9th February 2018 Claire Hawes

Why small businesses shouldn’t fear marketing

In an interview I asked marketing consultant Sophie Isachsen why businesses with little time and budget to risk, should still embrace marketing

“The man who stops advertising to save money is the man who stops the clock to save time.” – Unknown

Marketing consultant Sophie Isachsen: Interview by copywriter Claire HawesLove it or hate it, without marketing you have no business. So this week I pinned down Lewes based marketing consultant Sophie Isachsen. I asked Sophie to explain why marketing shouldn’t be feared. And more importantly how you can embrace it to drive enquiries and sales.

Tell me about yourself, Sophie. How did you get into Marketing?

You could say I learned on the job. I’ve worked for event management companies. I was the marketing manager for a specialist wine importer. I’ve worked in-house for a PR agency. I’ve done PR for the Royal Family at Clarence House. My PR background has helped me see the importance of clear communication.

What are you most passionate about professionally? What most excites you about marketing and the contribution you make?

I’ve been lucky to meet lots of small business owners. I do feel I bring value to my clients when we have conversations about standing in customers’ shoes and looking at marketing from a different perspective. It seems such a basic thing, but so often business owners overlook it. They have this thing they can do, make or service that they offer. And it’s their lifelong dream to be doing this. But often they forget about the people they serve.

Would you say technology has changed the way we market? If so how?

Undoubtedly. Today we have access to a plethora of resources and information at our fingertips. To get your messages through to the cerebral cortex you need to speak to people differently. You need to spell out your USP (Unique selling proposition) over your competitors. And communicate with clear and succinct messaging.

You are a founder member of the Lewes Women in Business. What has running a networking group taught you about the way small businesses operate?

Generally speaking, marketing is seen as an activity by owners of small businesses as something they should do, but don’t have the time or the knowledge to do it. Sometimes they fear it. They worry about shouting from the rooftops and saying: ‘Hey look at me and how I can help you!’ It does seem some people do not allocate funds to a marketing budget. And that to me seems unwise. How can you possibly let people know what you’re doing? How can you get business through the door? How can you compete with others in your field if you haven’t allocated resources to that task?

Of course, there are people putting effort into their marketing. The people who stand out to me at the moment are those who are embracing video. Seeing the person behind the business talking directly about what they do humanises a brand. And that is very powerful.

Of course, you need to have an objective before you put out a video. In fact, every marketing communication you do needs to have a purpose. What do you want to achieve from it? Otherwise, how will you know if what you’ve done has been successful?

I think lack of understanding around measurement is another factor that puts people off marketing.

What is the most common marketing mistake most small businesses make?

A sporadic approach to marketing. It’s great if you can get a newsletter out. But it’s no good if you only get one out every six to twelve months.  A consistent approach, one that is manageable, will keep you front of mind.

Sometimes when I talk to people about email marketing, they worry about communicating too often. What’s your view on that?

You can only communicate too much if your communications are entirely sales focused. That’s a turnoff for anybody. But if you offer helpful advice and are generous with your knowledge… great! You’ll set yourself up as an authority in your field. A trusted, go to person. You’ll build a positive image of yourself.

You have a background in PR. How can businesses get press coverage?

Your story needs to have a hook to get the attention of journalists. You cannot ask a journalist to write a piece about your business and products. Their readers don’t care. They can find you on the Internet. Publications have specific interests. They know what their readers are interested in. So you need to research your target titles and find out what sort of stories they print.

You talk about the importance of planning. What steps should businesses take when thinking about a marketing plan?

Before you write a marketing plan, you’ve got to be clear who your target audience is. Is it 60-year old women or 25-year old men? What are their interests? You need to build up a persona so you can engage with them. And when it comes to social media it’s important to know where your target market hangs out.

I would say you then need to look at all the tools at your disposal. Such as your website, social media, email, press coverage, advertising and so on. Then determine how you can use them to get close to your customers.

Claire: Yes. And before that, I suggest you need to have a good look at your business plan. How can marketing help you achieve your objectives? What can you do that is realistic and achievable?

Each tool has its place in the buy cycle. So you need to choose the right tool to guide prospective customers through their decision-making.

How often should you revisit your marketing plan?

Ideally, you should plan for the year. And then refer back to your plan a minimum of 6 monthly. A lot can change in six months.

But if you find it too much to plan for the year, then break your plan down into quarters. Can you set yourself achievable goals? What can you do to make them happen?

A monthly calendar will help you plot specific actions to be taken. Without concrete steps, it’s easy to lose track.

Claire: Yes, an editorial calendar works hand in hand with a marketing plan, as it keeps your content on track.

Sophie. Without a plan you can’t measure performance against your actions.

How much time should businesses allocate to social media?

I would say at least half a day a week. I recommend committing to taking time out to sit with your marketing plan and work out what you need to do.

Apart from social media what can businesses do to stand out online?

Be generous with your knowledge. Be helpful.

Claire: Also I think it’s important that your social profiles are consistent so that you’re recognisable across platforms.

Sophie: Yes undoubtedly. You need to have consistent branding. Without it, you can confuse people. A strong visual identity makes you memorable.

What is more important, engagement or followers?

Engagement every time. Social media is a dynamic forum. It encourages you to interact. The point is to start conversations. It’s also an excellent medium to show the human side of your business. Even a simple thank you in response to a comment helps people remember you. The power of social media is extraordinary.

What tips can you share for turning engagement into paying customers?

Ideally, you want to use engagement on social media to keep you front of mind of your audience, so you are the person they think of when they have a problem you can solve.

Where can people find you, Sophie?

You can follow me on Twitter at @greenhousesoph

You can connect with me on LinkedIn at in/sophieclareisachsen/

You can also find me on the Lewes Women in Business directory.

And finally

If you would like help writing clear communications that compel readers to click through to your webpages, then do get in touch.You’d be surprised by how easy it is to drive engagement with the power of words.

Claire Hawes, copywriter and owner of The Content BoutiqueAbout Claire Hawes

Claire Hawes is a marketing communications copywriter. She enjoys writing engaging copy that helps businesses to get noticed and attract enquiries. Claire’s experience mainly lies in the business to business sector. Her clients include both businesses and digital marketing agencies.

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