Inspired by a recent talk at Stylus’ Decoded Future event, I’ve been thinking about whether ‘ niche is the new mass ’ when it comes to marketing. Some of the major trends that have come out of branding in the last 5 years are personalisation, bespoke products and individual focus and customer support.
At Make Happy, we like to think of ourselves as a boutique agency, the independent coffee shop of the marketing world, that is swamped by huge Starbucks agencies. Small agencies do not always have the same allure of larger ones, with big-name clients and serviced offices and free smoothie deliveries, but there are some huge incentives to work at smaller agencies.
As a seasoned copywriter well knows, writer’s block is a nightmare. You’re on a deadline, you have three articles due by the end of the week, and you’re desperately trying to find another way of saying ‘engage your audience’, for risk of sounding like a broken record for the fifth time.
At Make Happy, we get all kinds of questions from business owners who are just dipping their toes into the confusing and often contradictory world of digital marketing. For the last couple of years, the online advertising industry has been in a bit of a tizzy as reports of fraudulent metrics, from click wars to spambot followers, have flooded our newsfeed.
I have just finished a six month, hands-on post-graduate internship as a marketing consultant at Make Happy, a small marketing agency and consultancy based in East London. For my final blog post, I would like to share some of my experiences, by telling you about the top eight things that surprised me about real-world marketing.
- Marketing actually works! This is quite useful to know… It is not uncommon to hear that prospective clients have reservations about marketing, and considers this discipline a bit vague, with unclear effects and ROI. What dubious people need to know is that analytics is at the heart of the process (at Make Happy anyway!), and that each campaign is systematically optimised and analysed. Moreover, when tools are used properly, everything is trackable, so people can see exactly where their money and efforts are going. So it is possible to see the impact of a campaign, and by the way, they usually work!
- Office good vibes. I didn’t know working in a consultancy would be so nice. I was as surprised by the nice atmosphere in the office as I was by my colleagues’ caffeine addiction! Besides the fact that my colleagues were friendly and supportive, the office was dog-friendly, which truly makes the day better. I will also remember the “Happiness song” that is played every time there is a new project to work on, and the huge amount of cake we have eaten for birthdays or other celebrations (we assume we all have diabetes now).
- Testing, testing, testing. Marketing is all about a rigorous process of testing and optimising. Even if you start with a clear plan, in practice, you still need to try different things within the framework of this plan, in order to figure out what works best in terms of your end goal. Good marketing takes time, so patience is vital.
- Time flies. When I signed up to spend around 40 hours a week at work, I didn’t imagine days would go as fast as they did. Almost every single day went super fast, as a result of a succession of challenges. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?
- Diversity. On a daily basis, a marketing consultancy deals with a large range of client types, from loan funds to late night bars… This really keeps us on our toes and it’s also what is nice about working in such a company.
- A real junior position. If you have ever been an intern, you know that in the role, you sometimes end up dealing with something I would call “extra tasks”. I would define these tasks as the ones that are not in scope but with which the intern deals as nobody else has time or willingness to do it. In my case, I was lucky enough to fulfil a real junior position with relevant tasks which have taught me skills, which I have appreciated a lot.
- I’ve learned so much! It is well known that you learn a lot about an industry by working on the ground. Still, I’ve learned much more than I thought I would. I have also realised I’ve got so much more to learn!
- Where are the staples? I’ve been looking for the staples for 6 months! Working in a small office doesn’t make it easier to find where they are.
You may have already heard about Design Thinking. You might not. Chances are you know some companies that are using it.
Tesla, Apple, Netflix, and Amazon Prime have all adopted it. In the words of Steve Jobs:
“It is not the customers’ job to know what they want” – Steve Jobs.
In other words, in order to be successful, companies need to figure out what their customers want, before they know it themselves.
And this is exactly what your company needs to do too.
So, let’s dive into design thinking. What is it exactly? How can you take advantage of it?
Design Thinking is a design methodology, of 5 stages, that enables companies to identify and meet their customers’ needs. With Design Thinking, companies have the opportunity to create products and services that solve their customers’ problems. So what are the 5 steps?
- Empathise. This first stage of the process is key. You need to understand the people you are designing for in order to offer them the right product or service. In fact, without an empathetic understanding of your customer, you will design products you think they need, instead of what they really need. During the empathise phase, you’ll work on figuring out your customers’ motivations, fears, expectations, emotions and needs. To get a comprehensive understanding of your customer, use both quantitative and qualitative customer research methods such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, field trials and online data. By the end of this stage, make sure you can see the world through your customers’ eyes.
- Define. This stage involves defining the problem your users face. Using the information you have gathered about them during the previous stage, you’ll be able to define the problem you will focus on solving.
- Ideate. Now that your customers’ core problem has been identified, generate many ideas aiming at solving it. Innovation requires creativity, so don’t limit yourself here, and think outside the box. Here are some ideation techniques that will help you be creative: SCAMPER, brainstorming, brainwriting, SWOT, Lotus blossom diagram.
- Prototype. At this stage, select your best ideas and get them down on paper. A prototype can be anything that takes a physical form. The complexity of the prototypes should correlate with the progress of the project. Prototyping methods can be classified into two categories: low- and high-fidelity prototyping. Low-fidelity prototypes are easily-made cheap models, or simply visualisations of them. Such models might be incomplete and constructed using interim materials such as wood, paper and plastic. Conversely, high-fidelity prototypes look and operate closer to the finished versions. Amongst other mediums, you can prototype with sketches, paper interfaces, storyboarding, LEGO and 3D printing to name a few.
- Test. In this phase, you will share the prototypes you’ve created with the users. By doing so, you’ll discover how well your prototypes meet their needs. You can subsequently modify your prototype based on user feedback. Continue with testing and prototyping until your users are satisfied with the innovation and the way it solves their problem.
Following this cyclical 5 stage-process will allow you to create products and services your customers really need and will crave for. Post-launch, remember to listen to customers’ feedback in order to continuously improve their experience and blaze an innovation trail.
If you want to know more about design thinking, or how it could help your business, email firstname.lastname@example.org
So you’ve decided to focus on content marketing this year. And why not? Good content marketing can help you reach and increase your target audience and drive traffic to your product, all whilst positioning your brand as a category leader.
However, as with all forms of marketing, it is important to be strategic about who you’re trying to reach and why. As always, we’ve compiled a list of handy tips for you to follow to get the most out of your content marketing if you’re unsure where to start.
1. What is your main marketing goal and how does this translate into content marketing metrics?
Content marketing in the digital space gives you immediate feedback and detailed analytics on whether your content is working. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and lose sight of your main objective, so it’s important to decide on your key metrics for success before you start crafting your content.
For example, if your aim is to raise brand awareness, you might set clicks to your website and general audience interest as your goals. The main metrics you could use to measure success would then be CTW (click to website) and Engagement (likes, comments, shares).
2. How can you increase the quality of your content?
Test, test, test. Running consistent, informative A/B tests takes time and planning.
Here are some elements you can look at testing:
- Messaging: Test your headlines, the length of your messaging, images used and CTA (call to action) text and positioning.
- Targeting: Start with broader targeting, based on your target demographics (age, gender, location). Once you have amassed more data, you can start segmenting your audience based on interests and behaviour.
- Platform: Test different types of messages and targeting across different platforms. You may find elements of your audience are more responsive to certain messages according to platform.
- Medium: Once you have an idea of what messaging is working for each audience segment, start experimenting with media. Does your content work better in video format? As a quiz? As a podcast?
3. How to establish what’s working
Track and analyse. Ensure you’ve set up tracking along all consumer touch points, online and offline. For example, you can track where your website traffic is coming from using Google Analytics. You can track off-site enquiries by setting up specific email addresses and collecting customer journey information over the phone.
4. Bring your audience back to your turf
Funnel your online audience to your website to reach them directly through your website blog or a regular email newsletter, for example. This will allow you to craft specific messaging for audiences who have become more familiar with your brand.
5. Reset goals as you go.
After you start testing, you’ll gradually gain a wealth of insight on who your audience is, where they can be reached and what their needs are. This information can help you flesh out your overarching marketing strategy and can even help you hone your product or service. Putting aside some time once a quarter to work these insights into your larger marketing/ product plan will allow you get the most out of your content marketing efforts.
The average small business today, globally, spends 46% of their budget on digital marketing. Most businesses and marketers prioritise driving traffic to their website to impact sales, bookings or other conversions. According to a study by Forrester, Google Search ads will make up the largest proportion of ad spend by 2019.
When it comes to social media, companies often take a spontaneous approach: they have a product or service and post things that are relevant to said product or service. Now, it could be worse, i.e not being present on social media at all, but it could most definitely be better. Social media is a powerful tool which, when harnessed properly, can be used to drive more potential clients to your brand. And more clients = more potential sales or a larger network.