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Steel City Hub

The Hub is a place to learn about marketing and business; helping you communicate effectively so that you and your business can grow into something wonderful.

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marketing

Community: Help it and it’ll Help Your Business

The community that surrounds you is a rich source of marketing potential for all businesses. Being good at marketing isn’t about following the norm. It’s about thinking outside the box or literally outside your front door.

Promotion PR Mummy Power community
Our client, Powers Martial Arts Centre, Stannington, helped a small group of mums get Big Lottery Funding from the National Lottery. Image: @MummyPowerKick


Alternative Marketing

Here are two questions all business owners should have on their lips:

 

  • What can I do for my community?
  • What can my community do for me?

As a resource for your business, the community around you whether that be within the local vicinity or city-wide, is full of quirky, inspiring and media-hot stories that are just waiting to receive your backing. We are not talking about donating £10 to your local children’s hospice, which is always admirable; but doing something that grabs the attention and reaches the hearts of your customers.

Taking your business marketing activities away from the norm to do something great such as an event for charity, a sponsored challenge or a campaign to raise awareness of local issues or problems could be the difference between, “Oh, there’s an IT company there,” and, “oh look! There’s that IT company that did that amazing challenge.”

We are not talking about donating £10 to your local children’s hospice, which is always admirable, but doing something that grabs the attention and reaches the hearts of your customers.

Benefits of Community Involvement

Implementing the community-focused strategies into your marketing plan can have many benefits for your business but also for the initiative, charity or scheme that you’ve involved yourself with.

Here are some of the main benefits for your business with community involvement:

  • Your business gets noticed more effectively than standard advertising.
  • It promotes your company as socially conscious, to which there are huge customer loyalties. Examples of successful, well-known ethical companies include Innocent Smoothies, People Tree Clothing, The Green People, and the list goes on.
  • It gets you press attention. The media will charge you for an editorial (a salesy-type article), but if you’re smart and have something to say that is in the public interest, you’ll get a mention for free.
  • If you raise your profile through community involvement, your chances of being thought of first by customers above other companies in your sector are much higher. Familiarity and subconscious linking are two ideas behind this.

Any business can find an angle to raise their profile through effective PR and positive community involvement. You want your customers to know you’re approachable. You want them to know you care.

For more advice, information or an example of how community involvement works for local businesses, see our Portfolio or Contact Us for more help.

“Be part of your community, not a separate entity. Get involved in order to achieve greatness in 2017” ~ Steel City Hub Ltd (2017).

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Business Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2017

If, like many other business owners, you’re planning your business strategy for 2017, there are some new and expected business trends that you’d be foolish to ignore. These trends bring with them fresh opportunities to grow your business and develop your brand beyond anything you’d imagined.

 

To save you scouring the internet for business trends in 2017, we’ve compiled a list and some resources for you to consider whilst planning a strategy to suit your business:

  1. E-Commerce is Growing and Changing

We all know someone who is selling stuff online. For some, it’s a hobby to make a bit of extra cash. For others, it’s a living and makes up most of their business model. Traditionally, e-commerce involved platforms like eBay. Over the last year, e-commerce has evolved and surrounded us. Targeted ads on Facebook, YouTube and Google are part of our everyday lives. Much of what the ads are showing us is available on the giant that is Amazon. Not only does Amazon dominate the e-commerce world with a huge proportion of sales via its global site, (see Statistica), but it also offers businesses the freedom to concentrate on marketing, sales and its own brand with its FBA programme. Many of the statistics for Amazon are US-based, however, the UK is quickly waking up to the opportunities for businesses and the convenience for consumers, are you part of the e-commerce boom?

  1. YouTube vs Traditional Advertising

The younger generation – typically those between the ages of 18-30, are increasingly preferring YouTube over traditional TV, this brings positives and negatives for businesses. YouTube videos are cheaper and easier to create and upload. Traditional TV advertising however is much more expensive but can reach a huge audience straight away. With YouTube, the content has to be interesting and current for this younger audience so it can be shared across social media platforms. For example, the Christmas 2016 race for best TV advert in the UK was hotter than ever. The adverts created by John Lewis, M&S, Waitrose & Aldi, the leaders in the race, made their adverts available on YouTube. Why? Because there it could be shared across social media and debated by its audience. No more panels for feedback.

  1. Outsourcing and Freelancing

Over the last few years, there’s been a huge rise in businesses using outsourcing websites such as Upwork. Freelancers can be hired at a relatively low-cost for businesses to produce content (written and video), hire programmers, graphic designers, customer service support and much more. They offer a cheaper and quicker alternative to traditional employment routes. Outsourcing marketing, social media management and administration tasks have become particularly popular and have meant that business owners can free up time spent doing tasks that are not either within their skill range or distracts from their potential sales. The old saying springs to mind, “Time is Money” ~ Benjamin Franklin.

  1. That Personal Connection

Some business models still involve keeping the customers at arms-length to a certain extent. The larger your business, the harder it may seem to create a personal connection with customers and potential customers. However, recent studies have shown that consumers and your customers, even B2B customers, no longer want or have time for the ‘hard sell.’ If your business can make a personal connection with your customers on social media, through good-quality content and through using targeted advertising and marketing methods, you’ll find that people have more time for you. LinkedIn is a great platform, particularly if you’re in B2B. Getting people to know you and your brand personally before making a choice. Sometimes, being a successful personal brand can boost your business brand. Customers like to know that business owners are accessible and willing to interact.

Accepting change is the first step for your business. 2017 will probably open up more unexpected doors for businesses, as well as close some in terms of marketing and revenue streams, however, it’s vital that trends are acknowledged, built into strategy and steps are taken to develop your business into the future.

If you’d like more information or want to discuss your business strategy and marketing, get in touch:

 

Getting the Press to Notice You

PR, Press Relations, Public Relations, Media Coverage; whatever you call it, for organisations like charities and some businesses, PR is a vital way of promoting services or fundraising efforts and gaining more revenue streams.

I have been the voluntary press officer/marketing manager/social media manager for a small charity called the Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group (MDSG) based in Nottingham for some time now. Partly because I like to always make sure that I’m offering as much to charity as possible in anyway that I can and partly because my father and twin sister were diagnosed with the condition, Myotonic Dystrophy (MD), a few years ago.

But what does MD have to do with PR?

This article was written by the Mirror, a national newspaper in the UK because of a press release I sent to them on behalf of the MDSG charity. See link below:

cropped-mirror-article

Source: The Mirror, 28th October 2016. (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/teens-hands-lock-anything-touches-9142495)

MDSG is a really small charity that raises a small amount of funds each year to enable it to support the families of those suffering from MD. So how did I manage to get national press coverage for such a small charity?

Luckily, the popular UK TV show Coronation Street decided to run a story-line on this very rare form of Muscular Dystrophy where one of their main characters, Steve McDonald is thought to suffer from the genetic muscle and multi-organ affecting condition. The mention of the story-line appeared in the national media and smaller, local media outlets.

Opportunities

Such opportunities present an excellent promotional footstool for small charities to get massive amounts of coverage and raise vital awareness for extra fundraising efforts and to improve the general public’s knowledge of the condition – potentially helping to save more lives and allow for better diagnosis rates.

Case Studies

Through asking for volunteers on social media channels and collecting case studies of MD sufferers and their experiences with the condition, I was able to build a strong press release to send out to local media, which is effectively an in-depth article giving a newsworthy angle that promotes what news the charity is wanting to share. The press release was sent out to some of my contacts in the national and local media in time to fit in with the Coronation Street story-line.

The media channels who accepted the press release from me were all nationals and with some additional research and contact with a couple of the case studies that I’d collected for them, they were able to produce some carefully-written, considerate articles with links back to the charity’s website, meaning huge coverage for this charity.

You can find all of the published articles here:  

The Daily Express (November 2016)

Daily Mail  (October 2016)

The Mirror (October 2016)

“Good PR is all about timing. Imagine you run a business that provides specialist antiques. One day, some lucky person finds a wonderful antique and the social media coverage and press coverage goes mad. Say that antique comes into your field of expertise, there’s your opportunity to shine in the media. It’s all about timing, who you know and how you can get your story and services across in the best possible way. Writing your story is what I do. Timing is everything.”

~ Kate Hill, 2016. Copyright.

Start-Up? The Ultimate New Business Checklist

5 Simple Steps to Starting Up in Business

 

Unless you fall really lucky with a totally unique idea that large corporations are already willing to invest thousands in, chances are, you’re starting from the ground up like most of us. Despite what some overconfident fools may think, starting-up requires some real thought, a lot of work and a half-decent checklist of progressive steps in order to attain the goal of issuing your first sales invoice.

Here is a checklist. It’s not entirely comprehensive and it’s not pretending to be the best in the world but it is a start. These are all points I wish someone would have ordered for me when I started out on my first business adventure:

 

  1. Business Planning

Let’s start with the obvious. You don’t jump down a mine-shaft without firstly preparing yourself for what lies ahead i.e. protective clothing, a torch, an instructor who knows where he/she is going…It’s the same in business. Many people who start up a business will never even produce a business plan. When you research ‘business plan,’ it seems quite daunting. It’s not. It’s a structured way of doing some research, writing about what you’ve learned, looking at your competitors i.e. people who have set up similar businesses and also, a good way to get down your ideas and plans for the future. It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to reflect your business. Research and planning is also part of finding your place within the market, looking at how you can fit in and what you can do differently to others in order to be better than they are (making more sales).

 

  1. Marketing Plan

Similar in some ways to your business plan, the marketing plan is just as vital for modern companies. We are in an age where social media has propelled some businesses into orbit and caused others to be a drifter upon the tide. You could either speak to a marketing professional about planning your marketing strategy or you could watch videos on YouTube or do a spot of Googling; however you choose to look into writing a marketing plan, the basic idea behind them is: It shows how you are going to raise awareness of your business, what steps you’re going to take to communicate with your audience and how you want to sell your product or services. Here are some points to think about:

  • Market research – looking at what your competitors are doing to attract attention.
  • Branding – how you want your company to look i.e. logo, tagline, colour scheme etc.
  • Social Media – what platforms will you use? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+?
  • Directory listings – where will you list your business for maximum impact?
  • Advertising – how will you get people to find out about your business? What will you pay?

 

  1. Budget

Have an idea in mind for what you need to spend. Some of this, you’ll need to cover in your business plan as part of your cash-flow forecast (usually more necessary when you’re looking for a business loan, grant or other investment). Everything costs so the more you can learn to do yourself, if you have the time, the better. Here are some costs that are in most business budget plans:

  • Starting up the company on Companies House.
  • Buying or financing your equipment i.e. machines, computers, cars etc.
  • Website design and brand identity – making everything look professional and fit nicely together. Foster & Scott is who I always advise for clients for straight-talking, honest and high-quality design and branding.
  • Printing costs of flyers, leaflets, anything your company needs.
  • Advertising costs to get those initial sales coming in.
  • Telephone and internet set up.
  • Rates, water, light, heat, rent and other premises costs.
  • Staff costs if you’re planning employees already.
  • Bookkeeping (cloud-based or traditional methods) and accountancy costs – I always advise Hill & Co Accountants in Sheffield (obviously).

 

  1. Save your names!

Something I always tell people to do. Whether you’re going for a website straight away or not, buy the domain name for your website for the future i.e. www. yourbusiness .com. Some companies make money by buying the domains once a company is registered and selling them back to you for a lot more money. A cost that you just don’t need. Where else to save your name:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • Anywhere else you’re looking at promoting your services on.

 

  1. Register and Go!

Ok, there may be a few more steps for some new start-ups such as securing investment in the company, getting the premises organised and looking for staff but at this stage, it’s good to get things moving and actually register your company with trading name and address on Companies House. Right from the off, get your accounts in order. Keep ledgers for your sales and purchases (records of who you owe and who owes you). If you haven’t already, invest in some quality bookkeeping software such as Kashflow or Xero, both inexpensive for what they offer.

 

Once you’ve checked off these five steps, it’s all work, work, work. Don’t overlook the importance of words or marketing – tips you can find in the other blogs. If you’d like more information or would like help with your marketing, accounts, bookkeeping or writing, get in touch HERE.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is a word that is brandished around far too much. Unfortunately, not many people actually know what it means, or how to do it.

I get asked all the time: “Do you mean advertising?” No, I don’t mean advertising. Advertising is similar and is effectively an end product or a statistical, measurable way to bring together a stronger marketing plan but it’s not marketing.

A Quick Definition:

Through my experience and knowledge, marketing is the deep understanding through research and market analysis of a brand, product or service that is shared with the necessary, targeted audience across various print, online and technological platforms for the purpose of raising awareness of it, of increasing sales or of promoting attendance (i.e. an event) to it.

Ultimately, marketing is the process of engaging people (a specified target audience i.e. attracting new mothers to a mother and baby magazine) in a brand that has an impact on them. Raising such awareness that they will remember that brand and share their knowledge of it for a period of time.  ~ K Hill. Copyright 2016.

In my experience, some businesses are great at marketing without knowing it; they post all over Facebook, take great photos and videos, ask their friends and family to share posts and best of all, they manage largely on word-of-mouth referrals. Their marketing efforts are not consciously part of a ‘marketing plan,’ however, their success is comparable to companies with great marketing structure.

Then there are companies who are new, high-tech and all over social media. They respond with an automated message as soon as you follow them. They have thousands of followers and a huge online presence but one big problem, they struggle to turn followers into buyers. It works for some, but not all.

Marketing is a fine line between these two examples. The moral of this? Don’t overdo it but don’t forget it all together. It’s great if you can rely solely on word-of-mouth but as I’ve told the majority of my clients, there comes a time when in 2016, you have to have an online presence, even if it’s just so your customers can find you. Creating a simple marketing plan is an effective way to do it and it’s not difficult.

Read my next post: 10 Simple Steps To Marketing in Business (due next week).

 

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