What should you be doing this summer?

using the summer holidays to make your business plansIt’s the summer holidays. Everyone is on holiday – at least that’s what many people tell believe.

That then, somehow, becomes a reason for them not to do things to move their business forward. That may be technology improvements, it may be staff training or whatever.

What do the summer holidays look like?

Summer holidays are six weeks, from July to early September.  If you have school-age children, it is likely you will be taking at least some holiday during this time. You don’t have a choice unless you want their school reporting you to the local council. You take 1-2 weeks off.

Across every business in the country, there is a similar situation, with people taking holiday, but they are highly unlikely to have much more than two weeks off, so, at worst, only 1/3rd of your clients or prospects are on holiday.

Your Resources

The same goes for your staff. Let’s assume they all take two weeks off during the summer holidays. That means your business is 33% down, in terms of the resources you have. This assumes you manage the holidays your staff take, so that there aren’t a huge number of people off at the same time – they are called Holiday Request Forms (click here for an explanation of what you can and cannot do) after all.

Depending on your needs and your trading patterns, you have a number of choices:

If the summer is busy:

  • Recruit temporary staff or give overtime to those who aren’t on holiday.
  • If possible, build up stock before the peak periods so you have what you need available.
  • Work every hour possible

If the summer is quiet:

  • Let more people have time off at the same time
  • Manage production so that you have the stock available for the upcoming peak periods
  • Chill out, doing very little
  • Use the time to plan for the future.

The most productive use of your time will be to plan for the future. What are you going to do in the Autumn, Winter and early 2019 to take your business forward?

What needs to be done?

  • Schedule some downtime

You cannot work all year around and expect to be fully productive. You need some time off. Ideally away from your laptop and even your phone. However, we know what it is like and so you may need to be close to them. Schedule a minimal amount of time (and tell your partner – they will keep you to your schedule) and only spend that time in the business.

  • Looking Back

What has happened over the last 3, 6 or 12 months? Has the business hit its targets or missed them somewhat?

Can you see why this is the case? Did you do everything you planned to do in order to help the business hit its targets? What worked and what didn’t?

Looking back helps you to plan for the future. As they say in the financial services adverts “past performance is no guarantee of future performance”, but it will help you to make better decisions around what is likely to work better going forward.

  • What are your new targets?

You cannot plan for the future without targets. If you grew 5% over the last 12 months and you want to grow by 15% in the coming 12 months, it’s likely you need to do three times as much to deliver the growth. You have to be able to commit three times the resources. You may end up using less than that, but you have to budget for it.

  • Who/Where are your targets?

If you are looking to grow your business significantly, are you going to do this within your current target audiences and products/services? Do you need to consider product diversification or perhaps a market expansion strategy?

  • Planning

To achieve the targets you’ve set the business, you need a plan. In the unlikely event that everything you did before worked, you simply need to do more of that. If that isn’t the case, what are you going to do? Your plan needs to include:

  • Budgets
  • Resources, including skill sets and time
  • Timescales

Without a plan, it is unlikely that everything will get done, particularly if the plan involves other people and/or companies.

Why Plan Now?

Simple. You are taking advantage of the quiet period that the summer holiday are. If you leave it to September when everyone gets back from their holidays, you will be busy again and you won’t do the planning your business needs.

If you do your planning now, you will be ahead of most of your competitors who “took the summer off because their clients did”.

I hope this helps

Want a hand? Call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here

How Google’s Search Console will help you improve your marketing

Are you using Search Console to improve your SEO performance

Search Console is a great tool that will show you just how well your SEO activity is performing over time. For those of you who aren’t sure what Search Console is, you may have heard of Webmaster Tools. Search Console is the new name Google has given it. Rather strangely, the URL is still https://google.com/webmasters.

There are many functions within Search Console giving you a huge amount of data, but today I want to concentrate on just one:

Search Analytics

Search Console menuPut simply it tells you what search queries (what people type into the search bar) you are appearing under. It doesn’t matter how far down the Google rankings you appear; if Google finds your website in that search, it will tell you.

Impressions: this is the number of times you’ve appeared for that search query

Clicks: the number of times someone clicked through

CTR: the clickthrough rate. In other words, what percentage of times did someone click through. Number of clicks/Impressions.

Position: where did you appear in the rankings? The higher the better. Chitika says 91.5% of clicks are on page one, so you need to be there.

How this helps you

  1. What are you ranking for?

Search Console will quickly show you what search queries are generating traffic for you.  Are they what you expected? Where are you ranking for the searches you want to rank for? Are there terms in there you don’t want?  If, for example, Viagra is in there, you really should be checking your site for hacks.

  1. How have things changed?

Are your rankings improving or sliding?  Comparing date ranges means you can easily see whether your SEO efforts are paying dividends or whether you need to re-focus.

Search Console results for SME Needs

You can see, from the image above, that my ranking has improved for small business marketing support. I’ve slipped slightly for sme needs, but I’m not that worried about a 0.4 move.

  1. Are they the right terms?

If your website is ranking well for a query with very few searches, you may need to focus on alternative terms. Ranking No.1 is great, but only if there is a lot of people searching on that term.

  1. Is your SEO company performing?

If you have an SEO agency helping you to improve your natural search results, this can easily help you to understand just how well they are performing.  I won’t name names, but one of our clients was using an SEO and PPC agency to drive traffic.  They were telling my client that he was ranking on page one for XX search terms.  That was, in fact, true but these search terms were averaging about 20 searches per month. Their rankings for the high volume search terms were actually slipping – something they weren’t pointing out to my client.  Needless to say that SEO agency isn’t working with my client anymore.

  1. Where is your traffic coming from?

What country(s) do you trade in?  If you only work in the UK but a lot of your traffic is coming from South Africa or the USA, you are getting a lot of useless traffic.

Concluding

As you can see Search Console can be a really useful tool, as part of your small business marketing efforts. It will help you understand what is happening and point you in the right direction, ensuring your efforts are focused on the right tasks. If you are just beginning to really measure your marketing performance, this is a great place to start.

I hope this helps.

Do you have the resources you need to deliver your marketing plan?

What marketing resources do you need?

To grow your business, you need a marketing plan that is then effectively delivered. To do this you need marketing resources. For your small business marketing to be effective, you need a combination of:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Time
  3. Money

knowledge as a marketing resource

Knowledge

You are passionate about what you do. If you weren’t you probably would be doing something else right now. You can talk for hours about the minutiae of your business and I bet you could write a book of acronyms. However, knowing how to translate your knowledge into what your prospects want to hear is something different. Being sure you are using the right marketing tools, and using them in the best ways is another issue.

There’s nothing wrong with this. You cannot be expected to wear every single hat and know everything about everything. That is why large companies have their own dedicated marketing teams – to bring that knowledge into the business.

If your business is really young, and you haven’t got investment funding, you have little choice but to do most of it yourself, but you could us a part-time or virtual marketing director for just a few hours per month. They become a source of advice, guidance and support for a small investment.

Let’s demonstrate the issue with a few stats:

  • 49% of small business owners aren’t sure if their marketing is effective (Leadpages) and 14% know that they aren’t.
  • 67% of small businesses who use SEO as part of their marketing mix in-house and external resources (Statistica).

time is a valuable resource when marketing your businessTime

The old adage of “why work 40 hours a week for someone else when you can work 80 hours a week for yourself” shows just how much time is needed by a small business. You may be doing a full week simply delivering on your clients’ needs. Unless you have a Time Turner (you have seen the Harry Potter films, haven’t you?!), you cannot do two things at once. That means working more hours.

If you want any kind of work-life balance, you need to find the time needed for your marketing from somewhere else. There are three options here:

  • Employ someone, but do you have the funds available to pay them and the time available to manage them?
  • Outsource your marketing. You still need funds, but you can balance the funds and your time so that it works for your business.
  • Don’t do any marketing. This is the case for half of all small businesses, as they do less than two hours per week (Statistica).

money is a marketing resourceMoney

Time and money go hand in hand here. They also then impact on the knowledge. You may think that you haven’t got the money to pay to outsource your marketing. But if you don’t outsource, in order to get the knowledge and the time, you’ll not get the money.

This is where opportunity costs come into play.  If you outsource your marketing, can you earn more money, than it costs, in the time you save? Remember: 79% of small businesses buy they best they can afford, not the cheapest (CEB Globa). If your marketing shows just how good you are, your target audience will buy from you.

The other thing to consider when outsourcing your marketing is the investment you are making. Marketing is a medium to long term thing. You don’t get a return on investment the next day (unless you’re really lucky) so you have to be able to spend the money now in order to reap the rewards further down the line.

The balancing of time, money and knowledge is not easy. If you haven’t got the money, you can’t get the knowledge and the time needed to make you more money. However, you can start small. Test the waters, using some like us as a marketing support provider. They help you do the best job you can, helping move you to the point where you have the money to outsource the marketing so you can concentrate on doing what you love.

Give us a call if you want to discuss this in more detail. We hope this helps.

Why you must have a marketing plan

do you have a marketing planDo you have a Marketing Plan?

You know you need to do something to market your business. If you don’t your pipeline will quickly empty and the sales will dry up.

Now I can hear some people saying “we get all our business through referral, so we don’t need to do any marketing”. Two comments on this:

  1. Generating referrals is a type of marketing, as you manage the client accounts to keep the referrals flowing.
  2. Just think how much more you could grow the business if you did some other marketing!

There is one big reason why you must have a marketing plan:

If you don’t you won’t do it

Shall we start the “Oh yes I will” “Oh no you won’t” bit – or just skip it?

The reasons why a marketing plan makes you do your marketing

It’s a list

We’re British (or living in Britain and so adopting many local habits) so we love a list. Having a list is a competitive thing. We want to tick everything off the list, simply to say we’ve done it.  Nobody likes a partially completed list.

You’ve invested time

There’s little more galling than wasting time. As a business owner, you have very little of it spare. You don’t want to spend time developing a marketing plan and then not do what you planned to do.

You’ve invested Energy

Taking time out of working IN the business to work ON the business is doing something you may not do that often. It is different and so you’ve invested mental energy in developing a marketing plan that will engage your target audience and develop more leads. Let’s not waste that energy.

You’ve invested Money

That time has cost you money, either in opportunity costs or direct costs, such as overtime. You may have brought in a consultant (why was it not us?) to help you structure and challenge the plan.

Someone to report to

A way to really make sure you deliver on your marketing plan is to get someone to monitor it for you. Whether that is a fellow director, a non-exec director (if you have any) or a third-party, you don’t want to go to them and say you haven’t done what you agreed to do.

So the only question to answer now is: When are you going to write your marketing plan?

Why you have to focus your marketing

focus your marketing

Four key reasons to focus your marketing

There are many business owners out there who believe they can sell their product/service to anyone – sand to the Arabs and all that. I’ve no doubt they are very good sales people and could sell to anyone they sit in front of.  It doesn’t mean they should be trying to sell to anyone. I believe that you have to focus your marketing and let me explain my reasoning. Read more

Who are you talking to?

who is your website content talking to?Your website is your shop window, whether you sell to consumers or to other businesses. It doesn’t matter what you sell, pretty much the first place anyone goes to in order to find out more about you is your website. The question is:

Does your website content talk about you or does it talk to your viewers? Read more

Why I want clients to sack me

firing your marketing managerWhen I say I want clients to sack me, there are, of course, conditions attached to the statement. SME Needs provides marketing support for small businesses; we want them to be bigger businesses when they sack us. That means one of two things happens:

  1. They recruit a Marketing Manager
  2. They are acquired by a company with a Marketing Dept.

Let’s look at the reasons why a company would need a Marketing Manager. Read more

Why multiple mailing lists are a big problem

multiple mailing listsEmail marketing is a great tool when used correctly.

It’s cheap, completely trackable, and it can be personalised so that the content only goes to the right people.

It is also causing a lot of heartache as people get their head around GDPR and what they can and cannot do via email.

Let’s ignore for a moment that email is covered by PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) rather than GDPR. The biggest issue for email is consent.

This blog is about the issues that multiple mailing lists can cause with consent.

Read more

Nine questions to choose the right marketing channels for your business

appropriate clothing

What are the right marketing channels for your business?

As the Norwegians are famous for saying, there’s no  such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. It’s the same for your marketing. There are lots of different ways to market your business and its up to you to choose the right marketing for your business. So where do you begin? Read more

6 reasons why you should stop doing social media

Social media: love it or hate it, it has become part of our lives, both professionally and socially. Even if you aren’t using it, I bet your friends and acquaintances are and they are bugging you to use it as well.

For this article, let’s put aside personal use and look at whether you should stop using social media professionally.

Consistency is king

Your followers and connections are a fickle lot. They will love much of what you post and then Share/Comment/Like/Retweet, right up until the point they forget about you.

Why will they forget? If you aren’t appearing on a regular basis. We all have so many messages chucked at us on a daily basis, including lots more connections and followers on social media, it is easy to forget someone and lose track of what is happening.

You’re just Shouting

Social media is called social media for a reason. If you want it to work for your business, you need to be sociable. If all you are interested in doing is posting your latest special offer, you are going to be wasting your time. If this is you, you really should stop using social media.

You’re just being negative

If all you do is criticise others, particularly without offering a solution, you’ll quickly get a reputation. Check out some of our MPs to see what I mean. Nobody likes to be criticised, especially if you are just being negative and not suggesting an improvement.

You’re not there at all

Not being there at all is even worse than being inconsistent. This is particularly relevant when you consider the activity of prospective clients or staff.  Almost without fail, the first thing someone does when they hear about you is check your online presence. They find your website and then follow that with your social media presence. If your Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook accounts haven’t done anything for 6 months, what are they going to think?

You’re better off shutting down your account than having one that hasn’t been used for some time.

No traffic being generated

Your social media activity is, presumably, being done to generate new clients. If not, I am wondering why you are spending valuable time on there. The question is: how much website traffic are you getting from your social media activity?

If you don’t know, I refer you to our previous blog about Google Analytics and then recommend you see how much traffic you are getting.

If you aren’t getting any traffic, there are three probable reasons:

  1. You aren’t saying anything worthwhile (see point two above)
  2. You forgot to put any links to your site on your profile or in your posts (has been known)
  3. Nobody who is likely to buy from you uses that social media platform (see next point)

Any of these are bad and you need to identify which one is causing the issues and fix it fast.

If you disagree, I have a challenge for you: nip down to your local bank and try and pay your mortgage with Likes!

Your Target Audience doesn’t use it

Are you using the social media platforms you do because you use them in your personal life and so know what to do (?!?!) or is there another reason?

Have you considered which platforms are the ones your target audience is most likely to be using? Let me give you some examples:

  • If you sell to Managing Directors of technology businesses, they are highly unlikely to be on Facebook (at least in a business mood) so activity on there would be a waste of time. Moving to LinkedIn (18,366 in the UK alone, plus another 8,648 CEOs) would be a far better option.
  • Launching a new restaurant in St Albans via LinkedIn may not be the best idea (although there are 84,394 people from St Albans on LinkedIn, including 1 food critic). Adding great images of the food and the restaurant on Instagram and/or Facebook may be more effective as people are thinking more about their leisure time

Signing Off?

Do any of the above resonate with you?  If they do, you need to carefully consider whether you should stop using social media for your business. After all, your time is precious and you need to maximise your use of that time to generate leads for your business in order to grow.

I hope this helps