Author Archives: Sarah Hickman

The benefits of working with a graphic designer on a retainer

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Graphic design retainer

As a business owner or marketing manager, you’ll already understand the importance of high quality, consistent branding for your business.

You may work with various graphic designers on an ad-hoc basis to produce your marketing materials. But have you considered working with a graphic design agency on a retainer?

We work with some of our clients in this way, and it works brilliantly (even if we say so ourselves!).

A retainer – or support package – is an agreement between you and your designer or design agency to work together regularly for a period of time, or indefinitely by mutual agreement.

Retainers usually involve weekly, monthly or quarterly work, and your agreement reserves time in your designer’s schedule for a set cost.

Working with designers on a retainer could make a huge difference to your business and your marketing budget. Why?

Peace of mind.
The retainer arrangement guarantees that we’ll allocate a certain number of hours to your work throughout the month. This gives you the peace of mind and confidence that your project deadlines will be met.

Quality and consistent style.
As it’s a long-term relationship, we get to know the brand inside out, and care about your brand as much as you do.

If you work with different designers on separate elements of your branding and marketing visuals, you could end up with a jumbled mix of design styles and quality.

Working regularly with one design agency will ensure that the style and quality of the design is consistent – and therefore memorable – across all your branding.

Our best-ever brochure design brief from one long-standing client? “You know what you’re doing. Just do it!” This proved to us that the client trusted us implicitly!

Queue jumping.
Retainer work can be prioritised over other ad-hoc last-minute projects. With a retainer you’re essentially pre-booking and pre-paying for time in your agency's studio schedule.

A good graphic designer or design agency can get booked up weeks, or even months in advance. Either their schedule is full, or they’re willing to work overtime but you’ll be charged a rush fee.

With a retainer, you get to jump the queue. You’ve already paid for the work, so even short-notice* projects will be delivered on time.

* Within reason!

Efficiency and time saving.
A long-term relationship means you don’t need to interview and brief a new designer or design team every time a project begins.

When you work with a designer or agency for the first time, you’ll spend time getting to know one another. Your designers will need to familiarise themselves with the style and personality of your brand before creating any visuals. There’s a risk they won’t get it right first time and you’ll need a lot of back-and-forth to get the design right.

When you work together long-term, you can skip this step and get work approved and delivered faster and more efficiently.

Discounted fee.
On a graphic design retainer agreement we usually – depending on the package – offer a discounted fee compared to our normal hourly rate.

Simpler budgeting.
Your accounting will be simpler. You know exactly how much you’ll be paying each week or month for the duration of the retainer contract, so you can plan your budget and stay organised.

Less paperwork.
On one-off jobs you’ll be dealing with quotes, contracts, invoices, etc. every time. Having a graphic design agency on a retainer means you have less paperwork to deal with. And less paperwork equals more time for you to focus on your own core business activities.

Still not convinced? Get in touch.
If you think a retainer might work for you, we can test the water by starting small. You can select a few modestly-sized regular jobs, and we can use those to create a mini support package. In time you can, if required, increase the scope of your retainer.

Before setting up your retainer, we’ll have a chat about the kind of work you need and how often you need it, so we can get a support package in place that fits your needs and budget.

If you’d like to chat about setting up a graphic design retainer for your business, get in touch.

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Top tips for proofreading your marketing copy

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Top Tips for Proofreading

When you're writing copy for your website and marketing materials, proofreading your content may be the last thing on your mind – particularly if you're on a deadline. But paying more attention to the words you're using could help to maintain and improve the perception people have of your business.

Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and poorly-constructed sentences can make your business look unprofessional, which will only encourage your potential customers to look for other - more professional - companies to spend their money with.

Mistakes can also cost you money. Business owners sometimes waste whole print runs because of bad spelling, punctuation or grammar that spellcheck didn't pick up. Mistakes can be more easily and cheaply rectified on a web page – but only if you spot them!

Here are some handy tricks that professional proofreaders use, which should help you pick up errors before your customers do.

QUICK TIPS

    • Make sure you are in a quiet place, free from distractions
    • Work from a print out if possible
    • Use a red pen
    • Read out loud
    • Cover up the line below
    • If you're using a computer, use spellcheck but DON'T RELY ON IT!
    • Read backwards sentence by sentence
    • Read backwards word by word
    • If you can get someone to help, get them to check it too
    • If you can get someone to help, have them read it out while you follow the text
    • Double check numbers too, e.g. £100000 instead of £1000000

COMMON MISTAKES TO LOOK OUT FOR

      • Spacing between words – are there any spaces missing or are there too many?
      • Letters accidentally typed twice e.g. Councill
      • Words accidentally typed twice
      • Full stops missing
      • Missing close bracket
      • Writing numbers: 1 to 9 should be written as numbers. Numbers from ten onwards should be written as words
      • Make sure quotes and speech are in speech marks
      • Make sure proper names, places and brand names start with a capital letter
      • Look out for missing or extra commas
      • Look out for full stops used incorrectly
      • Make sure brackets are closed
      • Add speech marks where necessary
      • No need for double punctuation e.g. !!

PUNCTUATION
Incorrect punctuation can be dangerous...

“Let's get ready to eat, Granny!”
OR
“Let's get ready to eat Granny!”

You can see why punctuation is important if you try to make sense of this sentence which has no punctuation at all:

perhaps you dont always need to use commas full stops colons etc to make sentences clear when i am in a hurry tired cold or lazy i sometimes leave out punctuation marks grammar is stupid i can write without it and dont need it my uncle Harry once said he was not very clever and i never understood a word he wrote to me i think ill learn some punctuation not too much enough to write to Uncle Harry he needs some help

Now let's see if punctuating it makes a difference...

Perhaps you don't always need to use commas, full stops, colons etc. to make sentences clear. When I am in a hurry, tired, cold or lazy I sometimes leave out punctuation marks.

"Grammar is stupid! I can write without it and don't need it," my uncle Harry once said. He was not very clever and I never understood a word he wrote to me. I think I'll learn some punctuation - not too much, enough to write to Uncle Harry. He needs some help!

Get in touch if your marketing copy could do with the once-over from our eagle-eyed team of proofreaders!

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Who are my customers? Using market segmentation can help you find out

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Marketing-Leamington-Spa

OK, so this may sound like a dry, academic topic. But using market segmentation needn't be difficult, and can help any business – large or small – define who their customers are. Once you know who your customers are, you can then take steps to shape your offering to meet their needs.

A segment of the market is basically a group of people that share similar characteristics.

You can follow four rules for creating useful segments. Your segments should be:

1. Measurable
We should know where it is, how big it is, and exactly how it differs from the market at large and other segments in particular.

2. Accessible
You need to be able to access the segment with your marketing communications.

3. Substantial
It has to be big enough to be worth your while.

4. Homogeneous
The members of the segment must act in the same way, and respond in the same way to marketing messages they receive.

So the next question is – what criteria should you use for segmentation?

This depends on your business, but here are some suggestions:


1. Geographical markets

By country
By region
By county
By town
By postcode
Or even by street

2. Demographic factors
By age
By gender
By family life stage (e.g. whether they have children)
By income
By occupation
By education

3. Social factors
By social class (although this is becoming less useful)
By lifestyle
By personality

4. Benefits sought
For example, if you are a toothpaste manufacturer, why are your customers buying your product? Is it for dental health, social reasons (fresh breath), or appearance (tooth whitening)?

 

The list above is based on a business-to-consumer business. A B2B organisation could use slightly different criteria, such as type of customer, end uses, common buying factors, and buyer size and geography.

Segmentation isn't necessarily a precise exercise, but it should be able to help you target your marketing efforts more effectively. It can help define the focus of your company, increase your competitiveness, retain your customers, improve your communication… and ultimately increase your profitability.

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10 tips to get your marketing calls to action working for you

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Calls To Action marketing Leamington Spa

How many times have you seen instructions like "Subscribe Now" - "Sign Up Today" - "Contact Us To Find Out More" - "Buy Now" online? Do you have any on your own website? If not, we strongly advise that you get some!

Calls To Action (CTAs) help your website to work hard for you. They are also very valuable in email campaigns, because one of the purposes of an email campaign is to get your potential customers to take an action.

CTAs are a marketing necessity. Get them right and you have the means to drive your customers to just the conclusion you want, for example:

  • purchasing goods or services
  • signing up for a newsletter
  • downloading your latest white papers, etc.

Get your CTAs wrong and you are potentially damaging your digital marketing efforts.

So how can I make them work for me?

They should be:

1. DIRECT
Make it clear what the customer will achieve by clicking on your CTA. Use concise language. If you want your customer to ‘Download full report’ then say so. Not ‘Click here to be amazed by our survey’s results’.

But at the same time...
2. UNAMBIGUOUS
Avoid open-ended invitations such as ‘Click here’ or ‘Submit’. Instead, state a clear outcome, such as 'Buy now’, or ‘Download your free trial’.

3. PROMINENT
Whether presented as a button, advert, text or image, your CTA needs to stand out from the rest of the page in terms of colour, design and position. Don’t hide it away where it won't be found.

4. WELL PLACED
Its position on your web page is vital. Generally, lead generation or eCommerce CTAs should be displayed prominently near the top of the page, whilst more complex pages might warrant a CTA below the 'fold'.

5. CONSIDERED FOR MOBILE DEVICES
If you’re aiming at a mobile audience (and most people are), don’t bury your CTA at the bottom of your page - users will be required to scroll endlessly to reach it. Also, don't use tiny buttons that will go unnoticed on a small screen.

6. PERSONALISED
People like the personal touch. Think about the language you use. Amazingly, a case study from the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 showed a 90% increase in sign-ups by altering one word in a CTA, from ‘Start your free 30 day trial’ to ‘Start my free 30 day trial’.

7. TESTED
Testing will allow you to maximise the impact of your CTA and understand the preferences of your audience. It's worth trying different wording, and placing your CTA in different areas to see what works best.

8. REALISTIC
Make sure your CTA does what it says. If you've promised a free report, make sure the CTA leads straight there, not to your homepage or to a series of complex sign-up procedures. Potential customers may get frustrated and leave the page.

9. OPTIMISED
If your CTA is embedded as an image, make sure you alt tag it with strong keywords. You may need to ask your web developer for help! Alt tags ensure your content is correctly indexed with search engines, and will help to maximise traffic and improve your SEO.

10. FEW
Don’t confuse your visitors with too many CTAs or buttons per page. Where more than one CTA is necessary, create a hierarchy to prioritise. The most important ones should be bigger and placed in a prominent position to maximise clicks.

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Content marketing – what's the point?

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Content marketing

What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience - and ultimately to drive profitable customer action.” (Content Marketing Institute)

In other words, it is creating or finding relevant information and high-quality content, and sharing it on a mixture of digital channels, such as your website blog and social media.

The ideal content is entertaining, informative and helpful to potential customers. Good content directs those customers to your website (or makes them linger there), where you can potentially capture leads and sell products. Successful content marketing creates positive associations to your brand.

Why is it so popular?
In today’s digital world, people are inundated with adverts. As a result, businesses struggle to get their messages noticed. In 2011, a study conducted by the Custom Content Council showed that more than 70% of people preferred to get their information from articles rather than from advertisements. This helps to explain the growth in popularity of content marketing.

Why do businesses do it?
Large, successful brands like Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble and Toshiba (to name a few) use content marketing – so it must be worth doing. Large brands are interested in content marketing for two reasons:
1. It's an effective way to reach audiences
2. It provides more “immediacy” to learn from and interact with these audiences than traditional bought media, like press and TV advertising

In other words, it's a great way of carrying out your own market research, and building your brand. Through content marketing, you are communicating messages to your customers all the time, and hopefully building a relationship.

SMEs obviously don't have the huge marketing budgets of these organisations, but can learn from them.

Is it worth the investment/time?
Content marketing is a lot like going to the gym. You’re not going to see results in a week, but if you commit to doing it regularly over time, you’ll see results. The bottom line is that there is tremendous ROI in consistently developing great content for your audience. And, unlike other forms of marketing, content marketing pays dividends far into the future.

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10 tips for producing a brilliant brochure

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Brochure-design-Leamington

Nowadays many small businesses forego a sales brochure. Your website provides all the information your customers need, so what's the point?

There are still lots of good reasons why your business needs a brochure. Many potential customers still like to have something tangible to take away with them, to use as a quick reminder of your products or service. A well produced brochure will help to reinforce the message that you provide a good quality service.

For example, a conference venue may leave a brochure with a potential customer after a venue show-round. Brochures also continue to be widely used by companies providing high value products such as cars.

Too many brochures, though, lack the visual impact or marketing message that will lead people to look twice. Our advice – if you're going to do it, do it properly and hire a professional. A brochure that you have mocked up in Word, littered with clip art and printed on your office printer simply won't reflect your business as a professional outfit.

We've come up with five things to consider when you're talking to your marketing agency about your new brochure:

1. Outline your brochure objectives
Ask yourself why you need a brochure. Then define your objectives – is it simply because your last brochure didn't work? Is it to promote a new product or service?

2. Define your target market
Who is the brochure for? Will it be used as a 'scatter-gun' mailout, or only distributed to warm leads? Are you targeting the budget holder/decision maker? When someone opens it, what will it say to them? It should be designed for that person, not for yourself.

3. Check out the competition
See what your competitors are doing. This can be tricky as you might not want to contact them for a brochure. Many companies upload their brochures to their website however, so you can do your research anonymously! See what works and what doesn't, and work out what elements you might need in your own brochure.

4. Make sure it fits with your brand
Brochure designs need to fit in with what you do as a business. For example, charities won't want to spend money on luxury brochures, whereas a new manufacturing product might need a brochure that looks amazing on an exhibition stand.

5. Don’t consider it permanent
A good brochure may only work for a few months before you want to change the offer or send a different message. Perhaps your business is seasonal – for example a chocolate retailer might have separate brochures for Easter, Christmas etc. Don’t think of your brochure as something you’ll distribute for years.

And here are five things your marketing agency should do:

6. Use a copywriter
Excellent copy is crucial to great brochure design, but is often the most undervalued element. Copy needs to be considered as part of the overall design. The messages should be clear and simple, and focused on providing a solution for your reader. The brochure doesn't need to include every piece of information in great detail, but should highlight the benefits of using your company. The reader should be interested enough to take further action. Finally, make sure it's proof-read as many times as possible – a mistake can't be corrected once the ink is on the paper!

7. Include calls to action
Your brochure should always include correct, legible contact information and a call to action. We’ve seen beautiful brochures that omit the company’s phone number, include it in tiny type or even get it wrong. Be sure to have a goal in mind for what you want readers to do. If you’d like them to visit your website, direct them there. If you’d prefer them to phone, say so.

8. Use great images
To make a brochure enjoyable to flick through, it needs good photos. Don't worry if your budget doesn't stretch to your own photoshoot – your agency can use stock images from an online image library like iStock or Fotolia. However, they should try to find pictures that don't look like they're stock images! Your agency should be using large, colourful photos. We see many brochures using lots of tiny images, or no images at all. Pictures should be relevant to the message – there's no need to include a photo of your office, for example, unless it’s to encourage potential customers to visit.

9. Invest in professional printing
Your marketing agency will deal directly with good printers. They may even be able to negotiate a cheaper price on your behalf. Printers can advise on the best and most cost-effective paper stock, and size of page. For example, A4 size is much more cost-effective than a non-standard square size. Heavyweight paper that feels substantial in the reader’s hands, and a nice finish can add to the good impression.

10. Don't cut corners
We might be biased but we would always recommend getting the help of a marketing agency skilled in brochure production and its component parts, such as graphic design and copywriting. You might save money by writing the words yourself, for example, or taking your own photos. But unless you are experienced this can be a false economy – there's no point investing in a brochure if it's not properly produced, as this could make your business look cheap and unprofessional.

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Features vs Benefits: How to think like your customers

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think-like-your-customers

Why do people buy a product or a service? They do it for the benefit it offers them.

As the seller, your mission is to answer the question, “What's in it for them?”

Approach your marketing efforts from your customer's perspective. Next time you write content for your website, send an email campaign or update your social media accounts, stop and think – why should customers buy from me? What benefits am I offering them?

There's a difference between the features of what you're selling, and the benefits.

Feature = what the product is, or what it has;
Benefit = what the product does for the customer.

Here are some examples of features vs benefits:

1st generation Apple iPod
Feature = 5GB hard drive storage
Benefit = 1,000 songs in your pocket

Rachel's Organic Greek Yoghurt
Feature = nutritious and tasty
Benefit = makes you feel healthier and more satisfied

Kleenex Balsam Tissues
Feature = thick and soft
Benefit = soothes your nose and helps you through a cold

Nurofen Plus Tablets
Feature = contains active ingredients Ibuprofen and Codeine Phosphate
Benefit = one dose relieves your headache and gets you through the day

Both features and benefits are equally important when you're writing your marketing copy and campaigns, but it will be the benefits that give you the best advantages for converting customers.

Try making a list of your product’s features and write benefits for each. Do this again for different potential customers, even ones you may not have considered before. You may find a new way of looking at your product that helps you better connect with people.

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New year, new marketing plan: 10 ways to revamp your marketing for 2019

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New year new marketing plan

It’s a new year, so now's the time to reflect on the successes or challenges you faced in 2018, and think about what you want your business to accomplish in 2019.

Like many areas of your business, it's a good time to take a look at your marketing. To help you revamp your marketing strategy in 2019, we've put together 10 helpful tips to get you started:

1. Establish a budget
When creating your marketing budget, you need to be focused on your customers. Where are they, and how do you find them? Start by looking back on last year’s marketing costs and create a realistic budget. Methods of marketing are rapidly evolving, so your budget should have some room for changes you might need to make in the new year.

2. Consider your target market
You may have plenty of customers coming through your door or visiting your website every day, but are these the customers you really want to reach? Do you know who your target market really is? You can’t focus on revamping your marketing plan until you know who you really want to target. Have a look at the value of your current customers – should you be sticking with them or looking elsewhere?

3. Consider your strengths
Say you run a restaurant. Do you serve the best pasta in town? Offer the friendliest service? Run a great mid-week offer? These are the things you should to focus on in your advertising. When you know your strengths, you can use them in your marketing materials.

4. Create a realistic schedule
One of the key parts of staying on track with marketing is establishing a realistic schedule that works. Just like any new year's resolution, it's better to make it achievable. Planning your upcoming year will help you stay focused on your goals.

5. Update your logo
Your logo is one of the first things potential customers see. Does it communicate your brand well? If you think your logo still fits, there’s no need to change it – but if the font or graphics seem at odds with the personality of your business, consider getting a new one. And do it properly: hire a professional designer!

6. Review your website
Is your current site easy to navigate? Has it been updated in the past few years? Does it feature an accurate menu and easy-to-find contact info? Has it been optimised for mobile devices? If the answer to any of these questions is no, consider revamping your site.

7. Create valuable website content
People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed – and it's also great for SEO. When a website is updated regularly, Google sees it as an active site and therefore ranks it more highly in search results pages. Have a look at what you say on your website, and make sure it's regularly updated and reflects your brand well.

8. Be mobile-friendly
Mobile internet use is growing and growing (something we wrote about way back in July 2013). This year, it’s important to make sure you're producing content that’s web-friendly, and ensure your website is optimised for mobile (if you haven’t already). This will help you reach more of your audience and let customers know that you take your digital marketing seriously.

9. Review your advertising tactics
Look at the channels you use for your advertising. Do you use Google AdWords, email marketing, press adverts, social media advertising, or something else? Are these methods bringing in the customers you want? Think about where your ideal customer is and what channels they'll actually see - and be most receptive to.

10. Have a fresh look at your social media presence
Social media is no longer an option…it’s a necessity. It's also one of the most direct and effective ways you can promote your business. Even if you’re already actively using social media, evaluate your activity and see if you’re doing all that you can. Are you using your Facebook page effectively? Are you responding quickly to customers on Twitter? This is also a good time to think about whether you need to be active on so many platforms. For example, if your customers don't use Twitter, stick to Facebook. Your time will be better spent and you'll have more time to engage. A content calendar is a fantastic way of scheduling in your activity.

So in summary...
Marketing is basically about listening to your audience, and telling them why they would benefit from using your product or service. Making a few tweaks to your plan can help refine and target your marketing, and put you on the right track for a successful 2019.

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Is your website still fit for purpose?

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Website Design Leamington Spa

Ask yourself these questions about your current website:

  1. Is it immediately obvious what it's for? If you can't tell in the first five seconds what the website is selling or telling, then it isn't doing its job effectively. Amazingly, this is the amount of time viewers will spend deciding if they want to stay or leave. If they can't tell what you do in that time – they'll be off.
  2. Is it optimised for mobile devices? Have a look at your website on a smartphone or iPad. It should be simple to navigate and text should be easy to read.
  3. Is it too cluttered? If you've had the same website for a few years, it may have been tempting to 'bolt on' more information, perhaps as your business has grown. To gain a competitive advantage, you need a crisp, clean design that's easy to navigate.
  4. Is it flexible and adaptable? What if your business launches a new product or service? You don’t want to have to revamp everything to accommodate it. Using a CMS (Content Management System) can allow for future expansion, and enable you to add new features to your existing website.
  5. Are my competitors doing it better? Have a look at what your rivals are doing. If their sites rate above yours in search results and look more professional, it may be time for a refresh.

If you'd like to a chat about what you need to go forward, give us a call.

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How to create a simple yet effective marketing plan

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marketing plan

It’s a well-known fact that a business plan is vital. However, many people don’t realise that a marketing plan is just as important.

A marketing plan is a strategic document outlining your objectives. It spells out all the tactics you’ll use to achieve your goals. It’s your plan of action, and unless you’re using it to help gain funding, it doesn’t have to be lengthy: bullet points will do.

Here are the elements you should include in your marketing plan:

1. SITUATION ANALYSIS
This is a snapshot of your current situation. It can be broken down into these sub-sections:
• Definition of your company and its products or services
• Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
• How the benefits you provide set you apart from your competition (also known as your Unique Selling Proposition or USP)

2. TARGET CUSTOMERS
Create a simple description of your target customer. This is known as a Customer Persona. You can describe the person in terms of demographics - age, gender, family, income, location - as well as lifestyle or social factors. Is your customer traditional or modern? Are they leaders or followers? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what you’re selling? You'll probably have a number of different customer types; create personas for each of them.

Customer Personas work just as well for B2B organisations, although you’ll need to adjust them slightly. Your target customers will be working within other businesses. You can define them based on their type of business, job title, size of business, location, estimated turnover, etc.

3. MARKETING OBJECTIVES
What do you want your marketing plan to achieve? For example, are you hoping for a 10% increase in sales per quarter?

Write down a short list of goals. Make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic and time-bound) so you’ll know when you’ve achieved them.

4. MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIES AND TACTICS
This is probably the most important part of your marketing plan. In this section you should detail the tactics you’ll use to reach your target customers from section 2, and achieve your objectives from section 3.

Strategies
Different strategies are suitable for different stages of the ‘customer journey’. For example, advertising and direct marketing are great for reaching cold prospects. Warm prospects - people who have already been exposed to your marketing message and perhaps even met you - will respond best to permission-based email, for example. Your hottest prospects are people who already know you, and are ready to buy. Generally, personal contact (whether face-to-face, by phone, or email) combined with good marketing will help complete the sale.

Tactics
In this section, summarise your marketing strategies above, then list the tactics you’ll use to reach your customers at different stages of the customer journey. For example, you might combine online and print advertising to reach cold prospects, but use email to contact your warm prospects.

To identify your ideal ‘marketing mix’, find out which media your target audience turns to for information on the type of product or service you sell. Are your target customers using social media? Do they read trade publications? Do they attend industry events? The marketing tactics you choose should reach people when they’ll be most receptive to your messages.

5. MARKETING BUDGET
A good rule of thumb is to set aside a percentage of projected annual sales for your marketing budget.

Tactics are available for even the smallest budgets. If you exceed the budget in your marketing plan, you can simply go back and adjust your tactics until you have a mix that’s affordable for you. The key is to never stop marketing.

6. REVIEW AND ADJUST
The final step in any plan is to monitor and evaluate progress. If you're not achieving the results you would like, go back a few stages in the plan and make any tweaks you feel are necessary.

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