Is there a big difference between how people in the UK buy and how people in the US buy? Yes, there is a noticeable difference between what works in the US and what works in the UK. That is why certain brands (even massive ones) have never been able to break the British market. This article gives you grounded advice about things such as setting up your first social media marketing team, and it gives you philosophical advice on things such as appealing to a British person’s sensibilities by pushing only one brand principle, and how people in the UK prefer to hear certain accents when they talk to companies over the phone. You will be genuinely thrilled by this definitive guide to PR and Marketing for early-stage startups in the UK.
We will look at the steps for early-stage startups like:
- Hiring your first social media marketing team
- Concentrating on a single brand message
- Not trying to win on price
- Encouraging referrals from your customers
- Using social media
- Forgetting about Advanced SEO
- Using email marketing
- Going old school
Hiring Your First Social Media Marketing Team
To say that the British are tech-savvy is an understatement. There are seven-year olds that are routing iPhones, and there are 12yr olds that are building profitable apps. The fact is that there is a surprising amount of talent around if you are willing to take a few risks and hire unknown and under-qualified people.
Hire a small team of social media marketers and let them run their own campaigns under your direction. For example, you could have three social media marketers whose only job is to stimulate interest on social media. Each of them could have 10 named accounts for Facebook, 10 for Twitter, 10 for Google+ and so forth. They produce content for each of their accounts and publish it every other day. The team also answers questions, shares, and promotes your services/products surreptitiously and overtly.
As you should know, their job is not to push your products, but to build social media profiles where people from your target demographic follow them. Only occasionally do your staff post promotional posts in between their regular content.
With time and a little training, your staff will learn how to stimulate interest organically. They do not need advanced marketing knowledge to learn how to create interesting profiles that attract people. Just do not make the mistake of having each staff member have one social media profile on each network because a single user can use numerous different free email addresses and sign up for the same social media network numerator times with different names and different pictures.
The point is that most non-college/non-university educated British people can do this job. Most of them would spend all day on social media anyway if given the option, so there is no need to pay them large wages. Plus, if you find a social media diva/wizard who happens to bring in a lot of convertible traffic to your website, then you can increase that person’s wages to keep him/her. If a staff member generates little impact on social media, then you can let him or her go within the first three months of their trial period and still be within the law.
Concentrate on a Single Brand Message
The British are not keen on the new and the untested. Hit them with 10 reasons why you are the best, and they will hit you with a wall of silence. If you are going to push your products on an unsuspecting British public, then you will need to concentrate on a single marketing message. When people are on your website, then you may start pushing your other unique selling points, but almost all your off-page and offline marketing needs to concentrate on a single brand message/principle.
People in the UK will respond to keeping things simple. Kit Kat (the candy bar) sells well in the UK because it doesn’t promote its chocolate, its biscuit, its nutrition…their marketing team keeps it simple and says, “Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat.” Tesco is one of the biggest supermarkets because “Every little helps,” and Carlsberg went the super-simple route of posting adverts with the slogan, “Probably the Best Beer in the World.”
Push a single selling point or a single brand ideal and the British public are more likely to remember you. When the British are in love with your product/service, you may start indoctrinating them with your unique selling points so that they may spread the word to their friends and family.
Do Not Try to Win on Price
You cannot win on price in the UK. If you think the US marketplace is full of Chinese goods, then you have seen nothing yet. There is hardly a product on the UK market that the British cannot get for a stupidly low price because there is a Chinese version they can buy. If you try to compete on price, then you will fail: you have to complete on something else.
People need to look at the cheapest version and ask themselves why they should pay more for your product. The UK general public are aware of how shoddy the cheap Chinese stuff really is, but if for example you are asking them to choose between a cheap Chinese 1TB hard drive for £65 and your hard drive for £135, then you will need to give them a good reason to buy.
Encourage Referrals from Your Customers
If you can set up some sort of dual-reward for customer referrals, then you may have a moderately inexpensive way of virally pushing your products and services on the British public. Simply offer an incentive for the person giving the referral and for the person receiving the referral.
For example, offer store credit for the person who gives the referral, and offer a big chunky discount for the person receiving it. That way, you are encouraging your current customers to promote your business and to re-spend with your business, and you are encouraging new warm leads by temping them with large discounts.
First-time discounts are powerful in the UK because they lower the risk for the first-time buyer, which is a highly desirable thing to offer. People in the UK are less likely to fall for your charms, they want to test you first, and if you give them an inexpensive way to test you, then they may come back for more. With that mentioned, do not try to sucker people in with free trials because people in the UK are used to free trials where it is easy to get into but difficult to get out of.
In many cases, when people see the words “Free Trial,” they actually see a company trying to get their credit card information and/or trying to fool them into getting an account that rolls over into a paid account. In short, first-time buyer discounts work, free trials do not.
People in The UK Will Read to Find A Scam
“Scammer TV” shows have been a big part of British culture for quite a while to the point where British people take pride in their ability to spot a scam. They will not read the terms and conditions to an app that may have them agreeing to sell their kidneys, but if you have negative online reviews, then people will read your terms and conditions so that they may expose your “Scam” on social media (even if there is no scam).
Think of the British as having a negative searching bias. Once they have found the product or service that they want, they will start looking for reasons “not” to buy. If you allow negative online reviews to fester, or if you screw over a few customers and hope the reputation hit will go away, then think again.
Look at the robotic vacuum cleaners for sale in the UK Amazon website. Notice how when a few of them receive one or two devastating reviews that their sales stop and they no longer receive reviews. That is why you see robotic vacuum cleaners with just eight or ten reviews. It is because somebody posted a review saying how the vacuum goes over the same place repeatedly, and British people simply do not buy them.
People in the UK will read good things about a product, and then before buying they will search out all the horrible things they can find about the product. If they find bad-but-not-too-bad content, then they buy, but if they find something that is a red flag (such as a robotic vacuum with only a 30-minute battery charge), then they will not buy.
Instagram Plays A Big Role in The United Kingdom
You may be able to ignore Instagram in the US, but they are a big deal in the United Kingdom. Facebook is still the most popular, but its demographic is mostly children and females. Instagram pulls in quite a number of British women too.
If Your Website Can Do It Then So Can Your App
There is currently a trend in the UK where companies are trying to match all the features on their website with all the features on their app. Even multinational companies and banks are trying to make their apps as fully featured as their websites. For example, HSBC is adding new features to its UK HSBC app every three months, (they are even asking customers which features to add next). Though one shouldn’t be a slave to trends, commonsense suggests that fully featured apps are not a passing fad. It is possible that your customers will start leaving you for your competition if your app doesn’t do most/all the things your website does.
Forget About Advanced SEO Unless Your Business Cannot Live Without It
Make sure you have all your basic on-page and off-page SEO (Search Engine Optimization) covered, but do not worry too much about ranking highly on Google to start with. Do not forget that the UK is a fairly small island, which means the number of businesses on Google is a fraction of what it is in the USA. If people Google your name, then your company will appear on the first page of the results unless your business has a very common name.
Google in the UK is very efficient when it comes to searching out businesses because there are far fewer businesses in the UK than there are in larger countries. You may have a lot of competitors, but if you push/promote your brand and your company name rather than competing on a product-for-product level, then your SEO will be a breeze. Do not hire consultancies and/or your own SEO team unless ranking highly is vital to your success.
Let Them Do It Online
No matter what your business is, what your service is, or what your product is, you must give your UK customers the ability to order online. The UK has embraced online commerce in a big way. People pay their bills online, they buy online, they order pizzas online, they order taxis online, and they can even order desserts online for when they have finished eating their dinner.
People in the UK can order a fan heater from a company called Argos and have it in their house by the same evening.
The British people are far less accustomed to calling companies on the phone in the UK. Do not forget that the British are still licking their wounds from the many years that companies subjected them to poorly-spoken English from Asian and Eastern call centers. Where it may be common practice for US citizens to call the company if they want a plumber, or to change their insurance, or to book a holiday, the British are far more keen on doing it all online.
Email Marketing Can Be Effective If You Embrace the Law
You are allowed to email people if you have their permission to do so. If somebody buys something from you and gives you their email address, then you may email them to confirm a purchase and to confirm delivery dates. However, you are not allowed to put people in your email list for advertising purposes unless they double-confirm their consent.
You have them sign up with their email address and you have them tick a box to confirm that they want to receive marketing messages from you. You then send them an automatic email that contains a verification link. Ask your recipient to click the link to activate their account. You now have double confirmation that the user wishes to receive marketing messages from you, plus your user may take your message out of their junk file so that he/she is more likely to see your further messages in his or her inbox. Plus, at the bottom of each message, you must put an unsubscribe link so that people can opt out of receiving messages from you. Do all of this, and you may legally email people in the UK for marketing purposes.
Buses, Colleges, And Even Toilet Stalls Are Your Friend
You may be tempted to confine most of your marketing to the Internet, especially since people in the UK are just as obsessed with their phones as Americans are. However, you need to consider where your target audience rest their eyes while they are doing their day-to-day tasks. It is surprisingly cheap for local merchants and businesses to advertise locally. There are shop windows, designated advertising walls, local radio, and designated areas in local colleges and college papers (stay away from comprehensive schools/ high schools though).
Buying advertising space on the outside of a bus is expensive but acts as a moving advertisement for all to see. Buying advertising space inside buses is very cheap, and each bus company has the bus rights to large districts, which enables you to isolate certain areas where your ads run, which is especially good if you are running discount codes or QR codes and are tracking their use. It is also quite common for entertainment venues (bars, theaters, clubs) to have ads/posters in toilet stalls and even above toilet urinals.
Stay Clear of Telemarketing Unless Your Consumer Calls You
Telemarketers from Asian call centers have really hurt the British, which is why cold calling (both over the phone and door-to-door) is banned. Spam emails are also banned, and you will now need double-confirmation proof for each of your emails.
Telemarketing is illegal and British people are encouraged to report any phone calls they receive. Phone calls that people report as distressing or upsetting are viewed as more illegal than simply cold calling because it also edges its way into harassment. Too many court precedents have been set where cold callers have operated in a gray area of the law and have been fined millions of dollars.
Even if you get people’s written permission to call them, there are many people who forget and will report you, and you will still be fined even if you have their written permission.
If you wish to sell over the phone, then add functionalities to your website and your app that allow people to request phone calls back to them. If you call people back, then you have to make it clear who you are, you have to confirm who they are (usually by asking their date of birth and/or their post code), and you have to call them back within 12 hours of the request. Be aware that if you cannot conform to these rules, then you are not allowed to call them back.
Larger Cities Does Not Mean Bigger Profits
The United Kingdom is rife with money. They have some of the most generous immigrant-attracting welfare allowances, and nobody pays for medical insurance because healthcare is free (except dentistry). The biggest mistake that startups make is to gravitate towards bigger cities such as London, Edinburgh, Manchester, and so forth. However, the cost of living and operating in big cities is between three and ten times more than the rest of the country – particularly in London, which might as well be considered a different country in terms of pricing and cost of living. There are small and broken towns that have very low commercial/industrial renting and buying costs, and they are often surrounded by a ready group of unemployed and eager people just waiting to work for you.
The problem is that a location in a broken down or rundown town is not “reputation friendly.” Most would rather have a London address than a middle-of-nowhere address. There are two things you can do about this. You can embrace the fact that your company is new and grow within the confines of a small town, dominate, make your money, and then start opening new branches/factories in bigger cities. Or, you can hire a PO box in London and use that as your mailing address if you wish.
Which Part of The Country to Set Up Your New Business
There are not really very many differences between the different parts of the United Kingdom. The biggest difference is Northern Ireland where many of the legal, commercial and economic rules are a little different. They are different to make it easier for Northern Irish people to live with the rest of Ireland.
Starting in Scotland, England or Wales makes little difference unless there are important geographic elements to consider, such as the distance between your company and a favored port, or the need for hills, grassland, etc.
People overseas seem to think there are massive cultural differences in the UK, but most people are the same. They are either British with different accents, or they are British but are first, second or third generation Eastern/Arabic (typically Pakistani, Afghani and Romanian). The state of Texas is three times larger than the UK, and yet few people think that Texans are highly different in terms of culture.
There are only a few minor differences between the different sections of the UK, but they shouldn’t affect your business too much. For example, Wales has dual-language signs on the roads, and Scotland has its own type of cash money. There are regional newspapers and TV shows, but both dying forms of communication. Plus, buying property in Scotland is a little different, and Scotland has its own Companies House for company registration, which shouldn’t matter unless Scotland is the first place you set up your new startup business.
Back to Answering the Phone
If you are setting up in the United Kingdom, then you need to consider who will answer your phones, take sales calls, complaint calls, and inquiries. In the UK, the most phone-friendly voices are from Oxfordshire, as they typically have the most commonly recognized British accent that is often featured in Hollywood movies. A London accent may also be acceptable so long as it sounds “Posh” London and not “Cockney” London, (think of the difference between Del Boy from Only Fools And Horses, and Giles from Buffy).
People in the UK often find a Newcastle accent to be very friendly and reassuring, which is why there are many sales-recovery and complaint-department call centers in Newcastle. The Welsh midlands have areas that are almost free of any type of accent, and people find the lack of an accent very reassuring when they call a company.
Avoid outsourcing your calls to foreigners, and do not hire people who do not have an English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish accent. The people in the UK have had to tolerate annoying call-centers from third-world countries for far longer than people in the USA and the British are sick of it. They will even change their phone and utilities suppliers if they call and have to talk to somebody with a thick accent who doesn’t fully understand the English language. When your company is massive and you can afford to scare people away, then you can use foreign call centers, but until that time, the people answering your phones need to have one of the accents mentioned above.
Final Thoughts – The Hatred Myth
The idea that the Scottish hate the English is a myth. People in the media make jokes about it, but most English, Americans and Scottish have no idea why they are “supposed” to hate a certain group. In fact, the only people the Scottish know they are “supposed” to hate is the Germans, and that is only because there are so many popular Nazi movies.
The idea that the Scottish are abrasive, rough and rude is also a myth. However, there is a (frankly closed-minded) Scottish comedian called “Frankie Boyle” who said in one of his stand-up tours, “The Scottish are generally aggressive and unpleasant at the best of times,” and a Scottish audience member angrily and gruffly shouted, “You’re a F**king Liar.” (Delicious Irony).