Why i.interact and where did it start?

Like many of you reading this, i.interact started from an idea. I first had mine in 2009 while I was working full time as a Marketing and PR Manager for a coaching and training company that worked exclusively with accounting firms. Here I was exposed to the consulting world which I had no real idea about having spent the first seven years of my career working internally for one business.

I quickly learnt from the accounting firms that marketing and branding was a key area that not only they needed help with, but that their small to medium size business clients needed help with also.  I soon realised that I had options other than working to grow someone else’s business. I started visualise what type of business I could create that would complement my strengths and experience and this is how i.interact started.

The highlights of starting my business were attending my first ever business building workshop in Sydney, brainstorming names and registering my business and creating the i.interact brand. In my first twelve months, there were also many challenges (which I am sure many of you can relate to) including finances, setting up an office and getting my name and brand out there.

After testing the waters and fine tuning my marketing and branding service offering during my first 12 months in business, I started promoting myself as a Virtual Marketing Manager instead of just a Marketing Consultant. This seemed to hit a cord with most business owners and they understood instantly what I was able to offer them in terms of my services.

Luckily for me, I also discovered networking in my first year in business and this is how I have successfully built my brand awareness and how I will continue to promote my brand in addition to online marketing. Networking allows you to build long lasting and meaningful relationships plus a trusted network of suppliers that you trust implicitly that you can then refer onto your clients.

I believe that networking, forging strong and lasting relationships with my clients and providing a unique and tailored service to business owners are the key reasons why I am still in business four years on. I am also a co-director of a business networking community called Ask Ernie which facilitates and support my love of networking and supporting business owners.

Being in business is a challenge but it is also very rewarding and allows you to constantly learn and achieve a lifestyle that you have always wanted. The best advice I can give to any business owner is to not try and do everything yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses and fill the gaps by seeking out experts and professionals to help you in growing your business.

Do You Need Marketing Expertise for Your Small Business?

Do you have what it takes to effectively market your small business? If you do, that’s great, but if your efforts have so far not been up to scratch, or you would just like some professional help to boost your brand awareness, you might be interested in outsourced marketing services to help in moving your business forward.

Marketing your business is complex in the modern world. Today’s consumers are generally very savvy and well informed, and as a small business owner you need to be on the ball to keep up with them and with changes in the marketplace.

Modern marketing can also take a lot of time – something that many small business owners and directors probably don’t have in abundance. Running a business, developing products and services and supervising employees can be enough of a task, without thinking about how to go about boosting your exposure and market share. This might mean that the task of marketing seems overwhelming or at least very challenging.

You need to think about advertising and promotion, your branding, graphics, website, communications and various other matters. Without the expertise in these areas you might not know quite where to begin.

i.interact’s services include development of marketing plans and strategies, branding and / or rebranding, graphic design and public relations. i.interact also knows that your enterprise is totally unique, and needs a tailored approach to marketing and conveying to your target market what it is you have to offer. We are also aware that your funds might be limited, and can negotiate a program with you to fit within your budget.

i.interact can provide a contact person as well as a team of experts to help you with all the facets of marketing that you need. You will also have the option of using our services constantly, or on an ad-hoc basis – such as when launching a new product line for instance. Outsourced marketing services can help to provide your business with that professional and competitive edge, which in turn can assist you in retaining your clients and attracting new ones along the way.

Marketing Ideas for Small Business

While anyone in a profit-making business is naturally keen to achieve a return on their investment, business experts will often emphasise that the focus of any business owner needs to be not so much on the bottom line, but on providing the best product or service in the marketplace.

Of course this starts with knowing what it is that consumers actually want or need in the first place. This involves listening to your customers, and it might entail doing some market research – through surveys, direct interviews, focus groups or other methods. Even many established companies will conduct market research when considering launching a new product. This is a vital step – as without knowing what it is that people really want, you might find yourself paddling upstream in the wrong direction!

Once you are clear on what customers want, and you have researched the competition and you are clear on your product’s cost and pricing structure, you need to develop some sound marketing tactics to help you achieve your goals and objectives. This is a continual process that involves keeping your eye on the market, measuring your progress through sales targets, and making adjustments to your strategies as required.

Here are some tips for developing better small business marketing strategies:

  •  Take advantage of the free or low-cost advertising opportunities that are available these days, such as social media, or email campaigns.
  •  Consider producing flyers, brochures, videos, press releases, a website, blog, or advertising in industry magazines.
  •  Attend trade shows and give out samples of your product or brochures describing your professional service, and be available to talk to potential clients.
  •  Consider offering special discounts or discount vouchers to use within a certain timeframe.
  •  Network with other small business owners in the industry. Ask questions with the goal of finding out what works for them and what doesn’t.
  •  To increase your exposure consider joining professional trade industry associations and networking with other businesses.
  •  Increase your skills through training sessions, employing a mentor, or attending seminars. Keep your mind open and flexible. Of course as a small business owner, you might feel that you are doing your upmost just to keep your business running, and that you just don’t have the time for marketing or the means to employ someone to do it for you.

This is where small business marketing services such as that provided by i.interact can help, by providing you with professional and expert marketing services when and where you need them – from developing marketing plans, sales and marketing tools, to branding, graphic design and public relations. Our services allow you, the business owner to keep on doing what you love to do, while knowing that marketing and promotion of your product or service has not slipped under the radar!

Rebranding – Does Your Business Need a Makeover?

We all need a change or a fresh start every now and then, and sometimes the same can be said about businesses. There are times when rebranding might be necessary to create a new identity and image in the mind of customers and clients.

 

 

Rebranding can be done for a whole company, a product, a range of products, or created for a new product line. There might be many reasons for rebranding, such as to:

  • Create a more modern image.
  • Shed a less-than-positive image.
  • Become more relevant to consumers.
  • Attract a new type of client.
  • Attract a certain type of employee.
  • Promote a change of strategy and image – for example to demonstrate that the company is environmentally responsible.
  • Differentiate a new line of products from a previous one.
  • Create a more professional image, especially if the old branding was not done professionally in the first place.
  • Start afresh if the old brand did not achieve the desired results.
  • Make a new promise to consumers.
  • Create a new brand when merging with another company.
  • Differentiate from another business that has a very similar name, which causes customer confusion.

Businesses of all sizes and types may rebrand from time to time. For instance, even Apple Computers changed their title to simply ‘Apple’ so that they could sell other products. Rebranding can involve creating a new name, logo, image, and marketing strategy. It is a big step, especially since people identify with brands. It’s not something to be done lightly, or in an amateurish way. As such, when considering rebranding it’s best to find a business rebranding company that has the credentials and experience to help the business owner manage the shift professionally, and without upsetting existing customers, while creating the capacity to attract new ones.

Rebranding is likely to involve the same steps as initial branding, but needs the added requirement of being particularly sensitive to the effect on customers in the marketplace. It’s highly important in this process that it is managed in a thorough way with nothing forgotten or left undone along the way. Outsourcing the rebranding process for your small business to a business rebranding company like i.interact means that you can get the professional expertise you need to make the process as seamless as possible.

Outsource your Marketing and Save Time, Money and Stress

As a small or medium-sized business owner, you no doubt have a lot of things to consider each day. This can involve wearing a lot of different hats, which can be a challenge when you’d really rather get on with whatever it is you’re good at – whether that’s developing products, administration, supervising people, or doing the accounts.

It can also make the task of marketing your product or services seem a little overwhelming. And yet without promotion, who is going to know about your great product/service in the first place? After all, without marketing, your business cannot thrive and grow. In this case, you might want to consider outsourced marketing services.

Marketing service experts can help business owners develop top-notch marketing strategies to best promote their brand. This can involve the development of a marketing plan, plus a combination of marketing activity execution, public relations, branding, and graphic design services.

Some of the advantages of outsourcing are:

• You gain access to the expertise of seasoned marketing professionals who really know their stuff!

• It means one less hat for you to wear – allowing you to relax a little and not feel stressed about how to go about marketing your brand effectively.

• Cost savings – rather than the expense and complication of hiring an internal marketing manager, you pay only for the services you need, when you need them.

• You get to decide which services you want and need, and whether to use a consultant on a permanent basis or just for individual projects. This means that you are the one in control.

Ideally a marketing services provider will give you your own dedicated marketing manager, meaning that you only need to deal with one contact person rather than different people for all the various tasks involved in marketing. Your contact person should also be an excellent communicator, keeping you up-to-date with everything they are doing and providing you with regular reports and correspondence.

i.interact’s Virtual Marketing Manager Service includes all of the above, which means you can rest assured knowing that your marketing and your business are in good hands. i.interact can help you meet your business goals, by working with you to tailor a top-notch marketing program involving a mix of activities to suit your unique products/services.

After all marketing services should never be one-size-fits-all! Services provided can include the development and design of marketing materials, sales tools, email newsletters, direct mail campaigns, sponsorship, event planning, branding – depending on what it is you want to achieve. Outsourcing marketing services is really worth the investment if you know it can save you time, stress, costs, and headaches!

Types of Marketing Services for Small to Medium Businesses

Business owners are often experts in their own field, but they are not very experienced at marketing or know how to approach attracting clients. Or it might be that they just don’t have the time to spend developing marketing plans and strategies to promote their products and services.

Engaging the services of a marketing professional can often save business owners time and money by taking the guess work out of the equation. Following are just some of the different marketing services that are available:

Marketing Strategy and Planning – the development of a sound marketing plan that is in line with your business goals can be very time-consuming. A marketing plan involves market research including developing a range of activities and strategies for the promotion of your product/services. Utilising professional marketing services for these high level tasks may involve using a consultant on a permanent or project basis.

Branding and Graphic Design – business owners need to develop a brand that will help them to attract and retain clients. However, this can be a daunting task for someone who does not have the expertise in this area. Marketing services experts can help business owners to develop their brand, and provide graphic design services for their logo, stationery, and advertising materials.

Public Relations (PR) – this aspect of marketing enables business owners to generate more leads and increase awareness of their unique brand. However, even the business owner with the most brilliant product or service might not have the communication skills necessary for promoting it, and some PR expertise might be required. A PR campaign might involve press releases, email campaigns, events and various other activities.

A small to medium-sized business might not have the means to employ a marketing person on a full-time basis, and marketing agencies can be very costly. Using a boutique consultancy, such as i.interact, allows a business owner to access the expertise of a marketing professional in an affordable way. It also means they can obtain the types of marketing services they require only when they require them. Meaning they can get on with what it is they do best – running their business!

Elements of a Good Small Business Marketing Strategy

Effective marketing is an essential part of your overall business strategy. After all, there’s not much point in having a great product or service if no one is aware of it!

Here are a few points to start you off in developing your own small business marketing strategy:

  • A sound strategy starts from having clearly defined missions and goals. This means that you know what it is you want to achieve in your business.
  • You know your products and services well enough to be able to define them in easy-to-understand terms, and to demonstrate the ways in which they are unique.
  • You understand where your products and services ‘fit’ in the market at any point in time.
  • You have determined who your target market is, and done your research regarding what it is they really want and need. This is a vital element as you need to have your market narrowed down to those who are more likely to be interested in buying your product. Researching your target market or potential client base can be done through online research, focus groups and surveys.
  • You know the competition! It’s important to research your competitors, their products and services, pricing, and markets. By doing this, you can determine the areas where you can develop a distinct advantage.
  • You have decided which marketing communication and promotional tactics to utilise.
  • Your strategy can be tested, by measuring the results of campaigns.
  • The strategy should be flexible enough to be adjusted, depending on the results of activities, and on changes in the wider marketplace.

Timing and activities

Your short and long-term goals will also make a difference to your marketing strategy. For instance, your goal for next six months might be to reach out to a new demographic, or to advertise a new product, and this will determine the timing and type of activities you use.

Promotional tactics and activities might include advertising in the paper, in magazines, on websites and through social media, and on the radio, and with media releases, sales promotions involving short-term discounts, or direct marketing through email campaigns, brochures or telemarketing.

Remember, a good small business marketing strategy will aim to get the attention of your target market, and to keep drawing that attention over time.

This means keeping a keen eye on what is going on out there in the marketplace, and on what people are interested in.

Business Branding Tips

Listen in to any conversation about an individual’s shopping experiences, and you’re likely to hear comments like, “I always buy brand X”, or “I really don’t like brand Y” and so forth. Once consumers are aware of and like a particular brand, they often tend to remain loyal to it. This also means the reverse can occur, and that one bad experience can lead a customer to abandon a brand for good.

So, what exactly is branding?

In companies of all sizes, branding is the creation of the style and unique personality that a business displays to the world. Branding can help customers to recognise and remember what the business stands for. This means your brand needs to be authentic, in that you are able to deliver on the key messages and promises your brand communicates.

What does business branding involve?

• Branding involves things such as developing a business name, tagline, logo and / or pictorial design or image that represents the business and distinguishes it from all others. Your branding should tell the story of the business, and promote the promise that you are intent on delivering with your business.

• A business’s branding should be simple, professionally designed, and quickly recognisable.

• The branding should be used consistently throughout the business. This includes on the stationery, signage, promotions, website, uniforms, vehicles, and so forth. What types of brands are there? The type of branding you choose depends on the response you want to elicit. Different types of branding include: • Branding that appeals to the feeling or emotion that is derived from using the product. For instance, a brand might promote a product or service as one that brings freedom, or a sense of power.

• Branding that promotes the functional and practical aspects of the product, rather than the emotional response it creates.

• Shop brands – these tend to be used by large supermarket or department store chains.

• Separate brands for different products. Some businesses create new brands for each product they develop and market.

Developing a brand for your small business

• First, make sure you know your target market well, and know what that market wants and needs. Know your business goals including your vision and mission, because these will form part of your branding message.

• Consult a professional branding consultant to assist you in developing a recognisable and unique company logo, slogan, tagline and so on. The last thing you need is branding that looks unprofessional.

• Build brand awareness through marketing materials, advertising campaigns, and business promotions. The important thing is to be consistent in your use of your brand and in delivering on its messages and promises. Do this, and there will be a greater chance that your customers will remain loyal to your product or service!

8 Key Steps to Successful Marketing – Part 1

Benefits

It is hard to believe that we are already in the second month of 2013. How many of you have thought about your marketing this year but haven’t yet had the chance to sit down and start the process? The good news is it’s not too late to get started.

Marketing isn’t rocket science but at times it can feel that way. Remember, the success of your marketing is based on planning, executing, tracking and measuring and repeating this process again and again in order to refine your strategy so you see results and a return on your investment.

In follow up to my blog prior to Christmas, I have detailed the first 4 of my 8 step process to guide you in the right direction to successfully marketing your business. Block some time out in your diary this month and commit yourself to starting this process. If you don’t have the time or inclination to drive or manage your own marketing, then I encourage you to seek external assistance from experts like i.interact.

 

1. Define your PRODUCT/SERVICE
This is a really important step that some business owners neglect, thinking that this is a given but I can assure you it is not! Take some time to sit down and really think about the product/services that you provide and how you are communicating this to your customers and leads. What you are communicating may not be getting through or hitting the right buttons.

Remember to talk about your product or service in simple and easy to understand terms. Stay away from any industry jargon! This could take the form of a written version of your “elevator pitch” that clearly describes your mission, points of difference and the fundamental benefit or value you provide.

A great exercise for this is to list the features of your product/service and next to each feature, list the benefits or solution they provide. Once you have these written down next to one another, create a third column of people or situations where your product/service meets this benefit/solution and now you have your key target markets defined.

2. Determine your TARGET MARKET/S

With the current state of the economy, having a well-defined target market is more important than ever. No business can afford to target everyone, yet this is a common mistake made by many businesses.

Targeting a specific niche market does not mean that you have to exclude people that do not fit your criteria from buying from you. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing budget on a specific niche that is more likely to buy from you. This is a much more affordable, efficient and effective way to reach potential customers and generate new business. With a clearly defined target market, it is much easier to determine where and how to market your business.

3. Establish your COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Research and understand your competitive landscape, it is a powerful tool that will enable you to better position your business and take advantage of any weaknesses or opportunities in the market.

Online research is free, easy to access and is something you can do yourself in your own time. Who are your competitors targeting? Who are their current customers? Don’t go after the same market. You want to find a niche market that they may have overlooked.

The second part of this process includes defining your own competitive advantage or USP (unique selling proposition). What product/service/value/benefit do you offer that your competition does not? What’s unique about your business? It’s so important to clearly communicate this across all of your marketing communications. Make your business memorable and known for something unique.

4. Define your GOALS & OBJECTIVES
This is such a crucial step in the planning process as without this you don’t have a clear path to follow to reach or exceed your goals. It’s important to document both short term and long term objectives for your business. Make your goals meaningful, specific, and measurable. Tangible goals such as profit and new customers will help you keep an eye on the ball at all times.

I use the SMART principal when talking with clients about their goals and objectives.
Specific – What is the precise outcome? Who is responsible?
Measurable – How will progress be measured?
Attainable – Can the objective be achieved with a reasonable amount of effort?
Realistic – Do the responsible parties have the ability and resources to get the job done?
Time dependent – What is the start or finish date?

These first 4 steps should give you plenty to think about and assist you in starting the marketing process for your business. Make sure you keep an eye out for our blog next month to discover the remaining 4 steps in the process. In the meantime, should you have any queries relating to your marketing planning, please get in touch via our contact form.