The economic climate is tough to navigate in general, but when it comes to businesses with a niche market base, there are even more challenges to face.
One major issue is marketing. Most traditional methods are based on advertising to mass audiences, which does not suit brands that service a niche client base only. Such specialist companies have largely come to accept that these kinds of difficulties come with the territory….….
….… but what if there was a solution that could be fully customised to suit each organisation’s unique requirements and objectives? One that is both cost-effective and result-driven?
If this sounds good to you, keep reading – it gets even better…
Challenges Faced by Niche Brands
Organisations that service a very small consumer market are known as “niche” brands. Their small market size could be as a result of a limited consumer demand for their business offering, for instance. A company that offers a highly specialised product or service is an example of such a niche brand. Most business-to-business (B2B) based organisations, as well, fall into this category.
While marketing is important for all businesses, the small consumer bases that these companies service makes it even more crucial to connect to right audiences. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, most advertising methods focus on mass communication to a generalised audience. As only a small percentage of message recipients are relevant to a niche company, the result is excessive wastage of investment and low returns.
Other more targeted options are print ads in industry-specific publications or exhibition stands at trade shows. However, these techniques are expensive and yield poor results. Not to mention they grow increasingly outdated as market trends progress.
The bottom line is that traditional marketing methods have never been effective when it comes to niche audiences. But as market minorities, specialist brands have not had much choice but to use the options available, as unsuitable as they were. Until now…… (I told you this was going to be good)
Social Media as a Marketing Solution for Niche Brands
At this point, you may be thinking, “why the big build-up – everyone knows about social media”. BUT, do you, as a niche brand, fully understand what this type of media offers you?
Let us explain why we are so excited about the capabilities of social media when it comes to niche brands. Arguable, niche brands have the most to gain by transitioning from solely traditional media to social media marketing. This is because such brands experience the most wastage when using mass promotional methods (versus more mainstream brands). The highly customisable nature of social media allows you to substantially reduce wastage, and therefore increase return on investment. But it’s not just a financially beneficial option – it opens up a wealth of information, insight and audience tools that promote overall business growth.
Key social media benefits for Niche Brands
Below, we have listed a few of the core characteristics of social media that make it the ideal solution for niche and B2B brands. We also provide practical examples of how each of these factors can be used for tangible business benefit:
Fully customisable and agile:
Social media offers highly customisable options – meaning that niche companies are able to tailor functions to suit their needs. This relates to a range of factors, including: targeting different audience segments, options regarding spend per message, control over campaign duration and growing a client base.
Targeting on social media supports detailed, multi-level criteria that can be used to streamline audiences. For example, you can specify geographic regions, then restrict to an age group within these areas and further target based on specific interest (such as a sport or activity). The result is a high quality, custom target group.
If you have different audiences within your market, you are able to customised messaging to suit each group. Let’s say your business sells to both end-user customers as well as other businesses. You can advertise a product to B2B clients with technical info and specs, and then promote the same product to consumers with details of where they can purchase.
With a niche market, customer engagement is even more important. These client bases are minority groups sharing something in common, and therefore they relate to each other more in comparison to mass market bases. Common ground could be due to shared interests, knowledge, experience or business activity. Social media allows you to connect with relevant people and tap into their expertise and experience to improve your business. It also gives fans a way to connect to people they relate to, providing an enhanced customer experience.
Billed for actual exposure:
Paid advertising on platforms like Facebook is based on actual message exposure (as opposed to traditional media platforms that cannot provide data in terms of views). This means you only pay for content that appears on a user’s news feed. In addition to the financial benefits, this provides a realistic indication of your online market size based on audience response.
High-involvement: expensive or technical
Some sales are considered high-involvement purchases. This could be due to their pricing or complicated application. Social media campaigns provide a way to market these. For instance, educating the audience on functions and benefits first, and thereafter driving sales. Again, this is a great approach for B2B or technical products. Social media platforms are also a viable and practical way to generate leads for your technical sales team.
Social media is an inexpensive, effective method that provides high returns and measurable results. In a niche market, a well planned and executed platform could give you a competitive edge based on customer loyalty, as well as allow you to tap into new markets. It is definitely a winning option for B2B and niche-based brands.
For more information on how to make social media work for your niche business,
CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101
How agile is your marketing strategy?
Hmmm, putting you on the spot with this one, are we?
If this is a question you have never asked yourself before, you are not alone. The term “agility” is not generally at the top of the agenda when marketing teams sit down to meet. But we are here to explain why your marketing plan should, in fact, be agile. We will also provide you with information on how to incorporate agility into your existing brand strategy, as well as highlight key benefits of doing so.
Why do marketing strategies need to be agile?
When we talk about agility, we are referring to the adaptability and responsiveness of your marketing activities, content and execution infrastructure. Historically, agility was not a significant factor as marketing was predominantly done using traditional media and methods. This typically entailed one-way communication sent from brand to audience, and content was generally passively consumed.
However, in the current business landscape, being agile is of paramount importance. Consumer use of digital methods – social media in particular – is ever increasing. This means that customer commentary (both positive and negative) is mass and even globally communicated in an instant.
But what does this have to do with your brand?
Well, if you do not have the ability to react or respond at the same speed and with the same level of reach as the general public, you are at a serious disadvantage. Whether in reply to customer demands, taking advantage of a market opportunity, or damage control in terms of negative publicity, agility is required. In fact, in serious cases, being agile could even mean averting potential legal action.
Ok so now that we have emphasised the importance of agility, how do you get your marketing activities to meet these criteria?
The key is to use the very same platform that consumers do – namely social media. And doing so does not mean you have to throw out your current marketing plan. While social media can be used as your sole marketing medium, you can also incorporate it into your existing strategy as part of an integrated solution.
Social Media as an Agile Solution
While plans and objectives differ from business to business, certain key aspects should underpin all agile strategies. Including these factors not only improves marketing activities, but positively impacts the brand as a whole.
Below is a list of a few core features that are characteristic of an agile approach. We explain the importance of each element and demonstrate how social media is ideally suited to support it:
A fundamental factor of agility is the ability to adapt. The need to adapt could arise due to changing organisational, consumer or industry requirements. Such changes may range from relatively small adjustments (like correcting a minor error), to major amendments – such as alternate messaging due to a serious matter (e.g. due to public concern or negative feedback).
Social media marketing, by nature, is highly adaptable. Strategies, while planned and structured, are not set in stone. Instead, messaging is flexible and can be adapted to suit changing needs as they arise. As content is digital-based, changes can be done at little or no cost. This is in contrast with traditional alternatives such as printed promotional material, which incur high costs and wastage if content needs to be adjusted.
The level of control offered by social media is not just limited to content, targeting can also be adjusted. For example, when it comes to Facebook, you are able to change the audience target criteria while a campaign is ongoing. This allows you to speak to different demographics and monitor the results.
Brands need to be responsive to consumers at all times. Although general queries form part of customer service, marketing activities also need to be client-centric. This means developing content in response to preferences and needs as communicated by clients.
The interactive nature of social media supports this function excellently. Client engagement behaviour such as comments, shares and likes indicate how the audience receives each post. By using this insight, the marketing team is able to post more of what the audience wants, thus increasing customer satisfaction. Also, poor engagement rates or negative feedback on certain posts indicate that such content should not be repeated, or there needs to be an alternate approach by marketers.
In the unfortunate and undesirable situation of public backlash or outcry as a result of brand communication, the brand needs to respond quickly and in a manner that diffuses the situation (as opposed to leading to further criticism). It is important to craft the correct response before publishing it – if needed, legal or public relations experts should be consulted.
Rapid Turn-Around Time
Responsiveness and adaptability are only efficient if done with relatively speed. In order to be agile, marketing activities need to have a quick turn-around time.
In comparison to other marketing methods, social media has one of the fastest turn-around times. You can eliminate certain components such as third-party printing companies, or publisher/broadcaster timelines. Posting a message, removing a post or amending an existing one can be done quite quickly when the need arises. As mentioned above, in the case of a sensitive issue or public matter, do not compromise quality for speed of response – always ensure that the best possible response is delivered.
A rapid turn-around time is also especially valuable when it comes to maximising market opportunities. For example, let’s say an area is hit by a sudden hailstorm. A vehicle bodyshop/panelbeater could send out a post that targets people from that area – possibly offering a booking special. This is an example of using agility to make the most of an opportunity through social media.
Agile marketing techniques prioritise factual data as opposed to estimations and assumptions. Most traditional marketing options do not provide accurate statistical information, nor do they support cost-effective market testing.
Social media platforms, on the other hand, offer a wealth of accurate data metrics. This includes not only information on market and consumer behaviour, but also the results of each marketing activity. You are able to run A/B testing via the platform in order to improve future results. Effective use of measurement and reporting tools means that you are able to constantly improve the success rates of marketing activities. Thus not only do you get a higher return on marketing investment, but you also use your marketing budget efficiently.
Goals of agile marketing strategies include a high level of responsiveness in terms of both rate and speed, being adaptable to changing internal or external needs, having a rapid turn-around time and achieving higher success rates when it comes to marketing activities. The technique of crafting content based on audience response is likely to improve customer sentiment, promote brand loyalty and even lead to word-of-mouth marketing.
Social media platforms have the capability to support all these requirements and much, much more. Be proactive and incorporate agility into your brand’s marketing plan – preparation and planning are key to successfully navigating through what may lie in the future.
For more on developing an agile marketing strategy, CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101.
We will help you prepare for market and industry hurdles.
LinkedIn: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
LinkedIn is a social network specifically tailored for business professionals. It is a brilliant platform to use for networking within your industry, enabling you to connect directly with decision-makers and allowing you to bolster your professional brand. In the last few months, LinkedIn has included some exciting updates like the ability to upload video directly onto the platform.
As a business owner and professional, the platform is, however, saturated with recruiters looking to head hunt professionals as well as sales people hoping to sell you their products which makes the landscape difficult to navigate and convince your ideal prospects to speak to you.
And now for the ugly… and this does exist on LinkedIn. There are a number of fake profiles who harvest people’s personal information, like your email address, and use this to send out spam and phishing emails. So be aware, any email that lands in your inbox which seems out of sorts or suspicious, especially when being asked to download or click on something, rather ignore.
There are two ways to present yourself on LinkedIn. The first is through your personal profile and the second is through your business profile. These are both important to have properly set up and serve different purposes. Think of your LinkedIn profiles as your shop window. People are bustling down the street or in this case through the platform where you want to attract them into your store, or onto your profile. With this in mind, it is vital to have a clear, strong brand shown on your profile, whether your own brand or that of your business.
The difference between business and personal LinkedIn profiles
Followers vs. Connections
Business Profiles allow your business to gain followers of people who want to see latest updates, information and insights from your business. Personal profiles allow you to connect with other individuals where you are able to view their latest updates and them yours. You can also comment, share and like their posts which will then be shared in your network’s timeline when they are next online.
Paid Advertising vs. Free
Business profiles allow you to promote your content through paid advertising where you can target specific companies or job titles you want to reach. LinkedIn is one of the more expensive social media paid promotion options, however they do offer specific targeting as mentioned above which can be used should speaking to specific decision-makers be your objective. Personal profiles can be used for free where you can upgrade your profile by subscribing to LinkedIn for more access options depending if you want to InMail people outside of your network or post job vacancies.
Business profiles allow you to update images, videos and text posts up to 1000 characters where Personal profiles allow you to update images, videos and articles which can be shared to your Business profile.
Commenting vs. Sharing
Business profiles allow you to post updates and include links from other pages or websites however you cannot post or comment on other people’s posts via your business page. You are able to respond as your business to comments on the content posted on your business page. Personal profiles allow you to comment, like and share both Business and Personal page’s content as well as respond in your personal capacity to comments on your own posts.
Business profiles allow you to view reach, impressions and engagement for both paid and organic posts as well as track likes, comments, share and followers. On your Personal profile you are able to see data on profile views, article views and search appearances.
Optimising your LinkedIn Business Profile
Ensure to set up your business profile to include the following things:
- Profile picture of your company logo. Clean and simple so that it is easily displayed. The profile picture on a business page is much like the profile picture on a personal page. It is the main identifier of the page and so you want to ensure your company brand is well distinguished.
- Background image… this is your online billboard and should represent a strong call-to-action of your business. Whether that be your website address or contact number, it must be clear what the user needs to do when they come across your business page.
- Populate the company about section, giving people more information about what you do, how you can benefit them and where to contact you.
Optimising your LinkedIn Personal Profile
Ensure to include these when setting up your personal profile:
- Keep in mind that this is where you want to put your best foot forward. In a lot of cases loads of time and other investments are put into fine tuning your company logo, tone of voice, brand identity, look and feel, product range, etc. All these elements also need to be considered when populating your personal profile.
- Firstly, have your actual name populated so people can find you. Or at least the name that is included on your business cards, on your website, etc. The name people know you by. This is to make sure that people can find you and know who you are.
- Then you would need to include your title. Now there is a lot of talk around including here what you can do for people, like in my case “I help people use LinkedIn effectively.” Personally, I’m not a fan of this because when I get a connection request from someone who uses this strategy in their title, I usually check these via my smart phone. What happens is, the title is shortened to fit on mobile so all I see is “I help people….” Which means you are pretty much doing the same thing as every other person using this tactic. Personally, I prefer that you include your actual title. What do you do so that I know immediately why you are contacting me or whether I should connect with you.
- Ensure to have a profile picture which clearly shows your face. I know most people opt for a more professional looking photo on LinkedIn of them in a suit, however I am not opposed to using a photo which represents you and your personality. Do keep in mind this should still be a clear and professional headshot, not a photo of you jet skiing or lying in bed, nor your company logo – I want to see who you are.
- Your background image is still your online billboard. If you are well linked to your business in other words, the MD or a Director, this can be used to showcase what you want people to do regarding your professional link to your business. That could be your company website address, your contact number, that you offer a complimentary assessment, are hosting a summit, etc. Use this advertising space as effectively as possible. If you are more focused on building your personal brand, ensure to include information about you that you want people to know. Your social media handles on other platforms, your blog site address, that you are a world-renowned athlete or top business mentor in your field.
- When populating your about section, you have roughly two lines before someone has to click “read more” so make sure you get to the point on what you want people to know about you within those first two lines.
- I would then recommend to populate your work history as best as possible, but also be discerning as to whether you would rather only update this from a certain point showing a timeline to bring you to the position you are in currently. What this means is doing a little bit of window dressing. Now I am not saying lie on your profile, but unless you are actively searching for a new job, it is best to put your best foot forward so that you can position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. In other words, if you flipped burger patties in college to pay for your tuition, it is not necessary to include this work experience. Rather just populate the degree you earned while at college. Your CV will cover all your work experience in detail which you will send out upon request and when you are in the job market.
How to Win on LinkedIn
So now the meat and the juice of how to use LinkedIn effectively. Your business and personal profiles will work symbiotically to drive positioning and thought leadership. The worst thing you can do is constantly talk about what you have to offer, in other words sell. Sending unsolicited and generic or blanket inMails telling people what you do quickly become redundant. Effectively, you want people to inMail you asking for your services. Here are my top tips to drive and populate your LinkedIn sales funnel.
Firstly, provide value. Update interesting articles on your personal page sharing industry insight, interesting tips or how-to’s. Now I know everyone is going to come at me saying that they don’t want to share their IP publicly because their competitors will scoop up this information and have an advantage. In response to this, don’t post your secret sauce, but there must be things that are pretty common knowledge in your industry amongst you and your competitors that your clients and potential clients may not know but would find of value or interesting. These are the insights I am referring to, like in this case I am willing to share with you how to win on LinkedIn with a few tips to improve your client experience when engaging with you and your company on social media, however I won’t share our secret sauce on paid advertising and targeting.
Also, you can share a link from your article posted on your personal page on your business page. Unfortunately for now, LinkedIn doesn’t offer the option to post articles on business pages but this is a nice work around.
With that in mind, keep your business page populated with interesting posts, ideas and offers of value to drive traffic to your website or to get in touch with you. You can then also share these posts onto your personal profile as it is more likely that you will have more connections on your personal profile than followers on your business page.
Secondly, make sure you engage with others on LinkedIn. From your personal capacity, like and comment on other people’s posts in your timeline. Share your views and opinions, politely – don’t get into heated discussions and please avoid posting or commenting on anything religious, political or sexual in nature. Use these comments to position yourself as a thought leader, the go-to in your industry.
On that note, if you get a seemingly negative comment on your post, don’t engage! Don’t feed the trolls. They are there and giving commentary in the hopes to illicit a response so don’t give it to them. They will quickly realise they get no kicks from you and move on to other unsuspecting prey.
Be discerning on who you connect with. This is not about not connecting with someone you don’t know, but if you get a connection request, have a look through their profile to get an idea of who they are and what they do to see whether there is value in you connecting, be that a client, supplier, referral, etc. The same goes when connecting with people. Rather choose to connect with people who are relevant to you and your industry as they are likely to post content that speaks to you, providing you with more opportunities to comment on their posts and show you to be a thought leader.
If you found this interesting and of value, I urge you to implement these changes to see what impact these tips could make to your personal and business pages on LinkedIn. We also offer more in-depth workshops regarding personal branding to really bolster your online persona as well as assist businesses with full-scope branding strategies for LinkedIn.
Please feel free to be in touch, should you want to talk more on this.
CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101.