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Troy Emmerson

Is your shop window right?

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance

Your customers buy from you because they like what you have to offer and they see how it can help them. But they can only buy if they have entered your “shop”. That doesn’t mean you have to have premises on the high street or the local shopping centre. Your website is just as much a shop window as a physical premise. Let’s look at why this is important and how you can make sure your shop window entices people in, maximising the chance that they buy from you.

Why a good shop window is vital

There are three core reasons why it is vital that your shop window or website is right:

  1. Wasted time and money

Driving traffic to your website takes time, effort and, often, money.  Using all this resource only for people to quickly leave is a waste. Here’s some examples we’ve come across over the years:

92% bounce rate

A kitchen company asked us to look at their Google Ads account as it “wasn’t working”.  Their ads had a 17% click-through rate (CTR) so they were definitely working, but the site’s content was so bad they had a 92% bounce rate (in old Google Analytics terminology)

£5k a month

An appliances business was spending £5K a month on Google Ads, sending traffic to their site. But the site wasn’t right, so much of this investment was wasted.

0.2% conversion rate

Great social media and natural SEO drives a lot of traffic to another site we’ve seen, but the usability of the site meant that people were looking but not buying.

These are just three examples of how you can invest time, effort and money in your marketing, only for it to fail at a critical point – the “shop window”

  1. Poor first impression

People make up their minds about something quickly. First impressions count. It takes less than 3 seconds for people to get that first impression and it takes a lot of effort to make them change their minds. There’s some great stats about website first impressions here.

  1. Lost opportunities

How many sales opportunities are you losing because your website isn’t great?  Your website is there purely to generate new business for you, so if that isn’t happening, what do you do?

How to improve

  1. Make it about them

Let’s for a moment put aside the design element.  The headline and all the content (except the About Us page) should be focused on the reader and not on you.

Content is about how you help, not what you do

Putting it bluntly, nobody cares what you do. They do, however, care about how you can help them. The content needs to be about the issues you know they face and what you can do to help them. What is the end result they are looking for? Make sure your content talks about that.

Plenty of evidence you can deliver

You have lots of stories about how you’ve helped your clients in the past. You wouldn’t be in business if you hadn’t.  Even if you are a brand new business, chances are you’ve got stories from the past where you’ve helped people.  It is rare for someone to start a business they have no experience in, so use that experience and your stories to prove you can deliver on your promises. You can see more about how to effectively use your stories here.

Multiple ways to get in touch

Many people think that if they pick up the phone, you will start trying to sell to them straight away. Even if that isn’t the case, that’s what they believe, so give your audience multiple ways to get in touch with you and get the information they want initially.

  • Brochures they can download (may be gated, may not)
  • Telephone numbers – maybe a WhatsApp alternative
  • Email addresses
  • Appointment booking
  • Contact Forms

This is about what your prospects want – not what you want.  The more you restrict their ability to get in touch in the way they wish to, the more likely that person is to go elsewhere.

If you’re not getting the leads you want from your website, stop spending time and money sending people there. Put your effort into working out what needs to be done to make your website more effective.

If you need some help, call us on 020 8634 5911 or use any of the other contact methods that you can see here.

How to make 2024 your best year yet

By Marketing Plan, Strategic Planning

There’s just a month to go until the year changes from ’23 to ’24 and, if you want next year to be an improvement on this one, it’s time to start planning. So, here are our 12 top tips to help you make 2024 your best year yet

Commit time to working on the business

As the owner of a small business, it is easy to get lost in the business. There’s always something you need to do for your clients, your prospects or your team. Even more so if your business is just you. However, if you don’t spend time working on the fundamentals, you’ll struggle to make 2024 any different from previous years.

Therefore, it’s essential to schedule regular time into your diary to focus on the business as a whole. Ideally this time should be away from your day-to-day responsibilities, or at least away from your phone and laptop. Remove the distractions and you’ll use your time more effectively.

Know where you are now

For 2024 to become your best year ever you need to be clear on a few things. What do you have to achieve? How is your business performing in 2023? Was that better or worse than 2022?

Go through your accounts and your CRM to get the information and then set targets for 2024 for…

  • Revenue
  • Profit
  • of leads and conversion rate
  • of clients

These are just some of the measures you can use for your targets, but you need to choose what will work best for you.

Focus on your Ideal Clients

Every business has clients they like working with and clients they don’t. We all work better and deliver better results for the clients we like (and who pay their invoices), so focus on attracting more of the clients you like.

Develop personas for these clients:

  • Who are they?
  • What is important to them?
  • How can you help them?
  • What does success look like?
  • How can you get in front of them?

If your marketing is focused on the types of clients you like working for, it will attract more of them.

Get your messaging right – it’s not about you

Building on the previous point and being blunt: Nobody cares what you do as a business. They care about how YOU can HELP THEM. If your marketing starts with the word “we” you’re heading in the wrong direction.

Your marketing must demonstrate that you understand their pains, needs and issues – and that you can deliver a solution.

Quick tests:

  • Does your website’s home page talk about your business or your target audience?
  • Is the first thing in your website menu the About Us page?
  • Does the phrase “leading provider of…” appear anywhere on your website or marketing collateral?

If you say, “yes” to any of these (unless you can prove you’re the leading provider), you’re going to alienate people you can help.

Schedule marketing into your diary

We’ve talked about the feast and famine cycle in previous articles (see one of them here) because it can happen so easily. You do some marketing, sell some stuff and then get your heads down delivering what you’ve sold. While you’re delivering no marketing is done and then you wonder why you have no more leads and sales opportunities.

So, schedule time into your diary to ensure your marketing happens. Even if you have internal marketing staff or you use someone like us, you still need to dedicate time to marketing. Outsourced providers will need things from you, such as checking new content is absolutely correct or to discuss upcoming campaigns. So will your internal team. Don’t remove this time. You wouldn’t move a sales/client meeting, so don’t move your marketing time. It’s just as important as a sales meeting.

Make more noise

If you’re converting a decent percentage of your leads, but you want to grow your business more than last year, you need to generate more leads. That means either improving your marketing performance or doing more. If you haven’t measured your marketing performance recently, there’s a great tool here.

More marketing will require a bigger investment (in time or money). However, when it leads to more growth, it’s all good.

Talk to more people

Most small businesses get a big percentage of their leads through referrals. Having a stronger network is highly likely to generate more referrals and introductions for you. BUT that doesn’t simply mean more connections on LinkedIn. This only works with a quality network, rarely with a quantity network (see point 7 here).

And, with the acceptance of Zoom/Teams since the pandemic, there’s no reason not to regularly talk to people so you can maintain and grow your network.

Respond fast

When you get a lead through your website (or other online tools), get in touch with them as fast as you can. Pick up the phone and call them within 10 minutes and you have a far better chance of converting. More stats on lead response times can be found here.

Make sure that your Contact Forms don’t go into your Junk folder. If you aren’t the lead sales person in your company, make sure that person always has their email open. If your website is integrated into your CRM, can you set up a task that tells people a new lead has come in?

Be consistent

Marketing consistency is about frequency and quality. Keeping a regular flow of good quality marketing going out the door does three things:

  • Maintains and increases brand awareness
  • Proves you know what you are talking about
  • Ensures your brand will be remembered when someone has a need for your services/product

If you do find yourself in a quiet period, use the time to create marketing content, collateral and campaigns, but don’t send it all out over a short period of time. Spread it out, so that you maintain consistency and take the pressure off when you’re busy.

Test

Try new things. Perhaps try marketing channels that you’ve not used before. Maybe send campaigns out at different times to normal. You may be getting good results now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better results by doing something different.

Keep a log of what you test, so that you know what works and what doesn’t.

Measure

The only way you’ll know if 2024 looks likely to be the best year ever is to keep measuring your performance. Your accounts will tell you whether the financial aspect is on target, but to achieve that side, you need the lead flow.

  • Are you getting enough leads?
  • Are they converting consistently?
  • Are they your target audience?
  • What marketing is most effective?

Keeping an eye on the numbers as you go through the year will allow you to adapt things if needed

Get help

As your business grows, the demands on your time will only increase. To maintain the quality all around the business, you’ll need support in the right places. If you’re a customer delivery expert, bring in back office help (marketing, accounts, admin etc.), so there are no issues in those areas. If you’re better in marketing/sales, perhaps an Operations person is what you need.

Remember, without this help things will suffer. Either your client delivery work will, leading to unhappy clients. Or your marketing will, which stops the lead flow and the growth you want.

Start the process now…

So, now is the time to act if you really want 2024 to be your best year so far. Start by working out what you want and what needs to happen to get you there. And, if we can help, call us on 020 8634 5911 or get in touch here.

If you would like to discuss your marketing budgets and plans, give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Person using a laptop image to support article about getting potential clients back to your website

7 ways to get potential clients back to your website

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Measure

graph of returning visitors to support article about getting potential clients back to your websiteBecause getting them back increases the likelihood of them buying from you

Whatever way people move from simply knowing who you are to becoming potential clients, they will be spending time on your website. Much of the time, they are checking you out; making themselves comfortable that you will be able to help them. Getting potential clients to return to your website will help them to become comfortable and start talking with you. Here’s 7 ways to get potential clients. back to your website…

How many people are returning to your website?find your returning visitors stats at Google Analytics

Before you start work on this, you need to know how many potential clients are actually returning to your site. After all, it may not be an issue for you. If you don’t know, Google Analytics is your friend. To find your stats:

  1. Go to Google Analytics – click here
  2. Go to Reports
  3. Click on Retention (highlighted blue in the image here)

1. Retargeting ads

You will have regularly seen adverts for something you’ve been looking at online. Those adverts are designed to get you back to their site and to buy the product. You can do the same to people who visit your site.  

Google Ads and Facebook Ads are two key players in this area. You will need to set up the account(s) and you do pay a small amount per returning visit. Depending on how competitive your industry sector is, this cost per click (CPC) can be pennies, up to £1 or more. But it will be much less than Google Ads to get them to your site for the first time.

2. Email marketing

Email marketing is a highly effective way to get people back to your website. If they have given you their email address, make sure you are emailing to share latest content regularly. 

Depending on what information you have collected, email campaigns can be: 

  • New case studies, particularly for people in their industry sector. 
  • New products or services that you now provide. 
  • New articles that continue to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge.  

The wonderful thing about email marketing is that everything is trackable: 

  • You can see who is opening and clicking on what campaigns 
  • You can see the contacts who are highly engaged, and those who never open your emails
  • Associated applications can even show you what individual contacts do after they’ve clicked from your email campaign. 

If you have a telesales function within the business, assigned to follow up your marketing campaigns, this information helps them to call the right people. Those who have engaged should be the first people called.  

Sending links to special offers or exclusive content is a fantastic way to really encourage people back to your website.  

3. Consistent engaging content

Regularly adding high-quality content to your website can quickly get people coming back to your website. Once people have visited a few times, they get used to expecting useful information and content, so they return regularly to consume that content. 

That content can be in the form of blogs, white papers, or videos – whichever format your target audience prefers. By posting useful content, you establish yourself as an authority, increasing your Domain Authority score and your search engine rankings.  

4. Social media promotion

Your choice of social media platforms is determined by your target audiences. Whichever platform you use, social media is a great place to share new, and evergreen, content. New articles, case studies and promotions are all great outbound content. But don’t forget that a good chunk of your website visits can come from when you have responded. That can either be to people who have replied to your original post, or when you have commented on someone else’s original post. Social media is not somewhere to shout ‘Buy Me!’ – but that is another article… 

5. Guest Blogs

High quality content that you post on other websites generates both quality inbound links (good for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)) and more traffic. The fact that the other site has agreed to post the content is a good sign for readers. For people who have seen your site before, it is a further reminder that they can get valuable information (and good services) from your business. 

6. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Optimising your website for search engines will raise you up the search engine results, maximising the chances of people seeing your site again, getting them back to you and buying. Tools such as Yoast will help you get the on-site SEO right, ensuring you have: 

  • Good meta descriptions that tell people what they will find on your page. 
  • Catchy SEO titles to grab peoples’ attention as they scroll looking for answers to their search query. 
  • Internal and outbound links that guide people around your site and to places they can find good supporting information.  
  • That word counts are sufficient to give readers a good idea of what your business is about. 
  • And much more.

There are plenty of other tools on the market for SEO. We use SEMrush to further improve SEO performance for our clients’ websites because most of them are WordPress sites.  

7. Make a great first impression

Perhaps this should have been the first way, but hey ho… A great first impression will get people coming back for more. If they like what they see and read first time, chances are they will come back again, particularly if they ‘bump’ into your brand in other ways. 

To get people back to your website, your marketing needs to be consistent, and your brand needs to be seen regularly in separate locations online, and off.  

Of course, if you need some help with this, get in touch. You can call us on 020 8634 5911 or complete the form here and we’ll call you back. 

image of a laptop and note book to support an article about the impact of lifetime customer value on your marketing budget

Are you considering Lifetime Customer Value?

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

In the fiercely competitive landscape of the UK small business market, effective allocation of marketing budgets is crucial for sustainable growth and success. While there are various factors to consider when you are planning marketing budgets, one vital aspect that often gets overlooked is the concept of Lifetime Customer Value (LCV). Understanding the LCV of your clients is essential for making informed decisions about:

  • marketing investments
  • maximising profitability, and
  • building long-term relationships with your target audience.

This article will look at why you need to consider LCV when considering your marketing budget.

Defining Lifetime Customer Value

Lifetime Customer Value refers to the projected revenue generated from a client throughout their entire relationship with a business. Instead of focusing solely on individual transactions the first-year value, LCV is about the total value a client brings over time. Think about your clients’ spend patterns:

  • How frequently do they spend with you?
  • What is the average value?
  • Over how many years do your clients keep spending with you?

By considering these factors, you can make better decisions regarding budgets going forward.

The Importance of Lifetime Customer Value

Long-Term Profitability

Understanding the LCV helps you identify high-value clients and tailor marketing efforts to acquire, retain and nurture more high value clients. By focusing on client retention, you can extend client lifespan, increase purchase frequency, and maximise revenue per client. All of which increase profitability for your business.

Efficient Resource Allocation

Effective marketing budgeting comes from allocating resources where they will have most impact. When you look at where and how to invest your marketing budget, lifetime customer value information will help guide your choices. Here’s an example:

A few years ago, we used Google Adwords (now Google Ads) as a core marketing tool. Starting on just £10 a day, and slowly increasing spend, we spent about £6,000 in the first year, generating first year revenues of about £20,000. Not bad, but not great. We knew that this small business kept its clients and so continued to use this channel. Over a 5-year period, we spent £129,000, but clients generated from this investment spent over £4.2 million, and rising.

Instead of blindly spreading resources across various channels, you can concentrate your efforts on marketing activities that yield the highest returns, improving marketing ROI.

Enhanced Client Acquisition Strategies

Knowing the LCV of your existing clients can guide your marketing. If you could confidently expect a new client to spend £100,000 over the next five years, how much would you spend on acquiring that client? If you based your marketing investment on the first-year spend (call it £20k), you are likely to make different investment decisions.

Prioritising Client Loyalty

A higher LCV often indicates a stronger client relationship and loyalty. Identifying your high LCV clients and investing in account management activities that foster loyalty contributes to your bottom line. These clients also serve as brand advocates, spreading the word for you and generating more sales opportunities.

Strategies to Increase Lifetime Customer Value

Improve Client Experience

The happier your clients are, the more they will spend over time. Providing exceptional service, personalised interactions, and timely support can foster stronger relationships and encourage your clients to remain loyal for an extended period.

Implement Effective Client Retention Programmes

What can you do to keep your clients longer? Depending on your sector, you may consider loyalty programmes, exclusive offers or VIP memberships. These programmes not only increase client satisfaction but also encourage repeat business, further increasing LCV.

Upselling and Cross-selling

Most of your clients can buy more from you. We never see situations where every client has bought every product/service a small business sells. Your current clients already know and trust you, so offering complementary products/services will both increase their LCV and, often, make it harder for them to move away from you. There’s a great article about how to do this here.

Conclusion

Lifetime Customer Value plays a critical role in guiding marketing budget decisions for small businesses in the UK. Making decisions based on individual purchases or first year revenues often mean that you are missing opportunities and not maximising growth.

If you would like to talk more about your marketing performance, call us on 020 8634 5911 or book a meeting here.

two small business owners working together on a laptop

Exploring Ways Small Businesses are Wasting Leads

By Small Business Marketing

Are you wasting leads?

In today’s highly competitive business landscape, lead generation is a vital aspect of your small business’ success. However, many small businesses struggle with converting leads into loyal customers due to various inefficiencies and wasteful practices. In this article, we will look at the ways you may be wasting leads and what you can do about it.

1. Not capturing them in the first place

If you make it difficult for prospects to get in touch with your business, you cannot be surprised if they go elsewhere.

If your website doesn’t have a contact form, an email address and a phone number, you may be losing leads to your competitors. Some people want to talk now, whilst others are happy to wait and little while.

If you are using contact forms, how are they getting to you? Have you checked they’re not being grabbed by your spam filters, or going into Junk folders?

Have you connected your CRM to your contact forms, assuming you use a CRM. If you are struggling to find a simple to use CRM, click here to find out more about the one we use.

2. Not responding quickly

When a new lead gets in touch, they want to hear from you. But they have probably contacted some of your competitors too! If you leave that lead unattended, you’re giving your competitors the opportunity to make a great first impression and take the lead.

Statistics show responding within 10 minutes gives you a 92% chance of getting hold of them and doubles your chance of closing the deal. 35-50% of sales are closed by the first person to respond.

The longer you take to get in touch to respond, the less likely you are to close the sale.

Your options include:

  • Get a colleague to call instead of you, if you really are too busy.
  • Outsource initial calls to a Virtual Assistant or calling service. They can collect information you need and provide basic information to the prospect.
  • At the absolute least, have an automated email go out to people.

Whilst there may be a cost implication to these, it will easily be paid for with increased conversion rates.

3. Lack of Lead Qualification

As a small business owner, you and your sales team only have so much time available. Qualifying your leads, to remove the ones you are unlikely to close (or don’t want), frees up time to concentrate on the others.

You should develop a lead qualification process that helps identify high-value leads. Think about geography, industry sector, company size. Look at who is making the enquiry – are they likely to be at least an influencer, and ideally the decision maker?

4. Pushing too hard

New leads are great. They’re exciting, they’re potential growth for your business. You want the lead to become a client quickly. But that may be too fast for the lead. Their timetable is unlikely to match your’s, and pushing them to match yours is usually a mistake. There may be great reasons why they should buy sooner rather than later (offers expiring, HMRC deadlines, etc.) but if you push too hard, they are likely to push you away too.

If they do seem to be slowing down, talk to them. Find out if there are reasons for the delay. Being understanding of their situation develops a better relationship and will ultimately help in the long run.

5. Ineffective Lead Nurturing

Moving your leads through your sales pipeline is important. Just because they have shown some interest (downloaded a white paper, for example) doesn’t mean they are ready to buy from you. Some people will move quickly and become a sales lead soon. Others will take their time as they learn to trust you and see the value you deliver. Moving them too quickly, or forgetting to move them at all, is another way to waste leads. When you try to move them quickly, they are likely to push you away (see above). When you aren’t nurturing, they are really likely to forget about you.

Marketing, particularly nurturing, is about consistency. Make sure you are regularly communicating with them. At the top of the funnel, this is most likely to be email campaigns and social media. Further down, it may be sharing case studies or other white papers.

Failure to nurture leads properly is another significant contributor to lead wastage. Many small businesses overlook the importance of cultivating relationships with leads over time. Instead, they resort to immediate sales pitches or neglect leads that are not yet ready to make a purchase.

6. Lack of Follow-Up and Persistence

Most salespeople (92%) only follow up 4 times. 44% only follow up once! After that, the followups drop off dramatically. According to Hubspot 80% of prospects say no 4 times before saying yes. Most of these Nos are not “leave me alone”. They are “not yets”. People are busy and what they are considering buying from you may not be at the top of the Priority List right now.

Make use of the Tasks or Reminders function within your CRM to ensure you keep following up. If you don’t have a CRM, use your Outlook calendar or even a paper diary to ensure you keep in touch.

7. Taking No for an answer

At that moment in time when a prospect decides, there are only three things they can do:

  1. Buy from you
  2. Buy from someone else
  3. Not buy at all

Let’s skip point 1 for now (article on lifetime value coming soon) as that isn’t a wasted lead. Just because they have said no, doesn’t mean that it is no forever.

There is more detail on a previous article on what to do here, but the short version is keep talking to them. Your prospects may come back in the future, but they won’t if you take no for an answer and stop talking to them.

Conclusion

As a small business owner/director, you should look at all of the above and see how many of these relate to leads you’ve had over the last few years. By following a few basic rules, you can stop wasting leads and grow your business faster than ever before.

two small business owners shaking hands

The three ways to generate more leads

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

If you want more leads for your small business, a Google search will provide 672 million search results to help you. Going through that little lot will take some time. At SME Needs we like to keep things simple for small business owners, so we believe there are just three ways to generate more leads…

1. Do better work for your clients

The better the work you deliver for your clients, the happy they will be. The happier they are, the more they will talk about you to others. At least that is the theory. In reality, you’re probably already doing great work. It’s just that the client hasn’t recognised just how good that work is. Making sure they realise just what you’re doing will help.

For example, if you’re an IT services business, are you telling your client how many tickets you responded to this month, or are you telling them how much time you gave them back?

The better your clients understand how you are helping them, the more they will say nice things to others about you, especially when you ask them to!

2. Build better relationships with your clients

Particularly in the small business world, people like to do business with people they know, like and trust. You may have clients where you have a very transactional relationship. One where there is very little conversation taking place. When this is the case, you run the risk of being replaced by someone who either:

  • Offers the same at a lower price
  • Develops a better relationship with your client

Relationships help you generate more leads because

  • Your clients will talk about you more (see above)
  • They are more likely to buy other products/services from you
  • You are better protected from losing the client.
  • Your clients will be happier to do case studies, testimonials and reviews for you< helping others decide to talk to you.

3. Improve your marketing performance

Know what is working

Improving your marketing performance starts with knowing how your marketing is performing now. If you don’t currently know, click here to download a marketing ROI calculator. Knowing what is, and isn’t, working gives you a benchmark to work from and identifies where you can improve.

Some of that improvement will come from stopping what isn’t working and investing that time/budget into what you know is working. Some of that improvement comes from learning more and doing things better, but it starts with knowing.

Say the right things

The 2nd step in improving your marketing is saying the right thing. If your marketing is all about you and what you do, you’re losing out on leads. If your marketing is all about your clients, how you help and what success looks like, you will generate more leads for your small business.

Think about either you last product you bought from a salesperson. Did they talk about them, or talk about you? Did they talk about what they do, or how your business will benefit?

Make a plan

The third stage in improving your marketing is to make a plan. The old adage of failing to plan is still so very true. A well-developed marketing plan will maximise your chances of generating the leads you are looking for.

Implement the plan

The fourth stage is to do what you have scheduled in that plan. There’s no point in having the plan if you aren’t going to do it. You may need help, either to do some of the things in your marketing plan, or in the form of someone keeping you on track. The only problem comes a little way through the implementation of your plan, when you have sold some stuff and are busy delivering what you’ve sold. Do you still have time to keep to the plan? They are plenty of people out there who can help you at that point (see more about how we can help here).

If you can do all three, the leads you are looking for will flow in, but just doing one of them will improve the number of leads you generate over time.

If you need a hand with any of these, call us on 020 8634 5911 or contact us here.

Man of colour pointing at you to get you to stop talking about you in your small business marketing

Stop talking about you

By Customer Understanding

The easiest topic in the world for you to talk about is you. Let’s be honest, nobody knows you better than you. You are the expert on you. It’s the same with your business. You know why you set up your business and you know, intimately, what you do.  That makes it a very easy thing to talk about in your marketing. Unfortunately, it is one of the worst things for you to talk about in your marketing. This article looks at why you need to stop talking about you and what you should do instead.

Five reasons to stop talking about you

1. Nobody Cares!

Slightly harsh, but relatively accurate. People will listen to you but they then make assumptions and have pre-conceived ideas about what a marketing consultant/software developer/accountant/[insert what you do] does. If you want to grab their attention, you need to talk about them!

2. It wastes time

Talking about you, especially when you get into the nitty gritty of how, is burning time. Imagine you’re at a speed networking event. You have a minute to grab their attention and get them to want to talk to you again in the future. If you talk about what you do, you’re wasting time because you aren’t talking about what they want to hear.

3. It puts images in people’s heads

People have pre-conceived ideas about what you do. Most people think that an accountant lives and dies next to a calculator or spreadsheet. Most of the time, this image in their head is completely wrong, but it happens, and it is negatively impacting your opportunity to generate a connection or prospect.

4. Do you really understand your clients’ needs?

If you’re talking about your business, you run the risk of people thinking you don’t understand them. Buying from a new supplier is always a risk and if your prospects start to think that you don’t understand them, the level of perceived risk in their minds is going up and not down. You can find out more about perceived risk, and what to do about it, here.

5. You don’t stand out

There are now very few businesses that do something completely unique. There are lots of small businesses in your area that do what you do. If you talk about what you do, you’re doing the same thing as most others. You’re not standing out as different to the crowd (there’s an article here about the importance of being different). When people start looking for a new supplier of what you do, they will develop a shortlist. Normally they shortlist the people who are different from the others and are showing that they understand them.

If you don’t stand out, you run the risk of rarely being on the shortlists.

5 things you need to do:

1. Talk to them

Talking to them, particularly online, means writing in the 2nd person. If you were standing in front of them, you would talk in the 2nd person. As people rarely share computer screens today, why would you not talk to them in the same way?

2. Show you understand them

When you talk about their needs and issues, you show that you recognise what they face and what they need. This grabs their attention and keeps them engaged with your brand. Matching what you do with their needs and issues further proves that you understand them.

3. Talk about success

The classic line is “people don’t buy a ¼ inch drill, they buy a ¼ inch hole”. They buy the drill bit to get what they want – the hole. People want the result, so you should talk about the result.

4. Tell stories

Everyone loves a story. We all grew up consuming stories. Starting with people reading them to us, going through reading books and watching films. You can vividly remember your favourite stories. When people are looking for a solution to a problem they have, they will remember stories you tell them much more than a description of what you do. Make the stories about their peers (so they resonate and they recognise themselves) to make them even more effective.

5. Provide evidence

Talking about the person and how what you do helps them, along with what success looks like, is going to move you much closer to closing the sale. Proof that you can deliver on your promises is going to get you even closer. Evidence, in the form of case studies, testimonials and reviews, reduces risk in the mind of your prospect and helps them make the decision to use you.

Next steps

Take a look at your marketing, particularly your website and answer these questions:

  1. Does the first sentence talk about you or your target audience?
  2. Use this test to see if your website pages are more about you or about your target audience.
  3. Is your marketing written in the 2nd person (you) or the 3rd person (he/she/they)?
  4. Do you have a set of stories you can tell people that demonstrate how you help your target audience?
  5. Is there an evidence set easily found on your website and/or social media?

If your answers show you are talking about your business, rather than to and about your target audience, you need to take action. If you would like to talk to us about how we can help you, click here or call us on 020 8634 5911.

inbound or outbound marketing strategy - which is best for small businesses

What is the right marketing strategy for your small business?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

inbound or outbound marketing strategy - which is best for small businesses

Get it right and your company will sky-rocket

When we searched marketing strategies for small businesses, every article on Google’s first page actually talked about marketing tactics – the tools you can use – rather than the marketing strategies small businesses can use. Here’s our thoughts on how to choose the right marketing strategy for your small business.

What is a marketing strategy?

Oxford Dictionaries define a marketing strategy as “a plan of action designed to promote and sell a product or service.” 

Your marketing strategy is a long-term plan of action, not something that will start working within days. 

What is in a marketing strategy?

A small business (indeed any business) marketing strategy has six key components: 

  1. The product – what are you actually selling?
  2. Target audience – who are you selling your product to? 
  3. Targets – how much do you want to sell, in unit or monetary terms and time? 
  4. Competitors – who are you competing against? 
  5. Marketing activities – what marketing are you going to do? 
  6. Measurement – what are you measuring as KPIs? 

Your marketing strategy options

At the very highest level, there are just two marketing strategies: 

1. Inbound marketing strategy

An inbound marketing strategy is designed to get your target audience to come to you – the enquiries/purchases are inbound. Whilst your marketing activity is based around the needs and wants of your target audience, you have no real control of the type of enquiries that come into your small business.  

Inbound marketing is most commonly used for high volume sales, usually low value too. 

Key components of an inbound strategy include SEO, PPC and content generation. 

2. Outbound marketing strategy

This is where you identify the specific clients you want to work with and focus on getting in and generating interest and a live sales opportunity. Most often used in high value, usually B2B, markets. Outbound marketing takes longer, from starting the strategy to signing the client. The acquisition costs will be higher too, but that will be balanced against higher contract values and lifetime value. 

Key components of an outbound marketing strategy are email, trade shows, LinkedIn and content written specifically for the target. 

Most small businesses use a combination of the two. 

How to choose the right marketing strategy for your small business

It starts with your target audience

The choice of marketing strategy starts with who your target audience(s) is/are. If the sale is: 

  • Complex 
  • Involves multiple people inputting into the buying decision 
  • Involves high levels of perceived risk  

you are most likely to use an outbound marketing strategy. One that can go right down to different marketing activities for each individual target prospect.  

If you are selling a product where: 

  • Most, if not all, of the buying decision can be made by the client prior to any active engagement with you. 
  • The purchase is straightforward, perhaps even completed online, 
  • There is a low level of perceived risk 
  • Your business plan relies on high sales volumes. 

Inbound marketing is going to be the best option for you. 

Has a purchase decision been made? 

Once a decision has been made that something is needed, people start looking. Many will ask their peers for guidance/referrals, with (almost) everyone going online to find a solution and then find a product. Inbound marketing activities, such as SEO and content will help people find a solution. Content on “how to” can help your target audience find your small business. Pay Per Click (PPC) is often used to help people find the product they need, once they have worked out what that product is.  

When you target a specific client, they may not know they need what you sell yet. The research you’ve done prior to contacting them will have shown you an opportunity, but they are likely to be educated on how your product can help them to achieve a goal or resolve a problem. You cannot do this if you want the prospect to come to you, so outbound marketing would be needed here.  

What is the cost of your product?

If you are selling a low-cost product, you need to get generate high levels of brand awareness, interest and desire. You then need a sales process that enables lots of clients to buy easily. Ecommerce is a prime example here. One to many, inbound, marketing activities such as advertising, social media and SEO will give you the opportunities and the economies of scale you need. 

High-cost products, often with big profit margins, give you the marketing budget needed for outbound marketing activities.  

What marketing skills do you have?

This is something that should NOT impact your choice of marketing strategy for your small business. If you are selling a high-cost product to a complex market, your experience of running Google Ads campaigns should not come into the equation. Whilst there is a chance that you could get some leads, there may not be the ones you want or be likely to convert into sales.

If you don’t have the marketing skills you need, you need to learn them or find someone who can help you with what you need. Of course, we can help you here. 

Inbound components within an outbound marketing strategy

Once you have made contact, or at least got your brand in front of your outbound targets, you may need to use what are normally considered inbound marketing tools to support your outbound marketing.  

People will look at your small business and your products to assess whether you can help them, and whether they believe you can deliver on your claims. 

Content marketing

Generating content isn’t just about climbing the ranks on Google (other search engines are available). It needs to prove to your target audience(s) that you know what you are talking about. They want to be confident you understand them, and your business contains the knowledge and expertise they need.

Reviews

Most companies use testimonials to show what their clients think of them. Reviews, either on Google or platforms like Trustpilot are better. This is simply because you have no opportunity to change, or influence, what someone writes about you. Good volumes, regularly posted, of Google Reviews can be instrumental in helping your target audience decide you use you, instead of one of your competitors.  

Remarketing

Once someone has visited your website, remarketing can be an effective way to get them back to your site. If you’re not sure what remarketing is, have you ever looked at a product online, only for that product or brand to pop up all over your web browsing for the next few weeks?  That’s remarketing.

Choosing the right marketing strategy for your small business will dictate the return on investment (ROI) you’d get from your marketing budget and just how quickly you achieve your company targets. 

If you would like to discuss your marketing strategy options, call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here and we’ll call you back 

AI-generated content - SME Needs

How to make the best use of AI-generated content

By A Helping Hand, Technology & your business

AI-generated content is a hotly discussed topic right now. We’ve had a small number of clients ask us whether it is a good thing, or not. So, we did some digging and some experimentation. These are our thoughts on how to make the best use of AI-generated content. 

What is AI-generated content?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for many years, with many companies making use of it. Chatbots have been on websites for some time, answering your questions and trying to direct you to the right place for what you need. The first (ELIZA) was developed at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) (where else?) in 1994. Since then, AI has been used in many different ways to accelerate processes and functions. 

AI-generated content is exactly that. Content that is developed using algorithms and written by a machine. Tools such as Chat GPT and Jasper will now write whatever you want them to. We’ve experimented with blogs, social posts and even writing website code.  

The good news 

AI-generated content can help your small business in many ways: 

1. Speeding up content generation 

The average human writes at 40 words per minute  and speaks at 140 words per minute. AI bots can draft an entire article for you in seconds. 

2. Unblocking your writing 

Writers Block is a widespread problem for small business owners. Not only when they are writing, but also working out what to write. If you have developed a list of topics to write about, producing the content then takes little time. As the bots can use the whole of the internet, as well as what is programmed into them, they will never have Writers Block. If you don’t have the list, the bots can do that for you too.  

3. Formalising your grammar. 

AI-generated content will be professionally written, grammar wise. Our experiments showed US spellings (Z instead of S, u’s missing etc.) but they follow grammar rules. You can specify your preferred writing style to make it more casual. If you have content already written, Microsoft Word’s Editor tool will help you correct your grammar. There are other tools out there, with Grammarly probably the most well-known.  

Making AI-generated content work for your small business 

Generating the content is one thing; making it right for your business is another. These are our recommendations on what to do with the content: 

1. Put “you” into it 

 AI-generated content is based on predictive language. It works out what word should go next. Whilst the AI-generated content may be right, it may not be quite right for you. Do you use certain language or acronyms that your audience will be used to? Do you normally write informally (e.g., don’t instead of do not). Checking the content to ensure it sounds like you is the first step. 

2. Tweaking the conversation 

AI-generated content can be choppy – short sentences and lots of full stops. Whilst this is trying to mimic human writing, it often doesn’t flow very well. Consider joining some of the sentences together to make it flow.  

3. Add hyperlinks 

If you are using this tool to write blog articles, you’ll need to add both internal and external hyperlinks. Without them, you’re affecting your SEO performance and making it harder to guide visitors to where you want them to go.  

4. Plagiarism check 

The few experiments we’ve done suggest this isn’t likely to be a problem, but it’s worth checking, especially early on and if you are writing something extremely specific. Whilst duplicate content isn’t a negative ranking factor for Google, they will choose which site to rank for the content. You are always better off having original content on your site. 

AI-generated content can save you time and help you to market your small business, but you cannot simply copy and paste it into wherever you’re planning to use it. Use a little of the time you have saved to make sure that it is right for your business. 

Outsource marketing or marketing team image - SME Needs

Should you outsource your marketing or employ your own marketing team?

By Small Business Marketing

If we were being a little unethical, we would simply answer this question – yes, you should outsource. But that isn’t the ethical answer and it’s much better that we give you the points to consider so that you can answer this question in a way that works best for your business. So, what should you consider when deciding whether to outsource your marketing or employ your own marketing team?

Budgets

The amount of cash you have available for your marketing is important in two ways.

  1. What are you going to spend on marketing your business?

Put simply, if you don’t have a big budget, there is little point in employing your own team, or even person. If there isn’t a budget for them to spend, they will get bored very quickly and leave.

  1. Can you pay people?

The average salary for a junior marketing exec is rapidly approaching £25K a year and you should expect to pay upwards of £40K a year for a Marketing Manager, particularly in London.

Marketing Skillsets

The term marketing is a catch all phrase for many different specialities. In the same way you would never ask an IT support engineer to write code for a new mobile app, asking someone with web development skills to run a PR campaign is unlikely to get the results you are looking for. If your marketing plan uses more than a couple of marketing channels, you will need a diverse skillset. There are three ways to do that:

  1. Find a highly skilled marketing manager with a strong, but diverse, skillset. Extremely hard to find
  2. Employ a marketing manager but give them a marketing budget to bring in contractors with the skill set you need.
  3. Outsource your marketing to a company that can gather these skills for you.

Maintaining those skills is not easy. As in many industries, marketing changes at a remarkable rate. If you employ your own team; they must have time to learn. That’s “not your problem” with outsourced providers.

Of course, there is no reason why you cannot have a combination of these three. We frequently work with clients who have a junior marketing exec, who we work with to ensure they are doing what they are supposed to and have someone to go to when they have issues.

Marketing Best Practices

You’ve grown your business to the size it is now using a combination of marketing activities. Most have worked for you and that is great. But what other marketing could work even better? Bringing an independent point of view into the business will help identify opportunities to further improve your marketing performance. This doesn’t have to be a long-term thing; it can be a consultancy project for a brief period.

A marketing consultant will have far more exposure to different marketing channels, and know more about what can be achieved than an internal marketing manager.

Time

As a business owner much of your time is managing your team. What time isn’t used this way is working with clients or working ON the business. Whether you outsource your marketing or employ your own team, you will need to dedicate time to the relationship. But an outsourced provider will need less of your time that your own marketing team will need.

Your skills are in delivering what your clients want and need. This may not include much in the way of marketing skills, so your time is better spent on what you are good at.

Changing your mind

If you use an outsourced marketing solution, and find that it isn’t working, you can get rid of them easily (subject to contractual commitments). Another agency can be up and running very quickly. Replacing a marketing manager who isn’t delivering is far harder. Disciplinary procedures (should they be needed) and notice periods make things complicated.

A good marketing agency will want to be let go. At SME Needs, we work with small businesses to help them grow until it makes sense to move to an in-house solution. The decision is normally based on marketing complexity, volume, and costs. We’ll even help you find the right team to take over.

If you are looking to strengthen your marketing, these five questions will help you to decide whether to outsource your marketing or bring someone in house. We are, of course, more than happy to talk this through and answer any questions you have. Give us a call, on 020 8634 5911, or contact us here and we will call you.

how to choose the right crm image to support article

Which is the best CRM for small businesses?

By Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan, Strategic Planning

how to choose the right crm image to support articleSales are the lifeblood for an business, particularly small businesses. Without them, you have no business. Knowing what sales you have coming in, likely to close or simply in the pipeline, is vital information for any small business owner.  To collate this information you have three options: 

  1. Keeping it all in your head – only good if you have very few sales opportunities – and not that great at that. 
  2. A spreadsheet – a great way to start and we have a template you can use available here, but they lack functionality to help you to predict your pipeline and close more sales. 
  3. A CRM – great, but which do you choose as there are so many out there? 

With so many CRM solutions on the market today, which is the best CRM for small businesses? Let’s look at what we consider to be the most important factors when you start your search for the right CRM for your business 

Intuitiveness 

How quickly can you pick up the right way to use the CRM? Intuition is different for everyone, but the best CRMs will have done a lot of work on making it as easy as possible for you to log in and start using the platform. 

Functionality 

In our opinion, most CRM solutions put too much functionality in. They are built to provide every possible tool for every possible type of business. Presumably this is so they can capture as big a chunk of the market as possible. 

The problem for the user is then finding the right functionality for their needs. The language used by the different CRM providers varies (perhaps deliberately), so terms mean different things on different platforms. On Hubspot an individual person is a contact, but in Salesforce they are a lead – for example. 

Whilst we are fans of functionality, we believe it is far better for it to be hidden and available to be turned on. Far better than having to work out what can be turned off and working out how to stop people in your small business using different functions. 

Adaptability 

CRM solutions are used throughout a business. From the owner/MD to Sales, from Marketing to Admin. The right CRM will help the whole business to perform effectively and efficiently. But not everyone needs the same functions and the same reporting. Being able to adapt and customise to the individuals’ needs is key. 

Integrations 

The bigger platforms, such as Hubspot, are looking to completely replace your marketing technology stack. They will provide landing pages, help with your SEO, send and track email campaigns, schedule your social media posts and help you manage your sales pipeline. All great so far, but this comes at a price and that price jumps a lot as you take on more functionality and have more contacts in the system. 

A CRM that effectively integrates with other tools helps your small business in two key ways: it controls the price and allows you to get best of breed technology across the board. As a Mailchimp Partner, we believe it is the best email marketing platform out there, so being able to integrate and sync data from our CRM to, and from, Mailchimp is a real bonus. Being able to integrate with Outlook and Gmail too puts all communication in the same place. 

Reporting 

Adding data is all great, but doesn’t help you manage your business and your pipeline. We’ll go into this in more detail in a future blog, but we believe there are 4 key reports you need from a small business CRM to help you manage your marketing and your pipeline: 

  1. Leads by source – where are your leads coming from and over what time period? 
  2. Pipeline by stage – how many leads do you have at each stage of your pipeline and where are they dropping out? 
  3. Pipeline value against target – what is likely to come out as sales and how does that compare to your sales targets? 
  4. Win/loss reasons – what are the reasons you are losing sales, and why are you winning them too? 

Adding performance by individual, by office and by product will also help to manage and improve sales and marketing performance. 

Support 

Intuition and functionality can only go so far. Sometimes you need some support to work out just how to do something within your CRM. The best CRM for small businesses will have both prepared support (documents and video). They will also have either a phone number or Live Chat function  – usually for when you simply cannot get your head around something, or the support pages. 

Price 

Last, but most definitely not least, price is a key factor when identifying the best CRM for small businesses.  A search on” best free crm uk” provides nearly 34 million search results. For many people, these can provide enough, but we’ve already been worried about the lack of reporting available on the free CRM solutions. 

Once you start paying, you can quickly rack up your monthly subscription. The more functionality you want, the more you have to pay and the price steps are often huge.  

Which is the best CRM for small businesses? 

We’re not brave enough to say XXX is the best CRM for small businesses. Since SME Needs was formed in 2011, we have used for our own needs just three solutions, one being the spreadsheet we have made available for you. We currently have clients using a number of different solutions, including Keap, Hubspot, Salesforce, ACT and then specialist products like Eventpro. A previous project led to us recommending Insightly to a client because of their very specific needs and that is the important factor. What are your CRM needs? The platform we are currently using is uPilotWe’re using it because it delivers on most of the factors we list here and if you want to have a look at it, click here. 

We hope our look at the CRM factors that are important proves to be useful for you. If you want to talk more about your marketing and your use of CRM for your small business, simply click the button below. 

Image of Battleships game to support an article about battleships and your marketing strategy

The battleship marketing strategy

By Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan, Strategic Planning

Play a game to sell more to your current clients

Children’s games are rarely something that comes up in a conversation about small business marketing. There is one game (sort of) you can play that will definitely help you to sell more to your current clients: Battleships! 

Remember Battleships? 

Whether you played it on paper, the manual plastic version or the really posh one: Computer Battleships, you must remember the game.  You start with a grid, about 10 squares each way. You then draw on a set of ships (two squares for a frigate, 3 for a sub and 4 for a battleship). Your opponent does the same and then you use grid references to guess which squares their ships are in. First one to destroy the fleet wins! 

The marketing version.

The marketing version is similar, but you are aiming to build sales, rather than destroy ships. 

  1. Start with a grid
  2. Clients down the side 
  3. Products across the top
  4. Mark which clients have bought what products/services
  5. The gaps give you a list of clients to market to and try to sell more.

Why you should do this. 

There is more about why you need to be marketing to your current clients in this article, but these are two key reasons for playing this version of Battleships… 

1. Stickier clients stay with you 

You are highly unlikely to have a client that buys everything you sell from you. But the more an individual client buys from you, the stickier the relationship becomes and the longer they stay with you. 

2. Easier to sell to

They already know and trust you, so if they can use additional products/services that you provide, why would they not buy from you? 

What you get from this.

The simplest way to describe it is a list of new business opportunities. There is no reason why your current clients shouldn’t buy more from you, so why not try. They may currently have another supplier, but that can always change.  They may not actually need more from you, but (again) that can change in the future. 

Put it this way: if they know you, trust you, have a need and don’t already have a supplier, the only thing stopping them from buying from you is you asking them to. 

If we can help, please get in touch

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