What Size Should Your Marketing Budget Be?

marketing budgetHave you ever wondered what amount you should set aside for marketing each year to grow your business?

How do you know what the optimum amount is? As an Marketing specialist, I’m often asked this question by startup and small business owners.

So what’s the answer? Whilst many business owners are looking for an answer such as €5000 or 10% of sales, I think this completely misses the point.

I believe the answer is…

You should not put a limit on your marketing budget

Let me explain. Whenever you undertake any marketing activity, you need to know whether you make a profit or not on that activity. The only way to do that is to measure the results of the marketing.

To do this you need to undertake direct response marketing as opposed to purely brand marketing. For small business especially it is crucial to ensure money spent on marketing is not wasted. The best way to do this is to record the results of any marketing activity, whether that be direct sales letters, advertising, telemarketing, email marketing, pay per click campaigns, seminars or whatever.

As a minimum, you need to know…

• The cost of the marketing activity

• The sales generated from that marketing activity

• The profit made from those sales

And if you make more from the marketing than it costs you, it makes sense to continue spending on that marketing activity until it stops making you a profit. You’ll of course know when this is because you are measuring your results.

By testing on a small scale to start with, you’ll never lose too much money if it doesn’t work, but when it does work, if you gradually increase your spend on this particular activity, you should continue to do so until it no longer makes you a profit. It doesn’t matter how much you spend, as long as you make a profit, it makes sense to continue to invest in the marketing.

And don’t stop at just one marketing activity. Test another marketing activity and if that makes a profit continue with that in the same way. Eventually, the aim is to have multiple marketing activities. This is the key to exponential business growth. Not being reliant on one activity, means you continue to grow even when one stops working.

by Mike Spratt http://www.rapidbusinessgrowth.ie

How to network effectively

ImageNetworking can be one of the most effective ways of marketing your business you will ever have.   Think about it – nothing is more effective in winning new business than a word-of-mouth referral. And most of us are more likely to do business with someone we know and trust.

And yet, I talk to many business owners who wonder if networking is all it’s made out to be. They tell me they talk to lots of people at different networking meetings, but few if any ever make contact later.

The truth is, networking is more of a long-term effort, like establishing your brand. It requires a continued effort over time.

What is networking?

Networking comes in many forms – from simply keeping in touch with satisfied customers so they will be more likely to refer you to their friends, to involvement in local community groups like Chambers, to joining local business networking groups like Business clubs that are created specifically to help business owners establish new contacts or joining online networking societies and communities to expand your Global reach.

LOCAL NETWORKING:

But while it sounds easy – after all, it’s just talking to people, isn’t it? – You need a plan to get the most out of your networking activity. Before you simply jump into networking, there are three key things you need to do:
1. Determine your purpose. Are you looking for mentors, possible business partners, suppliers, clients, or staff? Or do you want to find out more about your competitors, or your industry?
2. Consider the profile of people you will ideally meet. How can you get in a room with them, or associates who can personally refer you?
3. Get clear about your required outcome from each networking function. How can you improve the odds of that outcome?
Once you’re clear about your networking objectives, here are six networking tips to help you achieve them.

1. Choose your networking functions carefully.
There has to be an individual’s end result in mind, a program to suit, equipment available and an environment that keeps a growing number of members in willing attendance. So check out, for example:

  • What kind of people attend
  • How often it meets
  • How the meetings are structured
  • How much it costs.

2. Prepare for each meeting.
Make sure you have business cards ready, together with a good ‘elevator pitch’ so you can explain your business quickly and make it sound interesting and useful to the new people you will meet. Some networks allow you to do presentations, as for others you may just need a few comments on hand so you can discuss what’s interesting in your business at the moment or any high-points that others may need to know about you.

3. Stay focused.
Don’t be afraid to ‘screen’ the contacts you may make at networking functions. Networking can involve a considerable investment of your own time, so be selective and focused. After all, you’re there for a specific purpose. Not everyone you meet will be in a position to help you achieve your objectives.  This is ok…. remember, individuals that may not create win-win’s…know others that can…so keep your relationships solid

4. Get out of your comfort zone.
If you’re not particularly gregarious by nature, it’s tempting to spend time with people you may already know or feel comfortable with. But that won’t help you make new contacts that could help your business. Keep your business objective in mind, be prepared to move out of your comfort zone and be assertive.

5. Listen.
When you’re at a networking function, remember that listening to other people talk about their businesses is just as important as talking about your own. By listening to others talk about their problems and issues, you may be able to find ways that your business can help solve those problems. You may also discover ways in which you could work in partnership with other businesses to offer a better proposition to your customers.

6. Stay in contact.
Keep track of the contacts you make (maybe a database or just a simple card file), so you can continue to keep in touch with your network on an ongoing basis. Your business network is no different from your customers – they can’t buy your products or services unless they know what you have to offer. So keep in contact and let them know, in appropriate ways, what you’ve been up to in your business.  DON’T!! Spam them with offers, but contact them on a personal basis…asking them how they are doing and what they are currently in need of in their business.  Keep the lines open.  Spamming people you meet at an event with a product pitch…. will SHRINK your list.

In summing up, if you’ve been ‘junk’ networking and are frustrated by the lack of results, don’t give up just yet. Consider your purpose, choose events and organizations carefully, do what you can to improve the odds of success, then relax and enjoy the difference that such focus make.

ONINE NETWORKING:

With a significant number of small or medium enterprise (SME) owners thronging the net to meet, online social networking communities have found a new face as potential marketing tools.

Reid Hoffman, social networker and co-founder of LinkedIn, once said: “Listen to the market, your colleagues, and what your network tells you”. This use of online, friend/associate-based networking will prove to be one of the most valuable business tools the internet has yet provided.

With a wide database of users and user-friendly interfaces, online business social networks are good for advertising and publicity. You just have to create a profile and place all the necessary information about your company for your potential network to see. It doesn’t have to be complex and lengthy – just include your business name, the industry you’re in, the current employers, a brief history, and links to your website and business partners, if any.

You can talk to anyone about your products or services, and let them try if they wish. Nonetheless, you don’t use your page to sell directly. You don’t send Spam e-mails about your product and ask everyone to see and buy. Successful online networking involves making new friends and business connections or groups, not trying hard to widen customer base.

For more focused online networking, however, there are more than a couple of websites to choose from and here are the top 9 according to SM2 Media: http://blog.sdlsm2.com/social-media/top-social-networks-for-business/

Image

You then can use the system to seek “friends of friends” or business contacts of your friends.

It is very fun and easy to network online. With proper use, it can definitely be a powerful marketing tool.

Legna Marketing Group offers a full service business networking service for businesses.  If time is your issue, we’ve got that covered.  Let us set up your social media accounts, locate new people, send out the greetings and make new connections for you via these online platforms.  For more information or to contact us today about this service go to: http://www.LegnaMarketingGroup.com and contact us today.

How to “Bore People” and “Stay Anonymous” at a networking event

ImageI ran across this seriously sad scenario that happens at every event I host. There is some great humor in this and I hope it makes you think about next weeks networking event before you screw it up.

The Twelve Steps to becoming an Anonymous Entrepreneur

1. Wear grey! If grey is not available, curtain beige or sofa brown plaid will do.

2. Tell them that your business “specializes in promoting facilitation of soft skills development and incorporation of logistical solution systems in a pro-active communications environment…”

3. Make sure they get the full 60-second shpiel. If they interrupt you, start again at the beginning. You’ve crafted your infomercial; don’t let them throw you off by asking questions.

4. Tell them that you have 25 years experience doing what you said in point #2 above, and repeat it, just in case they didn’t get it all the first time.

5. Tell them you also do HR outsourcing on the side.

6. Don’t ask about them. They’re interested in you! Well, they asked, didn’t they? This is your chance to impress!

7. Hand them a two to three page photocopied pamphlet about your business in case they want to go straight home and read more about your “facilitation of soft skills development and incorporation of logistical solutions in a proactive communications environment,” and give them a couple of extra pamphlets in case they want to give some to their friends and neighbors.

8. Don’t tell them about the time you went skydiving in the Himalayas to rescue baby llamas or that you got a Line Dancing scholarship to the University of Texas because this is business. They are much more interested in hearing about ALL the features and benefits of your doodad.

9. Avoid talking to anyone who does what you do. No sense wasting time on the competition. What if they try to copy some of your techniques or worse, hit on some of your prospective customers? Hopefully they’ll never show up again anyway. Giving them the squinty eye will seal the deal.

10. Make sure your cell phone is on a string around your neck so you don’t miss any important calls and, besides, you want to show these guys you are a busy professional. Juggling a few clipboards and briefcases helps as well.

11. Avoid smiling, business is serious, and make sure your suit looks exactly like everyone else’s.

12. Did I mention that you should wear grey or sofa beige (a slightly different shade than curtain beige)? Some points can’t be stressed enough!!

10 Essentials for Networking at Tradeshows and Events: “How to Avoid Eating Your Words”

Tradeshow SuccessEvery moment at a trade show is important.  This includes, of course, all of the time you’re on the show floor.  Add to that the time you’re not actively exhibiting but are on or near the floor — visiting other exhibits, grabbing a bite to eat, or en route to your hotel room.  You only have a limited amount of time to represent your organization to the gathered attendees, so you want to make the most of every minute.
That’s why networking events, such as dinners or organized off-site outings, are so important.  Even though these events are primarily in social in nature, they’re the ideal place to start or reinforce relationships with your clients and potential clients.
However, networking events can also create high levels of anxiety, especially among exhibitors who don’t know what they’re expected to accomplish or how they’re supposed to conduct themselves to make the most of the opportunity.  You don’t want to flub it — nor have your team flub it for you.
Here are ten tips your team needs to know to shine like stars — even when they’re not on the show floor!
1. Relax
Breathe in, breathe out.  Repeat as needed.  If you’re nervous, take some time to meditate, center, or do whatever you need to do to calm yourself before getting to the event.
People come to networking events to get to know you in a social setting.  The focus is on fun and conversation: two areas where most people can shine without stressing themselves out.
2. Listen more than you talk
There’s nothing in this world people love more than talking about themselves.  At the same time, there’s nothing rarer than a good listener. Stifle the impulse to talk, talk, talk and focus on being a good listener.  Ask the person you’re with about themselves: what they do, what hobbies they enjoy, and so on.  Keep it personal and light — you don’t want to come off like you’re conducting an interrogation.
3. Take your time
This tip is especially pertinent if you’re at a show overseas.  Most Americans rush through everything, including eating and having a good time.  There’s really no rush.  You’re not going to collect a prize for being the first one to clean your plate.  Take your time, and eat slowly. 
4. Stay sober
Even though it’s a casual setting, the people at the networking event will be judging you and your company by how you conduct yourself.  Remaining sober will make it much easier to create a good impression.   Skip the alcoholic drinks — especially if your guest opts not to visit the bar.  Fewer people are drinking these days, and no one will raise an eyebrow at a coke with a slice of lemon in it.
5. Forgo fancy food
You may have gourmet tastes.  This isn’t the time to show them off.  Order simple, easy-to-eat food.  You don’t want to slop sauce on your shirt or wrestle with claw crackers in front of someone you hardly know.  After all, they might not remember your sparkling conversational skills — but they’ll always remember that you dumped the stuffed shells in your lap!
6. Be nice to the waitstaff
Waiters, servers, waitresses, bartenders and all the other people who work the facility where the networking event is being held are people too.  It behooves you to treat them as such.  Be polite and courteous, even if you don’t think anyone is watching.  This is especially true if something’s gone wrong — a mistaken order, cold food, or any of the million other things that happen in a restaurant.  How you treat the little people says a lot about how you can be expected to treat the big people.
7. Shut off the cell phone
Your intention for the evening is to get to know the people you’re with.  You want their time and attention. That means it’s a good idea to shut off your cell phone — there’s nothing ruder than constantly interrupting a meal to answer the phone and expecting them to hold on while you chat. 
8. Skip the gossip
Badmouthing your competition is the sure sign of an amateur.  Avoid the temptation to dig up dirt on your industry colleagues or indulge in idle gossip.  It’s far too easy to pick up a negative reputation for indulging in this kind of behavior — not to mention the risk of alienating peers and colleagues you might someday need on your side.
9. Leave the literature behind
Don’t bring brochures, catalogs, or samples to the networking event with you.  If it turns out that the people you meet at the networking events are interested in these things, they’ll either make a point of picking them up from you at the show, or you can arrange to send it to them.  On the other hand, you want to make sure you have a good supply of business cards on hand so people can get in contact with you.
10. Pick up the tab
If you’re the one entertaining, pick up the tab.  Sometimes you’ll run into guests who can’t accept — their employers forbid them from accepting free meals or other gifts — so just follow their lead.  Otherwise however, pay for the meal.  It’s a nice gesture that shows you value the relationship.
Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach,  expert working with companies to increase their profitability at tradeshows.  http://www.richesinniches.com

How to Create a Better News Release

pr        Many organizations and businesses want media coverage
of their activities, and at the same time many newsrooms are
looking for local (or even national and international) topics
to cover. If you belong to an organization that wants coverage,
you can increase the odds of getting it by following a few simple
news release (or press release) conventions.

  1. You must have something new or different to say. As the name News implies, the media want information that’s new or at least updated. At the same time, reporters and editors want information that’s relevant to their readers; choose your media targets carefully, and tailor the content of the release to their audience).
  2. Your headline should be as interesting as a newspaper headline. It should promise something new, dramatic, or timely. Make the editor or reporter want to know more. Remember, though, the claim should be credible and relevant.
  3. In the first paragraph of the body, get in what journalists call the Five Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. In fact, try to get them into the first sentence, and if you can’t, at least start with a clear concise statement that summarizes the story.
    Traditionally, reporters have tried to get the essence of every story into the first paragraph because they didn’t know where, or whether, their stories would be cut. So, they start with the most important information and end with the least important. That way, no matter where the story was cut, the best material stayed.
  4. Write and rewrite your news release many times before ‘releasing’ it. Use active verbs and transitions (from sentence to sentence, and paragraph to paragraph). Boil down the content as much as you can; two pages is acceptable, but one is better.
  5. Follow this standard format:

At the top of the page, write this, in all caps:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Usually this will be left-justified)

Or, if you want the release to be held until specific date/time, write something like this:

FOR RELEASE AT 10 A.M., AUGUST 23

(But don’t necessarily expect the embargo to be honored)

Skip a line and then put in contact information, as in:

Contact: Susie Smith

Telephone: 111-555-1212

Email: SusieSmith@anycompany.com

Skip another line and add your headline (centered, and use title case or all-caps):

Perpetual Motion Machine Unveiled

Now, the body of your news release, which should not exceed two pages.

At the end of the body, add three number marks with single spaces between them, as in:

# # #

Repeat your contact information at the end , as in:

Susie Smith welcomes your inquiries at 111-555-1212 or by email at: susiesmith@anycompany.com

Prepare yourself for reporters’ questions

It goes without saying, of course, that you would prepare yourself for questions from reporters if you send out a release. I would recommend you write out a list of questions that seem likely and prepare bullet-point answers for each of them. That way you’ll be ready for most of the questions. However, don’t read the answers back to reporters; just use them as a guide. At the same time, assume you’ll get questions you simply can’t predict. Answer them as well as you can; and if you can’t answer, your best bet is to tell the interviewer you’ll need to get more information, and will call back after you do.

Robert F. Abbott, a former radio news writer and public relations person, dedicates a full chapter to news releases in his book, A Manager’s Guide to Newsletters: Communicating for Results. Get three free chapters from the book at http://www.managersguide.com/free-sample.html . He also offers free subscriptions to Abbott’s Communication Letter, a free newsletter that helps you enhance your career through improved business communication, at http://www.abbottletter.com .

In order to be a good online marketer, it helps to be a little “nerdy”

nerd_archive
So in my research this week I’ve been noticing a common denominator in some of the perceptions of some of the internet’s most successful marketers.

These would be people that I sort of look up to and admire for their ability to spread the news about whatever it is they are trying to promote.

Then I read Edwin’s observation and instantly I knew:  DAMN…I guess I need to be a bigger nErD!

Here’s what he had to say…and albeit I find it extremely interesting and mostly accurate.

A while back I read an article on socialmediatoday.com that explained a little bit about Facebook’s new EdgeRank score and how you can take advantage of this feature. EdgeRank is the name of the algorithm which Facebook uses to determine what appears in their users’ news feeds

It got my juices flowing. It occurred to me that even though this concept was very simple to ME, many people conducting business on the Internet -and more importantly via social media sites – were not really in tune with the world of programming and how it can affect a company’s marketing efforts.

Many people don’t understand that it is PROGRAMMING that turns the cogs inside the machine we call “The World Wide Web“. It is programming that decides how important your Facebook post is or how relevant your Website is for a particular search phrase or even what your “popularity” score is on Twitter.

The point that I am trying to make here is that you have to at least UNDERSTAND the mechanics behind your social media marketing plan just as much as you need to understand the content that is being distributed.

Having a good content plan can help you deliver targeted traffic right to your front (Website) step, but what good is it to have quality content if you don’t have the distribution? Having the right content, the right amount of interaction and working the social media channels are all important, but having the knowledge of how a social media site’s internal programming structure works is just as important.

Now, I’m not saying you have to be a total nerd to create a successful campaign on social media sites. I’m just saying that you should understand how to make the most of a social media site’s functionality. There are certain methodologies that social media sites implement that can push your campaign in one direction or another and there are things you should understand before trying to distribute your content across these massive marketing platforms.

For instance:

  • How does Facebook decide which posts to push first?
  • How does Twitter decide when to limit or stop your follows?
  • How do “experts” get their names to show up in so many search results on LinkedIn?

As a software developer myself, this sort of stuff really excites me. I always try to dig deep into the workings of ANY type of online marketing channel. But, it doesn’t take a software developer to figure out the basics of their system. Most social media channels offer information about their APIs and internal programming structure and there are lots of articles about EdgeRank and others.

There is plenty of “nerd” stuff you might want to learn in order to make the most of your social media marketing campaigns, but it’s not all as complicated as we might think.

I’ve been designing, developing and marketing Websites since 1994 (before most even knew what a Website was) and it didn’t take long for me to learn that figuring out how search engine algorithms worked could help push my Website to the top of the search engine results.

Back then “SEO” wasn’t even the name for this technique yet.

I started to understand that every search engine had a certain method for displaying a (somewhat relevant) list of Websites that corresponded with the keyword that was searched. And, changing the positioning of my keywords throughout the page altered my Website’s position within the search results. Armed with this information I was able to “optimize” my Web site for any keywords I wanted to get massive amounts of traffic to my site. Of course it was all very easy back then.

As time went on I started to notice that many other popular Website portals began using similar types of algorithms and it wasn’t long before I was getting my listings to show up above all others at eBay, Craigslist and many other sites. I knew how to push my ad in front of the largest possible audience and it was great!

Well guess what….

Social media is changing all of this – hasn’t it?

Social media has put PEOPLE in power. How results are displayed on search engines AND on social media sites is largely due to the input that people give to these sites.

Glossy facebook 128pxLet’s take Facebook for example…

If you had read George Guildford’s article on Facebook’s Edge Score you would understand that Facebook’s algorithms take Affinity, Weight and Time into account when determining the importance of individual posts. The way people interact with you (and your posts) on Facebook has bearing on how much distribution you are going to get.

 

Glossy twitter 128pxTwitter

Most experienced social media marketers know that following many people on Twitter (depending on how many people reciprocate that follow) can trigger Twitter to block your account from following anyone else, but there are many people that still don’t know simple things like this.

Twitter takes into account the amount of “retweets” you get in addition to other data-bits like how often your profile is “listed” by other accounts. They look at your interaction with others and I’m sure there are a lot of other mechanisms that render criteria to factor into their search algorithms.

Glossy linkedinLinkedIn

Ever wonder why some people are displayed above others on LinkeIn? So did I. I started to test different optimization techniques that I had used in the past for SEO and I can’t say I was surprised to find that LinkedIn worked in a similar way to search engines.

LinkedIn displays results based on a person’s profile and the content that is attached to it. I started to use their search bar to find people within different niches (just for testing purposes) and I found that the top results had a similar structure to their profile and most had lots of connections. I tried to make notes of anything I saw in their profile that might reorient search results to suit their needs.

I started to rework my own profile. I added more skills, changed the verbiage in my title and description (the way I would when working with SEO projects) and tinkered with a few other items. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing exactly, but I thought it was worth testing.

I added words like “online marketing” and “SEO manager” to my profile and sure enough – I started to show up for the words “SEO manager”. I was within the top 7 results for the words “online marketing” for a while, but that dropped so I guess I have to go back to the drawing board on that one, but it just proves my point that there are technical aspects of social media marketing that people don’t ever discuss and or even try to learn about.

Glossy YouTube 128pxYoutube

I decided to try the same thing with my video marketing efforts a while back and had very similar results. Adding my keywords to the video’s meta information and also to the title and content of the video page itself. Youtube, Vimeo and Viddler had the same type of results. They moved my video higher in the results and I got more traffic.

Now I’m not claiming to be an authority when it comes to social media and I think social media as a marketing channel is still too new for ANYONE to call themselves a “Guru” (god knows there’s plenty of people that claim this), but if you study the mechanics of how social media sites work you can integrate that knowledge into your overall social media marketing scheme and deliver better results for your clients and/or for yourself.

Not many people are talking about this, but I think it is very important to your social media marketing efforts. No – there is no way you are going to decipher a social media site’s algorithms, but it does not take a software engineer to figure out what works and what does not from a “technical” standpoint. And, most of the information you need is freely available on each social media site.

If you follow his newsletter and articles on socialmediatoday.com, he promises to bring you his personal (nerdtastic) findings.