Category Archives: Top tips

Marketing support for small charities

Marketing support for small charities

Sophie Davies, BH&P Associate and former head of membership and retention at The National Trust, shares her thoughts on small charity marketing.

 

Charities – especially smaller ones – are under pressure. Demand is increasing for their services, and yet local and central funding is decreasing. 

This in turn puts pressure on resources, with small charity marketing especially affected, with both a financial and skills gap.The small charity marketing gap

A recent Local Giving study found that fewer than half of local charities surveyed felt that they would still exist in 5 years’ time*.

This could be a disaster for the communities they serve.

So how can we help to reverse this decline? We have all heard it; ‘the charity sector is in crisis’. It is certainly true that public trust has decreased significantly in the last 3 years. And this is not helped by recent crises at much larger charities such as the British Red Cross and Oxfam.

 

Public trust in smaller charities remains high

Charity fundraising just got harder

Yet both the Charity Commissions bi-annual survey in 2016 and separate Open University study have both shown that this is NOT the case for smaller charities.

This is great news.

It means that providing they remain transparent, and compliant, small charities are in a really strong position when thinking about fundraising.

Fundraising is known to be one of the most effective and sustainable ways to raise money to support the work they do. Typically, for every £1 invested in fundraising, a charity receives over £4 to support their work**.

 

Fundraising does more than just raise money

As well as bring in much needed funds, it also raises awareness of the cause and the work done. This in turn leads to a greater understanding of what the charity does and why.

A 2017 study by YouGov and the Institute of Fundraisers shows clearly that a deeper understanding drives further charitable and philanthropic activity. In fact, a whopping 63% of people go on to take additional positive actions such as volunteering or being involved in a campaign***.

 

Small charity marketing: Three tips for planning a fundraising campaign

Working out what you need to do can be quite daunting. But don’t be put off by the challenge of creating a campaign.

Here are three tips to start you off:

  1. Know your audience
    • Think about what you already know about your audience before you put together the campaign. Answering these questions will help you to work out what the best focus and methods are for your fundraising:
    • Who is it that is interested in supporting your cause?
    • Why are they interested?
    • What motivates them to want to donate to your cause?
    • What will most likely prompt them to donate? An event, direct ask face to face, crowdfunding?
    • What’s the best way to get in touch with them? Social media, email, mail, telephone?
    • How will they most likely donate? Online, or through their phone?
    • Would you prefer a large number of people to donate a small amount, or a small amount of people to donate much more? What is realistic for your audience?

     

  2. The power of social media
    • Start with what you know – use your audience insight to understand what social media platforms they use and only use those. That way you can make sure you reach your audience effectively.
    • Social media is diverse and constantly evolving. Continual testing of channels, messaging and formats is really important.
    • Just test one or two things at a time – once you know something works, try changing a small part, and see what impact this has.
    • It is unlikely that one person will see every single post, so you can use the same content across lots of different platforms – you can even use it for your newsletters too.
    • When you do set up a social media page, make sure you’ve always got the donate now button active.

     

  1. Other digital fundraising tools
    • Leverage the big donation websites for your small charity marketing. For example, justgiving.com can now be used to crowdfund – and they will support you through the process.
    • If you are a registered charity, you may be eligible for a Google Ad Grant. This can be a fantastic boost to media budgets – but does require an element of expertise to manage, as Google has recently tightened up the eligibility rules (December 2017)****
    • Email is a really cost-effective way of talking to those who have already donated to your cause. Using a platform such as Mailchimp to manage your email campaigns helps you to make sure you are following data rules such as the ability to opt out. They will keep that list for you and make sure you don’t email anyone you’re not supposed to!

 

If you feel that you would like further support, then do get in touch. We can give advice, coaching and support, advise you on how to deal with the new GDPR regulations, or help you set up small charity marketing campaigns so that you can go ahead and run them yourself.

 

With more than fifteen years’ experience working in marketing, Sophie recently headed up the fundraising communications team for the National Trust, before being promoted to lead the membership loyalty and retention programme at the charity.

Sophie is currently working as an associate with BH&P.

 

* Localgiving, Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report, 2016

** NCVO, Civil Society Almanac, 2016

*** IoF and YouGov, Insights into Charity Fundraising, 2017

**** Search Engine Journal, Feb 2018

Marketing for non-profits

Marketing for non-profits

 The rules of engagement have changed

Charity fundraising just got harder

The key challenge for charity marketing today lies in balancing the need stand out from the pack, whilst complying with ever more strict data protection and fundraising rules.

 

In recent years, members of the public have expressed frustration over the lack of control many feel over how, and how often, they are approached with fundraising requests. We’ve all heard the story of the Olive Cooke, the 92 year old who committed suicide because of charities pursuing her for money. Charity marketing is implicated, with organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children and the Alzheimer’s Society insisting that their actions were not to blame for Olive’s death. But many of her family have accused the charities of exploiting the poppy seller, with allegations that she was receiving over 260 begging letters a month

 

Managing charity marketing and communications

Whilst perhaps Olive Cooke presents an extreme example, the Fundraising Regulator is acutely aware of the need to manage the situation carefully. The regulator is guided by the principle that it should be as simple as possible for individuals to manage their communications with fundraisers, and to prevent this type of scenario. In response to concerns, the regulator has developed a system to ensure people can register their contact preferences more easily with charities.

With the creation of the Fundraising Preference Service or FPS (planned launch in 2017), people will have the ability to opt out – and this will affect not just the general public, but also those people that have actively engaged your charity’s fundraising campaigns, but perhaps not opted in.

For those that already have a highly engaged supporter database, this is unlikely to prove a significant problem. Yet for those who rely on email and direct marketing to purchase databases and lukewarm data, there is a need to tighten up significantly on the way they market to their supporters.

Why charity messaging matters

We recently met up with Gillian McKay, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector at the ICAEW (Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England And Wales), who had this to say:

“It’s never been more important that charities stand out with a message that will really engage supporters. These new rules that are coming in within the sector will have most impact on those that have not invested in, or understood, the rules of engagement. Charity marketing will only get harder“

 

Changes to the rules on data handling

Data protection rules are tightening up across the board, and charities are not the only sector under the spotlight. If we had chosen to remain in the European Union, brands and charities alike would now have less than two years to make sure they are compliant with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was due to come into place in May 2018.

But does Brexit change this? “Those businesses who have yet to prepare for GDPR – and are hoping that Brexit will mean they don’t have to – are the ones likely to be caught out,” says Frank Jennings, a partner at Wallace LLP.

Any organisation with operations in the EU as well as the UK will certainly comply with the new rules. If nothing else, it will be impossible for compliance teams to manage multiple data standards within the same organisation – brands and non-profits alike. And the deadline for compliance with the new GDPR rules will come around before the deadlines for completing Brexit’s Article 50. With this in mind, complacency is not really an option.

The rules around the Fundraising Preference Service muddy the waters slightly, not least because charities will have to pay for the privilege of membership (albeit the proposed pricing will be proportionate). Gillian McKay’s view on this is clear. “Lots of charities already have very good levels of engagement. In general their budgets are smaller, and their accountability greater than in the commercial sector. While they won’t be able to change the rules, they can certainly prepare for the changes.”

 

Raising awareness

The first thing organisations that do not have this engagement level should do is raise awareness. According to John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal, at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA),

“Brands need to make sure everyone knows what is going on and the rules coming in and how they currently process their data. That can be an eye opener for lots of people.When the regulations come into effect brands will not get their doors kicked down straight away. But if you can show you spent two years doing what you could do comply that will be very helpful.”

The RNLI has taken a proactive approach, announcing in 2015 that it would switch to an opt-in model. Jayne Clarke, the charity’s head of marketing, says the move has showed her how important being ahead is and how long getting everyone in place can take. You can read more about this in this article, taken from Marketing Week: The RNLI on why it has become the first charity to switch to opt-in comms.

Charity marketing message

 

It’s all about the message

Since we launched in September 2014, the team at BH&P have worked on the principle “Idea everything, Media anything” – the premise that only with a big, bold, gutsy creative idea behind your marketing, will you actually change peoples’ behaviour.

Gillian McKay from the ICAEW echoed this principle, “those third sector organisations that are investing now – in systems, preparation and getting their message really clear – will see minimum impact. But the reality is that smaller charities may have neither the resources nor the expertise to prepare for the change, and some will struggle as the rules are tightened up”.

Gillian went on to explain that for those organisations without the internal resources, it will be vital that they choose to work with third parties that can help them articulate their point of difference, and that are doing everything possible to be compliant.

In recent years, many charities have turned away from fundraising emails and direct mail, and are increasingly looking to inbound activity and social media for both awareness and fundraising campaigns.

 

Make the most of Google for Non-profits

Google offers advertising grants of up to US$10,000 per month to charities and some other not-for-profit organisations, as well as a free, enriched version of YouTube.

BH&P runs inbound campaigns for a number of non-profits, including the national charity Crimestoppers, using the Google Ad Grant. For Crimestoppers, as well as generating a significant uplift in anonymous reporting, test programmes allow us to set realistic KPIs and benchmarks for future campaigns. Whilst the ad grant can be used only for search advertising, this is nonetheless a valuable way for charities to both maximise learnings and create supporter engagement with specific issues, whilst leaving their own media budgets untouched.

BH&P rolled out the launch campaign for stayenergysafe.co.uk, on behalf of Crimestoppers in September 2016. The Google Search campaign is currently running at a cost per click of 76p and clickthru rate (CTR) of 5.25% (that’s a 300% uplift compared to Google’s own benchmark for the charity sector). The associated Facebook campaign has also exceeded benchmark targets with a cost per click of 20p, and a CTR of 1.04% (more than 200% better than Facebook’s benchmark of 0.33%).

Google-for-non-profitsMicro-lending organisation, Kiva, shares its message using Google’s marketing tools to drive qualified online traffic to its website, and to fund loans that can improve thousands of lives in dozens of countries around the world. They use Google AdWords to raise awareness for their organisation and drive traffic to their website. They also leverage Google Maps as a visual way for donors to see the footprint of Kiva loans. Kiva recently ran a contest on YouTube inviting the community to create and upload videos to describe the value of what Kiva is offering.

 

The power of social media for charity marketing

Social media offers numerous opportunities for charities to create engagement with their supporters, to make more people aware of the work they do. Seth Godin describes social media as “the greatest shift of our generation”, and those charities that embrace this will be well-placed to thrive over the next few years.

A good example of a successful social media campaign is the #NTChallenge by the National Trust.

National Trust was one of the very first charities to connect with their audience effectively via Instagram. With more than 400 million people uploading 80 million photos a day, Instagram is now much more than the home of a thousand self-obsessed #selfies – it’s changed the way people around the world communicate, discover and travel. It’s become a powerful branding tool.

Marketing non profitsWith the #NTChallenge, National Trust asked followers to upload photos of National Trust protected buildings, landscapes and coastlines, choosing one winning image each week. Their Instagram following is now over 154,000, proving that the #NTChallenge was a great way to celebrate their existing community whilst also attracting new supporters. At the time of writing, Instagram has 35,756 posts with the tag #ntchallenge (though with the aside that you should choose your hashtag carefully – some of these are definitely more Nike than National Trust – #ntc is a Nike challenge tagged in 432,345 posts).

People in 2017 expect to self-select the brands and messages they wish to engage with – and this is a trend that is set to continue. Social media and search marketing will become ever more important as they support this shift, and charities would be wise to embrace the change.

 

A final word

Whilst it is true that some organisations may lose valuable existing members when new rules on data protection come in to place, those that are both creative and diligent now, with high levels of supporter engagement, will see little change.

Social media and inbound charity marketing will continue to offer new and exciting opportunities to engage with supporters. But for many, the biggest challenge will remain in converting awareness and engagement into tangible and financial support.

What is clear is that rules around data handling will continue to be tightened – in and outside of the EU – and that charities as well as commercial businesses all need to be aware of the potential impact, and plan accordingly.

All figures correct at time of publishing, 16/01/17.

 

To find out more about BH&P’s creative solutions for non-profits, get in touch.

You can also sign up to receive updates from the fundraising regulator on the launch of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) via this link.

Why does a lot of small business marketing not work quite the way you’d like it to?

Why does a lot of small business marketing not work quite the way you’d like it to?

And how can you change it?

(First presented to Reading’s RG1 group at Artigiano Reading on Thursday 24th September 2015)
RG1 meeting at Artigiano Reading

RG1 meeting at Artigiano Reading

To answer these questions, we need to go back to the start of a business. When the business owner – let’s call him Nick – sets up the business, he has a number of things, but the two that I want to focus on here are that he has a really clever, unique idea, and a “little black book” of contacts. When the business starts, it is likely to go through a period of rapid growth, as Nick really works his metaphorical “little black book” (and these days, with the power of LinkedIn, this can be a pretty big black book).

It’s worth adding an aside – this is relevant for most people that want to grow their business, but particularly pertinent for anyone that is working in professional services, or that has an intangible, hard-to-articulate, very clever or niche business proposition.

Scaling the business

At some point, the business owner (Nick) will start to think about how to scale that business beyond his or her own network. This may be within that first four years or so, whilst there is still some leverage in Nick’s own network. Or it may be that the growth in turnover starts to slow, plateau or even drop.

So this is the point at which the business is likely to invest – perhaps in a sales director, who brings his own little black book, in a CRM system, or perhaps in working with a new marketing agency. And in some instances that can fill a gap, but often the initiative ends up disappointing for everyone. It doesn’t create growth – in turnover or GP. In fact there may be such an increase in costs that the business starts losing money.

Here’s why. When you start up the business, everyone you are talking to knows you – or thinks that they do. The trust is in the business owner themselves as an individual. And that’s great. That’s why I called my agency Becky Holland & Partners (we’re still in the first growth phase).

But as you grow, the people you are talking to are not presold. Until you engage with them, they don’t really know you as a person. And so they don’t trust you. So the number of real leads that come in to the business will be proportionately less. And your conversion rate is likely to not be quite as good.

I’ve spent the past few years working with businesses that want to reverse that trend. To pre-sell the business as a whole to a specific audience of people.

Scaling a business requires not just trust but, critically, reaching a point where that the trust is not just in the business owner and partners, but in something tangible that the business stands for in its own right. Something unique that prospects will build an emotional connection with, and which they will remember. Something that is greater than the sum of the parts.

There’s a name for this thing. Brand.

Armed with this understanding, you are then ready to scale the business.

Small business owners can get really bogged down with the sheer scale of what they think they are “supposed” to do – social media, writing blogs, making video, generating all sorts of content. And none of these in its own right is a bad thing. They just take a lot of time sometimes, and it can be hard to see how it will get the business to where you wanted to go. Fundamentally, without a strong proposition and brand, all this does is to create a level playing field with everyone else that is competing for the same customers. This stuff is practical, and tactical – but in today’s world, I’d hesitate to call it marketing. Effective marketing is all about the message, and articulating it in clever ways. It’s not about the mechanic.

Things you can do to get started

If your business is established, and you want to try to find a way to scale it – I mean properly scale it – so that it has a value in its own right, then I’d recommend two books that would really help.

One is “Tribes” by Seth Godin, which gives you some really great examples and advice about starting a movement. Capturing your passion and the essence of what you do – and in the process building a “tribe” of followers. Preselling your business in a way that will help marketing work harder for you.

And the second is “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries – because so many of the principles in there – particularly those around “failing fast” are directly relevant to what growing organisations need to do to create focus, and make marketing work for them. This is a pretty good article from HBR if you’d like to read more (link)

The impact of brand on business growth and marketing ROI

The impact of brand on business growth and marketing ROI

You could probably write a whole book on the subject of brands. But as it’s a Friday afternoon, I thought I’d keep this short and sweet.

“Brand” means different things to different people. To many, it’s all about logos, colours and typefaces. For others it’s about reputation.

But a great brand is much more than that. After all, how many established market leaders do you know, that don’t have a strong sense of their own identity. Something that people can relate to,  and that they will choose to interact with (and buy from) almost regardless of the product?

Brand: in a nutshell

Here’s our guide to what ‘brand’ means in 2015. This is as relevant for small, growing businesses, as it is for established brands:

  1. Branding can most simply be described as “the relationships that account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”
  2. When a brand is strong and respected, it provides protection for the business during an economic downturn. This can blunt the effect of any crisis, because of the goodwill the company has in reserve
  3. A brand gives people an emotional reason to connect with a company. This leads to them considering new product innovations or offers in a positive light, even when these were not previously in their consideration set
  4. Having a strong brand allows a business to be valued as more than the sum of its parts. This protects the business if a key person or asset is removed from the equation (such as in a professional services firm, particularly in the legal sector, where business is often generated on the basis of an individual’s reputation rather than that of the business)
  5. A strong brand allows businesses to “scale” – to become presold beyond their own direct network, and to enter new and previously untapped markets. A strong brand means that when the company moves into new products or markets, it carries customers with it
  6. Businesses with a strong brand can charge a premium for products and services. Apple provides an extraordinary example of how to do this, with little or no resistance from the market
  7. A strong brand has a tangible value on a balance sheet, attractive to investors and VCs. This can be rather handy when you need to raise funds to support growth, or fancy retiring to the sun.

We have some great examples of how this works in practice for our clients. If you’d like to find out more, just get in touch.

 

Can marketing automation help learning and development firms win new clients?

Can marketing automation help learning and development firms win new clients?

Every day, professional service companies such as training or coaching firms, lawyers, architects, HR businesses and recruitment agencies are becoming more attuned to the power of marketing automation platforms like ActOn and Marketo.

Automation is starting to be looked at as the pinnacle of marketing effort – the thing that’s going to make campaigns work much harder – more targeted, more timely, and ultimately driving up response rates.

It’s all in the name. Automation. It implies that you put stuff in, churn it through the mill (a bit like a marketing sausage machine) – and at the other end, out come sausages. That’s metaphorical sausages, not literal ones.

But like a sausage machine, what comes out the other end is directly related to what you put in.

In the world of L&D (where we at BH&P spend quite a lot of time), there are lots of people, generating lots of content. And most of it is very similar.

The UK training market

There are at least 15,000 private training providers in the UK. A wide range of learning options are on offer, which often overlap with other areas such as personal development, meaning that training providers may define themselves in many ways. In addition, the boundaries between different types of delivery are themselves being eroded by the use of learning technologies and blended learning approaches.

The market is very fragmented with many small businesses and freelancers – only 1% of training providers have over 250 employees, although there is consolidation at the top end, and a growing number of global training corporations.

Why automation won’t make your marketing more effective

There is a huge difference between being ‘effective’ and ‘efficient’. Marketing automation platforms are exceptionally good at making your marketing campaigns efficient, but they are rarely the reason campaigns are effective.

Let’s say you are planning a campaign promoting your leadership offer.

As an L&D business, you know your leadership solutions are brilliant. Big brand names buy your service, and get great results. Your programme design is unique, and your facilitators are experienced, quickly developing a rapport with participants. So all you need to do is to write some case studies, perhaps craft a piece of opinion leadership, knock up a few blog posts and add some testimonials to your website. Then stick it all into your marketing automation sausage machine.

If only it was this simple.

Marketing automation platforms will never, ever, make your marketing more effective.  Perhaps a surprising comment coming from a marketing automation practitioner, and advocate of anything that allows you to get the right message to the right person at the right time. Here’s the logic.

Campaigns need several things to make them effective:

  1. Insight  – research and planning to understand the challenges your core target audience is facing
  2. A unique proposition – absolute clarity on how what you are offering is different from all the other 14,999 UK training companies
  3. Creativity – a way to articulate that message that will stand out from the other hundreds of marketing messages that an L&D decision-maker receives every day

None of these things can be automated.

How marketing automation can help you become more efficient

Marketing automation is a great way of controlling a marketing process automatically, reducing human intervention to the minimum.

A straightforward example of automation would be to automatically send an email to taster event attendees 24 hours after the workshop with a follow-up message and link to a feedback form. (Incidentally, you can also use this as a simple way to collect post-learning happy sheets – automation systems can seem expensive, but if integrated with your CRM, can be used for all types of communication, not just marketing).

A more sophisticated example might include triggering a direct response campaign when a subscriber interacts in a certain way with content on social media or your website.

BUT if your message is not unique then it doesn’t matter how efficient your marketing system is. Your content will simply not stand out.

Creating efficiencies

With a manual process, it’s easy to see how a marketer can reach 100% effort running just a few campaigns in tandem.

In contrast, marketing automation allows you to manage a lot more campaigns in the same time period. Marketing automation requires a lot more effort to set up in the early stages, but then the marketer’s effort reduces dramatically as the system starts to work.

As the marketing automation platform takes over in delivering marketing activity, the marketer can move on to set up another campaign.

This makes the use of the marketer’s time more efficient.

Can automation make a marketer more effective, too?

In literal terms, no.

Naturally, increasing the opportunity to run multiple campaigns, targeting several audiences, will improve the efficiency of marketing over time. However, it can also have an indirect impact on effectiveness. Not only will your team be able to address multiple challenges simultaneously, but your learnings, campaign refinements, and insights can be fed back in to make your targeting, messages and creative solutions more effective.

When time-consuming manual tasks are automated, there’s more time available for thinking, planning and research. These are the bedrock of an effective campaign.

Find out more about how we work with growing HR businesses like 3gHR and Handle Recruitment at www.beckyhollandpartners.co.uk

The art of the “not-a-newsletter”

The art of the “not-a-newsletter”

Here’s the thing.

People like to read about good news, especially if it will benefit them directly.

They like to read bad news even better. It’s just more interesting.

But they don’t like receiving newsletters, for the most part. Why? Well, often they are boring, even more often they are irrelevant, and fairly regularly, they are simply a sales pitch dressed up as news.

Shock news! (not really)

Many so-called newsletters have no news in them whatsoever.

Here are our top 7 tips for creating a “not-a-newsletter” (Q: Why “not-a-newsletter”? A: To distance your updates from news items about new team members, company picnics, and charity bike rides, which are interesting to you, but not to your customers and prospects)

1. It’s not a newsletter

Give it a real name, that reflects what you do as a business. For example, “clever business news” or “game changer“. If it is not called a newsletter, it gives you a licence to include interesting information even if it’s not the latest news. And it gives the “rag” an identity that will allow you to rule content in or out based on its relevance.

2. Create a recognisable style or format

Create a style. Perhaps test it in different lengths, with different numbers of articles, with or without images – and then stick to that format so it becomes a familiar face in the inbox.

3. Give it regularity

Weekly or monthly is ideal. Quarterly will do if that’s all you have time or content for. But send it out regularly so it is looked out for, and welcomed.

4. Make it well-written

If someone in the company can write well, or if you work with an agency or freelance writer, get them to create the content. If subject matter experts are not writers, then get someone who can write to interview them (see my separate blog post on creating compelling content). You might even want to commission a freelance journalist or independent expert to create content or commentary, to give you a stronger voice (this will also have the benefit that they will distribute to their own network).

5. Create engagement

Give people a reason to read more, click through to your website, or (even better) engage in a dialogue, with polls and interactive content.

5. Make it timely and relevant

We live in a very big, wide world, so there will always be something new and relevant to your audience, about which you can have an opinion. Today, and over the next few days, for example, you will undoubtedly see a number of emails entitled “Election news: what this means for xyz (insert relevant audience name)”.

This doesn’t mean you can’t recycle old but relevant content, simply that you contextualise it in the moment, and give people a reason to engage with it.

7. Set realistic goals – and flex to achieve them

Why have you created a newsletter in the first place? What do you hope to achieve from it, and how does it fit into your overall marketing strategy? Set some realistic goals, in the context  of a wider plan, and prepare to flex your plan if the goals are not being met. I’d advise using lean startup methodologies to constantly refine the approach to make sure all your outbound marketing (not just the not-a-newsletter) is fit for purpose.

Here’s the link to one we made earlier: GameChanger

 

Using Twitter to build trust and brand awareness …

Using Twitter to build trust and brand awareness …

… and to get people closer to actually reading your content.

In an ideal world you’d write a brilliant and insightful piece of content or thought-leadership, add it it to your website or blog, and wait for all your hundreds of follows to read it, share it, like it – and then as a result come to you later when they need to buy your product or service.

Unfortunately, back in the real world of b2b marketing, it isn’t enough for your content to be brilliant. If you don’t have anyone reading your work and sharing it then you may as well just save it to your server and leave it there.

It’s easy to forget when you’re creating content that there’s a world full of people out there, and that viewing your content is top of no one’s priority list (except perhaps for your mum’s). The biggest mistake to make is to not communicate with these people – and twitter is the place where you will find a large number of them, ready to engage with compelling ideas and content.

When you are ready to start sharing content outside your own network you’re not likely to be presold as a firm – people either don’t know you, or know you but don’t yet trust you. If you have been around for a while, have invested in marketing already, and have a “voice” in the market, then you’re part way there, but you should never underestimate how hard it is to get people that don’t really know you to even consider buying from you. This is particularly relevant where you are selling big ticket items in a b2b environment, or where what you are offering is a service, is intangible, complex, or brand new to your target market. It pays off to write a very personal one-to-one email or LinkedIn InMail introducing yourself and your content. But in a market where you’re not presold, there is no awareness and no trust, so you can’t just rely on contacting people directly.

#hashtags – how to get more out of Twitter

Twitter is one of the platforms that provides one of the quickest ways of getting your content shared. It’s instant and there’s the potential to have your brilliant written work spread really widely. In the b2b and professional services world, it is perhaps unlikely that your content will go viral, but nonetheless #hashtags are a great way to widen your network and bring your content to the attention of like-minded people or those who are searching for content just like yours.

Attaching a #hashtag is a really important (be certain yours isn’t already being used in an inappropriate way). The #hashtag needs to be short and sweet – and to read well.

In 2013, the hashtag #RoyalBaby was used more than 2 million times.

Top tweeting #tips:

  1. Be really careful how you compose your #hashtag and use overarching hashtags like #leadership or #legalservices sparingly to point people to the category you are operating in.
  2. Create your own hashtags that are brief but meaningful in context, and that you can own, especially where they relate to a product, event or campaign (for example Growth Accelerator’s first award ceremony #BraveBold, ProfitAbility’s unique simulation #MagneticLeadership, and tech innovations like #MongoDB or #MeteorJS.)
  3. Avoid clichés like #mustread – it’s not unique and is utterly pointless, especially when you only have 140 characters per tweet to get your message across.

On Twitter, give people a reason to engage

Sharing your work on your own Twitter feed is all very well but it limits who happens to see your post at the time and of course how many followers you have. The simplest strategy that many companies and marketers use is a free prize draw, competition or survey. This is back to “Marketing 101” – giving people a reason to engage. There is so much content out in the ether already (large amounts of it not really fit for purpose), that people that don’t know you may be sceptical about the quality of what you are putting out, so tactics like this can be a great way to increase your follower base before seeding your content. To do this effectively, the message needs to be really simple, with a great offer or prize, and a compelling hashtag.

I recently attended the @GrowthAccel #BraveBold awards, and the next day, noticed no one had posted a list of winners. So I set aside an hour to research the list of winners, and got it up on my blog before anyone else. With just 4 tweets using the #BraveBold hashtag, I received 2 favourites, 9 retweets to 20,813 people (of whom at least 1,000 and probably more are possible prospects), and 66 unique visitors to my blog. It’s not earth shattering content, but all these people, many of whom fit my target audience profile, now have some recognition of who I am. Will they engage me as a marketing coach, or want to engage with my agency? Maybe not yet, but I am on the radar, and ready to engage in a conversation with them when they have need marketing or strategy.

Why retweet (RT)? – and using social tools to make the process much easier

A simple search of a #hashtag will allow you to find businesses and people who are already talking about the same subject. Retweet your content to them by including their Twitter handle. The more followers they have, the greater the audience that is likely to see what you’ve said, and that may favourite or retweet the content.

You should also make a point of following your own clients, and retweeting or favouriting news about them  – they like their content to be shared as much as you do, and it also keeps you up-to-date on what’s happening in their own lives or businesses. The new list feature in Twitter allows you to put clients in a separate list, so it’s easier to track who’s saying what.

Social tools like Feedly are brilliant for helping you find relevant content to share with your followers, without taking up too much of your own time. And tools like Buffer allow you to schedule posts and track their performance, if you don’t want to be on Twitter all the time monitoring the conversations.

Staying ahead of the game

As seasons and events change you need to keep up with the trends and fashions within your sector. In a law firm, changes to the law are an obvious area of interest for clients and potential clients. Look at what’s trending, seek out forthcoming events and occasions that are likely to have a #hashtag.

If you take the hashtag #budget2014 for example, you’ll see an abundance of content relating to the impact the budget has on businesses and consumers. Combine that hashtag with another that’s relevant to you, like #property for example, and you know the content is going ot be super relevant to your own prospects.

Beyond Twitter

Twitter isn’t the only platform that is great for sharing.

Google+ is will allow you to target your content to a concentrated amount of people in a particular circle. The benefit of this is that it is really focused on people to whom it is  relevant, and will create the link from your circle to their s, and then outwards, so there is an effect of ever increasing circles. Google+ is of course favoured by Google, so there are other benefits around link building and SEO that I won’t go into here, but that come from using G+.

For professional service marketers, the social media tool of choice is most likely to be LinkedIn. To maintain credibility in this space, you need to limit your posts a lot more than you might on Twitter. By posting content on LinkedIn first, and then tweeting it, you get the benefit of both worlds, with the authority that comes from a strong LinkedIn presence, coupled with the reach of Twitter. You can also experiment with some of the great new LinkedIn tools like showcase services, and sponsored updates, which can significantly improve your visibility. Just remember to add the #hashtag when you tweet about your LinkedIn posts.

There are many clever ways to use Twitter, combining it with other social media tools, to really raise your profile online, and to start the process of building a position of trust and authority beyond your existing base. It is this that is increasingly important in giving your firm a voice, and growing your business network far beyond the people you now personally, or that are sitting on your marketing database.

The future of work: business reimagined

The future of work: business reimagined

Ever since I began talking to Ben Betts from HT2 about the Curatr Social Learning Platform, I’ve had a nagging thought.

It has been just a niggling feeling until now, and I haven’t been quite able to put my finger on what it is. And then, on Thursday last week, I had a eureka moment at #SMI13 (The Social Media Influence Conference) which has crystalised the problem in my mind.

So what’s the problem? There is a lot of talk in L&D and talent management circles recently about social learning, and why it is so important. There’s talk about user experience, about reusing resources, and about the needs of an ever more demanding learner. And there’s talk about how to grow talent, and the application of learning.

That sounds like a lot. But actually it’s not.  My new understanding is this:

The power of “social” is about so much more than learning. It’s about the whole future of work.

What does that actually mean though?

Let me explain! What we need to do is to focus on the big picture – how we create real business change. When we focus too much on learning, the danger is that the message seems to be relevant only to people in the learning and development function. And it’s not. It’s relevant to every person in the business. Because learning is just something that we do every day without even thinking about it. It’s a state of mind, not a function or a department, or a tool we decide to implement in the organisation.

I spent a fascinating half hour on Thursday afternoon listening to Dave Coplin (@dcoplin) from Microsoft speaking about “The Future of Work” and I’m sure Dave won’t mind me quoting him “Becoming a social business is about agility, pure and simple” (actually I know he doesn’t mind, because I asked him).

What does this mean? It means we need to recognise that people don’t like to change. Take for example the QWERTY keyboard – it was designed specifically to slow down productivity – and yet today, we are still using it. Why? Because we suck at change.

It’s time to reimagine business

The way we do this is to make it social. If we are social (and by this I mean that we open our minds, share more, and change the way we think and act), then we become more responsive to the market, by empowering a critical mass of people in the organisation to share – and chase – the same goal. This opens up the capacity for change, by harnessing not only the collective, but also the individual power of the people in the business.

It’s not about the technology

Social collaboration is not some new tool we can implement in the organisation. It’s about fundamentally changing the way we work. And to do this, the first thing the organisation needs are strong self-aware leaders, willing to make the change. Only with the right mentality will managers have the will, and power, to empower others. And if you empower others, then you create engagement.

And that is the power of social. Social learning – yes. But it’s more than that – because the argument comes full circle here. If we focus on outcomes and not processes, by working together towards a common goal, then the business can make a real change. Which can only be a good thing.

PS It is a bit about the technology after all. Strong leaders come first, without doubt. But when the organisation is ready to change, you will need the tools to do this. And the leaps in technology over the last few years make this so much easier to facilitate.

 

This article was first published by ProfitAbility in July 2013