Just Keep Talking

The adage of “he who shouts loudest will win” is no longer the case. If we’re honest it probably hasn’t been the case for a while. Let’s look at what you should be doing to make your marketing successful.

Who should you be talking to?

There are 60 million people in the UK and about 7 billion on the planet; which segment of these do you want to talk to? Even the biggest companies in the world don’t try to talk to everyone for individual products or services. They have very specific target audiences, at whom they aim their marketing at.

As an SME you have certain levels of resource, either time or money. You need to make the best use of those resources to develop the sales opportunities you need to grow your business.  If you think you can aim at everyone/anyone, I have to say that you will be wasting a huge amount of resource.

Who do you want to talk to?

What should you be saying?

There is little point in simply putting your brand out there, alongside a list of the things you do. Today’s customers want more than that. They want to instantly know why they should spend their time talking to you when there are so many others who they can spend their money with.  If you have identified your target audience, have you pinpointed what they need? Have you developed your list of messages that show why they should talk to you?

Where should you be talking?

Back in the days before Tim Berners-Lee changed all of our lives, those who could afford it shouted loudly from every newspaper, billboard and public transport poster they could find in order to maximise the number of people who read their messages and then engaged with their brand. Those who couldn’t do this relied on their stakeholder network to bring in business, alongside the obligatory advert in the Yellow Pages.

In many ways the smaller businesses were doing a better job, but big business needs volume purchase levels and so needed to talk to the masses. They still chose the right publications and billboard locations to target the people they wanted though.

Waitrose was in the Daily Mail and Telegraph

Equinox Telecom works through networking and their partner programme.

CANDDI sends lots of email and uses its own technology to track how people engage.

The definition of your target audience will, to an extent, define the channels you need to use to get your messages in front of your Ideal client:

Choose the right social media channels.

Pick the right networking groups, whilst not trying to just sell to those in the room.

What are the other marketing channels most likely to grab the attention of your targets?

Don’t Stop

There are two things most likely to stop a marketing programme being successful:

Stopping after a very short period of time

Stopping because business is quiet.

Recessionary periods are classics for this. Business is quiet so companies cut back, with marketing and training being the ones that get cut. If there are two worse budgets to cut, I can’t tinkering what they are.

When new clients are rarity, why would you cut the resources that are there to find them? I agree that you need to look at them carefully, but don’t stop what is maintaining awareness and interest.

 

Which Introducer Type are you?

Seven types of introducer

As a small business owner, I’m willing to bet you have a network running to 100’s of people and a close network of a few dozen people you know and trust.

When you are out, how often do you introduce the people within this network to people you meet?

Some people are serial introducers. They are literally introducing people to each other on a daily basis. They believe that making these introductions will be useful to a good number of the connections, even if a few of the introductions don’t work out to be of any use.

At the other end of the scale, there are people who don’t make introductions, for a number of reasons:

  • For some, this is because they want the introductions to come their way from others first. The problem here is that the other party is often looking for the same thing and so no introductions ever get made.
  • For some, it is because they don’t think about others whilst they are networking or talking to their clients; they are too busy looking for opportunities for themselves. They may get a few introductions from the serial introducers but not for long.

Between these two there are a number of different introducer types:

  • The fee earner is happy to make introductions but only when there is a financial return available. Introductions are rarely because there are synergies, but because there is a sales opportunity that could generate 5-10% as a reward.
  • The name dropper talks about lots of potential introductions that could be hugely beneficial but the introduction rarely actually happens. You may have heard the phrase “I really should introduce you to…”. It’s a real shame this person never carries through. If they were able to make the connections they talk about, they’d almost certainly get a lot of good introductions back.
  • The dead cert only introduces when they believe it’s basically a done deal. They make few introductions and then only to a small number of people who they have always made introductions to. This is the way they know which introductions are going to work. In my experience, this is usually a one-way street; architects to builders for example.
  • The reasoner is the final type of introducer. The number of introductions they make varies over time and the quality of the introduction can vary. Sometimes they are simply “this could be useful”. Sometimes they may be “you two really should talk” and sometimes it’s “this person can really help you out”. They are on the lookout for potential introductions but sometimes they miss them. They don’t worry too much about this and can always go back and make a belated introduction.

Some of these people are better than others but the good thing is that they are trying to help in their own way.  The question is: which one are you?

Are you taking all your networking opportunities?

Are you networking when you have the opportunity?

You know that networking is a key marketing activity for small businesses. There are very few small business owners who can, hand on heart, say they don’t get a fair percentage of their business through networking. The question is: are you maximising your opportunities to network?

Let me give you an example….

If you are in a shared or serviced office building, how often do they run fire drills? You’re inevitably in the middle of an important piece of work and the fire alarm goes off. It isn’t the usual time for an alarm test so you reluctantly hand out. If you’re in a high rise building like me, you’ve got lots of stairs to go down, alongside 100’s of others. You’re then outside for 20 mins or so whilst the fire Marshall li do their thing. What could you do with that time? May I recommend d you go and talk to people you don’t know?

You already have an icebreaker in the fire drill, so it’s easy to start talking. Ask to get to know them as I am sure they also get a lot of their business through networking. Go for a coffee sometime soon and see what happens.

So what other opportunities are there to network:

Train delays – certainly if you use Southern Trains

Long train journeys

Reception areas whilst you wait for a meeting

Coffee shop queues

I am sure you can think of other examples where you’ve struck up impromptu conversations that have led to networking opportunities; tweet me @sme_needs with your best ones.

Imagine a Full Sales Pipeline

What does a full sales pipeline look like and what would it mean for your business?

Every business has a sales pipeline. Not every business has the full sales pipeline they want to have! Does your pipeline have enough prospects to enable you to meet your sales targets? Do you have sales targets?

Let’s look at your sales pipeline and the numbers around it. After all, the first thing I always do with a new client is look at the numbers.

If you have a sales target of one new client a week, what impact will this have on the marketing effort you need to put in?

One new client per week needs 5 new prospects per week, assuming you close 20% of qualified sales

5 new prospects per week means 10 leads per week, assuming 50% of leads qualify themselves out or you qualify them out

10 leads per week means 500 new visitors to your website, assuming 2% of visitors contact you.

Are you generating 500 new visitors to your website each week?

Of course, you need to edit these numbers to match your current sales and marketing performance, but they give you an idea of what is involved. If your conversion rates are better than those used above, you need less visitors.

What I’m asking is:

  • Do you know what your numbers are?
  • Have you calculated how many website visits you need to generate?
  • What are you currently doing to generate them?

If your Sales team is not hitting your business targets, it may not be their fault. Of course, it may not be Marketing’s fault either if you aren’t providing the resources they need to hit these goals.

How can this be improved?

If you haven’t got the budget to generate the new visitors you need each month, perhaps through Google Adwords or other paid search, let’s look at how these numbers can be improved in order to reduce the need:

Is your website doing its job?

Check the exit rates using Google Analytics and see which pages are not performing. Test new content to see how you can improve the performance of the page.

Does the content show what you do or how you help your target audience?

Does every page have a Call to Action that guides visitors through the site in a way that will engage them and get them to contact you?

Add Goals to Analytics and see how you are performing. You should consider goals such as number of pages or time on site, rather than simply did they go to your Contact Us page.

None of this costs money, but it will take some time and effort. Your website’s performance will impact both the number of enquiries you have and the number that are qualified. If your content suggests you do something a little different to what you actually do, you are likely to get lots of enquiries that are for something you don’t do.

Sales support:

What is marketing doing to support the sales process? Marketing’s job doesn’t finish when the lead is handed over to a salesperson. There needs to be a support programme which ensures that a hot lead remains a hot lead for the duration of the sales process. How long is the sales cycle in your business by the way?

YpuIf Sales and Marketing work together (heaven forbid!!), hitting your sales targets will be far easier as your close rate improves.

Sales:

I’ve always said my role is to line them up and Sales has to knock them down. I’m not a Sales trainer (but I know a man who is) but I can quickly help you identify where there is room for improvement, if needed.  Your Sales team will know whether they are converting enough. They will looking for ways to improve, but if there is room for improvement in the Sales function, may I suggest the following questions need to be asked:

  • Are they talking about your business or about the prospects?
  • Are they telling stories to help the prospect understand how they help?
  • Are they only moving forward when asked to by the prospect?
  • Are you using software to help you know when the prospect is moving forward?

The numbers in your pipeline will tell what you need to do to achieve your goals.  Sales and Marketing need to work together to ensure that the numbers within your pipeline are as good as they can be.

I hope this helps.

Why 35% is too big

Do you want a big client?

Having a big client is great isn’t it?

A big name that other prospects should have heard of when you tell stories about your current clients

They spend a lot with you, allowing you to grow the business

However, there are some issues to think about.

Very early on in the relationship with any new client, we analyse their business and marketing performance. As well as understanding what marketing is and isn’t working, we look at your share of available wallet and how much of an impact clients have on your business.

Our general rule of thumb is no single client should be more than 35% and ideally not more than 25%, let us explain why.

Why a big client isn’t good for your business.

There really is just one reason: if you lose them as a client, it will decimate your business!

When we analyse client impact, very few clients escape from Pareto’s Law. 80% of turnover is delivered by 20% of clients. Although we rarely have sufficient data to see client profitability, it is highly likely that the bigger the client, one of two things happens:

a client delivering 35+% of turnover delivers even more of the profits, or

far too much resource is committed to that client and so they become unprofitable.

Whichever of these happens, if this client decides to use another supplier, you lose a huge amount of the cash coming into your business. You then cannot meet your commitments. If they are an unprofitable client, there is a chance you can survive as a business. However, you need to make the cost cuts quickly in order to continue.

Small Business Tips from the Golf Course

As an an old cliche, many say that lots of business gets done on the golf course. If this was the case, I’d be playing much more, but here are a few tips from the golf course that can help your business.

The Driving Range

The driving range is there for golfers to practice their game and to work out what needs to be done to improve. It’s also where they will warm up and get prepared for their game.

In business, as in golf and every other sport, you need to be prepared. You cannot simply go out and do stuff and expect your business to improve. You need to get prepared. You need to identify what isn’t working and then develop a plan.

Which Club?

Are you using the right tools? Many golfers, when trying to get their ball to the target (the green and the hole) will take Driver every time. After all, if they can get the ball as close as possible to the green, there is a better chance of getting a birdie (a good score), isn’t there.

Professional golfers, on the other hand, are more likely to take a shorter club and then another one they can fit well and increase their chances of the birdie. The shorter club increases their chances of staying out of the rough (not good).

Are you using the right marketing tools to reach your target audience? Just because everyone else uses Facebook (for example) doesn’t mean you have to if it won’t get your key messages in front of your target audience.

In the Rough

Using the wrong club often means you end up in the wrong position for your next shot. That usually menas the rough – or worse, the trees. Even if you have a good line to the green, the shot becomes harder and you’re much more likely to score a bogey (bad) or worse. All you can do is take your medicine and try not to do it again.

In any small business, you’ll make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll try out marketing tools that don’t work for you. The trick is to learn from your mistakes and try not to make them again.

Your Scorecard

Every golfer has to keep a scorecard, showing the score achieved at each hole. Personally, I also keep track of where I hit my tee shot (did I hit the fairway?), the number of shots I took to get to the green, how many putts and whether I went into a bunker or incurred a penalty. I use Golfshot to track my performance on the golf course.

What are you using to record your marketing and business performance? Whether you invest in a CRM and marketing automation tools, or simply use Excel spreadsheets, make sure you are measuring your performance so you can use the information to improve.

A Caddie

Professional golfers use a caddie to help them. Not only does the caddie carry their bag, they will advise on club choice, on where to hit the ball to and how the weather will impact their strike. They act as dogsbody, psychologist and nutritionist (ensuring they eat and drink on the way around to maintain energy levels) to help the golfer make the best score they can and (hopefully) win the competition.  Without the caddie, the golfer’s chance of winning are slim. The caddies are generally on 10% of winnings.

Having support, specifically to fill the gaps in your knowledge or preferences, will help you improve your performance. Whilst you aren’t likely to be paying 10% of turnover, you should expect to pay for their expertise.

Those of you who know me will know I can go on about golf forever, but I’ll stop there. I hope these help.

Golfing Terminology:

  • Driver: big headed club which will generally hit it further than all other clubs in your bag
  • Par: the number of shots you are allowed on any specific hole.
  • Birdie: using one shot less than Par (good)
  • Bogey: using one shot more than Par (not so good)

Size Doesn’t Matter

Too many businesses, and people, are obsessed with size. They believe bigger is better. If we are talking about ice cream portions or wine glasses, this may be true. When we’re discussing marketing data, it really is a case of size doesn’t matter.

Let me be blunt:

  • More LinkedIn connections doesn’t make you a better entrepreneur
  • More email addresses in your mailing list doesn’t mean you’re a better business
  • Putting more money into your marketing budget doesn’t mean you will grow faster

Why?

To maintain the innuendo, it’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts.

Let me explain.

LinkedIn connections

There are many people who will look down on you if your LinkedIn connections number doesn’t say 500+. They are deluded into thinking that having more connections will mean that more people will see what they write in their updates and that will lead to more sales. They will see that XXXX people saw their last update and think that their use of LinkedIn is great. Actually the real measure is the number of people who reach out via LinkedIn and ask for your services. Which is better?

30,000 connections, 2000+ impressions a day and 2 calls per month, or

450 connections, 80 impressions a day and 4 calls per month?

Have you ever asked a LinkedIn connection for an introduction to someone you want to talk to? How often do they respond “of course” and they fire off an introduction email via the LinkedIn functionality? Alternatively, do they respond along the lines of “I don’t really know them that well….”?

If you think of LinkedIn as one big networking event, you are far more likely to be introduced or referred by people you know, like and trust. If you are connected simply because you accepted a connection request, what’s the point?

Of course, if you have steadily built up a network that reaches into the 1000’s and you still know what each of them does and what they are looking for, that’s great because I am sure you are generating a huge amount of new business from your network. You are a rarity!

Mailing list size

Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cashflow is reality – as the saying goes. It’s the same with email marketing…

List size is vanity, open rates are sanity but click throughs are reality.

In other words, why send out 1000’s of emails if few people are engaging? You are far better off having 1000 people, a 20% open rate and 5% click through than a 1% open rate because you have 50,000 on your list. This is particularly relevant if your email marketing tool charges you per email!

The number that is better in email marketing is the variants of any email. The more variants that show the recipient you are talking to them, the better. Relevancy and personalisation are key to developing high open and click-through rates.

Marketing Budget

The standard number for B2B companies is 10%. You should be investing 10% of revenue in marketing your business – outside of salaries. For some companies, this may not be possible if gross profits are below 10%, but it should be for most. Some companies invest far more (Red Bull: 38%) than others but they have expensive “hobbies” such as Formula One and air racing! Saying that, it works or they wouldn’t be able to spend that sort of money.

The size of your marketing budget depends on the size of your target audience and the return on investment. If you simply throw more money at your marketing, you may be lucky and get more leads and sales, but that will only be if you invest in the marketing channels that are delivering that ROI.

I am sure you can think of many more ways where businesses think that bigger is better, but these are the key marketing faux pars. I hope this helps.

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!

Key tips to improve small business SEO

What is key for small business SEO?

I don’t normally talk about the nitty gritty within my blog, but search engine optimisation (SEO) is a topic I’ve had a number of client conversations about recently and so it seemed like about time

I added it to the curriculum.

SEO is one of those areas of marketing that is seen as a black art. It is portrayed (often by SEO consultancies themselves) as something complicated and mysterious and a marketing tool best left to the experts. I have a different outlook on the subject.

The search engines are in the business of putting the right content in front of people when they search. If they don’t the users will simply migrate to a different search engine. Every think the day will come when Google isn’t dominant and NanoBrowser takes over the world?

So what the best ways to ensure your website is meeting the needs of both the search engines and the searchers? What are the SEO tools you need to use to get found?
To me there are two key things to look at:
1. Content
2. Keywords and their positioning

Content

Let’s quickly go back to the bad old days when the colour of your hat defined whether you were a good guy or a bad one. White hat SEO was following considered best practice whilst black hat was trying to work the system and use underhand techniques such as background coloured content to fool the search engines. Stuffing keywords into the content to the point of making it unreadable was very common and I saw a website selling kitchens only a year or two ago where the word kitchen appeared over 30 times on the homepage alone! Thankfully the search engine algorithms are much smarter now and are looking for relevant content. Google’s Panda update and the move to semantic search with Hummingbird has thankfully stopped keyword stuffing and made the whole exercise of finding good information both easier and more pleasant.

Whilst the guidelines are getting more and more blurry (and woe betide you if you break a rule you didn’t know about), there is still a general rule that says if your content is relevant to the search term and reads well, it will rank higher than other sites where the content isn’t as good.

Keywords

Positioning of keywords is still important in getting you found. Whilst social signals, editorial links, user reviews and a lot of other stuff now impacts the rankings, the keywords still need to be there and be in the right places.

Let’s look at the key places:

  • Page title: Include your most important keyword in the title and keep it under 55 characters.
  • Header tags: H1 and H2 tags tell search engines that the header is important. Including a keyword in these them ensures your keywords get picked up and help your ranking increase.
  • Meta description: You know that bit of text that appears under the search result; that’s the meta description and it’s job is to lure the searcher into clicking. If this content reads poorly or is stuffed with keywords, it’s won’t do its job. Keep it under 155 characters.
  • Alt tags: Google doesn’t see your pictures but its algorithms see the text attached to them. The image name and the alt tags all help to get you further up the search results because Google gives precedence to image results, even if it’s a general search rather than an image search. Although a picture may say a 1000 words, don’t put that many in the alt tags.
  • Content: Obviously! Your content needs to revolve around your keyword—just one keyword, not as many as possible – for each page. Synonyms, phrases, and figures of speech that stand in for your keyword are okay, as long as they mimic natural speech patterns.
  • Content headline: If your keyword isn’t here, you will struggle to get a decent position on the SERP. The keyword here tells search engines that you have some very relevant content and it also improves click-throughs by informing the user of the same.
  • URL: Use your keyword in the URL in a way that it describes the page contents and helps the user in navigation as well.

I’m not guaranteeing that following these guidelines will get you onto page one as it will depend on both the level of competition and a bunch of other issues, but before you start to invest in SEO, make sure you’ve got the basics right. The results you can see in the image below took me about a month to generate, simply by following these simple steps

Additional Steps

If you have WordPress as your content management system, seriously consider Yoast as your SEO plugin. Yoast is very good at guiding you to produce both good SEO results and readable content. You may also consider getting someone to ensure your website isn’t broken, even a little bit. Tools such as SEMrush provide a good report on broken links, unbalanced HTML/content and a number of other issues. If you ask me nicely, I’ll run a report for you!

I hope this helps.

They Didn’t buy… Arghhhh

They didn’t buy. What are you going to do now?

There are three options available to your prospects when they talk to you about buying your product or services:

  • They buy from you
  • They buy from someone else
  • They do nothing

Obviously the first option is your preferred one, but what happens if they decide to do one of the other two? What do you do if someone is foolish enough(!) to not buy from you?

Stage One

In the privacy of your office, curse them for making the wrong decision.

Stage Two

Thank them for considering you and assure them you are here for them in the future, should they wish to discuss things again.

Stage Three

Ask for feedback on why they didn’t buy from you.  This can be vital information for the future, as it a) helps you learn what could have been done better to improve your sales process and b) gives you a good indication of whether there could be an opportunity in the future.

Stage Four

Keep in touch. Too many companies make the mistake of stopping to talk to their prospects just because they didn’t buy. Let me explain why we believe this is the last thing you should do.

After making a decision not to buy from you, there will come a time when a repurchase is needed. Whether this is because they’ve seen the error of their ways, it is time for renewal or they need more, they have (again) three options:

  • To buy again from the supplier they chose last time
  • To buy from you
  • To buy from a third party

The more you have maintained awareness, the more likely you are to be the preferred supplier this time around. After all, they were impressed enough to talk to you last time. With research suggesting as much as 77% of the buying process is done prior to a B2B buyer talking to a salesperson, you did pretty well last time. By keeping in touch and maintaining a relationship, you are really well placed to be shortlisted again.

So what do you do?

Ensure they are on your mailing list, and they have been tagged or segmented to show they are a prospect (they are always going to be a prospect until they unsubscribe) and that you have pitched to them before. By doing this you make sure they only get relevant content.

Content for them is different. It will refer to your previous conversations: as I am sure you’ll remember…

It will build upon content and information you have sent them before: here are some of our latest case studies…

It will keep them up to date: we’ve added functionality/skills/whatever they told you was missing….

Big Data can help

Do you have web analytics that shows you how individuals interact with your website? If not, I recommend CANDDi. Imagine this scenario:

Your web analytics data shows an ex-prospect looked at your website. Perhaps they’d clicked through from your latest email campaign or they had simply searched online for you. Either way, you give them a call to “see how things are going“. A response along the lines of “that’s funny, I was just looking at your website“, followed by “what a coincidence, let’s have coffee and catch up” and you have a real chance to complete what you started last time.