our daily life as customers, and crucial for helping businesses to grow, develop and maintain customer loyalty.
But a brand is not just a logo - far from it. A brand is the very heart of the company, the product, the reputation, the staff and the customers - a brand is a living thing, and its visual logo is only an element of that. Brands are the ‘X’ factor - they’re what makes your company stand out from the others.
My usual bleary eyed, early morning scan of the BBC news website, led me to two articles on well known British brands (RBS and Anne Summers), and how those brands have adapted to meet the needs of their customers. The RBS said:
"Our brands are our interface with our customers and through them we will be able to connect (with customers) and rebuild pride."
McQueenie Mulholland have recently been working on one of Devon's and Exeter's longest standing brands - the CVS (Council for Voluntary Service). Working to connect charities and businesses with the volunteers, staff or training that help them operate, the CVS has been in Exeter for about 70 years.
We’ve recently been tasked with starting this branch of the organisation off on the road to re-branding. We’re asking staff all about the organisation that they work for, how they describe it to others and what it really means to them and to the thousands of people that the organisation helps each year. After all, only by them all truly understanding what makes their organisation unique, can they build a brand that can adapt to new challenges and responsibilities.
This change is not something that will happen overnight. But it will become something that takes this valuable organisation into 2016 with the confidence that their staff, stakeholders, volunteers, partner organisations, customers and the general public understand, and can use, with confidence.
And we can’t wait to get started!
I'm a pretty curious person (some might call it nosey!) and throughout my adult life I’ve often found that this has formed the basis for some great friendships. I enjoy asking questions and finding out about the ins and outs, and ups and downs of people’s lives.
Let’s face it, asking questions is human nature. The first thing we do when we see our husbands and wives of an evening is ask how their day was, or what they’ve been up to at work. We ask our friends how they’re doing? And when asking my five-year-old son what he had for lunch that day, or who he played with in the playground, I get told to “stop asking me so many questions – I CAN’T REMEMBER!!"
"He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever." - Chinese proverb.
At McQueenie Mulholland we ask lots of questions. We use questions to get to the heart of our clients’ needs and aims. After all, research and the art of being nosey and finding ‘stuff’ out is what the world’s most successful companies and brands are really good at. Tesco recently announced that it was changing the layout in 50 of its stores because customers wanted related meal items next to each other. It asked, customers answered. Facebook have just announced that they’re including a ‘dislike’ button. Why? Because, when asked, Facebook users told them this was what they wanted.
As a small business owner, how are you going to find new customers, if you don’t know what drives your existing customers to your business? And how are you planning to reach your new customers if you don’t know which media channels they use and respond to? And how can you develop new product ranges if you’re not entirely sure whether people actually want them.
It’s all about asking questions, and making sure that you listen and use the answers. Just like being nosey on a personal level, but making sure that the questions asked are relevant and pertinent. Or in the words of Albert Einstein: