Extra £2K for Christmas

What would you do with it?

An extra couple of grand could help out a small business owner with a number of things, especially at Christmas.

Most small businesses have multiple routes to market and 2-3 of them will be really successful.  In addition there will be a couple that broadly break even and then one or two that are right Rotters – they lose money.

The problem is that the success of the high performers often disguises that of the Rotters and they go unchecked.

If you identified the Rotters and stopped spending good money after bad, what could you do with that money? Even if you spent it on your small business marketing, it is bound to generate a far better return.

Answers on a comment form please. As a small business owner, your opinions are important to us.


Visitor Movement

How are viewers moving around your website?

When you build your website, you think you have a logical path through the site. You want visitors to arrive, find what they want and then move to “Contact Us” so they can get in touch with you. Sometimes this isn’t the case and so you need to understand what paths are being taken so you can make changes to get your website visitors through your site.  This is where Google Analytics comes in.  The new version provides a tool called Visitor Flow.  this tool provides a graphic image of the routes through, and out, of your website that your visitors take.

If you’ve got a Google Analytics account, make sure you’re using the New Version. If you’re still on the Old Version, click on New Version just below the top right hand corner. Once you’ve clicked you will see a graphic representation of how your website visitors move through your website.  Starting from their country of origin. The image below shows that the majority of visitors come from the UK but go to a number of different pages.  The visitors from the USA, India, France and others all go to the Home Page.

image of Google Analytics visitor flow, supporting a small business marketing article for SME Needs Ltd

Let’s work our way across the image and explain what it is telling you and how this can help you to improve the performance of your website.

Starting Pages

Below Starting Pages it shows the number of visitors in the measured period (default is the last 30 days).  Next to that is the number of people who left without looking at another page (Bounced as it’s known). The thickness of each line represents the volume of visitors to each page so you can see 120 landed on the Home Page etc.

First Interaction

From each initial landing page you can then see lines moving to the right and joining up with another page name.  In our example 15 people went straight to Contact Details, 11 to the blog etc.  Of the 75 visitors who had that first interaction, 29 then left the website, leaving the rest to make a 2nd interaction.

Further Interactions

On your Google Analytics page you will be able to follow the image right for 12 interactions, giving you a detailed understanding of how visitors are using your website.

What does this all mean?

What does this all mean?  Simple; for your Marketing Director, or senior management, they can see where visitors go and, more importantly, don’t go. Are they following the path you want them to? If not where are they going? Are they clicking on the internal links you have on individual pages? If not, perhaps you need to make them more obvious or you need to improve the content

There is a great deal to be learnt from Google Analytics about the performance of your website and Visitor Flow is just one of the new features that I particularly like.  I hope you will find it useful too

How to qualify your prospects as a small business

Are your properly qualifying your prospects?

As a small business, of course you want to generate as much business as possible. Your marketing is aimed at generating as many prospects as possible. However, not every prospect is going to bring their business your way, and so it is vital that you identify which are worth your time and effort and which are not. Being a small business, you don’t have the time to entertain every single prospect; you have other tasks that need attending to. So how should you go about qualifying your prospects?

Can you provide a solution?

The prospect needs to be clear as to the exact nature of your products or services. Similarly, you need to grasp precisely what it is the prospect requires or how you may be able to provide a solution to a particular problem. There is no point in proceeding any further if the prospect is looking for something you simply do not provide, so it’s best to just walk away at the first possible opportunity. Ensure your website and any marketing material is clear and updated regularly so anyone who comes across it can easily understand what it is you offer.

Do you have the time?

This is something that is often overlooked with qualifying prospects. Yes, it may be very nice to receive an enquiry, but if you don’t have the time to fulfil it, then you need to say so from the outset. If you take on the work but know that you already have more than enough to fill your time, then some or all of it is going to suffer, and you could ultimately lose out on future business. Check with the prospect first what sort of timelines they have and then consider whether your schedule will permit the work. It is believed that most businesses have 15% pipeline close rate efficiency, meaning that time and resources go into something that 85% of the time doesn’t drive revenue – don’t let that 85% include time wasted on prospects.

Does the prospect have the funds?

The last thing you want is to press ahead with the deal only to find that they cannot pay you for the goods or services. One way of ensuring that a prospect is likely to pay is by running a credit check or gaining access to company credit reports. This can be an incredibly useful way of highlighting whether a prospect has a healthy credit history and could save you a considerable amount of time and money in the long run. Company credit reports can let you view important information such as credit rating and limit, 5 year accounts, CCJ information and full director information, as well as links through to debt scores to find which of your outstanding debts are most likely to be paid, and access to any media stories about that particular company.

Are you speaking to the decision maker?

A sure-fire way to waste time and effort is to do your dealing through someone who isn’t the main decision maker in a company. If you only speak to an assistant or someone who is not the decision maker, then you will likely have to wait for them to feed the information back to the relevant people, which takes time and could be misinterpreted. Always ask to speak to someone in authority, such as a Sales Director, and question the sincerity of a request from someone who is not willing to talk to you themselves.

These are just a few points you should consider when qualifying your prospects, and each prospect will have to be handled slightly differently, but they should give you a good basis from which to start.


Excellent Customer Service generates more business

Customer service is a subject where we all have an opinion.  It is a subjective thing we people need, want and expect different levels of customer service.

However we think about it, I am pretty sure that we all agree that excellent customer service is a key factor in generating more business, either from current customers or from new ones.  I wanted to share an example of excellent service I received.

When I launched SME Needs I needed business cards to help me spread the word.  I spoke to the company who had always supplied them to me at my previous place and they admitted that they simply used someone else and I should go direct.  That company is Solopress.

I ordered my cards on the Wednesday and was told to expect them on Friday.  On Tuesday morning I received a phone call from Solopress asking about the cards and whether they met with my satisfaction.  Unfortunately I hadn’t actually received them at this point and so I wasn’t that happy.  They promised to investigate.

At this point, as you can imagine, I wasn’t overly impressed but it was the way they recovered that has led to me talk about them on a frequent basis.

I’m based in Croydon, South London and Solopress is in Southend, Essex. The business cards I’d ordered seemed to have been lost in transit but I needed them for a big networking event the next morning.

I got two phone calls early that afternoon.  The first saying they would deliver them to the networking event in St Pauls for 6.45am; the 2nd asking if they could deliver them, that night, to my house.  I had them in my hands by 10.00pm.  Three weeks later it seems that the transit company found them as I got another delivery.

I am now about to order more cards so what do I think about Solopress?  The initial delivery failure or the way they went well out of their way  to fix the problem?

The order went in yesterday.

The morale of the story – even if your initial effort isn’t as good as it should be, the way you deal with the problem will determine whether you keep the customer.  Great Customer Service will win you customers


Networking: The questions to ask yourself before choosing which groups are best for you

Which networking groups are right for you?

Is it me or has the number of networking groups ballooned recently?  Typing Business Networking in London into Google brought up 38,000,000 results in 0.13 seconds.

The cynic in me says this is because of the number of people out there being made redundant and therefore looking for self-employed work or another job and the networking groups can take annual fees off them with the vague promise of helping their achieve this goal.

The optimist in me says this is a great way to meet new people, to help them and to find the work/jobs you are looking for.

As it is entirely possible to network morning, noon and night, how do you protect your wallet, waistline and sanity by choosing the right groups for the way you like to network?  Here’s a few questions to ask yourself and shorten the list considerably:

  1. Are you an early bird or a night owl?  Early birds may have to be at the meeting for 6.30am whereas the night owls can still be there at 11.00pm.  Choose which end of the candle to burn because not many people can burn both ends all the time
  2. Do you want to subscribe or PAYG? Many of the formal organisations require membership and annual fees to be paid – and then may kick you out if you miss a few meetings whereas others simply ask you to pay when you come along
  3. Do you prefer to meet the same people each time or a set of new possible connections? Getting to know and trust people usually improves your chances of generating quality referrals
  4. Are you a structured networker or a relaxed “go with the flow” type person? A fixed formula works for some people but others don’t like to be told what to do and when during a networking event.

If networking is part of your marketing strategy, you want it to deliver new sales.  You therefore need to make sure the networking events you go to are right for you. This blog article isn’t designed to tell you which one(s) to attend, but simply to help you shorten the list to be considered.

I hope it helps

Five great sources of market information

When looking to expand your business, it’s vital that you research the market and the opportunity.  If you don’t there is a chance that your business expansion plans don’t deliver the business growth you are looking for.  The question is: where do you go to understand the size of the opportunity?

Here are five really good sources of quantitative information:

1. The Office Of National Statistics

Want to know about the businesses in your county, borough or town; look no further. ONS will provide information by industry, by size, by age and a whole lot more.

2. LinkedIn Search

How many, for example, solicitors are there within 10 miles of your office? Don’t know – used LinkedIn to find out.  With over 7 million people in the UK on LinkedIn and 141,842 UK companies  it is a great source.  Want to know if they are in private practice or within a commercial organisation – simple use another filter.

Just in case you wanted to know, there are 5,404 solicitors within 10 miles of my postcode.

3. CreditSafe

Is your prospective client creditworthy? How much money did they make/lose last year? You can find out here.  There are plenty of other similar sites out there but this is one of the best.  It’s a paid for service but it will tell you what you want to know about your clients and prospects.

4. Companies House

Don’t want to subscribe to an annual service – go PAYG instead at Companies House. Annual Reports direct from Companies House are just £1 each.

5. Facebook Ads

You don’t need to spend any money to get numbers from Facebook.  With 35 million UK adults regularly using Facebook where’s better to get information about the consumer market?

Set up a Facebook Ads account (no charge) and use the plethora of filters to understand how big your target market is. If you think of all the information you put into Facebook, that’s the number of filters you can apply to really target your search.


The 6 things Potential Buyers are looking for before they will consider buying from you

There are 100’s, if not 1,000’s, of potential buyers of your products/services out there right now and you want them to buy from you.  This is what they are looking for BEFORE they talk to Sales.

  1. Visibility – fairly obvious but if you’re not visible to them, they cannot buy from you.  They will often look to see if they can find you in other ways.  If they find you on Google, are you on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook etc.?
  2. Cleanliness – I don’t mean proof that you use a lot of soap.  What I mean is a clean website; one that is easy to read, to understand and to navigate to find the information they are looking for.
  3. Headlines – Newspapers tell millions of copies based on the headline that day, with some of them employing dedicated headline writers.  When you’re found through an internet search your landing page(s) have seconds to grab their attention or they simply bounce.
  4. Pain Relief – Buyers rarely go shopping if they are happy with what they’ve got.  Does your marketing material make them believe your solution will make their life easier or better?
  5. Evidence – You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk? Evidence, in the form of case studies, testimonials, published articles etc. develop confidence in the mind of the buyer and draw them towards you.
  6. Experience – Even new companies have experience of delivering the product or service they sell and they’re usually more passionate about it too.  After all, how many people do you know who started up a company to do something they hate?  Buyers want to know that you know what you’re doing so talk about your previous experiences to increase their confidence in you.

70% of the buying process is complete before anyone talks to Sales.  Are you helping people to make the right decision and buy from you?



Do People still buy People?

The old adage is that people buy people and that decisions are often made within seconds of the start of a meeting.  Is this still the case?

Absolutely but I believe there is a condition attached now:  People buy people with demonstrable experience.

I spoke about this a couple of weeks ago when talking about a piece of website review work I was doing with a client. The discussion was about what pages were important on their website and I argued that evidence (their What We Do pages) had some of the highest traffic levels of any part of the site.  Google Analytics helped me to prove this…. but I digress slightly.

In order for you to get the opportunity to get in front of someone and help them buy your services, your marketing material needs to persuade them to get in touch.

Let’s assume that you are looking for IT support and you do a Google search.  Two of the top four have case studies that can be easily seen and read; the other two either don’t have them or I couldn’t find them.  If they are not prepared to talk about what they have delivered to their clients, would you trust them to be able to deliver what you need?

It’s the same whether you are looking for a good restaurant, for a web designer or an accountant. Reading positive comments and how they have helped their customers makes you much more likely to pick up the phone, so please make sure your website and marketing material demonstrates how you can help new customers.

If you would like me to review your evidence, give me a call on 07770 970 557 of complete the form below and I will call you. As your Virtual Marketing Director, I’m sure we can help you improve your small business marketing performance.

[contact-form 1 “Contact form 1”]

Which routes to market work best for you?

Your marketing budget is precious and you need to ensure it provides a great return on investment for you.  When was the last time you reviewed the performance of each route to market? Do you know which routes to market work best?

You will be using a number of different routes to market with, potentially, multiple campaigns running. Some of them will produce great results and you will be really busy dealing with the sales enquiries and the resulting work so will you have time to monitor the performance of your other marketing activities?

If some of your marketing is not delivering a good ROI, why keep it going?  The money, or time, you use on this campaign can be used for two alternatives:

  • improving your bottom line.  Money not spent goes straight back into your profits
  • Generating more money.  Why not spend it on increasing the marketing activity that is generating new business

If you haven’t recently reviewed the performance of each marketing campaign, you could have been wasting money for quite some time. It’s vital you know your best routes to market. Don’t delay any longer.

How to find a credible LinkedIn© (and other social media) trainer

If you wanted to find a LinkedIn© expert to develop your expertise how would you do it? Ask your friends? Do a quick Google search (and find over 25 million LinkedIn© trainers)? Or search LinkedIn?

Ok, you have lots of options but how do you find a good one? With LinkedIn© it is easy …

  • Review their profile; does it look good, better than the others?
  • Does their personal profile have recommendations from people and how many?
  • Do they have a company profile or company page?
  • Do they have a full company page with video, banners and recommendations on LinkedIn?
  • Do their recommendations read well? From people like you?
  • Does their web page look and feel good to you?
  • Do they know their subject? Does it have the right numbers on it for total users and accurate statistics?
  • Do they only do the platform you want to learn about?
  • Do they offer to do LinkedIn© for you? How? How can they know the people you know?
  • Does their course content cover what you need? Does it sound sensible to you? For example if many say half a day and someone says an hour ask why.
  • Do they want to look good or make you look good?

Then talk to them, yes old fashioned I know, but talk to them, are they human, do they come across well and could you work with them?

It’s amazing how many “social media experts” follow each other to see what they do on LinkedIn© and Twitter, if they are an expert why follow each other? Is it to get material they can use or simply to keep an eye on the competition?

If you want an expert on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter I will happily introduce you to some really good people.