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A Helping Hand

A Helping Hand is a category aimed at doing just that – giving small business owners a helping hand in improving their marketing performance.

Blogs written by a small business marketing consultant that will help small businesses grow.

These blogs normally look at one of two things:

  1. how you can improve an aspect of your small business marketing
  2. how you can stop making a mistake with your small business marketing

If you need further assistance with any aspect of your marketing, simply call us on 020 8634 5911

the Namos Solutions team

6 reasons you need to be doing internal marketing

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Small Business Marketing

the Namos Solutions team

Are you marketing your business internally?

When you first started your business, there was you, and possible one or two others. Internal communication was easy and a lot of it probably took place down the pub. As your small business has grown, you’ve added more people to your team. Are you keeping them up to date with what you are doing? Let’s look at 6 reasons why you need to be using internal marketing as well as marketing your small business to your target audiences.

Keep them in the loop

In a small business, it is rare that people have just one job to do. Even if individual staff members spend the majority of their time on one role, they will still be doing things like answer the phones. Keeping everyone in the loop ensures that they know what you, as a business, want to achieve, where your focus is and what is expected of them.

Show you value them

Whilst there will be certain things that will be on a “need to know” basis, the more you share with your team, the more you are showing them that you value them.
What employees want from you has changed over the years. Whilst a competitive salary will always be on the list, there are many intangibles on there too. Always in the list of things employees want is trust (usually top 3) and communication. The more you communicate with them, the better.

Get feedback on your ideas

When was the last time you asked your staff for feedback on an idea? Just because you’re the boss and its your idea, it doesn’t mean it is always a good idea. Remember that your team, at least some of them, has to deliver on your idea. If they really think it is a bad idea and not possible, surely the feedback is needed. Better to get the feedback than spend time and money on a bad idea?

Get their ideas

If you are communicating with your team and that includes both targets and issues, there is a good chance they will have some great ideas that can help you. You never know where the next great idea is going to come from, so make sure they know that communication is a two-way thing and that you want them to share their ideas with you.
If you don’t, you may well miss out and they could even take that idea and, either, run with it themselves or take it to your competitors!

They can help spread the word

You’ll have seen their CVs and you may have even had a cursory look at their LinkedIn connections. But you won’t know who they really know. If you’re looking for a new member of staff and you tell the team, there’s a good chance they will know someone. Think of the saving, compared to using a recruitment firm.
As your team know more about the business and the type of clients you want, they can easily spread the word. Getting them onboard will get them:
Commenting on your company’s social media posts, increasing their reach.
Talking positively about the company when with their friends and family (at least for a little bit of time)
Listening out for when people talk about issues they need help with – that your business can solve.

Retain your team

Valued staff are loyal staff. When they believe they are a valuable part of something special, they will stay. If they are simply treated as a functionary and a number, they will go whenever there is an opportunity.
Figures vary on the cost of replacing a member of staff but you can be sure it isn’t cheap. Recruitment costs (assuming you’re not using what was mentioned above), plus training plus lost productivity (whilst the new person gets up to speed) all add up. Surely some internal marketing is worth it, just to save you these costs?!?

Great ways to do your internal marketing

So we’ve looked at 5 reasons why you should include internal marketing within your overall marketing strategy; now lets look at how to make this happen.

Consistent marketing

In exactly the same way that consistent marketing is needed to attract new clients, consistent internal marketing will help you communicate effectively with your team. Little and often is a great approach that helps you manage the time needed to do this.

Advocates and Champions

Within every small business, there are a few people that everyone talks to. Alongside the management team, these people can be invaluable at helping you communicate the right messages to the rest of your team. Identifying them is easy and if they feel valued, they will help you communicate with the team.

Digital Tools

Right now, you probably have a large part of the team working remotely. You’re using Teams/Zoom/IM/email/phones to talk to them all now, so make use of the same tools to ensure they have the information they need and should know.

Face to face

As and when you get an opportunity, face to face is a great way to keep the internal marketing going. If you have an annual event, think about using a, short, part of that event to update your team on what is happening and where the business is going. During the rest of the year, schedule conversations with your team to keep the information flowing – in both directions.

Hopefully we’ve given you something to think about here. When you next review your marketing strategy, make sure that internal marketing is part of that strategy.

To add internal marketing to your company marketing strategy, give us a call and let's talk

Tel: 020 8634 5911

linkedin poll asking whether you can have too many leads

Is there such as thing as too many leads?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

We asked LinkedIn to find out what people thought…

Every now and then, someone says to us that they don’t want too many leads coming in. So we thought we would ask LinkedIn what they thought about this – is there such a thing as too many leads? So we put out a 3-day LinkedIn poll to see what responses we would get.

Here is the result of that poll:

linkedin poll asking whether you can have too many leads

You can see a full list of the responses we had at the bottom, but to summarise them, the reasons people said Yes, are:

  1. Bad (wrong) leads waste your time, so they are not wanted.
  2. Leads can take your eye off the ball, leading to poor client service

So let’s look at how you can control the quality of the leads your small business gets, so you never have to worry about too many leads.

Focus

When asked who you want as leads, does the word “anyone” get used?  Let’s say you’re an accountant. If you say “Anyone with a business”, you are inviting leads that you don’t want. Leads that will waste your time.

The more focused you are, the more likely you are to get the leads you want. Why? Because a clearly defined Ideal Client includes a list of key issues and how you resolve them for that person. That set of resolutions and issues helps you develop the key messages, your marketing content and your evidence. Your messages, content and evidence are what generate the leads, no matter what marketing channels you are using.

Sales vs Marketing

Traditionally these teams, or people, disagree about a lot. One will say the lead is qualified and the will disagree. Both will say they are always flat out and they will both say the other is sitting around doing nothing.

If these two don’t agree on what a qualified lead looks like, you are always going to have a rift between them and you will always have “bad leads”.

Define a qualified lead and your pipeline stages

Your Sales, Marketing and Management teams have to develop an agreed definition of a qualified lead. As a lead moves through your sales pipeline, you have to be very clear about how a lead has been allowed to move forward. As a business, you have to be able to clearly justify why each opportunity is where it is in the pipeline.

As much as I believe Hubspot is massively over-complicated (particularly for small businesses), the way they talk about pipeline stages makes real sense. They always talk in the past tense – has been qualified, had a proposal – etc. If the pipeline stage simply said Qualified or Proposal, that could mean a multitude of things:

  • Is ready for a proposal
  • Has asked for a proposal
  • Has been offered a proposal
  • Is waiting for a proposal
  • Has had a proposal

Which is it? There is a big difference between the first and the last, in terms of both actual pipeline progress and in likelihood of a sale.

Qualify fast

Having 100s of leads in your pipeline is a bad thing. They are only there because Sales doesn’t want to show low numbers. If you have “Warm Leads” that haven’t been communicated with in months, we would strongly suggest they are no longer leads, never mind warm ones!

You are far better off qualifying out those that are unlikely to buy soon. Dedicating time to nurturing those who aren’t buying is a waste of time. Please remember, they can always come back into your pipeline at other time.

If you are getting lots of qualified leads and you believe you will struggle to deliver them, ensure that timescales are a key part of your qualification process. Far better to say to a prospect that you cannot deliver what they want until [insert approx. date] and give them the opportunity to source elsewhere (this time), than to say you can and deliver either late or badly.

Know your numbers so you can predict accurately

How many leads do you need to generate a sale? Do you know? Has that improved or worsened over the last year or so?

If you are only closing a small percentage of your leads, where is the issue?

  • If you are qualifying out lots of leads (or they are qualifying themselves out) early on, you are getting bad leads.
  • If you are qualifying them in (to an agreed specification), but not closing them, the issue is not the leads.
  • If you are then losing clients quickly, or not getting repeat sales, the issue is in operational delivery.

You need to know your numbers for these reasons:

  1. You’ll be able to see whether the problem lies.
  2. So you can compare them against previous performance and see if they are improving.
  3. So you can predict how much business is likely to be coming in, helping you prepare to deliver what those clients need from you.

Revise your marketing

If you are getting bad leads, your marketing needs changing.

  • If you are getting leads from outside your geographical area (and it isn’t cost effective to sell outside your patch), you need to ensure your marketing content specifically says where you work. Make sure any Adverts, whether PPC, social ads or even print, are only showing within your area.
  • If the leads are after something you don’t sell, your marketing messages definitely need editing to make them clearer.

Remember: the more specific you are, the better your leads will be. This is not just for networking; it is for all your marketing.

Keep talking to them

Finally, something to help you bring them back in to your pipeline when the time is right.  During the buying process, prospects can only do one of three things:

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

Everyone who goes through your initial qualification process MUST go onto your mailing list. Keeping communicating with them, so that:

  1. If they bought from you before, they can do so again.
  2. If they didn’t buy from you, they remember who you are when the company they did buy from stops delivering well.
  3. When they are ready to buy, you are at least a company they consider buying from.

 

So going back to our original question: Is there such as thing as too many leads?

If you answer the question in its purest form, we believe there is no such thing as too many leads!

You can have too many bad leads and that is a marketing issue.

You can have too many leads that don’t close. That is a sales issue.

You can have insufficient resource to deliver high sales volumes. That is a management issue. But by working on these six areas, you can move to a place where there is no such thing as too many leads.

We hope this helps.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Jane Davey a director at SME Needs to illustrate an article about people buy people

Why people buy people is still very true

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding

Here’s why the phrase ‘People Buy People’ is still absolutely true…

The phrase ‘people buy people’ has been around for decades, and is accepted as a universal truth. But, in this world of digital marketing and online selling, is it still true? In the world of small business marketing, should it be part of your marketing story?

In short, YES, it’s still absolutely true! Below we look at why this is and what you can do to ensure your customers are ‘buying’ your people, whatever the size of your business and whether it’s online or in person…

Know, like and trust

In most businesses, when a tender process isn’t needed, winning business isn’t about price nearly as much as you might imagine. In fact, price often isn’t even in the top 10 key factors.

As Ivan Misner said when he started BNI, the world’s leading networking and referral organisation, it is about ‘know, like and trust’.

  • People need to know you exist before they can buy from you.
  • They are more likely to buy from you if they like you.
  • They absolutely must trust you will deliver on your promises.

Whilst Ivan was talking about this in a referral context, it is very true in a marketing and sales context too.

People also buy the ‘Why’

Very few of us now do something nobody else does, so we all have competition. Competition that competes on price, location, number of awards and in many other ways. But, more and more, the factor that makes you stand out is the ‘Why’. People can see what you do and, probably, how you do it, but the reason many buy from you now is because of why you do what you do. Simon Sinek’s famous TED talk explains this far better than I can, so I encourage you to click this link – after you finish the blog, of course!

The challenge as your business grows

Of course, when you first started your business, it’s likely it was only you and maybe one or two staff members at most. You were the marketer, the sales person, the operational delivery person, the admin and everything else. So, when you got your first customers they were buying you, as the key person in the business. They were buying into your commitment to deliver and your promise to solve any issues they had with your services or products.

As your business grows and your number of staff increases this is still true. People don’t trust companies; they trust people, and there are a number of ways you can show your customers why they should trust your people instead of the competition…

1. Publish client testimonials

Make sure you collect testimonials from your clients and publish them on your website. Ideally, each one will include the name, job title and company name of the customer, as many people don’t believe they’re real without this information.

2. Set up on Google Reviews

Have you set up your Google My Business page and do you encourage people to add reviews?  You, as a business, have no ability to edit these, so they are highly trusted. If you do have this set up, make sure you respond to each and every review, too. If there is a bad one, this gives you an opportunity to try and fix the issue – or at least show you’re trying to!

3. Become the figurehead

As your business grows, there will be more people in the business, so your clients and prospects will interact with people other than you. But that doesn’t mean you are no longer key. People will look at you, both from within the business and from outside, to show the way.

The way you act sets the tone and influences what people think about your business. Whether you like them or loathe them, think of the influence people such as Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, and even Gerald Ratner, have/had on their businesses and the performance of those businesses. Your personality and your promises brought you your first clients. They will continue to bring your business new clients going forward.

4. Develop a ‘customer first’ culture

As you grow your team, your clients’ experience of your staff will have a big impact on your ability to attract and retain business. So, employing staff who embody your vision and put the customer first is key. Staff that give a poor client experience will jeopardise the relationship you and others have worked long and hard to develop. As your business grows, you need to ensure that you only employ people who can show they care as much as you do.

As the owner of a small business, you are still the expert on what you do. You are also an expert on you, so make use of that. For example: make sure you use the stories you have about how you’ve helped your clients and look out for opportunities to help others without expecting anything in return – they will tell others about how you helped them! It is the YOU that got you your first clients and it is your personality, vision and ethos that can continue to attract new clients, regardless of the size of your business.

 

 

image of google home page with small business seo tips in the search bar

7 questions and tips for small business about SEO

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Small Business Marketing

Should you pay for Search Engine Optimisation?

Search Engine optimisation (SEO) is often promoted as a key part of any digital marketing strategy. As a Virtual Marketing Director service, we get lots of enquiries from SEO companies asking us to re-sell their services. For the right businesses, SEO can deliver a great return on investment, but it isn’t right for everyone. That saying, you need to ensure you are doing the basics right, so that people can find you, even if they are using your company name because they became aware of you in some other way. Here are 7 small business SEO tips to get you started, before considering whether to invest in SEO…

What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation is defined by SEMrush as “SEO is the art and science of persuading search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem.

It is about getting your web content in front of potential clients so that they engage and consider using your small business as a solution provider.

Where do your leads come from?

Before you even consider asking “should I pay for SEO”, you need to be able to say where your leads are currently coming from. If you cannot, there is a good chance you are wasting at least some of your marketing budget anyway. If you don’t know where your leads are coming from, how are you going to measure the performance of any SEO you get done?

Have you got the SEO basics right anyway?

There is a lot of on-site SEO you can easily do for yourself and that can quickly improve your search engine performance, with the only investment being some of your time. Have you:

  • Added meta descriptions to every page?
  • Ensured your images have alt-tags, so the search engines know what they are of?
  • Fixed any broken links on your website, so you aren’t penalised by the search engines?
  • Added internal and external links to relevant content within your site and on others, improving the user experience?
  • Written enough content on the pages, so the search engines consider that page worthy?

None of these are difficult. Investing some time into these can pay dividends? If you would like to know just how much there is to do on your site, we can tell you. We’ll do a free audit, so you can get the SEO basics right.

If you have a WordPress website (almost all our clients do, alongside 35% of the websites in the world), tools such as Yoast or RankMath can help you get these right.

Is your Google My Business account set up right?

When someone searches on your company name, you want them to see not only your website, but also your Google listing. Google My Business not only helps you improve your local SEO performance, but it also gives people the ability to provide independent reviews on how your business performs. You can comment on what they say, but you cannot alter it, so other people really trust the rating you get from this.

What other local directories are you in?

If you sell locally, you should be in as many local online directories as you can. The more places you can be found, the better. Plus, all of these provide valuable inbound links to your website, improving your SEO performance.

Are you in a highly competitive market?

Entering a highly competitive market isn’t easy, especially if you want to rely on SEO to get found. SEMrush stats show, for example “IT support” has 12,100 searches a month and have 16.9 billion search results. “Marquee hire” has 14,800 UK searches a month and whilst “small business marketing” has only 720 searches a month, the keyword difficulty score of 77 suggests it would be a hard search term to rank well for. SME Needs currently [1]ranks on page 6 for “small business marketing”, but at No.1 for “small business marketing support” – just in case you were curious!!

Making use of and SEO ranking tool, such as SEMrush and Google’s Search Console, can help you find the right keywords and the difficulty you face in getting traffic from those keywords.

Do you have the budget available?

SEO is, perhaps above all, time-consuming. That time has to be paid for, so if you have limited budgets, SEO is probably not the right marketing tool for your business. If you aren’t spending at least £500 a month on SEO, with a plan of what you want from that spend, don’t do it. Spend your money on other channels that are far more likely to generate a return on investment.

Are you getting a great marketing ROI at the moment?

If you know where your leads are coming from, you should have a good idea of the marketing ROI from each channel. If you don’t this tool will help you.

If you are getting a great ROI from your current marketing channels, why are you thinking about SEO? Until your marketing ROI starts to decrease, it is our definite recommendation that you simply spend more on what is working for you. By doing this, whilst, keeping an eye on that ROI, you will continue to grow your pipeline and grow your business. At the point the ROI starts to dip, then it is time to consider other marketing channels.

[1] Correct as of 25/6/2021

image of man pondering about how to market to his current clients

Why and how to market to your current clients

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

image of man pondering about how to market to his current clientsWhen you win your next new client, will you stop marketing to them, or will you continue?  I talk to lots of small business owners who, once  the sales process starts, they stop all marketing to a prospect. They also never actually market to their clients. That is a big mistake – let’s explain why. Here’s our guide to why and how to market to your current clients

6 reasons why you need to market to your clients

1. They already know and trust you

Your clients have been through the sales process. You developed a relationship and they signed on the dotted line, so you know them and they know you. Whilst you will have some relatively new clients, many have used your products, or services, for a long time, so they trust you to deliver. As they say – a bird in the hand…

2. You already have the right contact details

Just a small point, but you know how difficult it is to get the name of the right decision maker, and their contact details. That is often half the battle.

3. They know how good your products are

They have experienced your products and your service levels for some time now. Assuming they are happy, why would you not be marketing to them?

4. They can buy more

How many of your clients buy every product or service, that they can, from you? At a guess, it’s is 0%. The more they are buying from you, the stickier the relationship and the harder it is for them to leave (although you will be delivering a great service, so they won’t want to). As they know and trust you, the sales process should be much faster.

5. They may not know you sell it

The biggest reason that companies don’t buy more from their suppliers is that they don’t know they sell other products and services.
Just because you have sold your client something, it doesn’t mean they have a full knowledge of your portfolio of products/services. Just because you know your full range, don’t assume they do.

6. They can refer you

For most small businesses, the best leads are referrals. The best people to refer you are those who know you, trust you and have used your products and services. When they are talking to their peers and the topic of conversation changes to what you do, they can easily suggest “you should use the company we use” to others. But only if you ask them to…

How to market to your current clients

There are two distinct pieces of marketing you should be doing to your clients:

  1. “Keeping them up to date with what you are doing” marketing.
  2. Promoting other products marketing.

Let’s look at these individually

Keeping your current clients up to date

This type of marketing communications does two things:

  1. Maintains the non-financial relationship and further develops their trust in you and your business.
  2. Provides them with more information for when they consider referring you to others.

It is less focused than the product promotion marketing and it isn’t designed to specifically generate leads, but it does improve awareness and it does increase your reach and potential target audience.

Newsletters

Newsletters are a great way to keep people up to date. Email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp, make it very easy to do. Test whether people prefer a long version (all you want to say in the newsletter) or a short version, with links to where they can find out more.
Seriously consider doing more than one version of the newsletter, with little tweaks for each group. For one of our clients (a membership organisation), we do three versions:

  1. For current members
  2. For lapsed members
  3. For non-members who are on their mailing list

All three contain core information, with latter versions containing more about the value of being a member.

Social Media

Are you following your current clients on LinkedIn and Twitter? Build a list in Twitter and then follow on LinkedIn so you can see what their outbound priorities are. Are they looking for new staff? Are they making a lot more noise? These could be signs of change within the business that you can take advantage of. If you’re an IT company, do you need to talk to them about Microsoft licenses? If you sell furniture, do they need more desks and chairs?

By following them, you increase the chances of them returning the favour too. If they are following you and you are posting useful content, there’s a good chance they will share and comment. This increased your reach by putting you in front of their network too.

Talking to them

Whilst strictly an account manager function, it is still marketing (not all marketing has to be done by the marketing team). You are building the relationship and ensuring you are front of mind, even when they aren’t actively buying from you.

Promoting other products

Have you worked out what your clients have and haven’t bought from you? In our experience very few companies have any clients who buy everything they offer, but if they know, like and trust you enough to buy at least one product from you, why can they not buy more? A simple spreadsheet can quickly show you which clients are buying what services. Exclude any competing products or services (e.g. IT support companies cannot sell local server support and hosted server support at the same time) and then you have a list of all the clients who could buy each individual service.

Account Managers working with Marketing

Once you have your list, marketing can develop omni-channel campaigns around each product or service; maybe one per month or per quarter. Working alongside your account managers, you quickly have a multi-pronged approach to selling more products into your current clients

Sharing case studies

For clients who aren’t using a particular product, share case studies with them from clients who are benefiting from that product, particularly if they are in similar sectors. Clearly showing both the issues your product solves and the results you deliver make case studies very powerful.

Special offers

Making it easy for people to buy, using offers, really helps. Depending on what you are selling, this can range from introductory prices to extra time/quantities and all the different versions you can think of.

2 + 2 = 5

Sounds obvious, but it isn’t done very often. Combining other products or services with what your client is already buying from you can deliver enhanced benefits for your client, so make sure they know about this. You have to give them a reason to buy the additional products.

Selling more to your clients is a great way to increase sales quickly and, relatively, easily. Don’t make the mistake of stopping marketing either when the first sales process starts or when it ends. Marketing to your clients should never stop and we hope our guide on how to market to your current clients has explained why.

Of course, if you would like a hand with this, give us a call…

Let's talk about improving how you market your business to your current clients, as well as new ones. Give us a call.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article about why you need great stories in your business

The What, Why and How Many of having great stories in your business

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Small Business Marketing, Uncategorized

Stories have always been a powerful way to get information across. Before the spread of the written word, our elders would tell stories to ensure that information was passed from one generation to the next. In many places cave drawings were used as part of the story-telling process, ensuring that the stories lasted.  Over time the communication tool has changed – books, films, audiobooks – but the reason for telling them remains the same. We want people to know them, love them and remember them. This article looks at that third point, ‘remembering them’. It’s the key reason why you need great stories in your business.

5 reasons you need great stories in your business

1. Build the culture

When you first starting thinking about your business, there was a reason for starting it. You wanted to do something. Whether it was about failing lots, but only needing one success (Angry Birds), or Hozah’s mission to stop us all getting parking fines, there is always a story.

Telling that story, and getting it repeated frequently, will help you find the right people for your business. It will help you to shape your business and ensure the way things are done here is the way you want them to be.

2. Attract & converting new prospects

New prospects want to understand your business and how you can help them. Telling them what you do rarely works, but stories are highly effective. Great stories help your prospects in a number of ways:

  1. Stories help them understand what makes you tick and what your priorities are.
  2. They provide examples of how you’ve helped others.
  3. Stories get your prospects relating to you – we have that issue, or I want some of that!
  4. They reduce the perceived risk in their minds, about whether you can help them. You can read more about functional perceived risk here.

Great stories help you convert these prospects too, by:

  1. Proving you can deliver on your promises.
  2. Showing you understand them.
  3. Making you more memorable, so you stick in their minds.

Next time you’re talking to a potential client, think of a story you can tell them, instead of simply explaining what you do.

3. Public Relations

PR can be hugely beneficial for your business, or massively damaging. Both depend on the story that gets into the media. Don’t forget that PR isn’t just about what appears in newspapers or magazines anymore. Social media can be massively important in getting stories out there about your business. Many will be out of your control.

Tesco scored serious brownie points with their recent campaign asking us all to support our local pub instead of buying beer from them. As we all emerge from lockdown, everyone knows that the hospitality industry has really suffered, but the supermarkets have prospered. It’s a simple, but powerful, story.

At the opposite end of the scale was BP’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The story is still in the press ten years later.

4. Attracting and retaining staff

The right stories will help you to build your company and your culture, and they can also help with staff recruitment and retention. A compelling story will keep people working for you, supporting your business, even when things aren’t going well.

The brand story will help you attract people that will fit in well, simply because they agree with your approach and they want to work for a reason they believe in. More and more people want to work for companies they believe in, rather than the one that pays the most.

Employee experience is massively important in retaining staff. Telling stories about how staff have really delivered (whether this includes naming them or not) clearly communicates expected behaviours. Not only does it help you keep the staff that recognise and agree with the story, it will help weed out those that shouldn’t have been employed in the first place.

5. Attracting Investors

When you have great stories within your business, you attract people for multiple reasons. For some businesses, the most important group is, initially, investors.  If you have a great story, but little money to make things happen, you need to attract people who believe in your story and your goals.

The 6 parts of every great business story

When looking at why you need great stories, we need to look at what is in them. For your business stories to be listened to, and remembered, each one needs these 6 key parts…

Relevancy

The story has to be relevant to the listener. If you tell a story about something they cannot relate to, you will lose their interest quickly. Stories that show you understand their needs will be remembered.

The Problem

Every successful business solves a problem for their clients. For Bentley, that (seriously first world problem) is how to get from A to B in luxury, whilst showing your status in the world. For Atom CTO, it is about how to use technology to achieve business goals. What’s the pain [problem] your business solves?

Outcomes

Your prospects don’t buy what you do. In the early stages of your business, they may be buying you, as the core of the business, but what they are really buying is success. They want to know what came from you working to solve the problem. At SME Needs, we help people to focus on these outcomes and we help people grow. You can see those stories about our work with Charcoalblue here and with Systems IT here, respectively.

Real people

Including real people is an absolute must in a great business story! For all stories, the real people involved help the listener to engage, empathise and hopefully recognise themselves (the importance of relevance). For example, a story about bringing a network server back to life is likely to bore people to tears, but when the story is about getting, for example, a charity back to helping the homeless, it provides context and impact. Something that the listener will remember.

Believability

A story that sounds too good to be true probably isn’t true. If you do have a story that stretches the bounds of believability, make sure you have the proof. Stories that people don’t believe will negatively impact your credibility, and that isn’t good for anyone.

Consistency

When you tell your business story to people, keep it under control. A story that grows, helping more people or solving a bigger problem runs a real risk. If people hear it more than once, you will not only confuse them, but there’s a danger they may not believe the whole story.

The 5 types of business story

To us, there are 5 different types of business story. Let’s look at what they are and why you should have them.

Your reason for existing

Nobody wants to hear that you started your business purely for the money (well, not many). They want to hear what happened to make you start your business and what you went through in the early days. They want to like your business and to trust it.

The case study

If you’ve been in business for a few years, you will have a great set of stories that show how you solve the problems your clients have. You’ll be able to talk about your client, about their issues and about the results you delivered for them. If you haven’t written these down, stop reading this article and start now. They are a critical part of attracting new prospects and converting them to clients. You can see our case studies here.

When you’re at the very early stages of your business, you will still have stories of this kind – they just happened when you worked somewhere else. People rarely start a business they have no experience in, so use the stories you have from your past.

The employee story

In every company there is the perfect member of staff. The person who consistently delivers great results and lives the corporate culture. There are also those who are the complete antithesis. You will know who these people are in your company and in your past companies.

Talking about these people demonstrates to others who and what you respect and, also, what you abhor.

The failure and recovery story

Nobody is perfect. Stories that show you are fallible will work to endear you to others, particularly to employees and other stakeholders. Stories that include what you did to recover from failure will go even further.

The path to the ultimate goal

Of all the business stories we’ve discussed, this one can change. As your business evolves, this should change because you are moving, hopefully, towards your ultimate goal. If you have a family business, your goal may be to pass it on to your children. If you’re a charity, the eradication of the problem will always be the ultimate goal. The story of why and how you aim to get there will be a powerful one.

Your Next Steps

You will have some great business stories. You just haven’t written them down and remembered them yet. So, it’s time to rack your brains (you and your team) to develop these stories. Tell them to each other to get feedback and to ensure you are telling them consistently and effectively. Then it’s time to start telling others.

Of course, at SME Needs we can help you find your unique business stories and then tell them to the right people. So, if you need a hand developing them or want someone to brainstorm with, get in touch.

Need a hand developing and using your business stories? Give us a call and let's talk

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Image to depict mistake

The biggest mistake in marketing today

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Focus, Marketing Performance

Are you making the biggest mistake in marketing?

There is one mistake, perhaps, more than anything else that small businesses make in their marketing. One that can have a highly negative impact on the performance of their marketing. Have we got you worried yet? Are you concerned whether you are making the biggest mistake in marketing? Which does your marketing talk more about – you & your products/services or your clients’ needs and issues?

If it is the former, you are making the biggest mistake in marketing today!

Let’s now look at why so many businesses do this, why you shouldn’t and what you should be doing.

Do you talk about your Expert Subject?

Nobody knows you as well as you know yourself – maybe your life partner does!?!? In the same way, nobody knows your business as well as you and your team do. You live and breath it every day. As the business owner or Managing Director, you’ve built it to where it is today. It’s easy to talk about your business. It’s simple to talk about the products or services your provide to your clients. After all, you designed, built and developed them over the years. You’ve invested blood, sweat, tears and cash into developing your company and products.

When people are unsure about something, they err towards what they know – the product and the company. The problem is…

Nobody cares what you do

Harsh – but true.  What they care about is how you can help them. Here’s an example.

Insurtech – re-focus

We started working with a small business in the Insurtech space. They helped insurance companies analyse their data to identify where things can be changed to improve the business performance.  Their website and all their marketing material talked about data warehousing. It talked about the volume of data they stored and analysed and it took a long time to get to anything about their clients.

Our Client Focus workshop got them to think about what they did from a different perspective. The client’s perspective. We looked at what is important to the client – predictability, increased profits and time.

Their strapline is now: Empower data-driven underwriting decisions, save time and write more predictable and profitable business.

There is, perhaps, just one reason to talk about your product – SEO. But it needs to be combined so the majority of your, particularly website, marketing is focused on the client and not you.

Who is going to translate?

When you talk about your business and you talk about your products, invariably you will start using jargon. Jargon that you and your team understand completely – but nobody else does. Years ago, back when Nigel worked for an IT support company, Microsoft published a Jargon Directory – for their resellers.  Do you need to do something like that?  If you need to add some sort of glossary to your website, there may be a problem.

Using language your target market isn’t familiar or comfortable with will inevitably result in a high bounce rate. Remember, the key is to effectively convey your message, not impress with your acronym knowledge. Don’t be a Jacob Rees-Mogg or your old economics lecturer.

Don’t claim what you cannot prove

How can there be so many companies who are, for example: “London’s leading IT support provider”? How do you prove you are {insert region}’s leading {insert service} provider? Ray Winstone can say that BET365 is the world’s favourite because they have stats to prove it.

If you cannot prove what you are claiming, prospective clients will view this as a big negative. Bragging words fall on deaf ears, but numbers and statistics will grab the right people’s attention.

They want someone who understands them

Have you noticed how many companies have the majority of their clients in a small number of industry sectors? For some it’s a requirement (Magento work with e-commerce companies because that is what they do), but for many, they just end up with lots of clients in one sector. One of our clients, Systems IT, does IT support and they’ve developed a niche supporting media production companies. They didn’t set out to do this, but because they can talk about the needs and issues of media production companies and how they help, they have developed this niche. Companies like to use companies that understand them.

If your marketing doesn’t address the needs of your clients and demonstrate that you understand the issues they face and how you can help, you will miss out on leads.

It’s not too late to fix the biggest marketing mistake

If your marketing is talking about your company and your products more than how you help your clients, it’s not too late. Here are our recommended steps to resolve this issue.

Measure the issue

Try this: https://www.customerfocuscalculator.com/ It will tell you whether your website focuses more on you than your clients.

Brainstorm

When you are working with a client, what are you doing? That should be easy for you. Now ask why are you doing it.

  • What is the issue you are solving for your client?
  • What happens to your client when they have that issue?
  • How does that impact them?
  •  What does a successful resolution of that issue look like and mean to your client?

This is what we do in a Client Focus workshop. If you’re finding this difficult, we’re happy to help.

Revise your content

You’ve just identified what you need to say, so now say it. Start with the most popular marketing material (probably your website and social media) and re-write your content. Get a tame client to read it and ensure it uses the right language and tone.

You may have to go through a few versions to get it completely right. The search engines like regularly updated content, so this will only enhance your SEO performance.

Prove you understand your clients’ needs

Once your marketing headlines and content start talking about your target audience, your target audience will expect you to prove you understand them. Proof comes in three flavours:

1.      Your Blog

Addressing your target audience’s issues in your blog is a great way of demonstrating you know what you’re talking about. That’s why “X great tips to ….” Or “How to …” are so popular these days. They frequently prove to be the most visited pages on a website. Our most popular article at the moment is “How much should a small business spend on marketing?”

2.      Your case studies

When your clients are happy to put their name on your marketing material, you know you’ve done a good job. Make sure these show the issues that client had and the results you delivered. These are the key parts of any case study – allowing the reader to recognise an issue they have and to see a result they would like to get. Our recent article on case studies will give you more of a guide on how to get these right.

3.      In conversation

Once a website visitor transforms into a lead, they will expect to talk to you, or to one of your sales team. This conversation needs to continue to prove you can walk the walk. Include stories about how you solved an issue for another client – that just happens to be an issue your prospect has just mentioned.

When all your marketing is focused on your target audience and is demonstrating your knowledge and ability to help your clients, your marketing results will improve. If you need a hand with any of this, call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here to book an appointment.

Want a little help with your markeing? Give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Image to depicted marketing tools

14 effective business marketing tools

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Marketing Performance, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning

There are a variety of business marketing tools you’ll come across (and have advertised to you) when looking for ways to boost your marketing. They range from free to as much as you can spend, giving you plenty of choice. This decision may seem insignificant, but it couldn’t be more important. The wrong tools will have you pulling your hair out before lunch.

So here are our picks for the best business marketing tools.

Mailchimp

One of the most popular for small businesses, Mailchimp is almost an essential for starting out in marketing. Mailchimp quickly and intuitively acts as your virtual assistant, from designing email campaigns, tracking customers’ habits, statistical analysis and compatible with most other tools you really can’t go wrong.

We have been using MailChimp for years and are now a partner.

Mailchimp offers a free version for up to 2000 contacts.

If you need more than this, subscriptions start at £11 a month.

Hootsuite

An absolute necessity if social media is part of your marketing plan. Hootsuite’s primary function is to schedule and design social posts. Making social media a morning’s work rather than a constant at the top of every day’s to-do-list. Plan your marketing strategies in advance and then sit back as Hootsuite posts them for you at the optimal time, no matter what else you have going on.

Subscriptions start at £39 a month (one user)

Canva

A slightly more specialised tool than the rest on this list, but a really useful one. Designing your professional documents and social media posts is time-consuming and difficult to maintain consistency and quality. Canva lets you design posts and documents with ease. Fully customizable templates for all your content. Create your perfect Canva by saving your brand colours and design features.

Canva has a free membership option (that works very well).

HubSpot

More and more of our clients are turning to HubSpot. A customer relationship management system (CRM) that can not only keep track of your emails, clients and customers but actively manages them. Automated email responses and work flows, marketing reports and metrics, integrated forms and links to landing pages. This is a one stop shop for all your marketing needs.

HubSpot offers it CRM for free, this lets you get to grips with it and is very useful.

It’s marketing and sales hubs are ad-ons that cost around £40 a month each for a starting package.

CANDDi

Website analytics are crucial to your marketing success. When deciding which tools to use, make sure you get on that tells you WHO is coming to your website. CANDDi helps you track traffic on your website and lets you know who they are, where they came from, what they looked at and for how long.

This is exceptionally helpful for getting an idea of what is and isn’t working and the kinds of people you’re attracting to your website.

CANDDi starts at £149 a month.

WordPress

WordPress is the world’s leading website building platform. If you’re serious about growing your business and need an easy and intuitive system to help you run and update it, this is the tool for you. Make your own templates for blogs and news. Set out your website exactly the way you want it or hire someone else to set it up and you manage it.

WordPress allows you to create a website for free or £20 a month for a small business subscription.

EventBrite

Eventbrite is an events marketing platform. Easy to use and semi-autonomous it helps bring people to your events with automated reminder emails, links and is compatible with a variety of other tools.

Eventbrite is free to use and then takes a percentage of ticket sales £0.49 + 6.5%(+20% UK VAT) for the professional package.

Don’t charge for tickets, don’t pay fees.

Zoom/Teams

You’re probably familiar with these, but there are many ways to use them. Hosting webinars and podcasts can help grow your audience and increase exposure. They are also great at keeping in contact with clients and international meetings. ZoomInfo is a database that allows you access to all those who have paid zoom accounts whose details you can use in your marketing.

Zoom has a free membership or a small business one for £159.90 a year.

Teams has a free membership (with limited options), or is included with Microsoft 365 which starts at £3.80 per user per month. You cannot purchase teams separately.

YouTube

A highly influential advertising platform, make videos yourself and gain a following or pay to have your adverts on other peoples’. This platform has the added value of high traffic and exposure.

YouTube is free to set up and upload content.

YouTube adverts cost as much or little as you want with daily budgets.

LinkedIn

A business centered social media platform, LinkedIn has immense reach within the business community. A great way to organically grow your following and connect with other like-minded people and potential clients. LinkedIn gives you industries insight, salary insights and much more with a professional business dashboard.

LinkedIn has a free membership that allows you to connect with others.

LinkedIn business membership starts at £39.90 a month.

Google Analytics

The first place to go when looking for information on your website traffic. Track customers and their habits across your site and gain insight into how to better market and sell.

Google analytics is free to use.

Business cards

A physical item may seem out of place on this list, but business cards are still effective business marketing tools. Business cards have been updated and now they can transfer data and information just by being in others vicinity. A great way to keep hold of useful contacts on one small card.

Standard business cards start around £12.57 for 100

Modern data transfer cards start at around £40

Coffee/Beer

Networking is one of the best marketing tools and sometimes it is still done best in person. Social events provide the perfect opportunity to get to know others and their strengths. You could find your perfect client or new employee in the length of a pint.

Your Network

Your network should be your greatest advocates and business marketing tools. When you have done excellent work for someone, be sure to capitalise. Ask for a testimonial to use in your marketing or see if they would recommend you to others. Word of mouth creates a more lasting brand impression.

If you would like to talk through what combination of online tools and marketing support would work for you, give us a call.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article about where to hire a content writer

When should you hire a content writer?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning

Four questions before you hire a content writer.

If you have clicked on this blog, chances are you’re already deliberating whether to hire a content writer. Choosing the right time and service, however, can be a mental barrier too many. Hire someone too early and you risk maxing out on overheads before your company can sustain it. Too late and apart from exhausting yourself, you will also hinder your business as it takes up too much of your time.

So let’s break it down and find out if you’re ready to hire a content writer..

How much content do you need to put out?

There are lots of factors, but small and growing businesses need to put out several types of content. There is:

  • Your blog – Potentially once a week
  • Your website – Needs constant updates
  • Social media posts – Twice a week
  • Sales copy – Hopefully often
  • Email campaigns – Once a week
  • Applications for grants – As and when

This adds up to a lot of time writing. Content plans can help with this, allocating time and resources and mapping out exactly what you are going to produce.

If you feel as though you can manage this with your existing team (that might just be you) then it is probably too early to employ a marketing agency or writer. If you don’t think you can handle that all on your own, then think about bringing in some help.

What is the quality of your current content?

So you’ve been doing your own marketing and now thanks to your efforts the business is growing. That’s great, but the more you grow, the more competition you will encounter. Your marketing and content will have to upgrade, as your business does to compete. A good way to test your content quality is through your number of readers. Be sure to set up Google Analytics in order to track how often your pieces are being viewed and compare it to your industry’s average.

Can you consistently produce content in ever greater amounts and quality? If not, think about hiring a marketing agency. They can produce professional content that represents the standard of quality you want associated with your business.

How valuable is your time?

Opportunity costs can sneak up on you, especially your own. Make sure your time isn’t worth more than it costs to hire a writer. Writing can take up an awful lot of your day, so be sure that your time wouldn’t be more valuable elsewhere. Failing to delegate can be detrimental both for your business and your health. If you find yourself still up planning and writing content outside of even business owners hours, maybe it’s time to bring in some help. Avoid the feast and famine trap.

What is your budget?

Agencies and employees cost money but don’t let that put you off. When looking for a marketing agency, find one that specialises in your size of business. This helps get the exact support you need with people who understand your budget.

There are also online content tools to help you out. Tools like Mailchimp and Hootsuite can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, with automated responses, ques of content and much more. They are not a substitute for a person, but if your content demands are just outstretching your available time, make sure you have taken all the help you can get.

Still not sure? Give us a call today and let’s talk about what would work best for you.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

heartbeat image for feast and famine article

How to avoid the feast and famine trap

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Uncategorized

heartbeat image for feast and famine articleBy their very nature small businesses have limited resources. Whether your business consists of one person or 30, there is always a long To Do List. Without very careful use of these resources, it is easy for a small business to fall into the feast and famine trap. This article outlines the feast to famine trap and how to avoid it’s pitfalls.

What is the feast and famine trap?

See if this sounds familiar…

  1. You do some marketing
  2. It generates some leads and you convert some into sales.
  3. Heads down; we have to deliver the sales, so we get paid.

But whilst you have your head down and are delivering what you sold…

  1. You don’t do any marketing
  2. So you don’t generate any new leads

Which means: no new sales and you’ve run out of work again. So you start the process again..

Marketing… Sales… Heads down. No marketing, no sales….

This trap starts happening either to very early-stage businesses, or to those going through a bit of a sales slump. If you’ve been through this (or are in it) how can you get out and avoid it in the future?

Why you need to avoid the trap

There are 4 primary reasons. Let’s look at them…

1. Irregular Cashflow

Never knowing how much money will be coming into the business from one month to the next makes it very difficult to plan for the future. You’ll probably end up with an overdraft for a chunk of the time (paying more bank fees). Whilst you will ensure you pay the staff, your earnings may get hit, at least temporarily.

2. Energy & Stress levels

Across your team, energy levels will rise and fall. Great when energy is high, but you know it can only last so long. If energy levels drop, service quality can easily drop too, threatening the relationship you have with your clients.

Your stress level is, almost certainly, going to be constantly high. You’re worrying permanently because of the fluctuating work and cash levels.

3. High staff turnover and Job insecurity

How can you plan, recruit and retain staffing when you’ve never quite sure how much work you will have next month? Your staff are also going to be worrying, distracting them from their jobs and impacting service quality – again.

4. Client satisfaction

Your clients will quickly see that you are really busy part of the time, as you are dedicating less time to them. They won’t like that and will start looking for alternatives.

How to avoid the feast and famine trap

If you know that the marketing you are doing is working, why not do it consistently? A consistent flow of marketing activity will deliver a consistent number of leads and sales. Easier said than done, we know, so you have three choices:

1. Dedicate time to marketing

By blocking out time in your diary – and not changing it – you are making marketing a priority and that will help you deliver consistent marketing and avoid the trap.

2. Add an in-house marketing team

These additional resources allow either them or you to do the consistent marketing that is needed to deliver the leads and sales you want. But it does mean recruiting (takes time and money), salaries (more tied up money) and, lockdown notwithstanding, desk space. All of which tie up valuable resources – time and money. This ignores the fact that finding someone with exactly the right mix of skills is going to be very difficult.

3. Outsource your marketing

Of course we are going to say this, but what other option is there? There are also a number of key benefits here:

  • The outsourced marketing company can start immediately.
  • They bring with them huge amounts of experience, working with companies very similar to yours.
  • You get the mix of skills you need, and nothing more.
  • If they don’t deliver, you can very easily get rid of them.
  • When there is enough marketing requirement, they will help you recruit and simply walk away.

This is a common trap that many fall into but getting out needn’t be difficult.We hope this article helps and moves your business out of this trap very soon.

If you would like to discuss your marketing vs delivery balance, give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

infographic showing what happens with inconsistent marketing

7 tips on why and how to deliver consistent marketing

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Uncategorized

infographic showing what happens with inconsistent marketingWhy consistent marketing is the key to success

Good quality marketing should be a lot of things; eye-catching, insightful, subtle, but most of all it should be consistent. Consistency brings with it a host of benefits to your business but it’s often overlooked in small businesses that don’t have a marketing department. When new business and delivery are your main priority, marketing has a tendency to fall by the wayside. In this blog, we’ll tell you why you should be consistent in your marketing, and how to achieve it.

Why you should practice consistent marketing

Break the cycle of “feast or famine”

The cycle of “feast or famine” is a dangerous business model. You need to be consistently attracting a baseline of new business so you don’t find yourself unable to make ends meet in times of dearth. Work within your capacity and slowly ramp up your marketing to achieve sustainable growth, rather than boom or bust.

Be ready for unforeseen opportunities

You never know when your prospect might be looking to buy. Keep your offers at the top of their inbox, and your brand in their mind by always being present. While old prospects might not have bought from you in the past, there’s no reason why they won’t in the future if your marketing is emphasising your quality and reliability.

Make your brand synonymous with quality

Your marketing content is the face of your brand, so you should ensure it’s a consistent quality as well as quantity. Set a brand tone that is clear and professional. Try and employ visual content that’s at least consistent, if not bespoke.

Boost your social and search engine optimization

Social media channels and search engines reward consistent brands with better rankings on their platforms. Posting on LinkedIn and website at least once a week will move you up the search rankings, as well as keeping your content fresh.

Maintain your reputation as a thought leader

Once you’ve built an audience you need to continue catering to their expectations or risk losing them to a competitor. If your marketing content is incisive and well-thought-out, you can establish yourself as a thought leader; the go-to voice in your industry. But once you’ve achieved this, you need to keep it up or risk losing the audience you’ve already built.

How to implement consistent marketing for your small business

Create a comprehensive marketing plan

The best marketing plans cover a range of mediums and platforms. You should try and create a range of video, audio and written content to get the most engagement from your audience. But most importantly, plan your content in advance. Make sure you’re not constantly marketing on the hoof as this takes more time in the long run, while also looking haphazard or slapdash.

Develop a plan that fits the resources you have available to you.

Sometimes less is more with content

If you’ve got limited resources, worry less about how often you’re posting. Instead, maybe only post a blog every other week, but make sure it is every other week. Consistency is key. Don’t use all your marketing material in the first month and then find yourself out of content.

If you do find yourself with spare time, start to get ahead of schedule. Resist the urge to post or do more, that then cannot be sustained.

Get help

If you want to do more marketing, but you simply don’t have the resources (time or skills) in-house, get help from outside…. You know who to call…

If you would like to discuss your marketing consistency and how to improve it, give us a call.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

women writing a blog on her laptop - image supporting blog on how often should I write blogs

How often should I write blogs

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning

women writing a blog on her laptopAll good articles end with an ‘it depends’. So I will put mine at the beginning so you can make the right inferences for your company as you read through. Rather than giving you a prescriptive answer to the question “How often should I write blogs?”, let’s break it down into 6 questions that will give you an answer.

Question 1. Who do I want to read my blog?

Writing a blog is one thing, writing a purpose-filled blog is another. If you want your blog to bring in new people then the goal is reaching as many people as possible within your target market. This creates a need for more blog postings as growing an audience requires many blogs on different subjects and aspects of business.

If instead, you are writing for a group of people who you think will read most of the content you put out then you want to avoid ‘bombarding’ them with content and keep the blogs less frequent but in greater depth about specifics.

Question 2. How are they going to find my blog?

There are many ways people can find your blogs, but a search engine algorithm is the most common for new traffic. Assuming you want yours to be found by those most likely to possess a sympathetic ear, it is important to know how to make your work appear before your competitors. SEO (search engine optimization) is greatly helped by blogs and their content. New content is favoured as most people looking for information want the most recent accounts possible, this favours a high output of blog posts to always have something new.

Depending on the length of time your business has been releasing blogs however it may be that you have an awful lot of content already out there, but it is ageing and becoming obsolete. Updating your posts can be just as important and if you are a smaller team a lot more viable than writing new ones every day.

If people are coming across your content regularly then it is fair to assume they are interested in your business and have looked at your website (which you should link in your blogs). Make sure to have an obvious opt-in for email updates that will allow you to collect data on your readership and produce much more targeted marketing. Email campaigns are a sure way to reach people that have already found you, but for maximum exposure, it’s a good idea to diversify your content platforms. Social media is a real powerhouse when it comes to locating information, insure any posts about your blogs have the relevant hashtags to your sector and interests. This gives people the most chance of finding you.

Question 3. What should be in my blog?

When deciding what to write in your blog posts keep in mind that it is not what you want to write about but rather what your audience will want to read about. What sector you’re in, how you’ve segmented your market and what you are trying to achieve with your blog are large determining factors. If you are trying to entice your reader to purchase a product or service then the blog should lean towards the shortcomings of life without it. Avoid making sales to obvious, readers are aware there might be underlying reasons for the blog’s existence but it should remain an enjoyable and informative read none-the-less. ‘Bigging up’ your company and achievements is important just ensure it doesn’t sound like bragging or like you are overtly trying to sell something.

Question 4. What do I want my audience to do with the information?

So you have people reading your blogs – great, now what? It might be that your objective is complete already, they read it.  Releasing lots of blog posts can help accelerate brand awareness as the more content available the more chance of people finding it and remembering your brand. Interested readers alone often aren’t enough for small business though, they must create sales leads. This is the tricky part, if you create content on too large a variety of topics it might look like your business isn’t specialised enough, too little and you look unprofessional.  

 

Question 5. What does my content strategy say?

Blogs fall under the marketing umbrella and so it is a good idea to include them in your marketing strategy. This should be an in-detail plan of what is going where and when. Getting inspired by a blog on how often you should post and sticking to it, are very different. Remember when it comes to blog writing, consistency is key. Small businesses are often advised to release 16 blogs a month. This keeps them relevant while not taking up too much time (and budget) for the value they provide. Only you know how much of your business is dependent on blog generated leads so only you can know how much time to dedicate to them. 

Keep in mind all content strategies differ based on a few guiding factors, the size of your company being the first. Larger companies are likely to have better and longer relationships with clients and customers, this means their focus shifts towards fewer blogs in much greater detail. Your sector matters as well, some companies are a lot less dependent on a consistent stream of leads. One or two large clients may be all a small firm can provide for, reducing the amount of content they need to put out. 

Your content strategy should also outline whether you have an inbound (people coming to you) or outbound (you going to others) strategy. Inbound strategies require a greater amount of content as you will need to capture the most amount of interested people as possible. Outbound strategies require less content to avoid a ‘spam’ look and therefore require more careful drafting and a greater sense of quality.

Quality and quantity are often seen as an either-or, but for blog writing each company needs to strike its own balance. No matter what company you are, producing such high-level blogs that mean they are always in development, running overtime or missing the boat on time-sensitive topics are no good. Quantity is of course no good either without sufficient quality. As I said previously each company must find its own balance but a good test is to have someone else read your blog and tell you if what they think of it. If they report what you intended, the blog is finished.

Question 6. What are my resources?

The danger for lots of small businesses is picking a number of blogs to write a week while the pipeline is relatively quiet and then being overwhelmed by work the next week and therefore no content is released. If you are a small or even solo team then overpromising or overstretching yourself/s will only see your level of stress go up and eventually productivity will go down. 

The simple answer to the question “how often should I write blogs” is: the correct number of blogs to put out is the number that you can sustain over a long period. If you are too busy to do this, outsourcing your content creation as you grow is a great way to make sure your content strategy doesn’t fall by the wayside during busy periods.

 

At SME Needs, we’ve been crafting bespoke content strategies for our clients for years. If you’re one of the many businesses with too little time or knowledge to create your own, and without the budget to hire a full-time marketing executive, give us, your virtual marketing director, a call on 020 8634 5911 or click here.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article about free ways to market your small business

4 free ways to market your business online

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing

image to support article about free ways to market your small business
There’s a saying that nothing in life is free, which is likely the creation of some, witty marketing executive. However, the possibilities available to businesses in digital marketing, might just be the exception to the rule. Where offline marketing is notoriously costly, digital marketing has lots of opportunities to grow your audience and generate fresh leads. Here’s a few way to market your business that you may not have considered before.

Well, it’s not exactly “free”, since you have to spend time, rather than money, to make these strategies effective. However, for small businesses with a limited budget, but a lot of drive in their team, this approach can yield fantastic results.

First things first

Before diving headfirst into the digital water, you want to have a few questions in mind:

  1. Who’s your target audience?
    You might create a bold and edgy Instagram campaign, but if your target audience is mostly on LinkedIn, you could be investing your time more wisely. Look at your ideal client (or ideal clients);  what’s their demographic, pain points, their interests? Use this insight to focus your efforts on the places you know your ideal clients are likely to look.
  2. What do you want to get out of this?
    There’s not one way to measure the success of a marketing campaign. If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, then reach, engagement and traffic are the metrics you want to look for. However, if for B2B companies, you’re more likely to measure success by conversions. If the latter is your aim, then don’t fall for the trap of chasing engagement when it doesn’t lead to an increase in sales.

Keep both of these in mind all the time while following through on your digital marketing plan. Time is money, and if you want to make the most out of what you invest, you need to be selective. Now lets look at some of the free ways to market your business online.

Virtual networking

Networking is still the bread and butter of B2B marketing. Luckily (since we can’t leave our houses right now) there’s plenty of ways to network online. The usual trade shows and events are, for the most part, still taking place, albeit online rather than at a conference centre in Stoke (at least you can save on the train fare).

There’s also LinkedIn, which has become an indispensable tool in the world of B2B marketing. LinkedIn’s adjustable search tools make it very easy to find prospects by profession, role and location. Make the sure you follow up connections with a message, explaining why you’ve added them. Use the opportunity to create fewer, deeper connections, rather than casting a wide net.

Email marketing

Email marketing might be considered old hat, but it’s still the most reliable source of leads of B2Bs. If you’re not already making use of email marketing then you should be. If you are, find out how you can increase your performance by 50%. Even if you’re not making sales short term, having the name of your business at the top of your ideal clients’ inbox is a good way stay in their mind when the next spending cycle comes around.

Social media marketing

We’ve already talked about networking on LinkedIn, but that’s not the only free marketing opportunity it offers. If you are willing to spend a little bit of money, then LinkedIn Premium’s Sales Navigator is a great way of directly marketing to prospects. You should also build a professional looking business page, then like, comment and engage as your business. LinkedIn’s algorithms reward time spent and the variety of features you use.

The same goes for Facebook and Instagram. An active and responsive business account will be more visible than ones those that are infrequently used. Plus, posting regular content and replying to comments is a nice way of building an audience into a community. But remember that community doesn’t always equal customers, so do your research by creating a company page on every social media platform going.

Content marketing

Content marketing is another free way to generate interest, while also demonstrating expertise in your industry. The conventional way of doing this is via a blog, either on your own website or on a free blog site like Blogger. Putting out free content is a good way to appear generous and benevolent, while subtly prompting your readers to make contact or add their email to your mailing list.

But in the 2020s there’s far more options out there. Videos are a great way to capture people’s attention and also give a human face to your company. Almost all social media channels now support some sort of video feature and they’re simple enough to feature on your website. Anyone can do it!

Time is money

Once you’ve tried a few free online marketing strategies, it’s worth using analytics tools to assess which ones are working the best. Free tools like Google Analytics can trace the original source of your website traffic if that’s your marketing goal. Likewise, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have built in analytics tools to show you which of your posts are getting the most engagement and clicks. Time is money, so it’s economical do more of what works and cut out what doesn’t.

To conclude…

I hope this post has given you plenty of free and potentially lucrative free ways to market your business online. Before setting out remember to keep in mind your target audience and your goal. It pays (in time spent on trial and error) to do your research first. Try a couple of strategies and platforms, look at what the data tells you and narrow it down until your generating the most leads per hour spent online marketing as possible.

If you would like to skip the trial and error and cut straight to the chase, you can use our years of digital experience. Call us now

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Case Study Ninja

How to write perfect case studies and use them to maximise sales

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Marketing Performance, Small Business Marketing, Uncategorized

image to support article about writing perfect case studies

In a time when much of what you buy is based on peer reviews, there has never been a time when case studies have been more important. This article will take you through how to write perfect case studies and then how to use them to maximise sales. 

What is a case study?

Put simply, it is a summary of your engagement with a specific client. Case studies will describe your client, what you did and what you achieved (more detail to follow). It will be no more than two pages (when printed) and should take only a minute or two to read. 

What are case studies for?

Case studies show people what your company is capable of delivering. In the same way that a 5-star review will prompt people to buy on Amazon or TripAdvisor, a case study will help potential clients to move closer to buying from you. 

How to write perfect case studies

If you haven’t written any case studies yet, the next couple of minutes will give you a very clear, step by step, guide to writing case studies that will be highly effective. 

1. Identify happy clients 

Who is your happiest client? Who has been a client for a long time? Which clients have you generated outstanding results for? 

The answers to these questions will give you a list of clients to develop case studies for. Now all you have to do is ask them. Asking them when you are delivering good news always helps.  

2. Start writing 4 of the 6 key parts of a case study 

Thees 4 parts of a case study are: 

  1. Who are they? – a description of the client, aimed at helping readers identify with them. Companies like to buy from other companies who understand their industry sector. 
  1. Where is their issue? – what did you help them with? Again, potential clients like to see that you understand the issues they face. 
  1. What did you do?  – probably the least important piece, but still needs to show you know what to do and you have the knowledge and expertise looked for. 
  1. Why did it work?  absolutely the most important part. People buy results and success. They want to work with companies that can prove they can deliver. Include numbers to show your results, but be specific. 96% growth, rather than “doubled sales”. Graphics will help communicate these more effectively. 

At this point there are two pieces missing from the perfect case study. Let’s look at them in a little more detail. 

3. The Headline

The newspapers used to refer to the backbench; where the sub-editors used to sit. They were the highly paid specialists responsible for writing headlines that would sell that paper in the millions. A catchy headline would easily divert people from buying one newspaper to another. They wanted to know what the paper had to say, based purely on the headline. Back then, these were highly paid employees – not any more. 

But the headline is still vitally important. It will determine whether someone reads the case study or not. So what should be in a headline? 

Our latest case study is headlined: Adding a £million to turnover in six years. It communicates a great result; something any small business owner would like to see happen for them. Headlines should be about something the reader cares about: results, money, solutions – are just some examples. There is plenty of guidance online. 

4. The validation 

Once you’ve done all of the above, you need sign-off from the client, and you need them to validate your case study. 

Sign-off is simple. You send it to them and they agree that what you have written is accurate. The validation is what they write about you and you then use as proof that you have delivered and you have a very happy client. Their testimonial is the final piece of the perfect case study. 

The cynical ones out there could, if there was no testimonial from the client, say you made it up. With the testimonial, that goes away. The only time a happy client is unlikely to give you a testimonial is when you are solving an issue that they shouldn’t have, or they don’t want to admit they have. Insolvency practitioners, for example, can struggle at times.  

The best mediums for your case study 

Written content: accessibility, SEO etc. 

Podcast: Interview with client, audio format.  

You know that video content is highly powerful and is beloved by the search engines. Video testimonials that support a written case study can really improve the impact of your case studies. 

Video testimonials make great social media content too. 

How to use your case studies to increase sales

Once you know how to write perfect case studies, you can use them to drive sales. Case studies work at both ends of the sales funnel. They will nudge people into starting a conversation with you and they will convince people to sign on the dotted line too. Let’s look at where you should use your case studies to maximise their performance. 

1. On your website

This is the first place to put it because it is rare for someone to enter your sales funnel without at least one visit to your website. Make sure it is used in multiple places across your website 

  • A case study page will show website viewers that you have lots of happy clients 
  • Including relevant case studies on the product page will mean they are seen more often, and are more effective. 

 Include links from the case study both to the client’s website/social media and to the product/services they bought. This helps both your SEO and the user experience. 

 At the end of the case study, ask if this results sounds like something the reader would like for their business. Get them thinking… and acting. 

2. Social media

Sharing your case studies on your social media channels increases the numbers of times they are seen, particularly if you have video content. Perhaps you can pin, at least for a while, your latest case study to the top of your profile page to maximise views. Check your Analytics to see if it is driving traffic when pinned. If not, unpin it. 

Remember that individual case studies can go through social media more than once. Only a small percentage of your followers will see it each time. Not everyday of course! 

3. Newsletters

If you use a newsletter to keep your mailing list up to date, make sure you include your case studies in there. Mailing lists include clients, prospects, stakeholders, suppliers and networking connections. Showing them the great results you have achieved for a client can encourage new sales (from prospects and current clients buying more/something else) and referrals. 

4. Email automations  

Email automations are great ways to quickly educate new subscribers about what you do, how you help and the results you achieve. Case studies will help these new subscribers to believe your promises.  

5. Proposals

When you get to the point of developing a proposal for a new client, a great case study, or two, supports your pitch and increases the value propositions. Choose highly relevant case studies. Ones that are for companies with similar issues to your prospect and with a similar profile – industry, company size, location etc. Don’t simply use the same case studies for every proposal. 

 If you use something like CANDDi, you may want to include links to the case studies in the proposal, rather than the whole things. Knowing that they have clicked through shows the prospect really is interested. 

 

Case studies must be part of your marketing collateral. Used properly the perfect case study can be highly effective. It will help you fill your sales pipeline and they will help your Sales function to close more too.  

If your case studies aren’t working, or you haven’t got any, get in touch. We can help you both produce them and then make use of them to drive more sales. 

Time to starting marketing after lockdown

12 Top Tips for Marketing After Lockdown

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

Time to starting marketing after lockdownBoris’ roadmap has offered the first realistic timeline for the opening up of the UK economy. This means that business owners are now able to start planning for a future without COVID restrictions. It’s been almost a year since the first lockdown was imposed in the UK and in that time, businesses have had to adapt their marketing to reflect the virtual, remote, new world we found ourselves in.

If all goes well, we will soon be dusting off our old business cards ready to (tentatively) start handing them out to new contacts. But will the post-lockdown marketing environment go right back to how it was, or will some of the changes stick around? In this blog, we’ll take a look at what you can expect for B2B marketing after lockdown.

Start – if you haven’t already

If you stopped marketing to your target audiences during lockdown, now is definitely the time to start again. Ideally you would have never stopped marketing, but sometimes needs must. It’s never too late to start marketing your small business again.

Freshen up on old skills

Chances are, you’re itching to get back to in-person networking. Nothing gets the point across like actually talking to someone, with no dodgy WiFi distortions, or the infamous phrase “you’re on mute”. It’s been a long time since this kind of gathering has been possible, let’s get you some refresher tips.

Listen First

When networking it’s important to listen before talking. First of all, it’s just polite. Secondly, it gives you an actual advantage when networking to know what your contact’s role, experience and personality are before you give them your pitch. That way you can take note of their key details and tailor your pitch so it’s specific to them.

Elevator Pitches

One of the unappreciated benefits of Zoom calls is that you know exactly how long they go on for. Even in short breakout rooms you get a handy reminder when you have one minute to wrap up. In the post-Covid world we won’t have that luxury. Time to sharpen up your elevator pitch. Condense the saleable points of your business in two minutes or less.

Tell Stories

You might have the best data, the smoothest branding, but nothing is better at selling your product or service than a story. The basic tenets of narrative: an empathetic protagonist, a conflict and resolution; beginning, middle and end, coincide brilliantly with the customer journey, so use them. These techniques also work well when networking virtually. Just remember to hit unmute!

Remember to Follow Up

This isn’t something you have to worry about so much when marketing remotely, since almost all virtual interactions like email and LinkedIn leave you with a way to get back in touch. However, in person, you must make that first electronic contract; either on the phone, on Zoom or an email. Opening a dialogue is the first step in building a relationship.

Make a plan

Failing to plan…. etc. Is an old, but true, adage. If you don’t plan, you won’t do the consistent marketing you need to generate a steady flow of leads into your business

Utilise Automations

Now that you’ve actually got places to be, you might need to start employing automations to cover for you while you’re out and about. Email and social media automations, such as Mailchimp and Hootsuite, allow you to plan the publishing of your content in advance. You can read more about marketing automation tools here.

Update Your Case Studies

You might have a fantastic pitch and be a natural salesman face-to-face, but prospects need to know you’re true to your word. Prove it to them with case studies. Make sure they’re informative, well formatted and include a great testimonial from a happy client.

Need a hand measuring with your marketing planning

Click here for more tips

Capitalise on new opportunities!

Alongside this return to the old, there will undoubtedly be some elements of lockdown marketing that will stay part of our everyday. In 2021 a founder/CEO will be using old and new techniques to stay ahead of the curve. Of course, you should have been doing some of this through the lockdown, but if not, it’s better late than never. Here’s what we predict…

New Digital Content

While audio-visual content might have seen a spike to fill the void in an absence of face-to-face interaction, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going anywhere. Video content in particular is all the rage, with all platforms continuing to widen their video capacity.
Just look at Instagram TV, Facebook Watch and LinkedIn Stories. If you haven’t already, start experimenting with audio-visual content; perhaps a podcast or a video introduction. Some of the content that could be adapted to new mediums are:

  • Product explanation videos.
  • Introductory presentations.
  • Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Case studies and client testimonials.

Virtual Meetings

Love or hate virtual meetings, the likelihood is they’re too convenient to do without. While Zoom fatigue may be very real, it’s better than commuting for an hour just to catch a meeting. It’s still worth investing in good lighting, microphones, speakers, or even professional backdrops to make a good impression when meeting people virtually.

In closing

While this may be mostly conjecture, it’s good to be aware of the changing marketing environment so you can use every tool at your disposal when promoting your business. What’s for certain is the future won’t be the same as the past. In a year when traditional marketing methods were off the table, technology stepped in to pick up the slack. Now that there’s finally a roadmap out of lockdown, we will find ourselves with double the tools needed to market our businesses. Deciding which to use and when will be up to you.

If you need a hand getting your marketing going again after lockdown, give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

social media

Which social media marketing platforms are best for my business?

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Plan

social media

It’s well known that B2B companies tend to use social media platforms a lot less than B2Cs. It’s true that commercial buyers are certainly less likely to make impulse purchases. However, they are still human, and still susceptible to social media marketing. If you can identify which social media platforms your ideal clients are spending their time on, you can generate leads by making sure your business has a visible presence there. In this article we’ll help you work out which social media platform(s) is/are right for your small business marketing.

Go where your ideal clients are

B2B social media effectiveness

While it’s good to promote your brand widely, it’s no good pursuing engagement for engagement’s sake. You should focus your social marketing on the platforms where you know your ideal clients are. But first, you need to know who your ideal client is. To help you out we’ve written a brief description of each and compiled a table of the key demographic differences between the different platforms to help you work out where you should be marketing your business. (Statistics sourced from NaturallySocial and Hootsuite)

Example: If your ideal client is a startup business in an emerging, youth-oriented market, you might consider marketing on Instagram. Similarly, if you’re an established company targeting CEOs with 50+ employees, you’re probably better of sticking to LinkedIn.  

(Graph source: SproutSocial, effectiveness as judged by B2B marketers themselves.) 

1. LinkedIn

The go-to B2B marketing platform. Lots of B2B companies only use LinkedIn because almost all decision makers and CEOs are there. In the UK last year, 86% of B2B businesses had a presence on LinkedIn. Similarly, premium features like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and InMail make it easy to convert into a direct sales tool.  

  • More male (57%). 
  • Mostly popular with young people, especially 25-34yearolds. 

2. Twitter

Most businesses have a Twitter presence, which means it’s a lucrative platform for engaging with clients and competitors. While not as directly business-oriented as LinkedIn, it’s the perfect place to promote your products and drive traffic to your website.  

  • More male (60%). 
  • More even age distribution than the others, the majority under 34.

3. Facebook

Facebook has a lot of features geared towards hosting businesses, however it’s much more useful for B2C than B2B. The way the platform functions means it’s far easier for business pages to engage with individuals than other businesses. Also, it’s seen as a more recreational and informal, rather than professional and commercial network. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of opportunities to promote your brand and market products.  

  • Slightly more male (56%).  
  • Most popular among 25-34-year-olds but still popular with all older demographics. 

4. Instagram

Being a younger platform than the others (literally and demographically) Instagram has yet to develop good B2B potential. At the moment it is best suited to startups, cottage industries and sole traders. However, it’s rapidly developing as a commercial social network and is the most popular platform for young people, so it’s definitely one to watch for the future of B2B social marketing. 

  • Slightly more female (52%). 
  • Most popular among 18-24-year-olds.  

Less is more

If you know the platforms and have good marketing content, there’s clients to be found on all platforms. The real question is, which of them are worth investing time inIt’s best to invest your resources in promoting your business on one or two platforms well, rather than spreading yourself too thin across the whole socialsphere. Take your time, work out your ideal client and find the social networks where they congregate. You might get great engagement from sharing posts on Facebook, but if your engagement is coming from users with no intention of buying from you, there’s little to be gained from it. 

Leave your comfort zone

Perhaps you’re a fan of Twitter. You’ve got a thousand followers and you use it as your main social network and you never really got the hang of Facebook and Instagram. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Twitter is necessarily the best for your business. In some cases, your ideal client is just like you, but in most cases they aren’t. If you find that your audience is on a platform you’re not familiar with, it’s time to leave your comfort zone. If no one in your team has experience with marketing on Facebook, for example, perhaps you could outsource to a freelance social media manager.  

Which social media platforms are generating traffic and leads?

Using social media for your business is about generating interest and developing leads to convert into new clients. Are you checking, and recording, what platforms are driving traffic and how many leads you are getting from each? 

Some social media specialists will say it is all about brand awareness. Whilst people need to be aware of your brand, they also need to do something about itThat means visiting your website or calling you. Google Analytics clearly shows which platforms your website traffic is coming from, so wherever you record your leads (you are recording lead source, right?)make it obvious which is generating the most interest 

In closing…

Social media marketing is a bigger part of B2B marketing than it used to be and trends show that it’s only going to get bigger. Now is the time to dissect the available platforms and start building your presence on the network where your ideal clients are residing.

If you find yourself in a social media minefield, we can help steer your business back in the right direction.

If you're struggling to work out what social media channels you should be using, give us a call and let's talk

Tel: 020 8634 5911

where to start with digital marketing

Digital Marketing: where to start

By A Helping Hand

where to start with digital marketing

It might not be considered “new” anymore, but it’s never too late to start digital marketing. Research suggests that while B2B marketing spending in 2020 has fallen (due to the pandemic), digital marketing spending actually increased, overtaking traditional mediums. Even if your existing offline marketing is providing a solid ROI, perhaps digital could be another strand in your marketing mix.

As we’ll explain more, the beauty of digital marketing is that it can be implemented for no financial cost and can be instantly measured for effectiveness. It’s marketing’s answer to no-win, no-fee. So, why should you start to dabble in digital?

What is Digital Marketing?

First, let’s clarify. Digital marketing is pretty self-explanatory; it’s any marketing that takes place on an online, digital medium, such as email, websites, social media and search engines. In other words, it’s any marketing connected to the internet.

It differs from offline marketing in its implementation, as well as its form. For one, digital marketing is a great leveller which is good news for SMEs. It’s largely free at the point of entry and its customizability allows you to swoop down and target the select few most likely to buy from you. So, for you digital newbies, we’ve detailed why and what you need to start.

Why start Digital Marketing?

While there may be a lot of new skills to get to grips with, there’s a whole heap of new opportunities provided by digital marketing.

1. Do a lot more with a lot less

One of the clearest benefits of digital marketing is that much of it can be done at no financial cost. For example, creating social media profiles for your business and putting out regular content. This might be time-consuming, but for a savvy social networker, it can mean access to a whole new audience without spending a single penny. Alongside email marketing campaigns, blogs and organic SEO, there’s a lot of ways to boost your visibility and engagement with little risk.

2. Opportunities for more focussed, tailored marketing

Instead of the one-size-fits-all approach of offline marketing, digital allows you to tailor, personalise and control what you put out and to whom. Let’s say you own a paper company. Your target audience is likely to be CEOs of publishing companies, of a certain size, in a certain region. The customizability of digital ads allows you to target only those that you consider potential clients, rather than spending money on exposure to an audience unlikely to convert.

3. Chances to measure effectiveness

You don’t have to take my word for it. Another advantage of digital marketing is that you can see the levels of reach, engagement and even track leads back to the original source of interest, in real time. Free platforms, such as Google Analytics, allow you to measure what part of the marketing mix is working and (even more importantly) what isn’t. This is one of the key advantages of digital, since it’s notoriously hard to gauge the ROI of offline marketing methods until long after the fact, if ever. With digital, you can use this readily available information to cut out the dead weight and reinvest in more lucrative marketing channels.

What you need to start Digital Marketing

To make the most of the opportunities afforded by digital, there are a few things you’ll need.

digital marketing tools

1. Digital literacy

Do you, or someone in your team, have the requisite IT skills to implement your own internet marketing? Similarly, the tone of platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn are different from offline platforms. Do you know how to adapt your current copy to fit the distinct tone of different digital platforms? If the answer to either of these is no, consider whether it’s worth training you current staff, or outsourcing to a marketing specialist.

2. Time and talent

The possibilities for user engagement on digital platforms are some of their best features. Clients feel valued when you’re contactable via comments or direct messages. However, this is time consuming. You want to ensure you have the right talent available to cover the social media management. Similarly, the free endeavours like creating original blog content take time and effort. However, you don’t necessarily have to hire or outsource. Here are some examples of marketing tools on the market that can help.

3. A cutting edge

Is your messaging clear and convincing enough to stand out online? The abundance of free marketing space that digital platforms have created means that you have to rise above your competitors. Your message, pain points and ideal client should be worked out in your digital marketing plan if you want to cut through the noise and be noticed by your target market. Make sure you have talent available to you to craft a clear digital strategy before diving in the deep end.

To conclude…

Digital is already the dominant form of B2B marketing. It’s not a question of whether you should be doing it, but how you can incorporate it into your current marketing mix with the best outcome. Digital platforms offer SMEs the potential to get a better overall ROI than with offline media alone. With most digital platforms and analytics tools being free to use, you can have fun experimenting without risking capital. However, that isn’t to say it’s free and easy. If you learn how to play the game; engage with clients, appeal to the algorithms that determine SEO, etc. digital marketing could be the most lucrative strand of your marketing plan.

If you need help with anything discussed here, from creating a tailored marketing plan, creating original content, or managing social media, we have the expertise and resources to help you integrate digital into your marketing mix. Contact us on 020 8634 5911 or click here.

Ideal Client

How many Ideal Clients do you have?

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Small Business Marketing

Ideal Client

The “Ideal Client” is a phrase used a lot in business. It refers to that archetypical business that: generates revenue; is the right size for your business; is easy to communicate with; and fits well with your own company culture. It’s the map of a theoretical perfect client against which to measure your real prospects. It’s important to know what your Ideal Client looks like so you can spot them when they appear. The term is a bit misleading, however. Most businesses don’t have an Ideal Client, but rather Ideal Clients.

Unless you’re just starting out it’s unlikely you’ll have just one. The Ideal Client is an essential term in B2B marketing, so it’s well worth keeping in mind when looking for new clients, as well as when dealing with your current clients.

Why do you need to map an Ideal Client?

image to support article about ideal clients

Think back to you last networking event (in person or virtual), how many people did you hear say: “I want to talk to anybody who owns a car (for example).” It happens all the time, even though it’s clearly not the most effective way to go. Think how much more effective the speakers pitch would be if they said: “I want to talk to people with old, petrol car, with bad mileage, in the Croydon area, looking to upgrade to something more fuel efficient.” The fewer people in the room this applies to are suddenly listening.

The scatter-gun approach is never going to work. At best it’s bland and impersonal, at worst it’s white noise in the background while your potential clients tune out. You want to focus on the clients with the need, means and intent to buy. It makes sense. Every pound spent marketing to this ideal audience will have a much better return on investment than a campaign targeting everyone with a car.

Picture it like this. Since your marketing budget is finite, it’s as though it’s being split between everyone in your target market. If your budget is £10,000 an your target market is 60 million, that’s not going to get you very much traction. The more you focus your marketing down to your Ideal Clients, the more likely you are to sell.

Why would you need more than one ideal client?

Unless you’re in your first year of trading, it’s unlikely that you only have one Ideal Client. If you sell to different regions, or several products or services, it’s savvy to map out several Ideal Clients. The following are a few reasons you might want to do that and how.

1. Your products or services are used in different industry sectors

You might only sell one product or service. Still, the way that product or service is used and the result it delivers might vary from sector to sector. The product or service stays the same, but the way you talk about it will be different depending on the sector it’s marketed in.

The Ideal Client Grid

Product/IndustryProduct #1Product #2Product #3Product #4Product #5
Industry #1ABCDE
Industry #2FGHI
Industry #3JKL
Industry #4MNOP

To summarise, if your product is:

  • Bought by the same decision maker,
  • delivering the same results,
  • used in the same way (even in multiple industries)…

Then it’s the same Ideal Client. Likewise, if more than one product is bought by the same decision maker in the same industry, it’s probably just the one Ideal Client.

2. You’re expanding your portfolio

If you’re adding a new product or service, it’s highly likely you will have at least one additional Ideal Client. This is simply because your new product (not including an upgrade of an original product) will deliver something new. It will solve new issues and problems. This may help your existing client base or it may address a completely new one. You need to map this out in order to identify the right marketing mix for each.

3. You’re targeting a new industry sector

Pain points in different industry sectors that purchase your product or service are unlikely to be totally distinct. There may be some overlap in the issues faced by a charity and a law firm, for example. But you wouldn’t use the same language or marketing mix to target both. Each time you look to specifically target a new industry sector, you have yourself a new Ideal Client.

Are your current clients ideal clients?

The idea of turning away potential clients seems to go against common sense, but in the long run, it can pay to be picky. Taking on all willing clients is a quick fix business plan that could lose you money in the long run. There are several possible disadvantages to taking on less-than-ideal clients:

  • They might be unwilling or unable to purchase more products/services from you.
  • Or they might be too big for your business to cope with.
  • They could be too small to be worth your time.
  • Perhaps they’re difficult to deal with.
  • They might not be the kind of business you want to be associated with.
  • Are they stagnant or declining?
  • Maybe they’re not turning a profit.

While these companies might be happy to give you their money, they could end up costing you more down the road. This also applies to your existing clients. Businesses that have been with you for a long time might no longer reflect your Ideal Client. If you have a number of current clients that don’t fit you Ideal Client description, you need to work out what’s the best thing to do. More on this in a little while.

What are your options with non-ideal clients?

As for your existing customers, what are your options if you find that not all of them fit your Ideal Client profiles?

  1. Bin them: A drastic option especially if this is the majority of your current clients.
  2. Keep them: If they are profitable, there’s no need to terminate their contracts.
  3. Add a new Ideal Client to your portfolio: If you have a number of clients that are very similar. In other words, using the same products in the same ways, this may be another profitable target audience.

The number of Ideal Clients you have determines the complexity of your marketing. The more you have, the more marketing you have to do to successfully target them and deliver sales. Most small businesses have 2 to 5. The most we’ve seen is 20, but that was a business selling internationally, with offices on three continents.

To conclude…

Only you know the answer to how many Ideal Clients you should have. It all depends on the size, variety and location of your business. What’s most important is having a clear picture of your Ideal Clients, so you can spot them when they appear. The better you get to know your Ideal Clients, the more chance you have to make lasting connections with businesses on the same, profitable, trajectory as your own.

If you would like help mapping your Ideal Clients and tailoring your marketing mix to them, give us a call on 020 8634 5911, or click here.

 

is my marketing working?

Is your marketing working?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Measure

Marketing is a complex art at the best of times, and sometimes the means of measuring your marketing can end up muddying the water. There are a whole lot of calculations, metrics and analytics out there. In a department full of jargon, what’s the best way to see if your marketing is working? In this blog, we’ll walk you through the process of effectively gauging your marketing performance.
is my marketing working?

How can you measure your marketing?

Some of the most common ways of breaking down your marketing statistics into something more manageable is with simple figures, such as bounce rate, click-through rate, engagement, etc. No metric on its own can tell you all you need to know about your marketing performance, it depends on your goal. Let’s unpick some of these terms and what they can tell you about how well your marketing is working.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of people that leave your website after viewing the first page, rather than moving on to others. This might look like a useful barometer for how well your marketing is working. However, it’s not as simple as that. The bounce rate only represents movement, not time spent on each page. For example, if a suspect spends ten minutes on your homepage, reads your mission statement and calls you from the phone number provided, that would still count as a bounce. Despite the fact that your marketing has worked in that case. It’s useful in conjunction with other metrics, but be wary of using this figure alone to measure how well your marketing’s working.

Engagement

Google Analytics, one of the best free tools for measuring your marketing, let’s you see visitor engagement. This tells us how long visitors have spent on your website and how many pages deep they went. This complements the bounce rate metric well and together they can give a rather good impression of how usable and engaging your website is. However, an engaging website alone won’t bring the clients in. You need to know that your website is attracting the right sort of visitors (those that have a need you can solve and the cash to pay for it), and that’s persuading these visitors to make contact.

Contact

The number of emails and phone calls you receive is another metric used to assess how well your marketing’s working. This is arguably better than the bounce rate or engagement, since it actually delivers potential clients to your inbox. But, once again, be careful what conclusions you draw from this metric. Your marketing may be very effective at drawing interest, but if that interest isn’t from people with the inclination and means to buy from you, it’s not the optimal use of your time. Ideally your marketing will attract genuine leads and prompt unsuitable clients to qualify themselves out. This way you can save time building relationships and writing offers for people with no intent to buy, leaving you free to spend more time developing your real prospects.

Conversion rate

Take a second and ask yourself; what’s the purpose of my marketing? Getting new clients, increasing revenue or any form of growing your business is probably the answer you have in mind. If there’s one metric you do need to remember, it would be the conversion rate. That is, the number of individuals that are converted from prospects into clients. The other metrics are useful at indicating how many prospects might turn into clients, but don’t forget that conversion rate is the real king of the KPIs.  Don’t get lost in metrics when the proof is in the pudding. If your conversion rate isn’t what you want it to be, diagnose the problem and fix it fast!

Shoring up your sales pipeline

Marketing is an investment intended to get results. You can make sure your marketing is working to increase your conversion rate by breaking it down into a sales pipeline. Every business should have a sales pipeline, but how many steps it includes is up to you. The way we usually look at it is like this:

  1. Suspects → Prospects
  2. Prospects → Qualifieds
  3. Qualifieds → Clients

You want a good conversion rate between each of these stages to be sure that you’re marketing is working effectively. Take the time to work out your conversion rate as a percentage and see which stage of the pipeline could be letting you down.

Where are you losing prospects?

If your business isn’t growing, it’s time to see where the leak is. Look at the conversion rate from one stage to the next to work out where your marketing could be letting you down and how to correct it.

sales pipeline

Before the pipeline

First off, you need a good stream of visitors coming to your website and social media profiles. If your enquiries, engagement and website traffic are low, it might be worth checking your SEO and branding. Make sure your website scores highly and that your branding is eye-catching enough to draw interest from potential clients. It might also be worth considering paid-SEO or advertising to boost your visibility amongst the your target audience.

Suspects into prospects

So, your website, socials and advertising are performing well. But are getting enough enquiries? If the conversion rate from suspect (potential client) and prospect (first contact) is lower than you would like, there are ways to change that. What on your website is stopping people from following up? Is contact information easy to find? Do you have multiple ways of being contacted? Is the call yo action convincing enough? If you’ve answered yes to these questions and the phone isn’t ringing, it might be time to take the initiative and approach your suspects first. Software like CANDDi can help you track visitor behaviour and see who’s likely to buy.

Prospects into qualified

This conversion, from the initial enquiry to a firm offer, is one of the most important in the pipeline. If you’re only qualifying a small percentage of prospects, it’s likely that your marketing needs to be tailored more towards your ideal client. You may be attracting a lot of attention, but if it’s not from people with the means and intent to buy, frankly, they’re not worth your time if it could be better spent developing relationships with real prospects.

Qualified into sales

Once a lead has been qualified, the responsibility for making the sale falls to your sales team. If your conversion rates between all the stages up to conversion are good, then your marketing is functioning as it should. If your business still isn’t growing, then maybe the problem lies elsewhere.

How can sales find out how they failed to sell?

The best solution is often the simplest: just ask. Prospects that don’t buy tend to fall into three categories:

  • Those that were won by the competition.
  • The ones that didn’t buy from anyone.
  • Those that shouldn’t have been qualified through your sales pipeline.

If you find that most of the clients you failed to win fall into the latter category, it might be worth reassessing your ideal client, or adjusting your marketing to appeal to the right kind of buyer, whilst simultaneously filtering out unsuitable leads.

The main thing to remember is that marketing’s purpose is to grow your business. So don’t bother improving engagement, bounce rate, or other metrics if your revenue isn’t rising. Follow the steps above, look into your pipeline and diagnose the problem. There are a number of different fixes available any weak points in your marketing plan.

If you would like help with the diagnostics, treatment and cure of your marketing ailments, why not contact us? Call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here.

 

 

SME Needs' four stage marketing process

11 Questions to ask yourself before outsourcing your marketing

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

Considering outsourcing your marketing?

If your business has more than 40 staff, stop reading here, as this isn’t for you.  If your business has less than 40 staff, please continue. This is a set of questions to ask yourself before you look at whether you should be outsourcing your marketing.

1. How old is your business?

Sort of a trick question, because it doesn’t matter. You need to be marketing your business from the moment you decide to start it, to the moment you close it down or sell it. Whether your business is one day old, or 10,000 days old, you can consider outsourcing your marketing if it fits the following criteria…

2. How big is your business?

We (sort of) answered that question in the first paragraph, but let’s put a little more meat on the bones around what was said before.
The reason for putting the arbitrary number of 40 people before you was because, at that point, your marketing is most likely complex enough to need to have an internal marketing team. Let’s ask some better questions…

3. How many products or services do you sell?

The more products or services you sell, the more complex your marketing needs. More so if they’re unrelated. There will come a point where outsourcing doesn’t make sense, as it would be more expensive than having your own marketing team.

4. How many markets do you sell to?

By this we mean industry sectors and countries. Each industry sector will need to see different marketing because, even if they use the same product/service, they will probably use it slightly differently, use it to solve a slightly different need or use different terminology. You have specific terminology and jargon you use – they will all have their own too. Each one needs a different programme of activity.

5. What marketing skills do you have internally?

For this question, let’s assume you have developed your own marketing strategy and plan, so you know what skills you need. Which of them do members of your team possess?
How many good writers do you have?

  • Can anyone build you a website?
  • Have any of your team got experience running Google Ads campaigns?
  • Which people in your team can write, build and run email marketing campaigns?
  • Have you or anyone in your team any experience of Google Analytics or Search Console so they can assess the performance of your online marketing?
  • Any photographers?

You get the picture. If you have the skills internally, you may not need to outsource.

6. Are these skills available?

It doesn’t matter how good your third line support engineers are if they are busy supporting your clients. There is no sense in using an animation expert to write and schedule your social media posts if they have no time available.

It is a simple question of priorities and opportunity cost. If you or your team are better at your/their core skill(s) and you can generate more money doing that, then you are better off outsourcing.

7. Do you want to do your marketing?

Nobody should do what they don’t like doing. Even if you are a very good marketer, if you don’t like it, you are better off spending your time running your business than doing the marketing.

8. What should you spend on marketing management?

If you are, lets say, VC-funded, you’ll have the money available to start with an in-house marketing team from day one, or at least early on.  If not, it doesn’t make sense to recruit until you are spending, at least, a Marketing Manager’s salary on outsourcing your marketing. An entry-level Marketing Manager will earn around £25K per annum, but if you want someone with experience, you need to add a further 60% onto that. Including NI and pension contributions, that means about £45K per year.

An outsourced Virtual Marketing Director will cost more per day, but you are paying for huge amounts of experience, flexibility, and convenience. If you are using much more than one day a week of marketing management time, you should start reviewing the situation.

9. How many marketing service providers do you use?

If you’re managing your own marketing and use a number of different suppliers, you are likely to be using up a lot of time. SEO, website (often different agencies), email, PPC, content etc. All will have demands on your time. If they aren’t, that is worrying.

The more service providers you are using, the more likely it is that you should be outsourcing your marketing management. A virtual Marketing Director will ensure they are delivering and aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

10. When you think you need one, you actually need at least two.

At the point you start considering bringing your marketing in-house, you should stop and think about what you want bringing to bring in-house. Is it the marketing doing, or the marketing managing? A good Marketing Manager won’t want to do much of the doing. The marketing doer is unlikely to, yet, have the skills necessary to do the strategic side of the manager’s role.

Bringing at least some of the marketing doing in-house can make sense relatively quickly, particularly if you do a lot of social media and content marketing. However, that person then needs to be managed too. Do you have the time and expertise to ensure they are doing what they should be doing? Using the outsourced provider to help you manage the “doer” can be highly effective.

11. Did you choose the right Marketing Manager?

The aim of all good Virtual Marketing Directors is to help you grow the business until it makes sense for you to bring things in-house.  It means they have helped you grow substantially in the time they are working with you.  Recruiting, as you know, isn’t always easy. It makes sense to keep the outsourced help for a while after you recruit. They will need to:

  • Ensure the new Marketing Manager is brought up to speed on what has been happening
  • Handover all the relevant usernames, passwords etc.
  • They can also be there as a backup – just in case…

Making the choice whether to outsource or in-house your marketing management isn’t simply a question of budgets. There is so much more to consider.

Once you have gone through the questions to ask yourself before outsourcing your marketing, and it seems like outsourcing is the right answer for your business, let’s talk about how it works. Give us a call, on 020 8634 5911, or click on the button below.