Marketing Troubleshooter 001
Welcome to the latest episode of the Marketing Troubleshooter.
Today’s subject is a small health and safety consultancy in the West Midlands. The challenge they presented us was how to raise their profile – particularly in the local business community – when they have little budget and no marketing staff to work with.
We’ll be talking about:
- Exploiting ISO and other standards for SEO;
- How to encourage interaction on web pages;
- Community activities and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility);
- Simplifying business; and
- Social media.
This is the brief we’re working to:
We’ve been in business for four years but we’re still practically unknown. Our problem is profile. And budget! Nobody knows we’re here and we don’t really have the money to advertise widely.
There’s still a huge amount of manufacturing activity around us in the West Midlands – all these businesses could use our help. They’re all subject to health and safety regulations. But we can’t tell if they’re using somebody else, doing it themselves or just ignoring their responsibilities.
Our challenge is to make them aware of what they should be doing and to make them aware that we could help them.
We don’t have a dedicated marketing person of course. Nor do we regularly use an agency. We had some help putting our website together when we first started. It looks okay but it doesn’t get much traffic and it certainly doesn’t generate us any business.
We advertised in the local paper. That sank without trace. We haven’t tried online advertising because we know nothing about it. Our website is built on WordPress but we don’t know how to change it. The only marketing tool we have access to is Google Analytics – we understand the first screen that tells us how many visitors and page views we’ve had but none of the rest of it makes any sense.
How do we get ourselves known in the local business community?
Let’s start with some of the fundamentals that marketing people love to talk about. Your website. Don’t worry about the way it looks. Unless it was designed by Escher, what it contains is far more important than what it looks like.
You’ve actually got a massive advantage in your business. Health and safety is riddled by standards. Everything’s governed by them.
What’s great about standards is that people search for them. What’s even better is that there’s very little variety in the way people search for them. There are only so many ways you can write “ISO 45001”.
This makes standards great search targets. If you can write great content about a standard that applies to your industry you will get traffic when people search for it. This is a beautiful situation for SMEs. Google doesn’t care how big your company is. It doesn’t care how many staff you have. It only cares about the quality of information you provide. If you provide better information than an international conglomerate, your page will appear before theirs.
We’ve done this in the past when we worked for an engineering company in West Bromwich. Two standards that apply to their business were “EN 590” and “ISO 4406”. Their pages on those standards are still on Google’s page 1 despite the fact we did the work for them years ago. These are international standards that apply around the world. And yet IPU, an SME engineering business in the West Midlands, ranks right up there with Wikipedia. It can be done.
Standards that apply to your business appear to be ISO 45001 and ISO 13854. So how do you write great content for those standards?
First of all, think about what type of questions people ask about those standards. There are plenty of online tools that will tell you that (Answer the Public or Ubersuggest – both are free or have free versions) but you probably don’t need them. It’s your business – you already know what people ask.
They probably want a summary of the regulation without all the legalese.
- They want to know who it applies to.
- They want to know how they can conform with it.
- They want to know about auditing and inspections.
- They might want to know about penalties.
- Your answers to all of these questions are the core of what will attract people to your website.
Secondly, do something to make your page interactive. Google wants to see people doing something on your page. If people just read the information then leave your site, Google thinks they’re dissatisfied. It’s wrong, but that’s the way Google works. So, once you’ve written your answers to the questions people ask, turn them into a document that people can download from your webpage. That’s one level of interaction.
If you wanted to change this into a lead generation activity, you could turn that download into ‘gated content’: you can’t download gated content until you fill in a form with your name, company name, et cetera. I’m not going to go into that in detail in this answer because it’s more detail than you probably want.
You can use links on your page to improve interactivity too. This one is quite tricky to put into practice. On the one hand, Google wants to see a page that deals with the subject in detail. That means a long page. On the other hand, you want people to click on links to go to different pages to get more information about a part of your answer. For example, on your ISO 45001 page, should you include a section about Annex SL or should you make that a separate page? There’s no right or wrong answer. Just make sure that you have some topics that your visitors have to click a link to get to.
The last type of interaction I’ll mention in this episode is that darling of all marketing activities, the Call to Action. What do you want people to do if they want to engage your services? Or at least find out more about them?
We can’t see how your website is set up in WordPress but you don’t appear to have the facility to add buttons to a page. Buttons would be a great way to get people to book an appointment, send an email or something similar.
That’s not the end of the world though. You can just use text links. They don’t look as nice but they work just as well. Make sure there is a link on the page that makes it easy for people to send you an email or phone you (the phone link would only work if they viewed the page on a smart phone).
We need to say one more thing about providing this sort of information on your website. Some people don’t like to do it. Their viewpoint is that if they provide the information online, potential customers don’t need to come to them. They’re giving away for free information that they ought to be charging for.
That type of attitude is out of date. It’s been overtaken by the information age. People do expect to find information they want online. If they don’t get it from you, they’ll get it from your competitors.
And just because you tell somebody how to do something, it doesn’t mean that they have the time to do it themselves.
Just because it’s easy for you, doesn’t mean it’ll easy for them.
Just because you know about the subject doesn’t mean they want to know about it.
They might not even read the information you provide. They might just use it as a signal that tells them you know your stuff.
The only people you’re going to lose by providing information online are the kind of people you wouldn’t want as a customer anyway.
Local PR and CSR
The second thing you can exploit to the benefit of your business is “local”. No, I don’t mean local search (that’s another subject for a different episode). I mean the nature of local businesses.
Personality matters to local businesses. It has a massive influence on purchasing decisions. When people use a local supplier, they’re buying from a person. Although the company behind that person matters, the individual gets more attention. People buy from people.
This is very different from when you buy from a national or international business. In that kind of purchase, you look at the company, its history and its capabilities. With that kind of purchase you assess very impersonal characteristics.
So how do you make yourself the kind of person somebody chooses to do business with? How do you differentiate yourself from the other health and safety consultancy is in the West Midlands?
I point you at another company we know, SOS Group in Gateshead. Andrew, George and John (the directors of SOS) are relentless in their pursuit of local charity and community activities. They sponsor local sports awards and a local disability triathlon. They help the Charlie Cookson Foundation which provides financial support to parents of children with life limiting conditions. They launched a competition for local key workers. They provide support to British Swimming (OK, that’s more than local). The list goes on and on and on. Their activities culminated in them winning the Community Award from the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses).
The guys invest money and a huge amount of time in these activities. They have made themselves pillars of the local community. They’ve made themselves the type of people that other people want to work with.
This is not the kind of activity that delivers results overnight. Not commercial results anyway. But it is the kind of activity that works well over time and can be executed with a limited budget. Your health and safety consultancy can be just as successful as Andrew, George and John at SOS. Many local groups and charities can be helped with your time or professional services as much as by financial contributions.
SOS have been very skilled in the way they publicise their charity and CSR activities. They do it tastefully and promote their contribution proportionally. Yes, they say what they do but they place more emphasis on the good work that the charity does or the results that will come from an activity. The charity or activity remains the star of the show. People appreciate this combination of assistance and modesty.
One quick word about a digital benefit. Ask the charity or community bodies to link from their website to yours. Inbound links (aka backlinks are gold-dust).
Simplify the complex
You’re experts in health and safety. Your customers are not. Not only are they not experts, they don’t want to become experts.
You probably have two categories of customers. On the one hand, Mr Angry thinks that health and safety regulations have gone way too far and they just want you to help them meet whatever standards they have to meet. On the other hand, you’ll have people who are dedicated to the safety of their staff and who want you to protect them.
Both these categories of people want you to make their life simple. Consider promoting yourself as the simple business to deal with. Not only will you make health and safety simple, make yourself simple to do business with as well.
We can already see that lots of your competitors do retainer agreements so customers don’t have to sign separate contracts for every item of work. That’s certainly simple for the customer but we’re usually wary of retainer agreements because we’re worried that we won’t get value for money.
Go further than a simple retainer agreement. Explain how you’re going to meet all their health and safety requirements. Illustrate how you’ll help them through their next audit. If you can do this with pictures in a brochure or animations on a website, great. But that might not work with your budget constraints. So use simple text instead. Or a flowchart from PowerPoint.
This is where you want to take advantage of processes like the ‘three-step bounce’. In step one, you show a rosy future where all of the business’ health and safety concerns are sorted. In step two, you explain how your history or your skills (or both) make you the perfect partner to help the business reach that position. In step three, you use the illustrations or animations I just mentioned to show the steps you and your customer take together to reach that position.
Finally, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: social media. When people talk about ‘raising their profile’, they normally think they need a more aggressive social media program.
You need to focus on quality not quantity if you want your social media activities to have an effect. If you focus on quality, you put yourself above 99.9% of your competitors.
Avoid what I like to call HUM: Here Us Me. Stop focusing on what your business is doing. We don’t want to know that you just had a great online session with another company. Why do we care about your meetings? We don’t want to be told again and again about a service you offer. If we ignored the message the first time we saw it, why would we pay any attention to it on the 31st time?
The most fundamental marketing principle is that business is about the customer, not you. If you want to talk about your service do it by saying how a customer has benefited from it. If you want to talk about an issue, illustrate that issue in action.
Which brings us neatly to content.
In health and safety, there’s a character called Ed Davidson who’s been posting worst practice videos on LinkedIn for years. I watch them even though I have nothing to do with health and safety.
Ed doesn’t post any original content, as far as I can tell. It’s all filmed by other people. Replicating what he does is pointless. The people you’re trying to reach have probably already seen it. But could you use footage like this as an introduction to what good practice would look like?
You won’t be able to post as many videos as Ed but remember, quality is more important than quantity. Scare stories are entertaining, but a scare story with a lesson is valuable.
It’s inevitable that episodes of the Marketing Troubleshooter will focus on very specific elements of marketing activity. Let’s not forget though that all the activities we do should fit into an overall strategy.
If we forget strategy, we’ll be plagued forever by shiny shiny syndrome – the temptation to chase every new fad or priority that comes over our horizon.
If you’ve looked at our webpages on lead generation and marketing strategy, you’ll know that these are the seven steps we recommend. Where do the activities we’ve detailed today fit into this model?
As you can see, everything’s way off to the right, towards the marcoms side of a marketing strategy. Now that’s not a problem for today. The challenge was all about raising profile so it’s no surprise that the solution focuses on the communications part of a strategy.
Just remember that the types of activity we’ve discussed today will probably fail unless you put the other elements in place.