5 ways to build better customer relationships

The most important asset that a company can develop is a positive and understanding relationship with its customers. Understanding your customers means that you understand their needs, where to reach them, and what messaging will be most effective, saving you time, effort and money when it comes to creating your marketing campaigns. In today’s article, I look at five ways you can improve your understanding of your customer base and build better relations.

1) Talk to your customers

This is a simple point, but it can’t be overstated enough. Talking to your customers about their experiences and their needs is the best and simplest way to improve your understanding of them. Nobody knows more about what your customers want than they do.

To get the best results from your customer contact, you need to have a plan for what you want to achieve. Ideally, you should choose one or two key points you want to get more information on, and ask questions specifically addressing those points. Without focus, you’ll be limited to a very generic understanding of your customers, which is of limited use in improving the customer experience. Take care, as well, to try to remove biased or leading questions; you want the real and honest opinions of your customers, not something influenced by what you might want to hear.

2) Take advantage of analytics

This isn’t the first or last time that I’ll praise the usefulness of analytics on this blog. Every website owner has access to vast troves of information on how their customers use and interact with their website. Analytics can show you what your customer like, whet they don’t, what pages are attracting the most views and what content is working for your audience. All of this is vital information, and something you should always take advantage of. Use analytics to see where you can improve your sites user interface to draw more attention to the pages you want to see more traffic on, what content to focus on developing, and what your customers most want from your business.

3) Know your customer’s interests

It might not seem important to know what your customers are interested in beyond the scope of your business, but there are definite advantages that you can take from knowing the other habits and interests of your customers. Understanding what your customers engage with gives you an understanding of their values and their drives, and is an incredible mine of opportunities for content marketing or cross-promotional campaigns. Being able to talk with your customers about the things that matter to them makes it easier to capture their interest, and positions you as an organisation they are more likely to trust.

4) Take personas further

Customer personas that are only based on simple demographic data such as age and gender are of some use, but personas can be taken much further. If you have followed the advice in this article, you should have a much deeper understanding of your customers, incorporating information on how they use your product, how they use your website, their attitudes towards your company, their purchasing habits, and their interests beyond your business. All of this is information that should shape how you interact with your customers. Once you have it, use it, and incorporate it into customer personas that more closely capture the types of customers you have.

5) Understand the customer journey

Mapping the customer journey lets you understand exactly what is needed to turn a customer from a prospect to a closed sale. That journey might be simple or complex, but the only way you will understand it, and how to improve it, is to take the time to map it out. Look at each step in the journey and consider what you can do to reduce resistance, improve the customer experience, and provide better service. An improved customer journey will increase your sales volume and create happier, more loyal customer from your leads.

If you want to build an in-depth understanding of your customer base, John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help. Visit us online at jrdm.com.au and find out what we can do for your business.

Funny business – using humour in your content marketing

When you work on your content marketing, what tone of voice are you using? For many businesses, its easy to fall into the trap of creating volumes of dry, corporate content that might sound good in the boardroom, but will leave your customers cold. In today’s article, I discuss ways that you can use humour and tone to make your content connect with your audience.

1) Don’t be afraid of humour, especially on social media

How much should you be using humour in your content? To a great extent, that depends on the platform you are using. Social media is one of the most natural homes for funnier content, with users looking for bite-sized, entertaining content more than in-depth solutions or stiff corporate communication. A more informal tone when communicating with your customers is ideal here, and helps them to feel that they’re connecting with a person, not just a company. Short-form video content that showcases your business in an amusing way works well here too, helping you to stand out from the crowd and win audience attention.

2) Don’t ignore the power of memes

Memes are about as far from traditional marketing and communication as you can get, which means that many businesses shy away from using them out of a fear that it will make them look ‘unprofessional’. But used well, memes can connect with your audience on a personal level, and their easily-sharable nature means that a meme that connects with your customers will go on to be shared with their friends and family, widening your reach without any further effort – the holy grail of content marketing!

3) Be natural

Like everything else in content marketing, humour needs to feel genuine and natural. Whether you’re creating memes, email headlines or social media posts, forced humour will turn your audience away just as fast as fake enthusiasm or unnatural language would. Don’t reach for jokes. If something isn’t offering up easy humour, or if humour isn’t your strong suit, then don’t force it. But if you or someone in your business has a gift for comedy, take advantage of it!

4) Make the content fit the context

It goes without saying that humour isn’t appropriate in every context. While most products and services can benefit from occasional humour, there are a few that would never touch it. Trust that you have a good enough idea as a business owner of your company and your customers, and go with your instincts. Additionally, remember that some situations – customer complaints chief among them – are not good times to use humour no matter what your business provides.

If you want to widen the ways you promote your business, John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help. To find out what we can do for you, visit us at jrdm.com.au.

5 ways to be a better content marketer

Content marketing is the backbone of any digital marketing strategy. Used well, content marketing is cheap, effective and engages your customers in a way that no other marketing can. However, getting it right can take a lot of work. In today’s article, I look at five ways to make sure that you are putting your effort into the right areas and making content that will meet the goals of your business.

1) Write with passion

If you’re creating content for your own business, this should hopefully be an easy thing to achieve, but it’s worth saying all the same. The first and most important thing when putting together content marketing is for you to have a genuine passion for what you are writing about. The aim of content marketing is to create material that will draw your customer’s attention. If what you are writing is flat and uninspired, or if you are trying to fake an interest, your readers will know it. Make sure that you care about the topics you are covering, and you’ll be well on the way to creating content your readers will care about too.

2) Write with a goal

Always remember that content marketing needs a specific purpose. While it’s important that your readers will be interested in what you’re saying, you also need to bear in mind exactly what you are trying to get your reader to do with each piece, whether that be to sign up to an email, to engage with your website or to buy a product. Keep your intended goal in mind as you create a piece of content, and make sure that your content is leading the customer towards that goal.

3) Use analytics

If you follow this blog regularly, you’ll notice this is a piece of advice that I’ve given again and again, and it’s worth repeating. Pay attention to your analytics. You need to be sure that the content you create is resonating with your audience, and you need to know which pieces you have created are getting the most attention. Using your analytics will show you what your best performing content is, which means you’ll know what works for your audience and what doesn’t.

4) Master research

The internet is a treasure trove of information that can be used to inspire and provide material for content. If you’re not already great at research, take the time to try to improve your skill in the area. Ideally, you should be able to look through the data available to identify trends in your industry, analyse market data, identify new opportunities and generate new content to take advantage of them.

5) Make use of marketing automation

As I said at the beginning of this article, content creation can take a lot of work. Marketing automation takes some of that work off your shoulders, not just scheduling content for your website but also letting you set up email and content flows that will automatically send your leads the content to nurture them from their first interest to becoming a potential client, saving you time and energy.

If you want to build a better content marketing strategy for your business, John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help. Visit us online at jrdm.com.au to find out what we can do for you.

Planning for the unexpected

If recent years have shown anything, it’s that we can’t guarantee that tomorrow will continue to look the same as today. Unexpected change can come from any angle, and like with any section of a business, your marketing needs to be able to adapt to the changes that might come along. In today’s article, I look at four ways that you can prepare yourself and your marketing to deal with unexpected change.

1) Leave room in your plans for change

A marketing calendar gives you the opportunity to lay out the content that you will be using ahead of time. This is a great tool for any marketer, helping to ensure that you have material on hand at all times, and that you are prepared for predictable events such as holidays, sales and your businesses regular sales shifts. However, a good marketing calendar should not be so packed with content that it leaves you with no room to manoeuvre. A good rule of thumb to follow is to break your content down into three main categories; one third of the material is new content, one third is repurposing that content for other formats, and one third is left open, allowing you to create material that is relevant to your needs at the time it goes live.

2) Plan for possibilities

While you can’t predict everything that might come up to disrupt your usual marketing plan, there are some things that you can assume will happen even if you are not sure when. Things like a disruption in foot traffic, a very visible customer complaint or an increase in demand for one of your products can all impact on what you might need from your marketing. Take the time to think through some of the events that you might encounter and come up with contingency plans you might use to offset any issues or take advantage of any opportunities.

3) Have a growth strategy

It’s surprising, but many businesses don’t have a plan in place for the one thing that they most want to happen – the growth of their business. This is a more specific version of point two, but it covers something that every business should be able to expect, even if you don’t know exactly when and where it will happen. Be sure that you have a plan in place for what will happen as your business grows, and how you will orient your marketing to best handle and manage the opportunities that growth will give you.

4) Take advantage of evergreen content

Sometimes, no amount of planning will prepare you for what has come up. Sometimes, nothing you have planned will fit with current events, and there isn’t much your marketing can do to take advantage of the situation. At those points, don’t be afraid to run some of your evergreen content, such as general advice or guides, to at least keep your content fresh and updated.

John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help you build a marketing strategy that works for your business. If you would like to find out more about what we can do for you, visit us online at jrdm.com.au today.

Are you working too hard on your content marketing?

Content marketing is a lot of work. Creating enough material to ‘feed the beast’ and keep your content channels lively can demand a lot of any marketing team, but like any other aspect of business, simply working harder isn’t always the right answer. Pouring too much effort into the wrong aspects of content marketing can severely hurt your success and waste energy that you could better spend elsewhere. In today’s article, I look at signs that you might be working too hard on your content marketing, and how to better focus your energy to get the results you want.

1) You’re over-thinking your content

As marketers, we have a range of data and information on our customers, our products and our campaigns, and we spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that we incorporate that data into what we produce – and that’s not a bad thing. But that can turn sour when we find ourselves relying only on data and forgetting the passion and drive that we have for the product we are selling. Content marketing goes out to an audience that cares about your products, or that cares about the problems your product solves. They live that experience, meaning they have a genuine connection to what you offer… and they’ll be able to tell if you don’t. If you find that your content is more about numbers and data than it is about a belief in your product, then you’re likely creating content that won’t resonate with your market. Always remember to put the passion you have for what you do into the content you create, and you’ll create content that will resonate with your audience.

2) You’re focusing on the hard-sell

There are a lot of marketing mediums where a hard sell can work, provided that it goes out to the right customer. Content marketing isn’t one of them. While you might be passionate and excited about having a new product and eager to tell your customer every feature that it has (and good for you if you are – see point 1!), no customer comes to content marketing to be sold to. Content marketing is about showing your customers that you understand them and their needs, providing content that is entertaining or helpful, and then introducing a connection between those needs and your products. If your content is falling anywhere outside the 80:20 ratio – 80% content, 20% sales, then you’re focusing too much on the hard sell, and you’re going to lose your audiences’ attention.

3) You’re not using internal resources

No marketer is an island. If you find that you’re struggling to come up with ideas that will connect with your customers, remember that other parts of the business have access to information on what your customers think and feel on a daily basis. Whether you’re a one-person operation or a part of a larger business, consider the information you can take from the customer-facing parts of the business – sales and services. Salespeople know exactly what your customers want and need, because they talk to them every day about those needs, and they know what aspects of your products are most important to those customers. Service staff know the issues that customers encounter with your product and the problems they most often need solutions to. If you are a sole trader, then consider the things your customers tell you and incorporate them into your content marketing. If you’re a part of a larger organisation, then take the time to talk with your customer-facing colleagues and find out what they know about your customers, and you’ll likely come up with dozens of new ideas for content that you can be sure will be relevant to your audience.

4) You’ve lots of content, but none of it is performing well

This can be one of the most insidious issues that you can face in content marketing. In the rush to fill the void, you’ve created page after page of content, but none of it is seeing the type of results you would like. While it’s important to create content on a regular basis to keep your business visible, it’s also important to make sure that content is relevant, and that it is targeted to the right parts of your audience. In many ways, this is the other side of the coin to my first point; don’t ignore the data that you have on your customers either. Make sure that you have built a strategy for your content marketing, and that everything you create is speaking to the customers you want to reach. Always know who you are trying to reach, what you are trying to say to them and why you are using the content platforms you are. Use the right platforms, the right formats, and talk about the right issues to reach your customers, and you’re more likely to create content that will perform the way you want it to.

Want to go further? John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help you to develop content that will connect with your customers. To get started with your new content strategy, visit jrdm.com.au today.

Four surprising content marketing facts

Content marketing is an ever-changing field, and what was true yesterday might not be true tomorrow. On top of that, even for a field as new as content marketing, common wisdom doesn’t always match up with reality. In today’s article, I look at four facts that might change what you think about content marketing.

1) Content marketing builds brand loyalty

As anyone who has ever looked with jealousy at Apple’s dedicated customer base knows, brand loyalty is a hugely valuable resource. Loyal customers aren’t just people who will regularly return to you, they are also frequently evangelists for your business, letting their friends and family know just why they should come to you. Word of mouth is some of the most powerful marketing available; people may be sceptical of your advertising, but they’ll almost always believe a trusted friend.

Good content marketing helps to create brand loyalty by showing your customers that you understand them and their needs, and by providing them with a reason to get excited about your business. If you can create content that forms bonds between you and your customers, you’ll go a long way towards building a relationship that will have a massive potential payoff.

2) Repurposed content can often beat original content

Not every piece of content marketing needs to be completely original. Over half of all content marketers will utilise content they have culled from other sources and repurpose it rather than relying entirely on original material. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from other articles or pieces of content that you have seen. Provided that the content is re-worked to suit your audience and your needs, and provided that you are taking elements you have seen and not lifting content wholesale from other creators, a repurposed piece of content will perform as well as, or better than, a wholly original piece.

3) Email is still the leading form of content marketing

Despite the growth of other platforms, from social media to video to blogs and beyond, email marketing is still the most popular form of content. Remember that email has several benefits – it will be delivered directly to your customers in a place that they regularly check, it can combine the best elements of social media and blogging, and if you are doing it correctly it will only be delivered to people who have specifically opted in to communication from you. By communicating to an audience that already has an interest in your business, you are putting your message in front of people who are the most likely to act on it, meaning a higher chance of them making a purchase. Though it may seem outmoded, email should always be a key part of any content marketing strategy.

4) There’s no one right way to handle content marketing

If the world were a simpler place, marketers would be able to rely on one simple method for their content marketing – one correct strategy, one best platform, one best message. Unfortunately, life is never that simple. Your content marketing strategy will always be as unique as your business is. The platforms that work best, the messages that most resonate and the types of content that will be most effective will always be different for every business. In practice, like with everything in your marketing plan, this means never assuming anything will be a success. Test everything, find out what works best, use that to shape your content, and then test again. Even a successful strategy will shift and change over time, so keeping on top of your data and tracking your content’s performance is a constant priority.

John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help you to build a content marketing strategy that works for your business. If you’d like to take your content marketing further, visit us online at jrdm.com.au today.

Taking every advantage

When building a marketing campaign, it’s important to make sure that you stand out from your competition and take advantage of every opportunity you have to set yourself apart. In todays article, I look at how to identify and utilise your competitive advantage to build stronger and more effective campaigns.

What is your competitive advantage

Every business is different, and every business has something that sets it apart from its competitors. Correctly identifying what points of difference exist between you and your competition mean that you can focus your business and marketing efforts in highlighting that difference, giving your customers a reason to chose you over your competitors.

You might differentiate yourself based on your price, your location, the expertise of your staff, your hours, the range of products you stock, the service you provide or any of a multitude of other options. Identifying what specific advantages you have means investigating your business and comparing it to your competitors.

Perform a competitive audit

To identify what makes you different from your competitors, you need to understand what they offer as well as what you offer. Take a look at your competitors and at their marketing and identify what they offer to their customers. Contrast them against your own business and see what they do differently. Evaluate the differences between your business and theirs and try to understand the business reasons behind their differences, what problems their products and services solve for their customers, and how they do so. Once you know the key differences between business and your competitors, you can more clearly see which aspects of your business offer benefits to your customers that they can’t get elsewhere.

Talk to your customers

Nobody knows more about what your customers want than they do. Talk to the people who use your business and find out why they come to you. Find out what needs they have that aren’t being served by other businesses, and what they would look for in an ‘ideal’ business. This is also a great time to make sure that your marketing is reaching the right people in the right way; talk to your customers about your marketing and see if it is discussing the things that matter to them.

Showcase your advantages

Once you know what sets you apart from your competitors in a way that matters to your customers, focus on those points. Make sure every piece of marketing you create clearly communicates the things that your company excels in. Focusing on the competitive advantages you have, in a way that solves your customers problems, will lead customers to you faster than anything else.

If you want to build campaigns that showcase the best of your company, JRDM can help. To find out more, visit us at jrdm.com.au today.

Marketing Tips: Using a Marketing Calendar

If you’re like most small businesses, it’s likely that your marketing is working on an ad-hoc basis; you do a little of it, whenever you feel you might need a lift, but it’s not at the front of your mind. But if you’re marketing without focus, then you’re more than likely wasting a lot of effort and not getting the results you should be. A Marketing Calendar helps you to organise your marketing efforts and make sure that you have the right content at the right time to get the most out of the work you put into marketing. In today’s post, I go through some tips for setting up and using a marketing calendar.

Set your strategy

Like any other part of a business, marketing works best when it is planned. I’ve discussed some of the elements of setting up a marketing plan before, but before you can put together as marketing calendar, you should at the very least know the basics of what you want to achieve with your marketing, who your audience is, what your budget is, and what platforms you will be targeting with your marketing. With an understanding of how you will be promoting your business, you can then use your marketing calendar to identify exactly when and where you will focus your marketing activity.

Look at your business throughout the year

Consider how, and if, demand for your business changes throughout the year. Some industries will fluctuate through the year, while others will remain mostly consistent. Take an honest look at which seasons are your busiest and when you see a downturn and plan your marketing accordingly. This means making sure that you have content and advertising ready to run in the lead up to your busy periods, to ensure that you stand out against your competitors. If you have seasonal downtime, take advantage of that too – the off season is an ideal time to engage customers with meaningful content marketing to keep your company at the top of their minds.

Ask when your customers make decisions

Some decisions are made far in advance of the customer’s purchase. For big ticket items – especially ones that are seasonally linked such as holiday gifts – it is likely that your customers will be considering their purchases ahead of time. Think about the lead time you might need to build into your marketing to ensure that your message reaches the customer at the right time to begin influencing their decision.

Plan it out

There are numerous content calendar templates available for use online. Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of detail that some go into – to begin with, you just need to be able to note down what marketing you plan do throughout the year, and when. You can always expand your calendar into more detail when you identify what information will be of use to you.

Build a library

Once you know when you should be delivering your marketing, you can start to build a library of content. Having the material you will need ready to go ahead of time takes the pressure off you as a marketer, letting you focus more effort on producing the best material you can. A content calendar also means knowing in advance what seasonal opportunities you can take advantage of, meaning that when a holiday or an important date for your customers arrives, you already have material on-hand and ready to take advantage of it. If you want to build a marketing plan that will drive success, JRDM can help. To find out what we can do for you, visit jrdm.com.au today.

Break your content marketing routine

Content marketing requires a constant stream of new material to maintain your organisation’s visibility online. It can be tempting to fall into routines and rely on the same form of content, but varying what you create, how you create it and the types of stories you tell can help raise your profile with fresh and exciting material. In this article, I look at five ways to vary the type of content you create and get better results from your content marketing.

1) Guest blog

Don’t just restrict your content marketing to your own channels. Guest blogging gives you an opportunity to reach out to your customers on other platforms, showing your connection with other brands and organisations that they trust. This increases the reach of your content marketing, bringing in new customers who might not have encountered you on your other content platforms, and raises your profile as a source of trusted information and expertise. Consider reaching out to other content providers that align with your organisation and see if they would be interested in collaboration.

2) Share customer stories

The one thing that you can be certain your customers are interested in is their own experiences, so it’s a fairly safe bet that an experience that is meaningful to one of your customers will be meaningful to more of them. Sharing the stories your customers share with you about how they use your products and services, and how they have used them to overcome a problem they have faced, will always be a great way to connect with your audience.

3) Create a message for change

If recent years have demonstrated one thing, it’s that there is a need and an appetite for social change. While approaching the topics around complicated social issues like mental health, social equality or systemic racism can be difficult, being willing to discuss those issues and work for genuine change is something that is especially important to younger consumers, who increasingly look for brands and organisations that share their social values. If you want to make a difference with what your company does, be willing to share those values.

4) Add interactivity

Consider adding interactive content as a part of your content mix. Interactive content lets your users explore what you have created in their own way, and has a level of engagement that traditional content lacks. This could be an interactive infographic, a service that delivers a customised solution to a user’s problem, or even something as simple as an online poll. Interactive content grabs the user’s attention and keeps it in a way that traditional content marketing simply cannot match.

5) Take advantage of new technology

Technology doesn’t slow down. There is always a new development, or a new app, or an entirely new medium. Creating content that takes advantage of new technology shows that your company is connected to the changing world, and positions you as relevant, up-to-date and flexible.

If you want to master your content marketing, JRDM can help. Visit us online at jrdm.com.au today to find out more.

Guidelines for marketing during Coronavirus

Without question, Covid-19 has completely overturned normal life for billions of people around the globe. Your business is facing challenges that none of us had expected we would have to face. Moving ahead and marketing your business in these times is complicated, but there are still sound principles that can be followed to make sure that you can continue to operate and function. In this article, I discuss five key points to follow to put together campaigns that will work in a business landscape that has been changed by Covid-19.

1) Be empathetic

Covid has changed the world for everyone, including your customers. Your customers are exposed to new pressures that have changed the ways they interact with the world, including your marketing. More than ever, its important right now to consider the tone and the messaging of your advertising. Be considerate of your audience, and of the stresses that you know they are experiencing. Avoid high pressure sales or fear tactics, and instead focus on providing a simple and straightforward explanation of how you can help to make your customers’ lives easier.

2) Be generous

In times of crisis, people come together. For reasons that go far beyond just marketing, now is the time that you should be thinking of how your company can help others around you. If there is a service that you can give, a product you can afford to provide or a message that you can share that can help your community, then you should consider doing so. Even using the voice that you have on social media, in your stores or on your website can help to promote the advice and information on dealing with the coronavirus, and help your community remain safe.

3) Consider your market

Even just across one country, communities have been affected by the coronavirus in different ways. While geographic considerations are always a part of marketing, Covid has made them more important than ever. Be aware of the issues that your customers in different areas might be having. Whether they are in a period of lockdown, what businesses are in operation and what restrictions are in place will all affect what is reasonable in terms of your advertising and what your customers can be expected to respond to. Keep up to date with the changing details, and structure your marketing plans accordingly.

4) Take advantage of your opportunities

Changing situations worldwide don’t just present new challenges, but also new opportunities. The changed business environment has meant less ad spending from large and small companies alike, which has lead to lower prices for paid advertising. At the same time, news sites and social media have seen increased traffic from people wanting to find out what is happening day to day. Consider looking into paid advertising, as current rates have made it more affordable than ever.

5) Don’t panic

The coronavirus is not the end of everything. You, and your business, need to continue operating, through this crisis and after it. Your marketing, like the rest of your business operations, will need to change throughout the crisis, but it doesn’t have to stop.

I hope that this article has offered some useful advice regarding marketing during the ongoing Covid situation. John Rowbottom Design and Marketing remains open, to help assist our clients with their campaigns and to provide ongoing support. To get in touch, please visit us at jrdm.com.au