7 tricks all 'good' marketers have up their sleeves

There are a few tricks to getting marketing right, one of them is knowing that it isn't hard. Ruth Oakey of Inspire2Enterprise shares the other six.

1. Tactics and strategy

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is back to basics but it’s a fundamental point that a large proportion of social enterprises are missing.  Many frontline organisations doing great work towards social goals have some impressive marketing tactics up their sleeves, but no direction and no strategy around them. A marketing strategy should be a key part of a business plan. Business consulting jargon aside, it’s incredibly simple. You need to know what your objective is and how your marketing will help you reach it. Any PR you do, content you produce, tweets you write, websites you develop, events you hold etc. must be noticed by the people you need to sustain your business and reach your social goal. The distance between you and them is just a tweet, phone call, or well-placed article away. But you’ll never reach them if these tactics aren’t part of a well-planned consistent effort.   

2. They know marketing isn’t hard

Though the very term marketing can evoke snores, sneers and general confusion, the reality is it’s crucial for all kinds of businesses and it’s easy. Marketing is understanding your customers, asking what they want and giving it to them. Too many social enterprises ignore their customers, and wait until they are bothered with complaints. If you want to crank up your sales or users, pick up the phone to your top customers. Get their feedback and ideas, it will help refine your service, improve your understanding of what people want from you and could lead to an extension of services.   

3. A keen eye for the profit that will sustain the business

One award wining enterprise I have been working with offer a range of fantastic services. They are surviving off the back of a high quality service, but there is only so long they will be able to do this without a step change in their marketing. They’ve gone about they’re marketing in quite a haphazard way hosting events to promote their services. They’ve created flyers and exhibitions but with no specific plan. These all sound like reasonable marketing activities, but without research behind them there is know way of knowing what this is contributing to the business. Are they targeting the customers that will help them to generate a sustainable income? Will simply getting wider exposure bring money in?

Reign in your efforts if you don’t know exactly what they are achieving and do some research. You can create a simple grid and enter the following information: What services do you offer? Who are the customers for each service? Who are the people making purchasing decisions that you will need to engage to reach your customers? Which service brings in the most profit ie. generates the largest slice of your turnover, has the highest profit margin? Which services have the greatest social impact? Who are your competitors for each of these services?   

Everything is suddenly a lot less foggy. This will tell you who to direct your marketing activities towards and why. Through simple research the enterprise discovered their most lucrative market, and the key to their sustainability. They began planning activities with the objective of doing more work where they would get their biggest income. Straight away they could pick up the phone, speak to the people making the purchasing decisions, build relationships and work out how to market themselves to appeal to more of these people. End the spend on useless PR and replace it with analysis. Pinpoint the profit that will make the business sustainable and ensure the quality and the future of the service you provide.    

4. A ‘good’ USP

Your USP is one of your most powerful marketing tools. How are you different from your competitors? If you can’t tell a unique story, and you don’t have a few elevator pitches to distinguish yourself, grab a pen and get scrawling. Challenge yourself. It’s a matter of debate, but I’m of the camp that says, use your social edge. Divine, the Big Issue and leisure centre, Better all back me up here. They’re clear about what they offer, and why it’s good. They are brands you can’t ignore. A great USP will clearly show what you offer and why it’s good for society, people the environment. Providing a service that is relevant in a world with unmet social needs, or creating a product that counters environmental damage is hugely appealing in this day and age. So spell it out.

5. The 80/20 rule

The cost of acquiring a new customer is eight to ten times greater than retaining an existing one.  The 80/20 rule originally devised by a nineteenth-century Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, basically means you should be focusing most of your social media, PR or events on engaging and selling to current customers. If you can define your best customers and target marketing directly to their needs, it's likely to pay off big time.

6. Great photos and stories

Social businesses have great stories that they can tell on social media and pitch to journalists. And 90% of them don’t tell these stories. A great image tells a great story. Let followers share in the experience of your work through photos and videos. If you are pitching to a media outlet include great visuals and it’s more likely to get picked up. Think about hooking your pitches on current news and using creative headlines. Journalists are time poor and if you present a brilliant social business story, it could get snapped up or at least get a content conversation going.   

7. Time

Marketing is key to survival, and it needs time allocated to it. Social businesses do a challenging job, generating revenue from multiple and sometimes uncertain sources to sustain a social goal. It’s not through ignorance or laziness that they don’t tell their stories or launch into marketing activities without a plan. It’s more often lack of time, and a strong commitment to social objectives that leaves the business side of things neglected. So before you do anything set aside some time, lock yourself in a room for a day and turn off the phone. Get your business plan out, see where your marketing activities fit in, (use the grid I spoke about earlier). Now align your tactics with your overall goals. You know your business. You can develop your strategy. Entrepreneurship is not the preserve of MBAs. Spend time not money, and if you get stuck ask for some guidance.   

Pioneers Post Business School content is delivered in partnership with Inspire2Enterprise. Inspire2Enterprise provide a unique, free-to-access social enterprise support, information and advice service – from start-up through to initial growth and beyond. Call them on 0844 9800 760 or visit www.inspire2enterprise.org to find out more.