All this marketing looks great, but actually, we need more sales

I was in the car yesterday following a bus through Bath. On the back of the Bus was the ‘bus back’ poster below. 

I looked hard,  I had no idea what it was all about. Even when I looked at the photo after I was home I was still none the wiser.

So how might this all have come about? (After a little research I discovered it was an ad for the Bath Preservation Trust – a worthwhile and interesting charity in Bath).

Now I can only speculate here, but I imagine this journey started with the Trust wanting to ‘raise its profile’. Why? To attract money and support I suspect.

Bus back advertising was presumably chosen because it’s a good value marketing channel designed to deliver the message to the ‘right people’. More about that below!

The designer was briefed, the design was signed off, the artwork provided to the bus back printers and the campaign went live.

Putting to one side for a moment the issues of relevant media, targeting and messaging, perhaps the biggest rookie mistake was in not understanding how bus back advertising works. 

Signing off a design from an emailed or even printed PDF fails to take into account the fact that a bus back, like any other form of outdoor advertising, is a ‘fleeting medium’. It needs to work very fast indeed if it’s not to be ignored. 

AIDA – attention, interest, desire, action! This old marketing acronym is as relevant today as it ever was.

Have a look below at my favourite, and most enduring, example of an effective ‘fleeting’ poster. Is anyone in any doubt about this poster’s message? Look back at the Bath Preservation Trust’s bus-back message – you’ll see what I mean.

There is then the issue of messaging and targeting – and again there are some rookie mistakes on Bath Preservation Trust’s bus back.

Am I really about to suggest to you, the reader, that a marketing message requires a proposition of some sort? Something to entice the prospect in, something to create some interest and desire? It seems so!

Actually, my rant is not really about this bus back. It’s more about what I see in the world of marketing: a lack of understanding about how to build effective marketing campaigns that deliver against the brief. 

That brief might be direct sales, or just raising awareness, that in time leads to sales. And by ‘sales’ I mean anything that attracts the customers to transact; be that a charity wanting donations, or visitors to a venue, or an IT company or solicitor wanting more clients.

Is anyone to blame?

I do think that the way many companies now buy their marketing services is partly to blame. What do I mean by this? Well, ‘who you see is what you get’. Whichever marketing specialisation you choose, from the social media expert, or web designer to the ‘design for print’ marketing company or even the media company selling bus back advertising, you’ll end up with a proposal for their products and services. 

It’s just not joined up, is devoid of effective, strong messaging and lacks a coherent marketing and sales strategy. And that often means you’ll end up without the one thing you need. Those elusive sales or engaged customers and prospects.

Perhaps you’d like a chat about how your business or organisation could be getting more for less? That’s more engagement and sales, with less waste.

Feel free to get in touch, I’d welcome the opportunity of a conversation.

It’s not about you, it’s about your customers ( …and how you can frame your bait)

So, you’ve got a great product or service, your sales team are ready, and you’re ready to rock…. but wait… how will you make your proposition stand out like a siren above all the noise of your competitors?

But wait…the trouble is it’s just too easy to get hung up about why YOU think you’re great, forgetting that it really doesn’t matter what you think!

Do any of these banal statements (below) sound familiar?

“We’re passionate about continuing to push the creative, technical and customer care boundaries.”

“We ensure customers receive the correct advice first time whilst making certain that cost savings are a priority.”

“We get close to our customers’ needs by talking their language and delivering bespoke solutions….”

“A refreshing approach to integrated marketing.”

And here’s an absolute corker:

“Solution Providers′ clients receive a comprehensive service which covers each phase of the project cycle, complemented by systematic analysis of client-relevant conceptual issues.”

What exactly do these words mean? And will prospective clients really understand why they should use you and not one of your competitors?

The truth? It’s not about you. People buy what they want to buy (services and products). And they need to feel reassured that what they are buying is right for them. It can even go further in bigger companies where decisions are often made based on what’s the ‘safe choice’, rather than what might actually be best for the business.

I spent part of my career working with the buyers of B&Q and it was fascinating to see how the psychology worked. The buyer loved our product, but was fighting his anxiety: “I love it, but what if I get it wrong?”. That’s not an unusual place for the buyer of a service. And it’s not a coincidence that the FTSE 100 companies almost exclusively work with one of the Big 4 accountants. That’s not to say the Big 4 are necessarily the best option, it’s more about a defensive stance, so you’ll not be blamed for using a challenger accountancy firm! It’s the safe option.

So how can you package up the essence of what your business does to alleviate any anxiety and to present a compelling argument for the prospect to engage? 

How can you ‘frame your bait’, so your potential clients will bite and want to know more about your products or services?

Well for starters, let’s not do any selling… and secondly, remember it’s never about you and your passion or how much you care. 

It is about how good your business is, how competitive your prices, how effective your operation is. It’s a given that you’re passionate and that you care! The really important point is, you have to prove it and not just say it!

Keeping things simple for a moment – you might well go to a restaurant with ★★★★★ stars on Trip Advisor, and not one with ★★ stars. And whatever the restaurant website says, it’s so often the experience of others (like you) that matters.

If your service isn’t up to it, the words are just empty platitudes; they mean nothing and will often build resentment against the brand.

And that’s why brands renowned for good customer service do so well. John Lewis, a great example, means quality, service, and “never knowingly undersold”. Customers know, like and trust what they stand for because they’re true to their word.

So, next time you’re ‘framing your bait’, think carefully about what the words actually mean – and whether they’re actually true!

Because surely it’s a given that:

• Marketing people are ‘creative and measure the results’

• Dentists fix teeth!

• Consultants will ‘talk your language’

• Telecoms people will ‘make cost savings a priority’

• Training companies will provide a ‘unique range of courses and workshops’

Your words need substance. Otherwise, you may as well just be telling your prospects “Your call is important to us”. And you’re fooling no one but yourself.

If you’d like to know more, and this really is just the tip of the iceberg, get in touch, I’d be happy to help you frame your bait.

Perhaps it’s your home page that’s the problem?

How does the conversation with your web company go?

“We’ve used this striking image on the home page – it looks really impressive…”

And indeed it does look impressive. But it says nothing. Nothing about what you do and crucially where you add value.

So why does it matter so much, you might ask? Well, it’s worth remembering what your website is for. It’s about building reassurance. And because it’s likely that your first-time visitor has either stumbled across your business or has searched for you, you need to build that reassurance – fast. How long have you got? About 2 seconds or less! If you’re over 35, spend a minute watching a 20 something browsing the web!

Have a look at these metrics for home page abandonment.

2376 visits, and 1636 didn’t even make it past the home page!

1733 jumped off in less than 10 seconds!

So much for the web designer’s striking image!So what’s to be done?

It’s crucial to understand how people arrive at your website.

What do I mean by that?

When you search for a service or indeed a specific company, you’ll most likely end up on that company’s home page. It’s therefore crucial to think of your home page as if it were a poster site – it’s got to work really fast. 5 seconds is way too long!  Do you remember AIDA? Attention, Interest, Desire, Action! That time-honoured marketing acronym is more relevant today than it ever was.

Home pages need to work really hard. And a home page is not an open invitation for the web designer to spend a few hours ‘checking out some cool images’!

Don’t make the visitor scroll down before you let them know what your company does, and why they should look further. Trust me, it’s never because you’re passionate about what you do! If I had a pound for every time I’d seen the ‘passion’ thing, I’d be a rich man!

Often the page you end up on is NOT the home page but a landing page that you’ve been directed to because you clicked a link from any number of sources. An email, an ad on LinkedIn or another social media platform.

That’s how it should work – the shorter the journey you’re asking the visitor to take, the more likely they’ll get to the place you want them to. Remember the abandonment stats above!

Getting a visitor to your website is just the beginning of a perilous journey. And still a long way off you sending them an invoice! If you’d like to know more, talk to me.



How much should you spend on a new website?

This seems like an eminently sensible question to ask. After all everyone needs a website!

The trouble starts early on in the process.

Perhaps you’ve heard some of the below?

I know a guy that’s really good at websites…
Our site needs to be mobile friendly.
Can’t we build this in house? WordPress is good because it means we can build and edit the site…
Can’t we just update the old site?
I know someone that’d do a new site for £250
Let’s ask the staff what they think..
Don’t we need two websites, one for each service?

 All these experts at hand and all in your company too!

But wait – no one has asked the BIG question. What’s our website for, and how well does the existing site perform? Actually it’s two questions. and there are other questions to ask too. And they all need answering before we can touch on the question that forms the title of this piece.

Broadly websites for businesses split into two areas. B2B and B2C. I’m making this distinction so as to exclude any websites that are information based, Government sites etc.

But I’m going to make another important distinction too. Companies that sell a service or unbranded product such as a firm of accountants, or a specialist bakery, and companies that sell a branded product, such as BMW or Apple.

My expertise lies in the field of B2B businesses selling a service, or unbranded products, and my feeling is that many of you reading this will fall into this category.

So, let’s ask the BIG question. What is your website for? (I’ll deal with the ‘How well does it perform’ in a separate article).

Broadly, it’s about reassurance.

People don’t just arrive at your website. They get there via a number of different routes.  For example;

Perhaps they search for a training company. The Training Manager types ‘training company Birmingham’ into Google.

Maybe the MD reads a post on LinkedIn and clicks the link – she ends up reading a blog written by ABC Training and then clicks to the home page.

Perhaps the MD receives an email marketing message that catches her eye and clicks the link – she ends up on the home page.

It could be that Sarah, the MD, meets the training company’s MD at a networking event – they swap business cards. Sarah checks them out online.

Or maybe the training company’s outbound calling team call and leave a message for Sarah. Sarah has a look online.

There are just so many different routes people take to end up on your website, but one thing is pretty consistent – people are going there because they are broadly interested in what your company does.

When they do land, you’ve got just a couple of seconds to reassure them that it’s worth looking a little deeper. And that really is the point.

Here’s a thought. Have you opened the door to an unfamiliar pub, restaurant or shop only to turn your back on it and walk away? We all make snap judgements in just a second or two. And your website is just the same.

I look at many Google Analytics accounts and it’s not unusual to lose a home page visitor in less than 10 seconds. In fact the average is the wrong side of 60%. 60% of home page visitors leave in less than 10 seconds!

Once the visitor feels like they may have arrived at the right company (because they can see what your company does, where you add value and they ‘feel good’ about how your site feels) they may look deeper, continue to feel engaged and then, hopefully, get in touch with you.

So if the answer to the BIG question is: “To reassure our visitors to take the next step” and after their first dalliance, “dig a little deeper”, then surely all the points above mean nothing until there is a clear understanding of how this reassurance might be achieved.

So what next?

So often companies go out to website companies and end up with a quote to ‘do a new website’. And despite some reassurances, about ‘understanding your market’, I have yet to meet a digital company that really do understand how the messaging needs to work. And remember, messaging must come before creative execution and build.

So some budget needs to be allocated to getting the messaging right, to build on what I mentioned before: the initial reassurance, leading to further engagement.

It’s worth remembering too that people might be directed to different parts of your website via links from LinkedIn or email marketing, and it’s then important to remember that these ‘linked to’ pages are in effect, ‘home pages’ for these visitors.

Once the crucial messaging has been resolved, it’s then the time to talk to a website company that can design and then build the site.

Design and build are distinctly different jobs. Think architect and builder. Would you really trust both to just the builder? Trust me they really are two different skills!

Ask a few web companies you like the look of how they work, taking into account the points I raised above. Remember, if all they have on their home page is a massive image of a video that seems to have little relevance, you might wonder how important messaging is to them!

Next look at the quote they provide. You’ll need to let them have some idea of the number of pages – or sections (sites are now more scrollable than ever before, catering for mobile compatibility that becomes more important every day).

Within the quote, can you see any insight demonstrating that they understand your market? Have they talked to you about the copy – and the all important proposition you’re planning on putting in front of your potential customers? A good website is not just a slick collection of fancy images and clever functionality.

The one thing I always look for is how important I feel with the company I’m talking with. If they seem less than very keen, then it’s not going to work for me.

Talk to some of their clients anonymously too.

And the price? Well, taking all of the above into account, not the cheapest, and probably not the most expensive either.

And if you need more insight, just get in touch – I’d be happy to have a conversation with you.