The Secrets of Marketing to Companies in the Midlands

The Midlands is a large area, but its companies and people share similar traits which are different to the rest of the UK. So you need to take a different approach in this area.

The word “free” is reportedly the most powerful word in marketing. A few years ago a good friend of mine based in Birmingham approached me about helping him to fill a one-day finance seminar that he had received a significant grant to fill with 40 people and deliver.

The seminar was useful and relevant to small businesses; covering how to get funding, how to put together a business plan that would attract investors and so forth.

I asked him why he needed my services when the seminar was free to any SME in the Birmingham area. And that was the problem. The people he contacted were all looking for the catch. They were very suspicious of this offer. They wanted to know what was in it for him and how much it was going to cost them. Many thought that it would be an infomercial or that it wouldn’t cover what they really needed or that it would be of a shoddy standard. All because it was free.

Now, this wasn’t the response of every business in the Midlands, just about 80% of them. Had you made the same offer in other parts of the UK, the figures would have been reversed, i.e. 80% of them would have booked on and 20% would have been suspicious.

A HR client of mine last year decided to offer a free HR review to all the SMEs in the area. The take up was exactly zero and she was puzzled why until I explained it to her. People in the Midlands are suspicious of the word “free”. They would strongly suspect her motivation for a free offer. Many business owners and directors would be suspicious that she would come in, review their HR policies and procedures, find holes in them and then demand they fix them using her services. Many of them would view this offer as an attempt to expose and exploit the weaknesses in their HR area. This was not her intent but that is the way they viewed it.

So something that is completely free is very difficult to market in the Midlands. People won’t touch these things with a barge pole, even when they’re accompanied with well reasoned explanations and assurances. Even freebies from the likes of Coca-Cola don’t get the take up that they should!

You can offer things free with a purchase and this is more easily acceptable. You can also avoid the word “free” completely by packaging your services. This is a particularly powerful strategy; just look at the success of M&S’s Two Dine for £10.

Another secret I’d like to share is about the second most powerful word in marketing which is “new”. Something that is brand new tends to get the Midlands response of “but is it any good and does it do what it says on the tin?”.

As an example, take Twitter. I regularly run marketing courses for marketing managers and business owners based in the Midlands. When I ask who’s on it, about 1/2 say yes but then 1/2 of them say they’ve registered on it but never tweeted! So only a 1/4 of them use Twitter and most of them on a minor scale.

To give me a better idea of the number of Twitterers in the Midlands, I checked out Twellow, the Yellow Pages of Twitter. London has a population 7 times that of Birmingham and has over 31 times the number of registered people on Twellow.

These are just indicators but they do show that the take up of Twitter has been slower in the region than elsewhere. I suspect that the Facebook take up is higher as it is more established.

I’ve interviewed a range of business owners and consumers in the region and the general consensus is the region isn’t big on the latest things or fads but prefers established, proven and reliable products and services.  This doesn’t mean new things will not take off; they just take off more slowly.

So how does this effect your marketing? Well, if I was Marketing in the Midlands area, I would tend to use the words “proven” and “reliable” in my copy and make sure I have credible evidence and testimonials to back up these statements.

I would include case studies to back up the claims further and help demonstrate the effectiveness of the product or service in the region.

I hope these two secrets gives you a steer on your marketing in the Midlands area. There are number of secrets but these two are key and explain a number of marketing issues you may have run into.

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