Where do you Start?

image of stepping stones to support small business marketing blogThe majority of my clients are established businesses looking to improve their marketing performance. Every once in a while we work with a new startup and we work as part of a business support organisation called Branduin, where we frequently work with startups and pre-starts. Marketing a new business takes planning from the outset.

Much of the work with do with pre-starts is in the form of clinics and so I thought I’d go back to the very beginning, just for a change.

Where do you start?

There are two reasons for starting a new business:

  1. you want to do something you love doing.
  2. you’ve spotted an opportunity to make money

There are two ways to then work out whether this is a good idea:

  1. you have a product or service and then go looking for a market (usually coming from option one above)
  2. you identify a group of people with a problem and develop a solution to that problem (usually No.2 above)

Which is best?

To us, that depends on what you want from your new business. If you are are primarily after job satisfaction and loving every day, it’s highly likely to be No.1. You could be lucky and simply love doing something that is in high demand, but this is generally where most lifestyle businesses come from.

So where do you start, whether moving from a hobby to a business, or when you believe you’ve spotted an opportunity. The question is: how can I help?

When starting a new business, the answer to this question is the difference between the new business being a success of failure.

Without the answer, how are you going to explain to your target audience why they should then buy from you.

We hope this helps you to think about how to market your new business.


Why Marketing Consistency is Critical

image to support small business marketing blog about marketing consistency

Marketing consistency is critical for a successful campaign.

Let me explain why.

The number of ads we see each is estimated at somewhere between 250 & 360 per day, from exposure to 3-5,000 per day. There is no way we can consume and remember 5,000 ads; we won’t even register that we saw that many. The same research suggests we will register the existence of about half the ads. We will remember about 20% but then only engage with about 5%.

Even if we engage with 10-12 ads per day, that still adds up to at least 3650 per year.

Let’s combine this volume of ads with all the other tasks you, as a business owner, have to do. There is a lot of pressure on your time. It’s the same for most other decision makers that you want to get your messages in front of.

If you want to attract the attention of decision makers within your target audience, you have to combat everything else vying for their attention, so your marketing has to:

  • Be in the places your audience is going to be exposed to it.
  • Be there enough that the target will register its existence.
  • Be registered repeatedly.
  • Grab their attention so that they engage.

All of this has to happen when they are looking for a solution for a problem they have.

For how long?

For products and services that are frequently needed, this means the time period isn’t that long (let’s ignore repeat sales for a moment). However, if you sell a contracted B2B service such as IT services, telecoms or even accountancy, the time period is much longer. Contracts of this type are frequently 12 months or longer, so a sustained programme of activity will be needed. You may not know, at least initially, the contract renewal date is. You are highly unlikely to know whether they are happy with the service being provided.

Even when you do have this information, it’s not a good idea to back away and then only re-engage a little while before the renewal date. Who’s to say they haven’t been looking for an alternative provider and are simply waiting for when they can give notice? If you wait, you may miss the boat.

Have I made it clearer why marketing consistency is so critical?

Just Keep Talking

image to support small business marketing blog post about focusing your marketing on the right people

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?

image to support small business marketing blog about making introductions

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?

image to support small business marketing blog about networking opportunitiesAre 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 the return from your networking opportunities?

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.

All I would add to this is: don’t abuse your networking opportunities. If you get someone’s business card, follow up properly. Don’t just add their name to your mailing list and spam the hell out of them!

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.


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 business 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)

We hope these business tips help.

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


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

pokemon image to support small business marketing blog from SME Needs

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

pokemon image to support small business marketing blog about catching sales leads

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?

Gymspokemon maps image to support small business marketing blog

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 pokemon image to support blog about small business marketingbusiness’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!