SMALL BUSINESS OWNER WARNING: LITTLE TIP FOR BUSINESS OWNERS ‘INVITE ALL YOUR FRIENDS’

Social media is a great tool for quickly disseminating information amongst friends and seeking advice. The question is, how accurate is the advice being given?

If there’s one thing recent high profile scandals at the international level have highlighted, it’s just how easily false information can be spread through social media and the impact that can have. 

This weekend we became aware of an image being shared on Facebook, advising business owners on how their friends can invite all of their Facebook friends to like their business page in one go. 

Whilst seemingly a good piece of advice, we are urging all small business owners to STOP and consider the implications of doing so of which they may not be aware of.

Whilst we aren’t quite accusing the Russian government of distributing this image to disrupt our economy, it could very easily have long lasting negative impacts on the individual small business owners who follow this advice and share it on in good faith.

In our opinion, it’s about as trustworthy for your business as the Momo Challenge is for your children.

 

You may have seen this shared on Facebook over the last few days.

We’re aware that the business owners following this advice are likely not be marketers or have any marketing experience. Many small business owners can not yet afford to pay agencies or specialists to manage their social media channels.

Whether it’s protein powder to get muscles or Juice Plus to make money, everyone loves the prospect of a ‘silver bullet’. The shortcut to success that requires minimum effort and gets maximum results. Unfortunately there are very few of these in marketing.

It is our position as a business, and my personal and professional opinion (I’ve got a good few letters after my name, experience under my belt and successes & failures to boot) that this technique should be avoided, here is why…

Facebook Optimisation

Facebook is continuously looking at your page and collecting data on who likes, follows and views it, and who engages with your posts. 

This gives Facebook an idea of who you page is targeted at and is most relevant to, and allows them to then place it in front of more people like that.

It will show in the crowded timelines of your followers friends when they engage and also show as a recommended page to the people similar to your followers.

By inviting all your friends, and then asking them to do the same (and potentially their friends to do the same) you are essentially approaching your marketing with a scattergun approach. Your page will be populated with people who are not relevant to your business  and will therefore be presented to more people who are not relevant to your business and not likely to ever use your service or buy your product.

You are essentially sending the wrong ‘signals’ to Facebook about who your customers are and therefore instead of presenting your page to your future customers, it’s showing it to a random hotch-potch of users. 

Think of it this way. Your friends list is made up of a variety of people, from your grandma or auntie, to unknown Thai women that for some reason you accepted back in 2008.

If you own a Male clothing store and you invite all of your friends, and bless your grandma she wants to help and likes the page, then inviting all of her friends…you are essentially telling Facebook that your page is relevant to Females over the age of 80.

Now throw into the mix all the other people that make up your friends lists on top of that, such as people you’ve met on holiday, neighbours etc. and you’re giving Facebook too many ‘signals’ for it to realise a pattern. Instead of presenting your page to a highly targeted audience of Men aged 18 – 30, it’s pushed out to every man and his dog, and his dogs cousin.

There’s not much going back from that, other than going through your page likes one by one and removing them. A time consuming and laborious task that most of you won’t likely know how to do. Even then there is no guarantee that this will fix the way Facebook ‘views’ your page and optimises it moving forward.

Reach & Engagement

Having lots of non-relevant people on your page will damage the engagement of your posts and reach of your marketing messages.

Let’s for arguments sake say that you’ve taken the advice from your well-intentioned friend and invited 3000 non-relevant people to your page, and a few of your friends have done the same and you’ve gained 1000 new likes on your small business page.

These people may have liked your page as a way to support you, but aren’t relevant and won’t ever use your business. They’ve essentially done this is a ‘one-time favour’ but they’re unlikely to engage with your business again. You’ve turned into just another page on their long list of hundreds of pages they’ve liked over the years.

Reach is the number of unique people who see a post or ad. 

Facebook changed the way its algorithm worked for business pages back in 2018, meaning that the average organic reach (ie. not paid for reach) of posts dropped from around 20-30% to around 6.5%. 

So for every 1000 people that like your page, on average only 65 people will see your post.

It’s a clever business model. Get the platform known and used by businesses big and small, show some great results and then change the way it works so to get anywhere near the same reach you’ll have to pay them money through the ads platform (Don’t even get me started on the boost button, that’s a whole article in itself).

It wasn’t all for monetary gain. As Facebook newsfeeds became more saturated with content, more pictures, more posts, more videos of cats playing the piano…it became difficult for organic posts to cut through the noise. 

The way to rectify this is to look more at what is relevant to the individual (think back to my first point about the signals being sent), to encourage people to pay to target their content at people who have shown an interest in certain criteria and most crucially to this article, to look at engagement on pages and posts.

You’ve just invited 3000 people and gained 1000 people. Only 100 of which are relevant or interested in what you have to say.

The other 900 will not like or engage with your posts or page again. Essentially telling Facebook your content is rubbish and not worth populating the timelines of your other page followers or their friends.

You’ve got a higher number of followers, but a less engaged audience. Your likes and engagement are weighed against each other and you’re considered to be lower quality. Your posts reach even less people and your page isn’t put in front of as many people as it was before.

 

Get advice from qualified experienced professionals where possible. Not all of them are this good looking as this bald chap unfortunately.

So what should you do?

If you’re going to invite your Facebook friends, you should only invite those who fit your target customer profile. Your what now?

We teach people how to identify and speak to their target audience by writing customer profiles. Identifying the demographics, psychographics and behavioural traits of the people most likely to benefit your business. That again is another article in itself and we’re happy to provide you with guidance on how to do it, but for brevity think of it as this…

  • Working out what your customer looks like…their age, where they live, how old they are, are they a man or a woman (or both, who knows in this day and age)
  • Working out what the customer wants…. what problems your service provides and what objections they may have to using your service.
  • Working out where your customer can be found…what social media channels do they use, what tv shows they watch, who influences them, what books or magazines they read.

This massive simplification of the process is all you need as a small business owner to identify who you should invite and what you should be posting to get them to engage. You aren’t spending thousands on ads or writing a strategy, but if you want to know how to do it properly then get in touch!

Using a beauty salon business or nail bar as an over simplified example:

  • Female Aged 18 – 35
  • Lives within 2 miles of Preston city centre.
  • Wants new acrylic nails for a night out at the weekend
  • Has reservations about the price and usually uses someone else so isn’t 100% sold on using you
  • Their usual salon is booked up and they need these for a night out in 2 days, you have availability
  • They use Facebook & Instagram multiple times a day
  • Read Women’s magazines such as Cosmo or Vogue
  • Influenced by their friends and people they know on social media – has seen your work on Instagram.

This provides you with a rough guide on who you should be inviting to like your page. You can now go through your friends list and invite people one by one, ensuring the closest fit to your customer profile.

It might take longer than ‘inviting all’, but it will yield better results, set your business up in the long run and is a hell of a lot quicker than removing 1000 random Thai women from your page in 6 months time. 

Some Other Ideas

There’s loads of other ways you can increase the number of people who like your page or gain additional reach.

Paid social advertisements are the best way to reach your customers in our professional opinion and experience.

Paid Social Ads

The best and most effective way is to use paid advertisements. Many small business owners will not have the skill set to do this effectively and may decide to stop after their first failed attempt. My advice, speak to a professional and get some advice. 

This is how Facebook generate 80-90% of their revenue, it’s the way they want you to use and therefore is the most effective way to reach your customers on their platform. 

Invest in your business and stop looking for the silver bullet of marketing. If it worked like that, everyone would be doing it. 

 

Competitions

Run incentivised competitions from your page that use your core offering/product/service as the prize. There’s no point giving away a holiday if you’re a pie shop. You will get lots of people entering but not many of them relevant. Use your prize to qualify the entrants as your target audience. Whilst the terms and conditions of Facebook forbid you from forcing an action in order to enter (although Facebook is awash with like & share competitions) there’s no harm in asking entrants to like your page as well.

Be careful you don’t fall foul of Facebook’s rules regarding competitions, read them here: https://www.facebook.com/policies/pages_groups_events/

Face-to-Face

As much as we make 96% of our revenue from digital marketing, we still can’t stress the benefits of face-to-face communication in building your brand and business. It isn’t a scalable solution ie. you can’t replicate it at large volume in a cost effective manner, but it could go a long way to building a core audience on your social channels.

Ask your paying customers to like your page whilst you are with them face-to-face and explain how it helps you. 

Counter

The Smiirl counter can be used to register your page likes and encourage people to like your social media channels.

If you want to take this one further and you have a brick and mortar business, you could even get a Facebook / Social Media Likes & Followers counter for your premises. We recommend the Smiirl counter, even if it is a little pricey at around £350.

See them here: https://www.smiirl.com/

 

 

 

We have one in the office that we use for campaigns to show how many people have given their data. It ticks over every 15 minutes to update the number and can be linked to your Facebook or Instagram account. People love the engagement of tools like this and will like your page just to see if it works!

 

Email

If you have customer email addresses in a database, why not ask them to go over and like your page? Provide a link directly to your Facebook page and give them a clear bullet pointed step-by-step on what to do (people need to be told exactly what to do on the internet) and why it would help you. Incentivise it if you can.

Website

Add a Facebook Like button to your homepage or blog content if it lends itself to it. 

Caveats 

There are of course caveats to every rule. Certain businesses and circumstances may lend themselves to mass inviting. 

It might work in some mass markets or in a localised area…but its risky.

If you are a local restaurant owner and your friends list consists of local people, it’s fair to say that they are relevant to your page and business. It’s a mass market, everyone needs to eat after all. Where that gets a little tricky is when you have people from out of the area or local people start inviting those from out of the area to like the page, there’s no control once it’s left your hands. 

 

Have we ever used the invite all feature? Yeah!

There is some limited benefit to having page likes. They are a vanity metric in the most part and provide a level of social proof. When people see a page with 200 likes they trust it more than one with just 5 likes. It’s a psychological principle used extensively in marketing.

We are forever setting up small business pages to test campaigns or run paid campaigns either to establish new businesses ourselves or test the effectiveness of campaigns for our clients. We usually set up these pages, run a campaign for a month and close them down.

In order to get a volume of likes and quickly, we sometimes invite our personal contacts or ‘acquire’ likes from elsewhere. It doesn’t matter, because we aren’t using the pages for organic reach and we know we’re deactivating the page in the near future.

There’s likely other caveats and circumstances where using the invite all feature works and is a good idea, we just aren’t sure what they are. What we do know is they are in the minority and for most of you, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Remember people, this is the internet. People will share false information for a laugh or maliciously. Others will blindly share pictures and posts in an attempt to be helpful without checking the validity of the information they are providing.

Next time you see an image like this sharing advice for your small business, especially marketing, please please please come and speak to me or one of the team. We won’t charge you for a quick bit of advice or to provide an opinion if you’re a small business owner.

We actively support small business owners and especially those across the North of England. If we can help and even have a tiny impact and it doesn’t take too much away from our own business, why wouldn’t we help someone out who needs it?

 

Give us a shout on Hello@InvokeMedia.co.uk 

 

Jack Barron

Director

Invoke Media

01772 921 109

 

*My experience…9 years digital marketing, 15 years overall marketing & promotions. 1st Class Bachelors Management Degree (Hons) and MSc in Marketing Communications from UCLan and MMU respectively.
15 years experience running my own business. Several failed entrepreneurial attempts. Personally managed approx £9 million on paid digital ads. I’m a dog lover and therefore trustworthy.

SMEs: Do you know well your marketing is performing?

One of the main benefits of digital marketing in comparison with traditional marketing & media channels is readily available & accurate data on performance.

Many forms of traditional marketing rely heavily on assumptions, presumptions or sample data.

How many customers not only saw, but took action from your last newspaper or magazine advert? How many people screwed up your latest flyer and how many took notice? It’s not impossible to gauge, but it’s certainly very difficult and not very accurate.

The rise of digital mediums provided marketers and business owners alike, with rich actionable data in realtime. It’s an absolute dream for gauging success, tracking return on investment & gaining customer insight.

 

The Benefits

  • Insight into customer behaviour
  • Understand who your customers actually are
  • Track R.O.I. from different campaigns
  • Understand the value of each customer
  • Establish the cost of winning new customers
  • Make informed business decisions

 

The Problem

As digital marketing platforms evolve and become more complex, so too can the data they provide.

It’s very easy to be blinded by science, overwhelmed with insights or just not know which of the thousands of tools out there are best suited for your needs.

Even if you’re an experienced marketer, it can be hard to make sense of the data in front of you. Even more so if you’re the owner or operator of an SME with limited experience in analytics or marketing reporting. 

The Solution

Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and reporting metrics are an important first step. They help you filter out the noise of data overload and concentrate on the information that matters to your business.

Work out what matters to you, whether it’s how people people view your website each month, the number of enquiry forms you receive or calls received from your website; establish the criteria that you’re going to measure your success from.

Once you’ve established what it is you want to track, set the parameters to gauge your success and have filtered out the noise, it’s time to get to it.

Set the time frame that you want to measure your marketing performance from and start reporting! We usually find that monthly report (from the 1st day of the month to the final day of the month) is more than sufficient for most businesses we work with.

 

How To Go About It

If you’re pulling data from different sources you’re going to want to use one common means of storing it, for ease of accessing and comparison. Traditionally we used to use an Excel Spreadsheet, but we’d highly recommend you consider using Google Sheets if you’re a small business.

Not only does this allow you the ability to share an editable document with other members of the team, you’ll be able to create visually appealing charts and graphs to make the data easier to understand and translate.

Include the KPI’s and metrics you established earlier on, and get inputting that data!

 

Finally

Inputting your marketing metrics can be time consuming but it’s an important part of any marketing campaign or overall strategy.

If you don’t know how well (or badly!) you’re doing, you can’t test, adjust and pivot accordingly. How will you know if your Google Ads are worth the money you’re investing, or whether the time spent on writing your blogs is having a positive effect?

We’ve included monthly reporting as one of the key services in our marketing support packages for small businesses.

We’ll provide you with a monthly marketing report that brings together all of the data from across your marketing channels and put it into a visually appealing, easy to understand report so you can measure the R.O.I. of your financial and time investment.

For those that don’t want all of the benefits that our marketing support packages offer, we also offer the monthly reporting as a separate low-cost service for SME’s! Get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

 

Jack Barron

Managing Director – Invoke Media

 

Marketing Support: What kind of problems do we solve?

Our marketing support packages are designed to help small businesses access the high quality marketing they need to succeed. You’ve seen what’s included in the packages, but you’re probably wondering what kind of problems we can solve. Here’s a list of some of the most common problems and challenges that we solve for our marketing support customers…

Customers

 

Finding new customers

You may have a brilliant concept, provide exceptional service and having raving reviews, but none of that means anything unless you’ve got a flow of new customers to compensate for the natural churn of your customer base. We can show you how to find, attract and convert prospects and leads into paying customers using multiple marketing channels.

Retaining existing customers

Whether they turn to the competition, go out of business or just don’t need your services anymore, there’s always going to be a natural churn of your customer base. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action to make sure that churn is kept to a minimum. We can help you identify and implement strategies that keep your customers engaged and onboard!

Maximising profit from existing customers

It’s usually cheaper and less time intensive to maximise profit from existing customers than from winning new customers alone. They already trust your business and spend money with you, and the cost of marketing is considerably less. We’ll help you identify opportunities to maximise profit from your existing customer base.

Leveraging customers for reviews & referrals

Social proof is the perfect way of easing uncertain customers minds and building enough trust in your business to purchase. Whether it’s a customer review, testimonial or warm introduction, you’re more likely to secure someones custom if they trust you can do the job; seeing you’ve done that for other people is the perfect way to do that. We’ll help you leverage existing customers to build trust with new prospects.

Creating content that your customers will love

Creating relevant website, social media or marketing material content that engages your audience is the perfect way to build relevance & trust with prospective or existing customers, removing uncertainty as to whether to use your service or purchase your product. By understanding your customers, how they behave and how they think, we can help you establish what your customers want to see or hear.  

 

Time

Effective & efficient use of time

When you aren’t fully immersed in an industry or something isn’t your speciality, it can be difficult to know where to spend your time and effort. As the old adage goes ‘time is money’, and aside from being frustrating, spending time on unnecessary tasks will have a direct financial implication on your business. We’ll help you regain your time, meaning you can concentrate on the areas of the business that need your attention the most. We’ll do this by taking on some of the technical or specialist elements of your marketing (dependent on your package) or by giving you an understanding of what areas you should prioritise.

Money

Save Money

Spending money on unnecessary marketing, using irrelevant channels and incorrect practice all cost your business money. We can advise you on the right way to market your business, or depending on the level of package you subscribe to, can even implement it for you.

Investing in the right areas

By understanding the return on investment you get from the different areas of your business and marketing, you can make informed decisions on which areas are best to invest your budget. We can help you establish what is making you the most money, and make recommendations on how to make more.

 

Marketing Support: What kind of questions do we answer?

The consultancy sessions and monthly reports provide valuable insight into where your business, customers and competitors are at the present, so you can make educated and informed decisions on how to move your business forward into the future and achieve your goals. But what kind of questions could we answer? Whilst this list isn’t exhaustive, these are some of the common questions that we answer….

 

About Your Customers

At the core of every marketing strategy, plan, campaign and successful business is an understanding of the customer.

 

Who are my customers and where can I find them?

We help people identify who their customers are, what they like, their behaviours and how to target them with relevant marketing messages.

What do my customers want to see or read on my website?

Start creating content on your website that attracts new prospects and keeps existing ones coming back. We can help you identify what your customers want to see, hear or read.

What types of things are my customers searching for to find my website or the websites of my competitors?

We look at how people use search engines to find your website and those of your competitors.

 

About Your Time

Wasted time is missed opportunity and money lost. Value your time, use it effectively & efficiently.

 

What social media platforms should I concentrate my efforts on?

With so many social media platforms out there, it’s difficult to know which ones are worth spending your time and energy on. We can help you decide which will provide the most opportunity and best return.

What areas of marketing would be most beneficial for me to spend my time learning about?

Identify which areas are marketing are most relevant to your business and industry and therefore most worthwhile to familiarise yourself and learn about.

What things can I do to minimise the time I spend on marketing?

If you aren’t a marketer or there aren’t many people in your business, then you’re going to want to make sure you spend your time effectively and efficiently. We can help you do that.

When should I delegate my marketing or outsource?

There is no end of agencies and consultants vying for your business…but do you need them? We’ll help you assess which parts of your marketing you should outsource (if any) and who would be most suitable.

 

About Your Website & Social Media

Understanding your online presence and how effective it is.

 

Who is visiting my website and what are they doing?

Find out how many people are coming onto your website, who they are and what they’re doing when they are there.

How are people finding my website?

How are your customers finding your website and what can you do to help more people like them find you.

What can I do to generate new leads and customers from my website?

We can help you make tweaks and changes to your website and the way it is presented so it is best suited to generating you more leads, enquiries and sales.

How many people see my business each day, week or month?

Find out exactly how many people are seeing your business online across your website, social media and other channels.

 

About Your Competitors

Knowing what your competitors are doing and how they’re trying to compete with you can help you with your own plans and campaigns.

 

What are my competitors doing?

Get an understanding of what your competitors are doing and prepare or react accordingly.

How are my competitors marketing their business?

What are your main competitors doing to attract new customers? Are they running ads online? If so where and what messaging are they using?

What are they charging?

What are your competitors charging

How are people finding them online?

How many people are visiting your competitors websites and how are people finding them.

Your Money

Have an understanding of where your money is best spent and which areas of marketing are going to give you the best return on investment.

 

Which marketing channels should I be using?

Which marketing channels and mediums are the most appropriate and best use of resources.

Should I use traditional or digital marketing? Or both?

Should you be marketing online or using traditional methods? We’ll help you make the decision on how best to market your business to your customers.

What should I be doing to get more customers?

What can you do to attract and convert more customers. We’ll give you recommendations on how best to win more customers.

What can I do to make more money from existing customers?

It’s often considerably cheaper to market to and maximise profit from existing customers rather than find new ones. We’ll help you work out how to do that.

What return on investment am I getting from my marketing?

What return on investment are you getting from your marketing channels, platforms and campaigns? Let us help you establish what marketing is working and worth it, and which isn’t.

 

 

 

How we used LinkedIn to refine our virtual marketing offer

Once we had ironed out the operational creases with our initial clients, it was time to get feedback on how the offering was presented to our target audience.

Both services are B2B and while not what we would consider ‘high ticket’, at between £1800 – £2000 per month, are out of reach of many micro and small businesses. We felt LinkedIn provided an excellent opportunity to gain further feedback on the virtual marketing service offering as our target audience could easily be identified and engaged, and were more open to business communication than other channels due to the nature of the platform.

The Target Audience

  • Managing Directors
  • In Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside of Greater Manchester.
  • Turnover in excess of £500,000
  • In our second degree network (to leverage mutual contacts)

The Strategy

Our objective was to gain valuable feedback on how the offer was presented as well as the pages used to convey that offering.

In order to do that we reached out to 100 people within the target audience through LinkedIn, and asked them for their professional opinion and feedback directly. We would target second degree contacts to leverage mutual connections and encourage a response.

The initial gathering of prospects, connection requests and messaging was automated but personal.

The Process

  1. Target audience criteria set
  2. Automated collection of profiles
  3. Manual sift of prospect list to ensure validity
  4. Automated connection request and personal message to 100 prospects
  5. Manual reply to each person who responded
  6. Feedback received, recorded and acted on
  7. Personal thank you to each respondent

The Results

  • 753 Initial prospects identified
  • 100 shortlisted
  • 100 connection requests and personal messages sent
  • 32 responses and feedback

 

32% response rate

 

The Feedback

  • The feedback on the offering itself was overly positive.
  • Respondents unanimously commented on the ‘virtual’ offering idea positively, and made recommendations on how better to communicate the benefits.
  • There were several (embarrassing!) mistakes on punctuation and highlighting the need for objective proofreading before taking anything to market.
  • The pricing was generally considered competitive, with a number of respondents commenting on similar but differently packaged services of local providers being approximately 30% higher.
  • Whilst respondents clearly liked the comparison offered between an in-house permanent staff member and the virtual offering, they asked for more clarification on the exact specifics and for it to be represented in percentage format.
  • There were several recommendations made to remove the focus on ‘cost saving’, as it was felt by respondents that this would attract ‘penny pinchers’ and people who are not committed to the development of their business and investment in strategic marketing capability.
  • The combination of working on-site and remotely was a clear winner with respondents, as a completely remote option did not appeal to them.
  • There were recommendations made around the structure of the page and size of the font.
  • All feedback was considered, with the vast majority of it acted on and common themes running throughout. Overall, the feedback given was reassuring and there were a number of referrals made to prospective clients at this stage.  

Validity

Respondents were asked initially to provide honest and objective feedback to help the development of the service and anyone who was considered ‘too close’ of a connection or we had personally met was excluded in the manual sift of prospects.

We stressed the need for honesty and there was no incentive for response.

We relied completely on being extremely polite and the good nature of those we contacted to earn feedback.

Lessons Learned

Combining LinkedIn and the ‘personal touch’ whilst still automating some of process provided an excellent compromise between effectiveness and time efficiency.

We consider a 32% response rate without incentive and 3 referrals for a new service an excellent result and have made it part of our strategy to market the services to a wider audience and with a sales focus.

Whilst it may have added an additional 2 weeks onto our launch, we feel that we have increased the relevance of our marketing message and the way in which we communicate the benefits of the two offerings dramatically.

This final stage of refining our offering not only supported our initial market research, but gave us increased confidence in the investment we have made in the virtual marketing services.

 

How we tested the virtual marketing concept

We listened

If it’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s to listen to our customers. If you boil down marketing to its core elements and principles, that’s exactly what it is; listening to people, understanding them and then solving their problems. It’s what we teach our clients in workshops and in consultancy, and what we practice with our own campaigns.

The virtual marketing services project was born out of the need to solve our customers problems, but the traditional consultancy model just wasn’t working for us (or them!) any more, and we had to have a sit down and reconsider what exactly it was that we offered our customers.

Identifying the problem

For years we’ve acted as consultants for SMEs across the North of England across various industries in b2b and b2c markets. Often we’d work from customer offices, working to develop strategies and campaigns to generate them more revenue, retain their existing client base, bring them into the 21st century or solve specific issues.

One of the major issues we faced was bringing their marketing team (or sometimes individual) on-side. The problem with bringing in a consultant to assist in developing marketing capability we often found, was that the person(s) responsible for marketing within the company felt threatened. Imagine if your boss all of a sudden brings in someone to do or assist in the job you’ve been doing. It probably isn’t going to feel great.

We found that we often struggled to get ‘buy in’ with these people, and we had no authority to lead, manage or hold them to account when work wasn’t done to the required standard. In some cases they actively sabotaged campaigns or dismissed valid ideas out of a misconceived notion of self-preservation.

Another problem we faced was fluid nature of consultant or contractor hours. Businesses often found that they were paying more than they were expecting, as campaigns took longer than predicted to complete or ‘mission creep’ happened and more hours were invoiced.

This was far from ideal for our clients, and it wasn’t ideal for us either. There’s nothing worse than an invoice being paid begrudgingly, late or not at all. Even if results are brilliant, there’s nothing like an unexpected high invoice to put a dampener on the mood. We want our clients to be happy and feel they have received value for money.

That’s why we sat down and thought about what we could do better.

Solving the problem

For years we’ve worked alongside businesses that have used ‘virtual assistant’, ‘virtual office’ or ‘virtual receptionist’ services. These are usually completely remote workers, that offer a high level of service at a significantly reduced price when compared with hiring in-house. They manage to do this passing cost-saving on from lower overheads, servicing a number of clients at the same time and leveraging opportunities made available by technology.

The idea intrigued us, and there are (still at present!) very few people offering the service. We didn’t feel that 100% remote working was conducive to good marketing, unless it was task or technical orientated such as conducting on-page SEO. We wanted to be more than that.

We played with the idea and created the Virtual Marketing Director and Virtual Marketing Manager solutions. They provide a combination of on-site and remote working, and target specific needs. Adding strategic capability to businesses that would otherwise not have it. 

It allowed us to come into a business with a level of authority in the eyes of the current marketing team, with clear responsibilities to manage and hold them to account on tasks or projects; thus removing one of our main issues when working as consultants.

Rather than working from a time based pricing system, they utilise set monthly pricing, and focus more on scope of service than the number of hours worked. While this isn’t a highly scalable service for our business, it does mean we can have more impact on a smaller number of quality clients. 

As such, the people we work with go through a selection and scoring process to make sure that we are firstly going to be a good fit, and secondly that we can make a positive impact on their business.

Testing the solution

Before openly marketing the services we needed to test them.

We leveraged referrals through our network and tested the services on 3 new clients at a discounted rate over a 10 month period. Ironing out operational creases, identifying new opportunities and taking on valuable feedback from our clients.

It was at times a frustrating process, taking ideas back to the drawing board and ensuring we didn’t fall back into the traditional consultancy style of service. But we were happy with the results, and most importantly so were our clients. 

The next step was to take this revised version of our services to people in our target audience and outside of our initial referral network.

 

See how we refined it further using LinkedIn >

Jack Barron

DirectorInvoke Media

interim head of marketing

Consider this if you’re hiring an interim head of marketing

Interim Head of Marketing

 

If you’re looking for an interim head of marketing you’ve either had a recent and unexpected departure, or have identified the need to expand your senior management team. Either way, you’re looking for an experienced marketing professional with the ability to drive your business forward and direct your team.

 

Hiring an interim head of marketing is an excellent way to plug a skills gap in your company and keep things moving forward, but it also comes with several considerations.

 

Recruitment Cost

 

The UK recruitment industry is worth in the region of £34bn per annum with temporary placements making up the lion’s share of that figure. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation estimate that agencies operating in the temporary and contract market averaged £380,792 in sales per employee, with margins around the 20% mark.

 

In other words, business is booming for temporary and contract recruiters, and in addition to the cost of employing your interim head of marketing, you’re going to have to pick up the tab on the cost of recruitment.

 

When you’re looking into hiring an interim head of marketing, make sure you take into consideration the additional costs of recruitment and beware of what you agree to, even in casual email correspondence. Agencies often have complicated terms that tie you in at an early stage.

interim head of marketing recruitment

Time

 

Another consideration when hiring your interim head of marketing is of course time. Both the time it takes to recruit your new team member, and the time you are looking to hire them for.

 

If you’re using a recruitment agency they can usually source you a suitable candidate pretty quickly. They’ve got access to large databases of professionals and dedicated teams of headhunters, but if you’re looking yourself then it may take considerably longer.

 

Another time factor to consider is the length of the contract or agreement. If you’re only hiring for a short time, then you may find that both using agencies and sourcing yourself will have inherent issues attached.

 

The Right ‘Fit’

 

CV’s and experience aside, often the most important factor is ensuring that your interim head of marketing is the right ‘fit’ for your team and organisational culture. Because of the temporary nature of interim roles and the high cost of recruitment, replacing your new hire just might not be an option. You’re likely going to be tied in to keeping your interim hire until the end of the agreement, so it’s important that they are the right fit, you can work with them and most importantly, that your team can work with them.

 

Always ensure you get a face-to-face meeting with candidates, even if this delays the hiring process. Some agencies may try to rush through the placement, but ensure you get enough face-time with your potential candidates and get to know them before committing to a decision.

 

Recruiting from Within

 

Another consideration is to recruit your interim head of marketing from within the team. Whilst there are obvious benefits, such as them already knowing your business and industry, it does also come with potential problems.

 

If you remove them from their existing role you’re going to need to fill the space left beneath them. You’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul, but could have some significant cost saving as a result. If you ask them to dual hat, you’re likely going to see it affect the level of work in one or both roles.

 

The main issue with this solution is that at the end of the interim arrangement they will likely be a bit deflated if they have to step back down and someone else comes in to fill the role, even if this was always on the cards and made clear. Other team members will also likely feel some level of resentment towards them. It could be a short-term solution but have long lasting issues in the effectiveness of your team.

 

An Alternative Solution

 

A solution you’ve possibly not thought of is hiring a virtual marketing director or manager as your interim head of marketing.

 

We’ve created two services specifically for filling the marketing capacity at senior management level, placing highly experienced marketing professionals into local SME’s, with a focus on flexibility, cost-effectiveness and low commitment for the business.

 

Our virtual marketing director and manager services can be placed in less than a week, with minimum commitment on length of agreement and without the high costs associated with using recruitment agencies.

 

You can read more about our virtual marketing services and if they’re a good fit for you by clicking HERE.

 

What Marketing Teams Want From Their Leaders (Research Results)

Over the last 18 months we’ve been conducting research to support the development of an e-learning solution for in-house marketing teams. A large part of that research has involved speaking to marketing executives from across the North of England to ask their opinions, feelings and thoughts for the future.

Inevitably, the subject of marketing leadership (or lack of it) featured prominently. We decided to dive a little deeper into the topic and find out what in-house marketing teams want from their immediate leadership, the directors and senior managers that they report to.

The full research is due to be published alongside the launch of the e-learning platform, but I wanted to give you a sneak peak at some of the results in advance, in the hope that they can be used to effectively manage and lead your own team now.

There were a few common themes that ran through the research.

General Satisfaction

In general, people are satisfied or happy with their leadership but acknowledge room for improvement.

Marketers were asked to rate the leadership/management style of the person that they report to on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being extremely satisfied and 1 being completely dissatisfied.

The average score was 3.9, showing a general disposition towards being happy with how they’re managed.

Who They Report To

Those who reported to a marketing director were more satisfied than those who reported to a managing director or sales director.

Participants were asked about their general satisfaction at work and the performance of their leaders. They were also asked who their team reported to. We then used this data to assess if there was a correlation between the person they report to (and their role) and perceived performance and satisfaction.

The most satisfied marketers reported to a head of marketing, marketing director, digital marketing lead or senior marketing manager.

The least satisfied reported directly to the managing director or sales director, with reasons ranging from a lack of understanding of the marketing function, too much of a focus on sales (by sales directors) and being held back from trying new channels/tactics from lack of understanding.

Things They Liked About Their Leaders

The things their leaders did well were generally soft skills and qualitative.

Which areas do you think your leadership does well?

Positive Attitude 75.9%

Commitment 62.1%

Honesty 56.9%

Passion 62.1%

The Things That Need Improvement

Communication and time management were common themes throughout the research. Many of the qualitative exchanges revolved around clear communication, last minute or unrealistic deadlines and being incorrectly briefed.

Which areas could your leadership improve on?

Communication 37.9%
Time management 32.8%

Inspiring Others 29.3%

Creativity & Innovation 22.4%

Delegation 20.7%

My Thoughts

Whilst the research is ongoing I think it’s important to take a step back and look at the data so far to see if there are opportunities to explore other areas of emerging themes. So far it’s given us some lines of enquiry for further investigation.

It’s also massively important to realise that research alone doesn’t give a full picture. The most value has come from the qualitative exchanges between my team and in-house marketers and the open ended questions we’ve included in the research.

My experience of good leadership both in my prior line of work and in business has ultimately boiled down to a leader listening to, considering and engaging their team. That to me is one of the key differences between managing and leading a team to success.

This research has certainly given me some food for thought and there is obviously a clear demand for marketers to be led by someone who understands their job, communicates clearly and with commitment. I’m looking forward to publishing the full results in the near future!

Jack Barron

Managing DirectorInvoke Media

Group Marketing DirectorThe Cotton Court Group

virtual marketing director remote

Deciding whether to hire a virtual marketing director

Has your business got to the stage where it needs to hire a new marketing director?

 

If so then you’ve reached an important time in your businesses lifecycle, but there’s no need to dive straight into hiring a permanent member of senior management just yet. You’ve got options!

 

Of course hiring a dedicated on-site marketing director would be an ideal solution for many businesses, but it isn’t always necessary and there’s the obvious cost associated. The average UK marketing director salary sits at around £84,000, and when you take into consideration national insurance & pension contributions, sick days, holidays and perks you’re looking at well over £100,000.

 

Another option to consider is hiring a virtual or remote marketing director. While many of those on offer are completely remote from your business, Invoke Media have managed to strike a happy medium between the on-site and virtual solutions.

 

Our virtual marketing directors spend most of their time off-site, but on-hand to handle any queries and checking in with the team at various times through the week to ensure progress is being made. In addition they hold weekly skype team meetings and will be present on-site at least once per week.

 

Jack Barron, Invoke Media’s Managing Director and one of our Virtual Marketing Directors says:

 

“Our virtual marketing solution is a new take on two existing ideas. We understand the need for an on-site presence and regular contact with the team, but also acknowledge the cost benefits of the virtual solution. We were quite surprised not to find anyone on the market providing such an offering and jumped at the opportunity”.

 

The virtual marketing director from Invoke offers businesses who have the need for a marketing director to access the skills and experience provided by one, but also makes it accessible to those businesses who are not quite ready to pay for a new full-time director.

 

They offer flexibility and access to wider network of contacts, professionals and future customers. The real winning factor with a virtual marketing director however, low commitment needed by businesses.

 

“Businesses are initially committed to a three month agreement, but after that it turns to a 30 day rolling contract. This ensures that we don’t get any time wasters, our directors have enough time to plan and implement strategy, but most importantly our customers don’t feel as though they are trapped. Their new virtual director has to stay on top of their game month-to-month. There’s no room for complacency,” Barron says.

 

Another major advantage of a virtual marketing director is of course the cost. On average businesses can save over £76,000 by going virtual.

 

“By shifting the overheads to Invoke and keeping on-site hours, benefits, national insurance and pension contributions out of the picture, businesses can save a staggering amount. We’re living in the digital age where business need not be bound by geographical limitations. This allows us to burden the cost, but spread it amongst several clients. You’re receiving the same level of commitment, experience and skill for a quarter of the price. The difference between an in-house employee and virtual director is staggering. That money can either be kept within the business or reinvested into marketing spend,” Barron continues.


The decision on whether to hire a virtual marketing director versus an in-house employee is heavily dependent on your business circumstances, available budget and willingness to adopt new work practices. Hopefully this article has provided some further insight and helped you with your decision.

 

virtual marketing services

Virtual Marketing Manager or Director, which is right for you?

 

If you currently don’t employ a marketing manager or director, there may be some confusion as to whether a virtual marketing manager or virtual marketing director would be best suited for your company. While there is certainly some crossover in the skills and attributes of each, there are few distinct difference which will impact on your decision.

 

What are Virtual Marketers?

 

Before we continue, let’s establish what exactly virtual marketers are.

 

There are no universal definitions for what virtual marketers are. For some they are just freelance marketers who operate completely online, providing specialist skills for an hourly rate. For others they are integral parts of a team, fulfilling the complete marketing function or slotting into an effective team of in-house marketers.

 

We at Invoke have come to define our own meaning of virtual marketing. We do not believe that an SME can be fully serviced from thousands of miles away without there being a breakdown in communication and a lapse in quality.

 

We’ve created virtual marketing positions that primarily operate using technology, but also have an in-house presence; creating a happy medium between an employee and online outsourcing.

 

The two positions that we’ve seen most demand for, are those of marketing director and marketing managers, so we’ve created our virtual marketing manager and virtual marketing director positions based on the feedback & advice of SME operators across the Northwest of England.

virtual marketing manager

The Virtual Marketing Manager

 

A virtual marketing manager is someone who would slot into your existing marketing team underneath a managing director, sales director or equivalent position. Their main role is ensuring the implementation of an existing marketing strategy, and keeping the team accountable and on track.

The effective virtual marketing manager will be experienced and use his or her skills to support and supplement the current marketing team. It might be that the marketing team is only small or is lacking key capabilities, in this instance the marketing manager would help plug that skills gap.

 

The main focus of a virtual marketing manager is ensure campaigns are delivered and delivered on-time. They have regular check-ins with the team and directors throughout the week, and provide a visible presence at monthly meetings.

 

virtual marketing director

The Virtual Marketing Director

 

The virtual marketing director differs slightly from the virtual marketing manager. They operate at a strategic level, devising and creating the plans that will drive the business forward. Their main role is to plan and monitor the implementation of a marketing strategy, ensuring that work is completed on-time and milestones are met.

 

The effective virtual marketing director will have worked in a marketing executive and managerial role at some point, drawing on his or her experience within the industry to understand the wide range of options available, and then make recommendations based upon it. They may get involved in the actual implementation of marketing if the necessary skills were not present in the team, but would generally act from a supervisory capacity, reporting back to the business directors directly.

 

The main focus of a virtual marketing director is to devise a strategy, create a plan on how to achieve it, and then ensure it is delivered to a high standard. They have regular check-ins with the marketing manager and team members, keeping them on-track and accountable, and report back to the directorship or board with any issues or progress. In addition to check-ins, they provide a visible presence on-site in the month to ensure progress is made.

 

 

Which is right for you?

 

Deciding on whether to hire a virtual marketing manager or virtual marketing director completely depends on the requirements or circumstances of your business. If you have an existing marketing director and strategy in place, it goes without saying that a virtual marketing manager will be the most suitable option. If however you don’t have marketing strategy in place, then there is no plan for a virtual marketing manager to work from and therefore a virtual marketing director would be more suitable.

 

We’ve created some quick fire questions to help you assess which assistance is best for you.

 

Marketing Strategy already in place or have Marketing Director?

Yes – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Manager

No – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Director

 

Does existing team need more hands-on supervision?

Yes – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Manager

No – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Director

 

Do you have a clear vision of your business marketing objectives and how to reach them?

Yes – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Manager

No – Best Solution: Virtual Marketing Director

 

But what if you need both?

 

There’s nothing to say that you can’t hire both a virtual marketing manager, or virtual marketing director, or that it has to be two separate people. While the functions of the job are different, most effective marketing directors will have had marketing manager experience.

 

Invoke can provide a tailored solution that brings both of these roles together for a reduced and cost effective rate, supercharging your businesses marketing. Get in touch and ask us how…

 

Want to see more about virtual marketing services, what’s included and how much it costs? Click here.