Making Time To Focus on What Matters: A Minimalist Approach To Marketing

I watched a great documentary last night about minimalism. It’s about how corporate America has sold us the American dream of accumulating more ‘stuff’, until it seeps into our consciousness, and we effectively live our lives ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ We’re always on the ladder, improving our cars, our homes, and buying more possessions, in the belief it will make us happier, somehow.

Minimalism asks the questions ‘Does this add value to my life?’ ‘Does this free my time to focus on the important things, or is it an unnecessary distraction?’

I’m currently writing a book on living a more simplified work life, and it got me thinking about how this applies to our businesses.

When I wrote my last blog post, I posted it on a Business Growth Facebook Group, and someone mentioned that they would implement my YouTube tips when they have cleared ‘space’ for it.

I’m sure you’ve got lots of things you are ‘planning’ to do, too, and if you’re a business owner, you may have a marketing ‘to-do’ list that’s as long as your arm.

There are so many demands in the modern marketing world that it’s difficult to be laser-focused with your marketing. Do you focus your efforts on Youtube campaigns? Facebook advertising? Building your email list? Filming your Instagram Stories? Working on organic SEO? Writing an ebook? Improving your website conversion goals?

...Seriously, the list is endless. It can all be valuable, but without knowing exactly how valuable, you’re far less likely to have time in your business to focus on the things that make the difference.

Michael Gerber in the E-Myth notes that many business owners work in their business, instead of on their business. It simply means they can’t see the wood for the trees - they are so focused on growth and day to day tactical marketing activity that they rarely have time to look at the big strategic picture.

So how do you adopt a minimalist approach to your marketing, especially if you’re a small business or solo entrepreneur?

  • Simplify: Find one or two channels that your audience hang out on, and do them really, really well.

There’s no point spreading yourself too thinly if you’re a one man band or a small team. If you’re focusing on say Youtube and Instagram, find out all you need to know about those channels. Become an expert on them, and dedicate yourself to growing the platform. You can pick up other channels in time, but for now make sure you can grow a dedicated following on one first.

  • Create meaning: play to your strengths and values

If you’re an excellent speaker but a terrible writer; why not play to your strengths? Create a podcast or focus your efforts on public speaking. As your business and team grows, you can pay to outsource those bits of your business that you don’t like. You need to enjoy what you’re doing, after all, so your work becomes meaningful to you.

  • Declutter: Remove unneccessary distractors that eat away at your time

I use Facebook Newsfeed eradicator, and I have used Rescue Time in the past to check my productivity. There’s probably a lot of things that distract you away from your marketing time. You just need to keep tabs on yourself - are you going to fall into an Instagram hole when you tell yourself you’re just ‘checking out competitors?’

  • Do less: But be consistent

So many people have burned themselves out by simply trying to do too much (me included), and then not being able to keep a handle on all their marketing efforts. Think about whether certain activities could be scaled down, yet improved. You might not need to create a video every day, nor send out a newsletter every week, especially if you’re lacking the research time to do a really, really good job. Better to wait and gather up a lot of information and knowledge so you create an outstanding piece of content when it’s out there. It’s much like those music artists who spend time crafting their albums rather than just churning out lots of low-quality songs. Focus on quality; but be consistent.

 

Do you struggle with simplifying your marketing efforts? Have you tried streamlining your marketing activity in line with your strategy? What do you think about minimalism? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Why creating a great video isn’t enough

Youtube. A platform that now has 1.5 billion logged in monthly users. It’s an absolute powerhouse for online video content, and has probably single handedly contributed to the growing decline of TV, especially for young people, who use it for everything, from finding new ideas and music, to learning about who they want to be. (Check out this fab interview with Casey Neistat on the way we consume visual media).

With the news this week that Whatsapp will be allowing Youtube videos to play directly within chats, making sure your video is not only good, but seen, is vital.

As a branding and content strategist, video is a key part of many of my client’s activities. However, creating a good video just isn’t enough.

In the past, there were just four channels on the TV (back in my youth!), and you had a very limited selection. What’s more, you couldn’t pause, fast forward, or skip to something else if you didn’t like it. Now, that’s no longer the case - you can curate your viewing content exactly to your tastes and preferences.

Therefore, it’s incredibly important in a sea of content that you get yourself noticed. The viewer has more power than ever before. That means, if you don’t grab their attention quickly, they’re off - onto the next video. That’s part of the reason why Loreal is changing their strategy to create more 6 second ads.

You can create an amazing video; but there’s no point if you don’t also focus on maximum visibility. Here’s a few things to bear in mind.

A great video description: I’m a big fan of the gorgeous Christina Sutra on Instagram. She creates art, and she’s recently started creating Youtube content. There are definitely more opportunities for her to utilise her description to include her social accounts, include SEO keywords, and links to her online art shop.

Optimise your content: This follows on from your description, but needless to say it’s vital that you’re using the right keywords for your business and include them in your video file names, annotations, and tags.

An eye-catching thumbnail: Pictures speak a thousand words, of course, and creating a thumbnail can allow you to stand out from the crowd. I like Digital Nomad Girl’s thumbnails. This kind has become formulaic along many vloggers, but next to ordinary thumbnails, they certainly stand out.

Teaser clips as adverts: This can be 6, 10, 30 or 60 second clips of your video, to spread on social media. Preferably sponsored, if you have budget to put behind it.

Create content around your video: Something like a long-form blog post on your website to go with your video will not only attract organic traffic but will increase the commitment your user has to your product or service.

Pin it to your pages: If your video is part of a large ongoing campaign, pin it to the top of your social media channels. That way, even passing visitors to your Facebook or Twitter page will be able to view your content. You can even make your Facebook cover image a video, like Carrie Green from the Female Entrepreneur Association has.

Include it in your communications: It can be something as simple as a link in your email signature (i.e. have you seen our latest video?) to an integration in your newsletter. Social feeds are easy to miss, so you’ve more chance of gaining visibility by including video in your regular communications.

Creating a great video isn’t enough. Don’t let your content stay in a bubble; let it be seen as many places as possible.
 

Need help with your #videostrategy? Get in touch with me for more information.

Marketing for Millennials - Are you connecting with the ‘connected generation’?

If you’re in the marketing game, you want to be directing your efforts towards the ‘millennials’. Basically, millennials are the people that make up a large percentage of the market, those 35 and under who have adopted digital technology, and consume often.

They’re highly influential, and consume very differently from their parents generation, or their grandparents generation. They were never born into a world with war, or rations, or lack, so their outlook is fundamentally different. I would fall into this bracket, and I think that by analysing the key values of our incredibly powerful demographic, you can make significant wins in your marketing strategy!

Millennials approve of authenticity and creativity 

If you think back to your parents and grandparents generations, they usually bought from large retailers, right? There wasn’t a huge amount of independents around, like there is now.

I believe part of the reason why Innocent Drinks struck gold when they launched, is because they tapped into this market at exactly the right time. There were very few brands out there that did away with ‘marketing speak’, and spoke with authenticity and creativity.

Millennials admire those who speak from the heart, who are real, raw and natural. Brands like Talk Talk know this, and create a series of campaigns that aim to engender trust by being as real and as authentic as possible.

The media and government focus on the promotion of positive mental health has also changed the way us millennials consume.

Spaces like The Canvas Cafe in Shoreditch aim to foster emotional wellbeing by allowing guests to write on their wall - it’s real, it’s quirky, it’s interesting, and highly creative.

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(I totally agree on the Spice Girls, by the way).

Millennials are well connected

We now have more social channels and ways to express ourselves than ever before. Using social media millennials share how they are feeling, whether positive or negative.

This means brands should consider that their social channels are also their CRM channels. If you piss a customer off, don’t be surprised if they tweet and post about the experience they’ve had with you. More than ever before, brands can no longer hide. It actually pays to be nice.

Millennials are well connected online; but also crave rich and meaningful relationships in our every day life. We want a human connection as well as a virtual one.

Nescafe’s idea of the ‘hello bench’ is an experiential marketing technique that plays on our notion of virtual relationships, and encourages us to take these offline.

Millennials love visuals

With the rise of visual channels like Instagram, and it’s increasing popularity (it’s currently the top social platform for engagement), visual content is becoming more important to millennials.

One main reason for this is that unlike previous generations, we live in an Information Age - we literally have thousands of bits of information to process from the internet and from our lives, every single day. It can get exhausting. So we consume information in little bits and pieces. And images and video are an easier and faster way to tell a story than text.

Photography is important to the millennial. They love beautiful visuals and making things look pretty. They document their life in terms of visuals, not text. It’s all about the aesthetic, so when it comes to your brand make sure you don’t slip back in time.

Documentary or reportage style photography is where it’s at, and it needs to look as real or as natural as possible.

- Not like this.

Millennials embrace community

Unlike our parents and grandparents, millennials have a totally different approach to sharing. Our grandparents probably often relished the thought of having their own home, and would be horrified if they had to share, reminding them of days gone by when times were tough.

Today, we see sharing as a way to make money, and meet new friends. We are more attracted to social enterprises and ethical brands like never before.

We don’t mind sleeping on someone else’s bed, nor renting our own. Airbnb is our new norm. We meet new friends, in new places, all over the world. Benita Matofska believes that sharing is fast becoming our new economy, and we’re becoming ‘Generation Share.’

Millennials embrace community online too, and they use social media as a force for social change and to change cultural opinion. The recent attacks in Manchester show the power of social media, when Youtuber The Life of Bako posted a video entitled ‘I’m a Muslim standing in Manchester blindfolded, offering free hugs. Do you trust me?’ It was shared far and wide, by the UK news media and currently has over 1 million views on Facebook.

 

 

Finally, we love being a part of a ‘tribe’.  When you market to millennials, you want them to feel part of a community. That’s why you’ll see so many ‘join the tribe!’ buttons when you sign up to a newsletter or online site.

 

Millennials are experiential

 Millennials are experiential - they’re all about the experience. We want to feel, rather than own.

In stark contrast to our parents generation, we don’t save for years on end to buy things.

There is such a proliferation of ‘stuff’ out there, that the things we own, we have very little attachment to as they’re not a huge investment that we have saved years on end for (I remember my grandma telling me about the concept of a ‘bottom drawer’ - when she was engaged to save for household items).

I believe this is why festivals and music concerts are so insanely popular right now - we as millennials want to experience a shared, connective experience (Did you know the electronic music market is now one of the biggest in the world, valued at $7.8 billion?)

The image below sums up their ethos:

 

Hopefully this gives you a little window into the mindset of the most powerful consumers out there. 

Millennials are changing the world as we know it, and it’s changing fast.

 

 

Can you make your brand more beautiful?

 

I like to write a blog once a month, and I don’t worry about what I’ll write about - I just let the idea come to me. I’d half written one for this month, but it didn’t feel right. So I let it go and focused on some other work.

It was only when I was coming to do some brand research that I realised that my first impressions of a business were very much visual first, copy second. (Yay! I’d found inspiration for my next blog.)

We all like beautiful things, and showcasing your brand in the most beautiful way possible should be one of your key goals when looking to extend your reach.

To be honest, creating beauty in a brand is something I’ve always overlooked (and am still getting to grips with), but Steve Jobs wasn’t wrong when he obsessed over the typography in the Apple branding  - something as small as this really does matter.

Statistics on visual storytelling show that visual is the most preferred form of content; it engages, and inspires, and keeps your attention. It’s no wonder why Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest are so popular. Here’s a rundown of the visual trends for 2017.

I’m a self confessed Pinterest addict - it's my life's vision board. I love nothing more than feasting on beautiful images, and allowing the feelings they evoke to wash over me. (It’s why I chose the picture for this article - it made me feel great when I looked at it.)

Images feed the right side of our brains, which are linked to creativity, intuition, big-picture thinking and our emotion or pleasure centres.

We go all out when it comes to styling our home or our hair; so why don’t we take the same care over our brands?

Here’s some practical tips to beautifying your brand:

  • Use the best graphic designers you can afford; with a simple, clear design

Look at the brands you love and follow on social media. What is it about their design that appeals to you? Collect 3-5 examples. Find out who designed their brand, if possible, and get in touch! If you can’t afford them just yet, then save! It’s far better to wait and launch with something stunning than have a poorly executed design.

  • Use the best photographer you can afford; with authentic shots

Photography is ever changing, and in the world of business we’ve seen a clear shift from forced ‘posed’ photography, to a more authentic, documentary or reportage style. It’s now ‘cool’ to be as authentic as possible, as if the camera wasn’t even there, and just happened to take a great shot of your product or service.

  • Define your colour palette; and carry your design through to social media

I’ve seen so many brands have a great core colour palette on their website (say, brown, gold, and purple), but then you look on their social media channels and they have all manner of different fonts and random colours that just don’t go with their brand, and makes the whole thing quite disjointed. Be consistent in your approach; if you want to say something, create a post in Canva using your brand colours and font.

  • Be consistent

This is the most important one of all. I think the franchise HotPod Yoga do this really well - all franchisees adhere to strict brand guidelines. When you’re short on time, it’s easy to just stick a post on Twitter or Instagram without really thinking it through, but the more you keep beauty in the front of your mind, and the more you ask ‘Can this be more beautiful?’ the greater engagement you’ll get.