Five sources to help you track trends

Want to give your business a competitive edge this year and ensure your products, services, innovations and messages are on market?

One of the best ways to get in front of the pack, attract new leads and build loyalty with existing customers is to identify needs and trends before or as they are coming. 

But how do you predict these changes when there is no crystal ball in business? Here are five sources to watch and utilise.

1. Industry News

One of the first steps in identifying trends is to know your industry intimately. 

Subscribe to industry association newsletters, journals and magazines, set Google alerts for keywords you want to watch, sign up for reports and statistics, do industry surveys (this will give you insight into what information they want to gather) and watch what others are doing in your industry.  

Also read books and blogs (don’t neglect the comment area), attend seminars, visit trade shows and research new techniques, methods and offerings. 

2. Identify key influencers

Do you have any key influencers in your industry? They could be a pioneer from within, or an outside influencer, someone who is not directly in your industry but often leads the way in purchase decisions like a celebrity, blogger, reviewer, commentator or sometimes even family member of your potential customer.

If your customers are looking to them to tell them what and where they should buy, you should be looking at uncovering how you can influence the influencer.

3. Get in the mind of your customer

Your customers will always be your greatest source of information and their opinion is the one that counts the most given they are the ones paying you!

With this in mind do up a survey to ask your customers about what they need and want from your products, services and industry. What frustrations aren’t being met? What ideas do they have for new innovations and offerings? Has their product or service requirements changed as a result of business growth or lifestyle changes? Extract as much information as you can to ensure you are meeting the markets demands.

4. Social media 

Anywhere a lot of your potential customers gather and talk can offer great information on new trends, needs and opportunities. This is why social media is so great, it can give you a lot of feedback and sometimes brutally honest insight into what your customers want, or find interesting. 

Be sure to follow relevant pages and groups, ask questions, do polls, share different information to see what sticks and monitor what goes viral in your industry.

5. Web Resources

There are also numerous websites that can also help you monitor popular content Like Google Trends, YouTube’s trend dashboard, BuzzFeed and Mashable to name a few. 

Now to you, how do you identify trends in your industry?

Amanda


Four unexpected places to strike marketing gold

When it comes to crafting winning marketing messages you can often find inspiration in the most unexpected places. 

To help you strike marketing gold, here are four places to start looking to uncover marketing messages and product or service developments. 

FAQs

Frequently asked questions give you an insight into what is important to your customers, the potential limitations of your products and services, the features or elements customers don’t understand and what may be missing from your marketing messages. 

If you keep getting the same question numerous times and there is a positive answer, try to identify if there is a key selling point you can draw out of it. If not is there an innovation you could make that will fill the need and give you a competitive edge?

“No”

Nothing causes us to stand up and listen like a “no”. Though in order to learn from each “no” the important question to ask is “why?”  

Was it because they couldn’t see the value? Was it the price? Did it lack a key benefit, feature or inclusion? Was it the sales message or process? Was it just this particular customer (one “no”) or are changes needed to suit the needs of your larger customer base (more than one “no”)?

Examine the scenario yourself and solicit feedback, it could be as simple as needing to change your message to demonstrate your value from a customer’s perspective. 

Objections

Objections are often seen as the first step towards rejection but it’s not the case. A customer who is objecting is still engaged. They are still interacting, listening and evaluating. Objections aren’t a “no” they’re a “not yet” or “I need more information”. 

Just like frequently asked questions, objections uncover the priorities of your target market and, when you listen closely, can give you the information you need to customise your sales pitch so they see the value for them personally. 

They can also show you what case studies and testimonials you need and what information you should include in your marketing material and sales process to overcome objections before they’re even verbalised. By doing so you’ll show your customers you ‘get’ them. 

Testimonials

While this is a more obvious place to find marketing gold, if you’re like most businesses it’s unlikely you are using them to your full advantage. 

While they can help you ‘prove’ your value through your marketing material and overcome common objections of customers (provided you get the right testimonials), they can also tell you what to prioritise in your marketing message.

Your customers may love a particular product, service, feature or result more than those you are currently pushing and chances are what your future customers love about you, will be the same thing your future customers will want from you. 

You can also uncover the true frustrations of your customers through your testimonials. Often you will solve a problem your customer didn’t know they had. Testimonials are a great way to capture the relief and give you the gift of hindsight for your next customers. 

Have you found marketing gold in any unusual places?

Amanda


Five words to boost your marketing in the New Year

Can you believe the end of the year is right around the corner? To help you gear up for a bigger, better year with your business, here are five words to put into action to help boost your marketing in the year ahead.

1. Strategise 

Now is the time to review. What worked, what didn’t and what can be made better? Will you be aiming for a different market this coming year? What do they need and want? What problems, worries and frustrations do they have? If you aren’t changing target markets, are your messages working or do you need to change your approach?

2. Personalise

We are doing business in an increasingly global, faceless environment, don’t underestimate the need to personalise your marketing. People want and need to feel as though you are talking just to them, but to do this you need to be more aware of your audience and more targeted in your marketing approach. 

It might be a case of doing three specific marketing or advertising campaigns to key target markets as opposed to one general one. While it can sound like more effort, you will get far better results being specific.  

3. Theme

Make your marketing easier in the New Year by theming your content and campaigns. Grab a large wall planner and write down all key dates, events and tradeshows within your business and industry. Then write in all related causes, awareness days, weeks or months, and public holidays. 

If you are planning public relations and advertising campaigns in the New Year, request the media kits of the publications you want to target and write down the editorial themes they will be covering.
 
Very soon you will start to see possible themes emerge within your calendar. Then once you’ve decided you can theme your social media, marketing material and promotions around these making it easier to find content and identify the best marketing activities.

4. Care

There is no marketing strategy more powerful than genuinely caring for your customers. Go the extra mile, help where you can and take the time to answer questions. Build relationships with your customers don’t just bank transactions.

5. Authenticity

Customers don’t just want to purchase a product or service from a business anymore they want a genuine, transparent experience from a business that knows who they are and what they stand for. 

For this reason, you need to be authentic and transparent in your marketing and in the way you do business. If you make a claim, back it up. If you make a mistake, own it and fix it. Be real, at the end of the day most people are buying the people behind the business, not a product or service.

How will you be shaking up your marketing in the New Year?

Amanda


Want to break up with social media? Don’t!

Dear Social Media,
I’ve been unliking you for a while. I can’t believe how low your reach has stooped and I’m tired of your gold digging ways. I’m afraid we just can’t selfie anymore.

#breakingup #itsnotmeitsyou 

It’s the break up letter so many want to write. With so many changes, low reach and a push towards paid advertising, many people are fantasising about breaking up with their social media accounts. 

But before you act on your desires, it might be worth making some changes first.

1. Switch platforms

Not all social media platforms work for all businesses and industries, if you are struggling with one, keep a presence there but put more effort into another. Look at the audience you are targeting and determine what social media platforms they are using most.

2. Set realistic expectations

The truth is social media won’t always result in instant sales. It should be just one channel you use to market your business, and it should have a distinct purpose – like building your list. 

Keep in mind that to many of your followers, you are a faceless business, to build their trust in you, rapport needs to be established and value needs to be given and this can take time. 

So instead of seeing it as a sales channel, think of it as another touch point with your customers and potential customers. Unlike a newsletter that may go out monthly, or a blog that may go out weekly, your social media followers have given you permission to be in touch with them daily – sometimes multiple times daily allowing you to build trust, credibility and rapport quicker.

3. Mix it up!

The same messaging and approach, won’t always work. Social media audiences change very quickly, so do their needs, wants and life stages. To stay relevant you need to be constantly changing and innovating too. Frequently test and measure to see what works best and don’t be afraid to mix up your content.

4. Plan ahead

Use the insights available to you. Work out who your audience is, what posts they interact on and what time they are online or respond best. Then write more of it – and write it ahead of time. 

A lot of time can be wasted and a lot of stress felt, in the brainstorming and writing of status updates on a daily basis. By theming content and writing a month ahead, you can save yourself significant time and frustration.

5. Delegate or outsource it

If social media is really giving you grief, get someone else to do it before giving up entirely. Whether you delegate it in-house, or outsource it entirely, sometimes a fresh perspective and personality can be just what you need to engage your followers and bring back your social media joy.

Amanda


How to make more impact in less words and time

With limited time and shortened attention spans, it is becoming increasingly important to get to your point across quickly and concisely to make an impact with your audience. 

From the home page on your website and the first email you send to a lead, to the tweet you post, the infomercial you recite or the quote you give a journalist, you need to be able to get your message across quickly, powerfully and succinctly.

So to help you make more impact in less words and time, here are three steps to follow when creating your message.

Step 1 – Think it through

Whether you are preparing for a media interview, planning your website copy or writing a social media post, think about the most impactful message you have to share.

Do you have compelling statistics, interesting information, key industry insight, knowledge of upcoming trends, impressive results, powerful testimonials, or a great emotional pull?

When you have identified your message, write it down without worrying about how long it is or how many characters you are using. It is more important to get the message right before making it concise.

Step 2 – Revise and Refine 

Once you have brainstormed your message, take a break. Come back with a fresh perspective and evaluate as objectively as possible. 

Is this really the best message to us? Does it address a problem or frustration? Does it give value? Does it solve or start to solve a problem? Does it make your audience smile, laugh or become engaged? Does it appeal to emotions making your audience scared, uncomfortable or motivated? Does it intrigue your audience? Does it leave them wanting more?

While your message objectives will depend on the channel you are using, it should have some purpose and lead towards the goal you want to achieve by undertaking this specific marketing activity.

Step 3 – Sharpen and shorten 

Only once you have refined your message should you be concerned with sharpening and shortening it. This time when you read over your message look to eliminate words that over emphasise your point or don’t need to be there like ‘very’ or ‘actually’.  Even words like ‘that’ can be used when not needed. 

Also look for different words that can simplify or shorten your message. Let’s use “it is becoming increasingly important”, part of my opening statement as an example. Before I chose the word ‘increasingly’ I had the words ‘even more’, while it says the same thing increasingly was more concise and one less word. 

If my focus was on the amount of characters though, and I had the choice of these words I would use ‘even more’, which has one less character despite being two words. 

However, if I was really concerned with word count, amount of characters or time I could shorten it further to “it’s crucial” turning five words into two. 

Give it a go next time you need to create an infomercial, post or marketing message. You will find by following these three steps you will cut the waffle and create more strategic, sharper and shorter messages that will carry more impact with your audience. 

Amanda


Four tips to increase newsletter opens and clicks

With over 100 billion emails sent last year alone, and many of us receiving tens if not hundreds of emails a day, it can be easy for your newsletter to become lost in a sea of your readers emails. 

But before you start waving the white flag, regular newsletters and emails are still a great way to create another touch point with your customers and build your profile and sales. But how do you stand out in a crowded inbox and keep readers opening? Here are four tips to increase your newsletter opens and clicks.

1. Never underestimate the power of your subject line

Your subject line is the headline of your newsletter and in many cases the only opportunity to capture your readers’ attention. 

For best results don’t just go for a generic ‘[Month] Newsletter’ subject line, include an incentive or information teaser. It could be to address a challenge or need, or include a desired benefit, a sneak peek of the tips contained within, an emotional pull or special offer.

2. Personalise your newsletter

General statements like ‘Hello Business Owner’ immediately rid your newsletter of the personal touch and people are less likely to read on. Readers want to feel like you are talking directly to them so where possible personalise your newsletter by using their first name.

If you don’t have the names of the people you are emailing, or a program that will insert their names for you, consider using a pain or benefit driven headline that will appeal to most if not all readers. A targeted headline like this, despite not being personalised is often more effective then a group greeting.

3. Value your reader’s time

People are busy and inboxes are crowded. Value your reader’s time by keeping your newsletter brief and relevant. It is not the place to waffle about everything you’ve done for the month; it is another touch point to connect with your readers, so think about what they will want and need.

If you do have long articles and detailed information you want to share, publish them as a blog post on your website so you can provide a short sentence or two with a link to “read more” this not only saves space and time, it also increases your website traffic.

4. Prioritise your content

Keep in mind that the majority of your readers will be scanners looking to see ‘what’s in it for me’? They will scan until they find something relevant or of value to them – and if they don’t your headed for deleted items.

To appeal to scanners outline the key selling points of your newsletter early and link to each area where possible. Also make sure that the most interesting, relevant or hard-hitting information is at the start of your newsletter.

How do you keep readers opening your newsletter?

Amanda


It’s all in the name: Five considerations when naming your business, product or service

Creating a name for a new business, product or service can be an overwhelming task, particularly when it can determine the identity, personality and the perception of your brand. 

With this in mind you need more than a trusty thesaurus and clever word play, you need to think about the end result, the ultimate brand you want to create and then work backwards. 

So here a five considerations to take into account when naming your new business, product or service. 

1. Know your target markets and what they want

The first step in creating a great name is to know who you are targeting. While it won’t impact the name in every case, it can be a way of appealing and positioning your business, product or service in a way that easily identifies through name or slogan who it will benefit. 

2. Research keywords

Research what words and terms your target market is searching for when trying to find your industry, products or services, and see if there is way you can use these keywords into your name. 

By incorporating keywords into your business, product or service name, slogan and domain names you have a slight edge when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as it is an easy and natural way to incorporate them into your copy. 

3. Be mindful of spelling and phrasing

While it can be fun, and advantageous for trademarking to invent new words and phrases, or change the spelling of existing words, be mindful of how your potential customers may spell it or search for it if they were to only hear your name. 

Potential customers won’t always see your logo or the spelling of your name the first time they are introduced to you. They may hear it mentioned in an infomercial, be referred to you while talking to a friend or colleague, or perhaps even hear it on the radio or a podcast interview.

With this in mind, it is wise to make the spelling clear while it becomes established and also take precautionary methods (if possible) with domain names for instance in order to pick up potential searches and enquiries that may spell it incorrectly. 

Also think about your name in terms of a hashtag. If you have multiple words in your name could they be interpreted as something else if you were to run them all together as a #hashtag on social media?

4. Use or create a verb

Using a verb or creating a word that could be used as a verb can be a great way to make your business, product or service stick in the mind of your customer and make it appear to be the best or ‘in’ thing to do. For example how many times have you said or heard someone say “Google it”. 

5. Incorporate the problem you solve or benefit you provide 

This can be a powerful positioning strategy that can set you apart from the very beginning. 

Be mindful though that when you incorporate the problem you solve or benefit you provide in your business, product or service name you are making a promise to your customers. So whatever you say, you need to make sure that you can (while thinking of all ‘what if’ scenarios)  live up to it and maintain it over the course of your business. 

Do you have a process behind choosing names for your businesses, products or services?

Amanda


The collaboration checklist

When it comes to leveraging your time, money, contacts and resources you can’t beat the power of collaboration. Not only do strategic partnerships or alliances open you up to new contacts and opportunities, they can also help you value-add to customers and land larger accounts. 

But how do you find the right collaboration partners? This five-question collaboration checklist will help you find and evaluate strategic alliances so you can appeal to a wider target audience, attract larger clients and grow your business faster through collaboration.

1. Are you well aligned?

When it comes to building a close business relationship you need to be well aligned, not only in your level of skill and experience, but also in your personality, ethics and business vision. You need to be comfortable with referring your customers to them. If there is even the slightest doubt, address it early.

2. Do you share the same client base?

You want to collaborate with businesses your ideal customer will go to either before or after you. This way you not only supply each other with leads, but also value-add to each other’s customers and projects, share promotional costs, open up profitable promotional opportunities and can joint pitch for bigger accounts.

3. Have you done your due diligence?

When you are considering working with someone closely you need to do your research. What is their reputation like? Do they have the right credentials and licenses? Have you spoken to some of their customers? Do you know their strengths and weaknesses? Have you asked about their capacity? 

Remember you will be associating your brand with their brand and referring them customers. Their decision and actions (or lack their of) could impact on your customers and business. Make sure you’ve asked the right questions and have a strong level of trust in them.  

4. Do you have a value-add Plan B?

Business relationships, like any relationship aren’t fully equal 100% of the time. Know from the very beginning that sometimes one person will be referring more than the other. 

By openly accepting this fact you can build in a Plan B, like a commission on referrals, contra products or services or additional promotion throughout each other’s network at these times so you both feel that you are still receiving value from the collaboration.

5. Are you both equally committed?

Successful business arrangements happen when each party is equally committed and invested in the project. You both need to want the collaboration and see the value in it as much as the other, otherwise it will end up a win/lose arrangement or it will fizzle quickly into nothing.

Like any relationship you both need to be persistent, committed, invested and take the time to nurture your collaboration through communication – a quick weekly/fortnightly call to say “hey, how is everything in your world? Anything I can do to help?” doesn’t take a lot of effort; it can however generate you a strong collaboration and lot of business.

Do you collaborate in your business? How do you find the right partners?

Amanda


The biggest point of difference you are underselling

If you are like most business owners your biggest point of difference comes not from what you do or even how you do it, it comes from what you know.

The knowledge you have around your industry, products and services, your customers needs, problems and challenges, the lessons you’ve learnt and the formulas, templates, processes and systems you’ve created based on your knowledge and experience is all extremely valuable. 

What’s more it could be what influences a potential customer in doing business with you over your competitors. Yet most of us undersell it. 

So if by chance you are underselling your knowledge, here are four reasons why you should stop doubting and start sharing.

1. Your industry knowledge isn’t “common sense”

When something comes easy to you, it can be easy to think that it comes easy to everyone else too – but it doesn’t. The truth is you have distinct skills and knowledge that most people will never have. Even the most researched customers won’t come close to what you know.

2. You may share the same expertise, but not the same experience

While you may feel that the industry knowledge you have isn’t unique, that it is shared by anyone working in your industry, your experience is. The experience you have gained from working in your industry day in and day out can’t be replicated.

No one has been exactly where you are today. They haven’t had the same life experiences, the same customers, learned the same business lessons, or had the same setbacks and wins. You are far more knowledgeable than you realise.

3. Your explanation and application could be just what someone needs

Each of us respond better to particular communication and learning styles and build rapport quicker with specific personalities. 

While you may not be the most knowledgeable person in your industry – or even close at this stage, how you explain, implement or package your knowledge could be what spurs a customer or potential customer to finally take action on something they have “heard a hundred times” before.

4. Every great expert started as an amateur

Remember that every great expert and every successful entrepreneur and business leader started out as an amateur. The only difference is they kept learning, growing and sharing what they knew with their staff, customers and the world.

Are you underselling yourself?

Amanda


Three ways to be more compelling in your sales and marketing

Your ability to compel your customers, readers and followers to read on, act or buy, directly determines your leads, conversions and business profits. 

So how do you become more compelling in your sales and marketing? Here are three ways to get you started.

1. Keep a little mystery

In the same way you wouldn’t tell your entire life story in the first few dates with someone, don’t feel you need to inform your potential customer, reader or follower of every facet of your business, industry or topic in the first few touch points. Leave a little mystery by informing them slowly.

Mystery leaves your potential customers wanting more, providing of course that you give away the right details to begin with. To use mystery effectively you need to know who you are targeting and what key selling points will most appeal to them.

Infomercials and your answer to the common question “so what do you do?” are great places to practice a little business mystery.

2. Offer information teasers

Key information like statistics, industry insights, inside secrets, usability tips, and handy hints on areas your target audience are interested in can spark interest and get them to take a level of action like giving over their contact details to you.

Knowledge is power, and in this day and age it is our most valuable commodity – not to mention our biggest point of difference. Sharing relevant and interesting information builds your credibility and positions you as an expert in your field, giving potential customers the confidence in doing business with you.

The trick here though, is in knowing how much of your knowledge to give away, as it will depend on the action you need a potential customer to take. Being a ‘teaser’ your information should be limited, but at the same time it needs to be enough to build trust and leave potential customers, followers or readers feeling like you’ve given them real value.

Always keep some information under lock and key for your paying customers, or to get potential customers taking bigger steps of trust with you.

Social media, newsletters, website opt-ins, blog posts and advertisements are great places to tease with compelling information. 

3. Limit options and choices

While potential customers want to feel like they have a choice in what they do or buy, too much choice can overwhelm your buyer and cause you to lose control in the sales process. 

Before you do any sales or marketing you should map out the steps you want to take each customer through. While not all will follow and some will jump ahead, having this planned out allows you to guide potential customers to the decision you want them to take.

In a service-based business it could be having a few core packages, memberships or services with the ability to customise or value-add further should you need too. For online product-based businesses it could be having a clear category headings and links to the most popular products from your home page as opposed to listing all products immediately.

By having limited choices buyers can quickly determine the products or services most relevant to them, or what their next step needs to be without being overwhelmed by information. It also means you can use sneaky call to action tips to help boost your conversions.

Keep in mind that too much information or too many choices can stall the buying process and even drive them to a competitor who keeps choices simple. This is particularly important for websites and sales meetings.

What are some ways you can be more compelling in your sales, marketing and copywriting?

Amanda


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