Gotta Catch ‘em All

How can Pokemon help your small business?

If you’re a child of the nineties, or have children born in that era, then you’ll probably know about Pokémon and what it is! Since its release, Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm and is now one of the most popular games. In less than a week it has had more downloads and users than Instagram, Snapchat and even Twitter.

That’s great but how can it help your small business and what can you learn?

Lure Modules

There are a large number of Pokéstops all over the country, especially in shopping centres, parks and local landmarks. These Pokéstops allow players to stock up on items such as Pokéballs. One item that can be placed on PokéStops is called a “lure module”. Once activated, lure modules will attract wild Pokémon (and, more importantly, players) to that location. These can be useful if your business is or near a Pokéstop as players always go towards stops with lures on the to catch Pokémon.

What can you learn?

If you’re selling to consumers, are there advertising opportunities nearby?

Alternatively think about the Pokemon, or the players, as potential clients; what can you do to attract them to you?  What do you have that can lure them to you?

Gyms

Maybe your business is closer to a Pokémon Gym than a PokéStop. In that event, there’s another way you can invite players to come patronize your business. You can advertise that you’ll be hosting a tournament in advance, perhaps even offering discounts to gym battle winners.

What can you learn?

Gathering lots of prospects in the same place is a great way to generate economies of scale. Perhaps you have a seminar or webinar that can help your target audience?

Pokémon Hunting 

Invite people to go on a Pokémon hunt with you! Host a community-wide Pokémon hunt that starts and ends at your business’s doorstep. All you have to do is advertise the date and time of your Poké-hunt, wait for players to gather, and then go hunting. After you can invite them back to your business to chat and compare what you have caught!

What can you learn?

Networking events like this can attract a mixture of current clients, prospects and other local businesses. You get the cache of organising the event and enabling the connections they make. You also get your clients saying nice things about you to others in the room.

Future possibilities?

Pokémon Go is still in its early stages and developing more features such as trading and battling other trainers will be added along with a new generation of Pokémon.

What can you learn?

These new features can allow you to network further and interact more with your client base. A new generation of Pokémon can allow for new content for people to enjoy and for you to use in your business.

I hope that helps!

The unmanaged mountain of opportunity

Somewhere in your office is a big pile of opportunities.

It’s probably just by your monitor or it may be in a desk drawer. If you use hotdesk, it’s probably in your bag or it may even be a series of images in an app on your phone.

What I am talking about? that pile of business cards you’ve collected over the past few months and done little with.

Within this pile of business cards could be your next 5 clients. What is five new clients worth to your business? How do you make sure you don’t miss out?

Filter them

If you’re an avid networker, you’ll have a number of cards which were “forced” on you by the card collectors and distributors that inhabit every networking event. They have almost certainly added you to their mailing list, you’ll have unsubscribed and now forgotten what they do.  The B1N file is the best place for them.

Look for the ones that are most likely to be prospects or be able to introduce you to prospects.

Now add them to your database, but make it very easy for people to unsubscribe.

Segment them

Providing everyone with the same information will not help you. Dependent upon which tools you use, segment your contacts into different groups.

  • MailChimp: use data columns and segments or add them into different groups
  • For Infusionsoft, use Tags
  • For Hubspot, it’s Personas and Smart Lists

Every automated marketing tool will have its own set of tools that allow you to segment by geography, product sales, lead source,, industry sector and any number of personal criteria.

Talk to them

Finally, use the information to talk to them. Use the segmentation tools to ensure that the information you send them is relevant:

  • For clients: what other products can they buy from you?
  • For prospects: what evidence can you show them so they see you can help them with their needs? Are you running any offers to tempt them into buying?
  • For nurturing: do you have white papers or recorded webinars showing your knowledge and expertise?
  • For introducers: do they know what your Ideal Client looks like so they can introduce you?

The unmanaged mountain of business cards on your desk can deliver new business, but it takes some effort and it takes real consistency.

I hope this helps.

Be Honest

…or your marketing will suffer!

During February our blogs were about your target audience, identifying them and about getting the right key messages in front of the decision makers.

For March we’re going to move onto developing the right marketing programme. Let’s start with a little housekeeping.

If you are going to get the right marketing programme that then delivers the leads you want, you need to be honest.

Time

We’ve discussed in the past about the amount of time you have available for marketing your business. You know you have to do it, but what time is available within the business to do it properly.  If you are tight on resources, be honest about it. If you say you can do much more than you really have time for, your marketing (and its performance) will suffer.

Skills

Everyone can do social media can’t they! Some people struggle to admit they cannot do something because they believe they should be able to do it. Social media is a prime example of this, but there is a big difference in being able to use Facebook to keep up with your mates’ habits, and generating awareness, interest and engagement with your target audience.

If you have the time to learn, all is good, but that may not be the best use of your time so think carefully about the skills you have and the skills you need. Engaging with your target audience on Twitter and LinkedIn can be lots of fun, but your role as the business leader may mean you should leave this to someone else, whether within your business or externally.

Budget

To generate and deliver a consistent marketing programme, you need to invest. The investment needs to be over a period of time and so there is no point in starting a programme that you aren’t sure you will have the money available to complete. It will be better to start on a small budget and then build up as the returns are developed, rather than start high and have to try and cuts corners when there is less money about.

Your marketing budget needs to be a combination of time, cash and skills. Your honesty when developing your marketing programme will help to manage expectations but also deliver a better return on investment.

 

I hope this helps.

Use your marketing data wisely

We’d like to say a huge thank you for joining us at the IoT Tech Expo Europe!

This was the opening line to an email I received last week.  That’s very nice of them, you might think, but there is a problem with this… I wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong. I did intend to go and I did register, but I never got the time to attend, as it was one of those “I’d love to have a nose around” events.

Up until then, the marketing team had done everything right:

  • I’d been thanked for registering
  • They sent me a link to get my delegate e-badge
  • They kept me up to date with what was happening

As you cannot get in, and sometimes even out, of these events without having your e-badge scanned, there’s no excuse for not knowing whether I was at the show. It goes without saying that these emails were written before the event even took place, but I can only assume they didn’t add attendance data to their automation tool, but they had a week to do it.

The lesson: don’t try to do things your data doesn’t support

My Tips:

  • Draft your emails well before the event, so you have time to make any adjustments you need to.
  • Personalise them based only on the data you have or are going to collect.
  • Manage your data and make sure the data is added to the relevant tools.
  • Keep it simple the first time. Better to deliver a simple message well than a complicated one poorly.

I hope this helps.

 

Lessons from a Brighton Bar

Demand generation lessons

The beachfront at Brighton is rarely a quiet place. Even in the winter, you will see a number of brave/foolhardy/daft* souls walking on the beach, the promenade and the pier.

This weekend was always going to be a busy one, with plenty of sunshine and the Brighton Marathon, but my wife and I took the kids anyway. Whether we’d remembered about the marathon or not is besides the point.  It was when we went looking for some lunch that I noticed a great lesson in demand generation.  Let me explain.

The bar in the picture is the Brighton Music Hall.  As we arrived, it looked very busy, with few tables available. What I hadn’t seen at that time was the stack of picnic benches to one side.  By not having all of their tables out, the crowd is concentrated together and makes it look busier than perhaps it really was.

The clever piece was the way they managed the addition of tables. As they saw that the turnover of guests seemed to slow, they added another row of tables that were quickly filled by new guests walking off the promenade. After all, there are few people who don’t measure the quality of an unknown restaurant by the crowd of diners.

I was looking at another company earlier today – a completely different business – who also managed their demand well. They did it by saying, on their website, that they are completely booked for April & May, but they are still happy to talk.  Again, by suggesting they are really busy, they portray themselves as providing a sought-after service.

The lessons here:

  • Keep a good eye on your customers
  • Make them think you are popular – meaning more will want you
  • Keep talking to them. Keep them informed, even when you are really busy

 

 

 

*delete as appropriate

What Mary Poppins teaches small business owners

Having small children means having to watch films and programmes you normally wouldn’t choose, but sometimes you learn something new when you do, at least, have one eye watching. This weekend somehow ended up with Mary Poppins being watched and this is what I believe business owners can learn from the lead character

  • Dress to impress

Mary never had a stitch or hair out of place and so came across as the professional she was. Whilst I’m not suggesting you need a lacy collar done up tight, you should always be dressed to ensure both you and the client are comfortable. Tatty jeans and trainers are never going to go down well – even on dress down Friday – but that doesn’t mean a three-piece, tie and cufflinks either.

Wear what works:

  • Is it suitable for the work you’re going to be doing?
  • Does it say the right things about you?
  • Would you be happy if someone walked into your office wearing what you are?
  • Know who your client really is

Whilst Mr Banks may have been paying Mary Poppins’ wages (did he actually pay her before she left?), it could easily be said that Jane and Michael were the clients, as it was their lives that Mary quickly impacted. In Edwardian London, the father:child relationship was still described as “Children should be seen and not heard” and so George would simply expect Mary Poppins to ensure this was the case. However, the children seem particularly adept at getting rid of those who displeased them, as the previous nanny would not stay a moment longer.

Remember that the person who pays the invoices may not be the person with the most influence.

  • Use the right language

Is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the ultimate in jargon or what? It’s a word only Mary knows the meaning of and will confuse both customers and staff.

Hopefully the consultant speak, like “blue-sky thinking” and “anything outside the box” is long gone, but many people find it very easy to use their industry jargon, whether talking to colleagues or clients. Whilst it’s okay to use it in the office, remember that most customers won’t know what you’re talking about. Whether they admit it to you is a different matter! If you do this with prospects, there is a real chance they will simply buy from the company that doesn’t overuse jargon – simply because they understand them.

  • It’s not always fun

Most people start a business because it is something they enjoy doing – or they enjoy the money they expect to get – so they expect to have fun doing what they love. Unfortunately there are aspects of running a business that aren’t fun. Accounts definitely falls into that space and some people even think marketing isn’t fun (can you imagine that?) but they need to be done. Mary Poppins recommends a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Ever wondered why you see so many business owners with bowls of sweets on their desks? Perhaps that’s the sugar?

On a more serious note, if you cannot get someone else to do it, look at how you can mix up the jobs you need to do, either in bite-size pieces or by getting the nasty stuff out the way first.

  • Get out at the right time

Mary Poppins could quite easily have stayed with the Banks family and taken their money, but the value they would have received would have deteriorated as she’d already delivered the real value she provides.

It can be easy to continue taking the money from a client when you’ve been working with them for some time. Ask yourself: are you still delivering value and as much value as you did originally?

Whilst you will often make a real impact very early on, and then settle down, be careful that you don’t get too comfortable. The last thing you want to do is get to a point where the client asks you to leave – better for you to say it’s time to go.

 

I must admit that I did watch chunks of the film, even if I hadn’t intended to – and I’m glad I did now.

No more Growth Vouchers

2f25f8ef-767f-47bb-9a0a-947418789505It’s too late – at least for now

The last Growth Vouchers were given out yesterday, with the lucky recipients having until the end of June to use them to get the strategic support they are looking for. The infographic here shows how things have changed in the last few weeks.  As you can see, the marketing produced over the final couple of months has generated a huge amount of interest.  I am sure the 3,500 accredited Growth Voucher advisors will have picked up more work because of it. My latest Growth Voucher project is for a dental practice looking to increase its private practice work. During the time I’ve been working within the Growth Voucher programme, I’ve dealt with: 1. a mobile application developer 2. a veterinary practice 3. an e-commerce company 4. Two IT support companies Growth for these companies has varied from 15% to over 300% since they used the Growth Voucher. There have been many other examples of how Growth Vouchers have helped businesses improve, so I look forward to seeing whether they are able to secure some of the money discussed in the last box [of the infographic] to further help small businesses.

5 Things the political parties are promising us small business owners

Enterprise Nation’s small business debate on March 2nd was an interesting event. Although the questions were given to the politicians beforehand – open questions would have been much more fun – and so they had time to prepare, some of the responses seemed ill-thought out.

Let’s have a look at what they political parties taking part (the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party – UKIP decided not to show up) are promising us:

Business Rates

All parties agree that the current setup is simply too expensive. The Conservatives are reviewing the arrangements and, from next month, the retail discount is being reduced by a further £500 a year. Labour promises to cut these rates by £1 billion, but this money is coming from not cutting Corporation Tax.

The LibDems are scrapping Business Rates and replacing them with a Land Value Tax, based on the value of the land rather than the building value. The Greens are agreeing with them.

Childcare

A question about how female entrepreneurism is being limited by the cost of childcare raised some tensions. The question was aimed at getting a commitment to capping childcare costs and nobody would do this – market forces!

Labour’s commitment is to have all primary schools open from 8am to 6pm, thereby freeing up many mothers to be able to work “normal” business hours, with an additional 10 hours of free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds. The Lib Dems plan to extend the current 15 hours of free childcare, for 3 & 4 year olds, to two-year olds as well.

Manufacturing Support

There seemed to be little real response to this, with Labour looking to encourage more interaction between industry and higher/further education to ensure the skills they want are being delivered. Apparently there is too many courses for what people want to learn, rather than what industry wants.

Export Support

I spent too much time chuckling at the Greens’ comments, about the same apples being imported from The Netherlands and also being exported to The Netherlands, to note much on this bit – sorry!

Enterprise Investment Scheme

EIS and SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) were both heavily praised by all parties with nobody wanting to make any changes. The Conservatives commented about the level of investment available being capped by the EU and Labour want to encourage alternative business lending to provide real competition to the banks, thereby getting them to lend more.

 

To be honest, there was a lot of hot air flying about, with the expected cat fights on occasions, as they competed. I would have preferred much more open questioning, but I would not have wanted Emma’s job in managing this and controlling the tone.

What do you want from the next government?


Marketing to the converted

Measure
Are you communicating effectively with those you know are highly likely to open your emails?

I am sure already know that it is far easier to sell to current clients than it is to new ones, but the key is knowing what to talk to them about.

Now I could then start discussing the quality of your account management and how will they know their clients,  what the plans each client had for the next two years and where they are in their planning, but I won’t. What I will say is how many of your clients know about everything you sell and how many of them buy everything you sell?

Without a good picture of who is buying what and who knows about what,  you cannot have a relevant conversation. If that conversation is irrelevant, it is highly unlikely to produce the result you are looking for.

Working all of this out is relatively easy but I must warn you,  it can lead to identification of issues, particularly within your billing.  Let me explain.

The easiest way to calculate who is buying what is via your invoicing.  Using this instead of trying to do it from memory ensures accuracy and shows you the true value of each relationship.  The problem comes when you see some of the, shall we say eccentricities that occur in your invoicing.  Terminology often varies dramatically,  as does categorisation and even values.  I’ve often found invoices where the decimal point is too far left, meaning you’ve missed out on £100 ‘ s (if not more).

This leads to a project of billing standardisation but that’s another blog altogether.

Once you have the list of who has bought what from you,  it’s much easier to then shape your marketing communications to ensure the right people know about the products or services.

Now all you need is a set of messages to send to the relevant people.

 

I want to talk to…

In the UK there are 689,890 companies[1], 190,978 of them meet the EU definition of an SME and so, theoretically, they could be my target market, bearing in mind my company name.

In reality the vast majority of them I will not be able to help. This is why you will rarely hear the word “anyone” uttered when I’m networking or asking clients for referrals. Why is it, therefore, that so many business owners believe they can sell their services to anyone?

The problem with anyone is that it is simply too wide a scope and what happens is that you end up with no-one being referred to you.

A chiropractor said to me, at a networking event recently, I can help anyone with a spine. Whilst this may be true, it doesn’t help me help them. I’m not going to mention them to everyone I know with a spine.

I need, and so will all your clients and connections, a little more to go on. Have you seen the latest eHarmony advert where they show a man on a couch with a camel? The advert goes on to say they were matched because of two matching criteria, but eHarmony uses more to ensure a good match.

You should use the same approach when asking for referrals. After all if 438 couples get married every day after being matched on eHarmony, they must be getting something right.

Whilst I am not suggesting you have 29 levels of compatibility with your clients, you must make it easier for people to refer you. Give them more information: industry sector, geography, company size, job title and, most definitely, reasons why.

The good thing about getting this pinned down is it also helps you work out what marketing to do, but I’ll talk about that next time!

 

[1] LinkedIn; as of 13/1/15