How to get more subscribers (or everyone still loves a giveaway)


Social media is a key tool for many businesses. Even if it’s something you struggle to ‘monetise’, you usually need to be on at least one channel for relevance, customer communications or just to get noticed. Posting, and engaging, on social media takes time. So you want to be talking to as many (relevant) people as possible. So what happens if you’ve got no-one following? No friends, so to speak? How do you get more subscribers?

Buying followers is just plain stupid, imho. You don’t want ‘fake’ friends – in real life or your social media audience. They’re irrelevant followers. What you want is people specifically interested in YOUR product or service. So how do you find them?

I’ve successfully used this same tactic, over and over, across multiple brands – and it works every single time.

It’s simple – and very, very cost-effective (which we zero budget marketers love!).

So what is this tactic? It’s two-part.

(1) You run a giveaway. (2) You make ‘tag a friend’ an element of the mechanism of entering.

But giveaways are a dime-a-dozen, right? They’re over, aren’t they? Oh no, my friend. Because everyone still loves a giveaway. A chance of something for nothing. A little ‘win’ in life without too much effort. It’s something you can use to build a potential customer database pre-launch, drive engagement – or help build your social media audience.

The bonus being: If you give away YOUR product, then the only people who will want to enter are those interested in YOUR product. By asking people to tag a friend, you’re getting onto a new person’s radar. And if they like what they see, they will follow you too (about 50% of the time, in my experience).

I recently ran a competition where the prize value was $129 (a new release pen – the true cost of the pen to the business was half this). I then spent $100 to boost on Facebook.

The post reach was 14,000 people. Facebook competition garnered 95 shares, 333 likes, 150 entries (via a comment response + a friend tag). Total new followers for the page was 250 people in a few days.

So the investment was $164.50. And I now have 250 more people who’ve CHOSEN to like the page – so 250 interested followers – for this very small investment. About 65 cents per person for a real live ‘good friend’ who’s interested in the products and decided to follow the page of their own volition.

So, as a zero budget marketing idea, remember: competitions are a marketer’s friends and that everyone loves the idea of something for nothing. So using a giveaway is a great tool to help you get more subscribers – for social media or your email database.





Clever pre-launch marketing tactic – Register to win

lofree pre launch marketing

This new keyboard appeared on my Pinterest feed and was so super cute, I immediately clicked to learn more. It’s a keyboard designed to look – and sound – like an old-school typewriter. I must have one…

Turns out the product is yet to be released – and whoever is in charge of marketing it is as good at their job as the designer who came up with this product. It’s getting excellent social exposure already, with that social driving people to their site…where it’s not yet for sale.

The purpose of the site, however, is to build their email database. So that when they ARE ready to launch, they’ve got an opt-in audience keen to hear and buy. As you land at the site, you’re prompted to put in your email and be notified when the product is available to buy.


And just in case you weren’t super keen to leave your email, they’ve even incentivised it – sign up and you could WIN one of 20. Needless to say, I left my email!

It’s a little like a Kickstarter approach, where you ensure there’s a pre-paid marketing for your product before you actually make it.

There’s real zero budget marketing merit in building an audience to market to before launch. Essentially, it means you’re not paying for access to someone else’s audience! It’s also a chance to gauge interest (as so if you’re still at manufacturing stage, you can potentially order more) and even experiment with marketing messages and imagery.

This approach is a reminder that a ‘launch’ doesn’t need to be conducted one way. The design and presentation of this product is also a reminder that a special or stand-out product needs less ‘marketing’ than and copycat/me too product. People are going to want to spread the word – the best and cheapest form of marketing.

Thanks to lofree for providing some unintended marketing inspo – and please release your keyboard soon because I want it…badly!


Don’t assume all web visitors are the same – B2B marketing tip

We tend to create one website and assume all our web visitors will be the same. That they have the same needs. The same level of understanding. That they are at the same place in the purchasing cycle.

Which is wrong, of course. Even just reading it, you were probably already thinking that!

Yet creating a website is such a big job, with so many decision to make about so many elements, that somewhere along the way we forget that it’s going to be read by all sorts of people, at all sorts of stages of the buying cycle.

Which is why it’s great to come across some inspiration of how to improve your site along the way. (Because you should never just build a site and forget about it – you should constantly be seeking ways to improve how it works for you.)

I got a great little reminder the other day when I came across the Insightly website when investigating CRM tools. They’ve recognised that CRM a technical product with all sorts of level of understanding – and so this is what greeted me on the landing page.

B2b services marketing

It’s a very clever way to not scare off newbies – and help visitors choose their own path through their site – that would also improve Insightly’s chance of selling to them. Which is really what a website should be: a key sales and marketing tool.

They didn’t stop at this. Further down the page there were free resources – again, for all sorts of businesses and needs. It’s far from the ‘one size fits all’ that many B2B and services marketing firms take with their website.


It’s worth remembering that whilst it’s more work to take this approach – it doesn’t really need to cost you any more. As with all zero budget marketing inspiration, it’s about spending creativity and energy – not dollars!

So remember: not all your website visitors are the same, especially if you’re in the B2B or services marketing space. It’s less about how your website looks and more about how your website works! Spend the time to perform some analysis and so some thinking to determine the type of visitor categorisation you might be able to do, to help better answer their questions…and so be in a better position to sell your service as the right answer.

How to write a marketing plan – In 28 days, an hour a day.

How to write a marketing plan - in 28 days

So it’s a new year for your business, or the business you’re charged with marketing. And you already know that every business needs a clear direction in which to head. Yet, if you’re honest, you’re not really sure where your next year of clients or sales will be coming from.

Let’s agree on two things first:

1. Hope is not a strategy.
2. A marketing plan shouldn’t sit on a shelf.

An annual marketing plan is truly critical element for success. Every business must ‘do marketing’. Yet many businesses – start-up and long established – don’t have a marketing plan.  They have vague goals, ad hoc promotional ideas and a desire to do well…but without a real definition of that looks like. They don’t know how to write a marketing plan.

And I completely understand why.

Putting together a plan can feel daunting, even when it’s what you do for a living (like I do!). It takes thinking, research, action, time and creativity. And that’s before you start the tough task of implementation!

So why don’t we break it down to something completely manageable. Something anyone can tackle.

One hour a day. For 28 days.

You can manage that, right, for something so worthwhile to your business?

And I promise what you’ll have, at the end of your 28 days, is the bones of a well considered, 12 month, action-oriented marketing plan…AND a head start on some of the implementation. Plus, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.

Follow this systematic approach –completing every step, every day – and you’ll be set for your best year yet!


Day 1. Start your plan & set your goals

Open a 2017 marketing plan folder on your computer. I recommend you start with both a spreadsheet (with each month across the top and activities down the side) and a word document (as your central planning document), which you’ll add to each day with each task. These two pieces will make up your final plan at the end of your 28 days – although much of the real value will be in the process itself.

Then, the first thing to write in your plan: 3-5 marketing goals for the coming year.

Why is this so important? Because how do you know where you’re going, and if you’ve succeeded, if you don’t have a destination?

Just remember, a goal isn’t “I want to make enough money to survive this year” or “I want everyone to know about my business”. A goal needs to be stated so that it is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive.

What sort of goals should you be setting beyond financial? You could include size of database, size of prospect list, number of inbound enquiries, website visits, sale by channel, effectiveness of sales people, attendance at events, cost of acquisition.

If you’re new to your business, setting goals can be extra hard, because you don’t have previous years to compare to. But you should know what you need to make and what you need to spend – and how many customers/sales you need to get there. So voila, there’s your starter goals!

Day 2. Review three competitor website and three businesses that inspire you.

Write down three things each does well (their strengths) and three that each does poorly or could improve (their weaknesses). Consider if there’s an opportunity there for you to fill or a new direction to try?

Then subscribe to follow them via social/email. You don’t want to be obsessed with them, but it ensures you keep them on your radar for the coming months.

Day 3. Articulate – in writing – what’s great about your business offering.

Write down what it is that your business does better / differently / what’s a little bit unique about you.

If you are struggling to do this, consider what you could need to change to make yourself more distinct, more special, more marketable. Then write down some steps for how you’re going to change.

Day 4. Decide on your key marketing messages for the year.

This isn’t about a campaign or an email. It’s core to what you’re going to be saying for a year. That is, what are you going to be telling people, prospects, customers, suppliers partners – this year – about what your business can do for them – and why they should work with you.

Critically review what you’ve written – and take out any meaningless jargon or complete hyperbole.


Day 5. Install Google Analytics on your website. And schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If you already have it installed, spend an hour reviewing results – where you’re getting visitors from, what they’re doing when they get to your site, what sort of mechanism are they using to visit.

Why? If you run a website, it’s one of your important promotional or selling tools. It’s a key channel for almost all businesses, even if you sell nothing online. Yet most people build a site and then never look at it again or really understand how customers are using it.

Analytics is free, easy to install and powerful – but only if you look review the results, use them to track any changes or tests and then consider their implications.

Day 6. Install Google search console. And then schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If already installed, spend an hour reviewing it – particularly looking for opportunities you’re missing. By this I mean, what keywords aren’t you getting clicks for that you SHOULD be.

Again, your website is a key marketing asset – make sure you understand what search terms people are using to find you. If you understand this, and happen to be in a market where lot’s of people search for what you’re selling, this could be your most critical – and inexpensive – inbound marketing tool.

Day 7. Conduct a website tune up.

Review your website and look for any out of date information on static pages. Identify typos, broken links, anything the needs updating.

Make the changes as you go or compile the changes to pass onto your developer or action next month when your plan is complete. (And remember to schedule this in your plan!)

Day 8. Perform a website marketing refresh.

Review your website from a communications and persuasion perspective. Ensure your key messages are apparent in your copy.

Add in missing selling queues – testimonials, recent articles, recent customer comments, etc.

Ensure your call to action isn’t missing in action on any page.

Day 9. Build an email sign up form – or test and improve your existing one.

Why? Every business should have a database to market to, to communicate with, to engage with in some way. The best way to do this is still email.

If you don’t have a form, I’d recommend doing this in Mailchimp if you’re just starting out.

If you already have a form, consider if it’s asking what you really need to know and if you’ve got automations set up, such as confirmation and then welcome email.

You should also consider if you need more than one form or list (based on service/product).

Day 10. Put your email sign up form on the home page of your website.

Most people never get past page one of a website. Depressing, I know.

So whilst that says something about the quality of information on your site, it also means you should improve your chance of capturing their details with an email sign up form on the home page. If you have the technical support or know-how, seriously consider an email pop up.

And don’t forget to give people a reason to give you their details.


Day 11. Prepare a list of past clients / colleagues / people you could possibly work with as customers (or partners or referrers).

Ensure there’s at least ten names/emails on your list. Spend the time tracking down their key details, particularly their email address. Potentially add them to your email list or keep them aside in a worksheet.

Day 12. Construct and send a ‘happy new year / how have you been’ update email to your initial list.

This can be brief. It should be friendly, share some information or insight that will be interesting to THEM and ideally you’d include a soft call to action at the end – what you’d like them to do next, setting up a time to meet or what you’d like them to know.

Then…actually send the emails! Or make a call and set up a catch up!

Meet up with contacts

Day 13. Invest time improving your LinkedIn Profile.

Increasingly people check your profile before meeting you or doing business with you. So if your LinkedIn profile the best it can be? Is your picture professional. Is your expertise clear? Are key achievements apparent? Do you have recommendations?

Day 14. Put some thought into partnerships. Who should you be working with this year?

So many businesses have an inner focus. They forget there are many other organisations, that they don’t compete with, who want to reach the same market as their own.

When you have a name or two (I’ve never worked with a single company who didn’t come up with someone when they thought about it!), reach out to at least one potential partner via email – whether for marketing, collaboration or business. Outline who you are and why there’s value to both of your businesses in working together.

Day 15. Research relevant professional networking events, seminars, online groups or conferences that you should get involved in this year.

Then sign up to at least one physical networking event in the coming month….because f2f networking is still as valuable as digital networking.


Day 16. Put together the skeleton of a marketing calendar in your worksheet for the next 12 months.

Add in any activities you should be undertaking, or are already committed to.

Consider giving each month or fortnight a marketing theme to help you with idea generation over the coming year. Be sure to include any key occasions or ‘days’ that you can work with, perhaps an ‘international day of’ or something more obvious, like Mother’s Day.

Ensure there’s at least one outbound email communication in each month and scheduled time to review your performance against goals.

Day 17. Go back to your marketing goals – and draft some initial steps to get you to your goals.

This is the beginning of the ‘action’ part of your marketing plan. See if you can develop 4-5 steps towards each goal. Include a timeline for each step. And then put these steps into a worksheet, by month and goal.

Day 18. Conduct a mini-brainstorming session – with yourself or with trusted colleagues or friends.

If you’re doing this alone, mind mapping is great tool. If you’re working with others, remember that it’s not about eliminating ideas – first it’s about generating them.

Your aim with this exercise is to develop some creative campaign ideas, engaging social posts or competition ideas that could work.

Then add your ‘ideas list’ to your plan, so you’ve got it to refer to – and refine – over the year.

brainstorm ideas

Day 19. Identify any bigger marketing projects or campaigns you’d like to tackle this year.

You’ve already likely got ideas kicking around, so this is your chance to capture them before they’re gone.

Add them to your plan with the thoughts fleshed out, then schedule them into a month and potentially add budget. Flesh them out a little.

Day 20. Decide which social media channel is worth starting OR continuing with. Do some research and be sure of your reasoning.

You can’t be everywhere. Justify why you’re on the channel to yourself, ensuring it makes business sense. Should you be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or …?

Once you’ve decided to start or continue a particular channel, ensure it’s correctly set up, from headers to notifications to complete ‘about’ information.

Day 21. Create a basic content plan for the next four weeks of what content you’ll be posting on the social media you’ve committed to.

If you’ve decided blogging is critical, aim for one post a week. If it’s more ‘short and sweet’ like Instagram, aim for 3-4 posts a week.

Think ‘themes’ to help you generate ideas for your content calendar for social media. And ensure any content you’re planning to create for social can also be shared with your email list – because that’s a list you actually own and have some control over.

(If you decide social media isn’t for you, spend this hour working on your marketing calendar.)

Day 22. Spend your hour creating your first piece/s of content.

If it’s a blog post, you’ll need longer, so sketch it out and take an additional hour tomorrow to finish it.

Again, if you’re not into social media, spend this hour writing an article for your own website that goes some way to demonstrating your expertise.

social media

Day 23. Sign up for any relevant online tools for social scheduling.

Should you be using something like Hootsuite or Schedugram or Tweetdeck to help ensure your social media channels have activity even when you might be distracted?

If you don’t need social schedule, spend your hour researching any other tools you should be using. Then sign up and begin set up – e.g.. Mailchimp, Salesforce, blogging platform.

Day 24. Post or schedule your first content pieces.

Also consider how you’re going to share and cross promote this piece of content. For example, should you be integrating your instagram feed onto your website, publishing new blog posts and them promoting via LinkedIn and Twitter, boosting a Facebook post?

Once you’ve thought through this, create a little checklist that you can refer to each time to remind yourself of this sharing practice.

Day 25. Schedule key marketing activity due dates.

This is so that you don’t miss your chance, over and over, to be effective and relevant with your marketing communications and sales.

Schedule in your calendar, or set reminders 7-28 days in advance – in your digital calendar. And if you have a written diary, do the same.

Day 26. Create a corresponding marketing budget line/series of lines for the next 12 months.

Marketing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money – but there are usually SOME costs. If nothing else, you should allocate some expected HOURS of your time, if only so you remember to allow for it as the year progresses.

ensuring you’re adding in any required spend, product/service donations, fees for services – and an estimate of your hours if you’re doing it yourself.

Day 27. Populate success metrics against your activities

In your monthly schedule, add key metrics that relate back to your initial goals you put together on day 1. This could be # leads, # people on base, # sales, $ sales, # speaking engagements – anything measurable for a month and year.

Go back and review results in Google Analytics and Webmaster tools to get an idea of your baseline starting point.

Day 28. Read, review, refine your marketing plan

Take the time to sit down and read and review your plan.

Fix any obvious errors, flesh out your ideas, identify holes to fix today – or tomorrow.

If you like the feel of a big, finished document, compile it all into ONE document (through cut and paste or starting something new).

Then…go forth and implement your marketing plan!


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Why there is value in being a specialist – staying niche

The value in being niche

One of the most oft-recurring conversations I have with small business- and even some larger businesses – is whether they should ‘do more’. That is: sell a wider array of goods or services. Diversify.

There is a true fear of missing an opportunity by being a specialist, being niche. And I completely understand this because when I’ve worked completely as a freelancer, there’s a tendency to say yes to everything to ensure you can keep paying the bills.

Yet there is some real value in staying niche – and that’s the opportunity to be positioned and perceived as a “specialist”. A true expert, with specialised knowledge, is what many people are seeking from either a service provide or a retailer.

I was recently reminded of this when I received this (unsolicited) email. Despite the fact it’s obviously quite ugly, mass-produced and inherently ‘spammy’ looking, the actual content is worse. Why? Because can one person, or one business, possibly be expert in all of those things? Of course not. They can likely DO all of these things, but that doesn’t mean I’d trust them to be “the best choice” for any one of them.

Value of specialisation

I’m not alone in the call to consider the benefits of staying niche. I watched a recent interview with Andrew McCutchen of Time & Tide (as part of a series of Officeworks videos). Andrew’s publication is one of the most niche media offerings out there: a publication focused only on watches. Yet it seems to be thriving at a time when much larger media vehicles are dropping like flies. He talked about not being afraid to delight in the detail of what you do, and “showing your passion for it” which, in turn, “will show authority in the space”.

At a time when Department stores are hitting truly hard times, specialist retail is also gaining traction. An impressive example of a niche retail business that’s thriving is store C.W. Pencils in New York. It is a store dedicated to – you guessed it – pencils. Yes, there’s some other stationery on offer, but this store has made itself a true retail destination by being perceived as a pencil specialist. Don’t think there could be anything in that? A hint that it’s working is not only all the media they’ve garnered, but their Instagram following that tipped to over 100,000 people in a year.

So if you’re considering your business and marketing planning for the coming year, it’s a good time to consider what it is you and your business really excel at: are true experts in. Then consider if there’s value is focusing more narrowly on this speciality and really building your authority in that arena. Some short term challenges may evolve into genuine, long-term, competitive advantage: being sought out by prospective customers as an expert in your field. The ultimate, zero budget marketing dream.

What is the world wondering about? Google 2016 trending searches

Before we commence planning for 2017, it’s worth reflecting on 2016. What worked in marketing your business…and what didn’t work? Did you see any micro -or macro- changes occurring to your market or industry. And what’s been important to your target market: your all important customers?

One tool to provide some insight into that final question is Google’s 2016 trending searches tool (Google’s Year in Search) – an intriguing, somewhat bizarre and occasionally depressing insight what the world was wondering about, month by month, last year.

Many of the breakout searches were people (often celebrities), some elements of popular culture, some new businesses, some new terms…and some are things I’m still scratching my head about!

It does demonstrate, however, that what is fascinating people really changes month by month. Likely, day by day. What lessons are there in that for those of us in marketing? If you’re trying to get some traction in social media and blogging, or simply like to be in tune with the zeitgeist, keeping on top of what people are interested in “right now” can be a powerful connectivity tool. Whilst this (free) tool is looking backwards, you can use the (free) Google Trend tool all year round. And if you’re not in that sort of market? It is amusing to check it out for the curiosity value alone!

What is the world thinking?

Check it out online here.

A clever retail email campaign example – Offer + social proof

It’s an inbox war out there. More and more emails sent. Less and less attention paid. So when an email makes ME stop and pay attention, I make the effort to consider why – and help us all learn from it! So I thought I’d share this recent clever email marketing campaign that combines the double whammy of a great offer AND social proof.

It’s an email from an Australian online bag and carry retailer, Rushfaster. (I haven’t bought from them before but I entered a rather compelling competition a few months ago, which is where I expect they got my email address.)

To start with: the offer in this email is great – 25% off is a decent discount. But a lot of retailers offer 25% off in their email marketing, so it isn’t enough to motivate someone who’s not really in the market for what they’re selling right now. Particularly when trying to drive FIRST purchase, they’ve recognised the need to work harder. In this case, Rushfaster is betting on social proof. That is – 99.4% of customers said they’d shop with us again.

Now that is an impressive lot of satisfied customers. Huge numbers any marketer would be proud to have. So if I was worried about Rushfaster in any way – about their legitimacy, quality of product, ability to deliver – this would alleviate this. It’s an impressive use of social proof and a great way to use research for more than just making your boss happy!

This campaign is a great example of how to use a hook and a call to action really well.

I should point out, I didn’t actually shop as a result of this email. Which isn’t unusual, of course; if we all bought something every time we got an email, we’d be broke in a week!

But it did make me consider – what would ultimately make this campaign even better? In my opinion, it would be to include some product at the end. Because, like many of us, I’m a bit of an impulse shopper when I see something I love.

Adding some desirable product below the hook and call to action may have closed this for me. Of course, it may not have too! So still lots to learn from this smart little marketing campaign – and a reminder to make each communication piece you send always work as hard as it possibly can.


Screen Shot 2016-09-21 at 3.44.38 PM.png

The right way to deliver ‘bad news’ to customers

You won’t always have good news for customers. Prices will go up, service inclusions will change, programs will end. It’s a fact of business life.

So when you have to share ‘bad’ news, you need to consider how you’ll do it. Both your copywriting skills, and knowledge of your customer, need to come into play. What is important to your customers? What benefits are you STILL offering? Why is the change being made?

A great example of the right way to deliver bad news is this email message I recently received from bank ING Direct. It was advising me a promotion they’d been running for several years was coming to an end. I’d never taken advantage of this program, so it would have escaped my attention, except for the fact that I thought this was a clever delivery.


It starts by reminding customers of the value of the promotion they’ve delivered for two years. It then points out some other genuine benefits of banking with them that would have to go if the program continued. It gives customers advance notice the promotion coming to an end. It doesn’t talk down to the customer. It makes this bank appear transparent. It’s succinct but clear.

It’s a great little communication piece. And it would have taken quite a lot of work and consideration, despite its brevity. It’s a great reminder of the value of well chosen words – and that there is a right way to deliver bad news.


Ing promotion bad news good news

PS. I should also note ‘bad news’ doesn’t mean ‘mistake’. If there’s been a mistake, it’s best to apologise, quickly and painlessly. Customers will respect you for it and move on. As in life, in business when you try and cover up a mistake, or deny it, that when the problems usually start!