In a world where businesses have been forced to adapt to so many sudden changes, it is not just people’s needs and behaviours that are changing, their beliefs and feelings are too. This is a time to focus not only on our methods (and how we communicate) but the substance, tone and style of what we communicate.
Innovation and standing out means being aware of the world around you
I have been involved in building brands and marketing businesses for almost 25 years. The digital age has forever changed the landscape; how we reach customers, communicate with them and how we do business. As with any decade’s fashion trends, some principles always seem to retain a degree of relevance, while others fall out of favour. In the same vein, there are aspects that make a resurgence and find new contextual relevance – I am talking about ways of reaching customers and talking to them that become opportunities all over again.
Which methods are right from one business to the next will never be the same, but I want to focus on local this month and how any business can build its local profile.
In the last four to five years we have been thrown into a combined Brexit/pandemic nightmare and the people of Britain are, collectively, pretty fed up with all the problems and the negativity they are having to contend with. For any business to think they can do things the same way they always have would be very foolish, short-sighted and a likely costly misadventure.
Businesses need to rethink their marketing, entirely, and see that there are huge advantages to recognising and reacting to the changes in people’s behaviours, attitudes and feelings.
Get back to basics and put the time and effort into people – it will pay off
One of the biggest ‘advances’ in marketing has been automation; taking tasks that one would traditionally have worked through manually and using software and complex algorithms (computers) to do the work for us. While there are benefits to automation at the top of any sales or marketing funnel, I have some real issues with how far some aspects of it have come and what I see as a very negative impact on the quality of how decisions are made and how communication is managed.
A computer will never be able to make decisions on how to communicate with people as effectively as another human because it will never apply emotion to those decisions.
My point is that, at a time like this, business people must stop relying on these systems so much and should put the time and energy into understanding customers on a more personal and emotional level. Marketing communications have become generic, flat and soulless, so it is time to bring some humanity back to everything.
Traditional methods of communication are really coming back into the fore: letters/postal marketing, emails and good, old-fashioned conversation (even if that has to be done online). When you combine this with a focus on local, you can really tick a lot of boxes in creating genuinely fruitful opportunities.
It’s time to start talking and to make it meaningful
Where is everyone right now? Generally, people are stuck at home and sat in front of a computer. The constant and unrelenting digital world is a drain and people do not naturally spend so much time conversing without real and tangible, personal human contact. That is where the savvy marketer comes in and that is where you come in!
A lot of firms are justifying to themselves reducing their marketing or stopping it completely. This is a common financial knee-jerk and my advice has always been the same: This presents plenty of new opportunities to stand out and the best way to get through a crisis is in fact to market more, not less.
Before you do anything, I suggest you simplify your message and give it a more personal and meaningful touch. Avoid talking about all that is going on and focus instead on something positive and helpful. Then, start reaching out directly to people you want to work with; call them, find them on LinkedIn and start a chat or maybe even send them a letter for when they return to the office.
Many people are being prickly and resistant towards what they see as the same old soulless marketing churn hitting them every single day: Spam emails, the same old noisy call centres. They largely will not react well to it. However, if you take the time to do something a little different and present yourself on a personal level, not as a company but as yourself, you go from pushing business to making human contact. Frame it in a positive and soft, emotive manner – make it real and make it from you.
Get your message out into the real world, in a real way
What I want to instil with this article is to reach out more directly, more personally and to say things that will have some real, emotional value. What do I mean by this exactly? Well, if we first start with reaching out directly, I mean getting yourself and your business in front of people, in their homes. An extremely effective way of doing this, which has become really under-utilised in the digital age, is physical mail. Direct mail (postal) has become prohibitively expensive for all but the best-known brands due to the rise in postage costs. What many do not realise is that there are alternatives and one of the cheapest and best is Solus Delivery. Now, it is not for every business of course, but if you provide a service that could be used by the everyday person, such as a trade, then it really is for you. Best of all it is cheap at around 10% the price of sending a letter. When you factor in printing costs, which are also incredibly cheap right now, you can get thousands of physical, tactile flyers or leaflets out to your local market for a few hundred pounds. For many, just one customer will pay for the campaign, so I recommend this as one of the best and most enduring ways to reach new, local customers.
As your starting point, I strongly recommend getting in touch with the brilliant team at Pulse Magazine to ask about their incredibly affordable and effective Solus Leaflet campaigns.
The other thing I strongly urge you to do, if local business is important to you, is to put more time into getting your Google My Business profile up to scratch and becoming more active on social media. These will really help you to get noticed and start more of the conversations I am referring to above.
After all of the pain people have been through, and continue to go through, there is a shifting mindset of thinking about home first; of buying British, buying local and buying from real, hard-working people who will see the benefit. It is a subconscious mindset of simply buying better to help us all out of a hole instead of buying cheap from anywhere, whatever the true, long-term cost.
Say something more meaningful.
Make your activities feel more personable.
Start real conversations in a real way and you will build some strong and enduring new customer relationships out of difficult times.
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