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Building Relationships with Your Customers Through Storytelling

MarketingSarah Thom

 

Storytelling has always been an integral part of our lives; from listening to the stories your parents read to you as a child, to when you’re telling stories to your friends. It’s a powerful psychological tool, used to evoke feelings and emotions within people and build relationships – something that has not escaped the attention of companies and brands in marketing themselves.

Consumers no longer want to just buy the “best” products, but want to buy from businesses that share their beliefs and values. It’s because of this, that storytelling has become an important tool in the tactical marketing toolbox.

Marketing through storytelling is the indirect sell, it positions your business to the consumer, rather than explicitly sells the product itself. And it can be used by businesses big or small.

So how do you do it?

The cornerstone of any successful storytelling campaign is understanding your businesses own characteristics and values, and how these resolve the pain points of customers who buy from you.

By pinpointing the answers to these questions, you’re not only on your way to being a storytelling success but also understanding the strengths of your brand.

Below we give you some handy pointers on how you can build up engaging storytelling in your campaigns:

 

 

● Don’t just share statistics – people remember stories much more than they remember facts and figures.

● Use real stories, or at least ones based on real stories – you will receive a negative response if consumers perceive you to be false.

● Use your employees, they are a great resource – ask them what they like about your company and why they chose to work there. Then use these stories in your campaign.

● Use descriptive language – the aim of storytelling is to evoke feelings and emotions, so make sure that you use language which will do these things. Imagine a time when you picked up a book to read, or found a blog post, but when you started to read it you found that you felt nothing – did you carry on reading it? Or did you discard it and forget it altogether?

● Write about WHY you do what you do, not WHAT you do. Your unique story and ethos behind your company is what will draw people in and keep them interested much longer than your latest product.

 

 

Storytelling is a great way to build stronger relationships with your customers. So, why not get started on your story today?

Third-party email lists – beware of the pitfalls

DigitalEleanor Yeo

 

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.

How to get the most out of Christmas as a small, local business

Marketing, StrategySarah Thom

Christmas is big business in the UK. Although the holiday sales season may only last 5-6 weeks, it is worth a staggering £70 billion to the UK economy. So, thinking about how we can help local, independent businesses get a piece of this and make the most out of the season; here are our top 5 recommendations for the holiday period:

1.      Rewards: Christmas is a great time to reward your loyal customers and make them feel valued. A lovely way to do this is to give them exclusive deals or discounts during the Christmas period. You could send vouchers or discount codes to their addresses, or through email. It has been found that people who receive vouchers are likely to spend more than the voucher is worth, meaning that there could be a lot to gain.

2.      Acknowledgment: Another way to thank your customers and make them feel valued is to send them Christmas cards. This has two functions; it makes them feel valued by your company and also serves as a gentle reminder that you are there. This combination means that they will be more likely to return to you for your services. You could even send out ‘Thank You’ emails that are Christmas themed, thanking them for their custom through the year and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

3.      Contests: This is a great way to get your customers to engage with your business. Use social media and your website to promote the contest and ask people to submit their entries for a prize. This is a fantastic way to promote your business and engage people in a fun way.

4.      Collaborations: Work with other local businesses to provide giveaways that will get people talking. Both businesses will benefit from the extra exposure during the Christmas period and it may even lead to further collaborations in the future, as well as reaching out to both customer bases.

5.      Giveaways: Another way to promote your business this season is to have a giveaway. This entails giving each customer a small token gift with their purchase. These are fantastic as your customers will talk about your giveaway to other people, both promoting your business and also potentially leading to more sales from new customers.

These are just 5 of the great ways that you can increase customer interaction and promote your business this Christmas season. Get in touch with us today if you would like to discuss how your business can benefit from the season and what we can do to help. 

Who do you know? Starting a marketing or PR campaign

Marketing, PRRob Mulholland

There are many questions to consider when starting marketing or PR campaigns – what’s our objective, what’s our budget, do we have the time or the right skills to pull off the work? But don't forget to think about who you know.

Costs effective marketing isn’t just about acquisition

MarketingRob Mulholland

We talk to a lot of businesses about their marketing and I would say easily more than 95% of them are purely focused on acquisition (finding brand new customers) when it comes to their marketing. Now I’m not about to rubbish marketing acquisition strategies, they clearly have their place in the mix of activities, but to be solely focused on this is a big mistake, and here’s why:


About Retention Marketing

Indicative of the word, “retention” focuses on retaining the customers you already have rather than those you don’t. In focusing on these important customers you’re giving yourself a huge advantage. They know your business and they’ve bought from you before; you don’t have to do the hard work of getting them over the threshold – rather you now have to do the hard work of keeping them loyal! In this respect, communications to this audience can be highly targeted – based on buying history or personal attributes sometimes collected at the point of sale. For example, if you sum up the value of some of your best customers it may be wise to acknowledge and reward this loyalty with giveaways, previews or discounts. All of these activities can also feature within upgrade strategies too (see below).


About Upgrade Marketing

Also indicative, upgrade marketing focuses on trying to “up” the value of existing customers. This may be done through trying to get customers to convert to more profitable products (bigger margins) or simply more expensive products (bigger prices). Again, using customer data as a base to gain insights from, you can target the most suitable and relevant products at the right people – not every more-expensive product at every customer. Be intelligent in your approach.

Many channels, including the majority of digital marketing and PR (two areas we’re particularly strong in), are configured to focus on mainly acquisition marketing strategies. However, we strongly recommend clients always look at their existing customers before embarking on these more expensive and riskier activities.

The Importance of the Creative Brief

MarketingSarah Thom

The creative brief, sometimes written by clients, sometimes written internally by the agency, is a fundamental element of any marketing communications campaign. The main objective of this important document is to minimise confusion and clearly define the parameters of the project for both the agency and client; ensuring that the project is completed to the correct specifications (in terms of design, purpose, budget and time limits). This further guarantees that time and money are used efficiently and not wasted.

These briefs transmit the information which has been put forward by the client, regarding the project, to the agency in a clear and concise way which means that everybody is clear on what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by, but importantly they act as a spark of insight to get the creative process going.

There are several different areas that a brief needs to address; it should clearly define what the project is, for example, a monthly newsletter, who the target audience is and the objectives which the client wants to be met by the project. At McQueenie Mulholland we see objectives as vital as they determine what success looks like to the client and act as a guideline to accurately measure the results of a given campaign.

Another important aspect of the brief is the budget; the project budget of the client is essential as it determines the scope of the campaign, how much time is spent on it by the agency and how long the campaign will last. The activity’s schedule and deadlines should also be indicated in briefs to ensure that everyone is aware of the time restrictions that are in place allowing the agency to plan accordingly. The most important component of a brief could be argued to be the proposition. We recommend that propositions are short, concise sentences, which through its brevity gets to the point in outlining exactly what the client wants the campaign to achieve. Propositions help keep the agency’s team focused.

Further information to include is: what information about the campaign do we, as the agency, know already? And the flip-side from that what information do we need to know to complete the work.

A brief can go through a variety of processes before being finally approved. At McQueenie Mulholland we first write an initial brief which is then internally circulated to our planning strategist and then our creative lead for approval. After this it is then sent to the client who has final sign off. It’s only when both the client and the agency have agreed and approved the brief that the project can begin.


Our top tips for writing creative briefs:

 
  • Keep the brief simple and to the point- excess information can take away from the objectives of the project and blur what is important
  • Invest time into it – although briefs are meant to be short and concise this does not mean that they’re not worth spending significant time on them to complete; the more work put into a brief at the beginning the more easily good work will follow
  • Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions when writing the brief: if you are confused about an aspect of the project, don’t be afraid to ask the client or other people in your agency for the answers. It will benefit both you and the brief if you have a clear understanding of what is required
  • And finally, be creative: briefs are more than just informative, they are meant to be motivational too. So don’t be afraid to mix things up a little bit and think outside the box!
 

Our Top 5 (on a budget) Marketing Communications Tactics

MarketingEleanor Yeo

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! 

It’s still all about the brand

Strategy, PREleanor Yeo

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!