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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

When to recruit marketing staff for your small business

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

7 questions to help you decide if and when to recruit marketing staff

is it time to recruit marketing staff for your business. This is Jago

When you start a new business, you have dreams of growing it to a size that you are comfortable with and one that can give you the lifestyle you want.  For some that will mean the business stays small, maybe even always just the business owner.  For others, that means 50+ staff and a £multi-million turnover.  Whatever size you want your business to be, you will need marketing.  In the beginning you will, almost certainly do it all, but when do you start looking for marketing staff, and at what level?  Here 7 questions you need to answer to help you work out when to recruit.

Current marketing salaries

Before we look at the questions, let’s look at current salary levels:

When you start talking to outsourced marketing providers, like SME Needs, these are the figures you need to take into consideration. Don’t forget you have to then add a marketing budget on top of these salaries.

Do you have a marketing budget?

In the beginning, there is more time resource in your business than cash resource.  If this is the case, there are only two ways to get your marketing done:

  1. You do it
  2. You barter your skills for marketing ones

Finding a marketer who needs enough of what you do so that they will trade is likely to be tough. You’ll be doing your marketing, but having someone to bounce ideas off and keep you on the straight and narrow will be useful for you.

If your marketing budget should be 5-10% of your annual turnover and that includes salaries, your annual turnover needs to be £multi-millions to have a marketing team.

Are the skills needed within your team?

Whether your team is just you, or you have got a small number in the team, do they have the skills needed?  Can they write good content, build (and respond) to social media posts, develop and manage your website? Do you have people who know their way around email marketing tools?

Perhaps more importantly, is the best use of their time?  If they were employed for client-facing roles, their time is probably best spent that way.

You need to source the skills needed, but finding one person with all the skills is not easy. You will then need to manage, and coordinate, the various agencies you are using to deliver your small business marketing strategy.

Are you confident you know what marketing needs doing?

The world of marketing is forever changing. It is continuously developing. As a small business owner, you will be reading books and listening to podcasts to help keep your knowledge up to date, but is it enough.

Ensuring your marketing plan is the right one is, most definitely, a senior role. But is only something that you will look at 1-2 times a year. You don’t need a marketing manager or director unless you have

Do you have time to do your marketing?

If most of your time is spent dealing with clients, it is probably time to add to the client-facing team. You then get to run the business. If doing that leaves you little time to do your marketing, your marketing consistency will suffer – and so will your brand awareness levels.

Regular time needs to be invested in marketing for it to be effective. If you cannot commit, you need to get the time elsewhere. If your marketing strategy calls for 30+ hours a week, then it is time to recruit. If not, outsource.

Do you want to do your marketing?

Some people love doing their own marketing, and would rather employ other to face the clients. If that is you, then great. If not, get someone else to do it. If there is enough marketing to do, recruit a junior marketing exec and get them to do it. If not, outsource.

Is there enough in the marketing plan to need staff?

Marketing activity is resource intensive.  Writing, posting and responding to social media posts takes time. Drafting a blog, and then posting it onto the website takes time and knowledge. Organising a webinar or an event really takes up time. To further complicate matters, the skills needed for these are different. When you get to the point there is 20+ hours a week of marketing work needed, you should consider recruiting, if you can find the right person. When there is 40-50+, having two people with complimentary skill sets definitely makes sense.

Do you have time to manage your marketing?

As your small business continues to grow, more and more of your time can become focused on your clients, on your staff and all the other “stuff” that needs doing. Perhaps you are still the main sales person within the business. If you have recruited  that first marketing person, are you managing them to ensure they are delivering your marketing plan?

If you have just the one marketing person, recruiting another as a manager is not the best use of your budgets. We help a range of busy small business owners to manage their marketing exec to ensure they are both doing what they need to, and have someone to get advice and guidance from.

Answering these questions will help you decide if and when to recruit marketing staff for your small business. In the meantime, let’s have a chat (call us on 020 8634 5911) about how outsourcing your marketing ensures you get consistent, performative marketing for a budget your business can afford.

put your business first by scheduling marketing time into your diary

When you should put your business first

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

put your business first by scheduling marketing time into your diaryWhen you’re running your small business, do you prioritise your business or do you prioritise your clients? Whilst it sounds almost counter intuitive, there are times when you need to put your business first in order to make it successful. let’s look at this in more detail.

Surely clients come first?

It’s absolutely true that clients pay the bills and that, at times, clients do need to come first. But if you don’t put your business first, there will be no business to serve your clients. Of course, they can go elsewhere, but let’s look at the reasons for putting your business first and what you will get from doing this.

What happens with inconsistent marketing

If your marketing is inconsistent, taking place when you have time, you run the risk of running into a feast and famine period.

  • You’re quiet, so you do some marketing
  • You generate some leads and pick up a new client
  • You’re then really busy delivering what you sold, so you have no time
  • No time means no marketing gets done
  • You have no leads coming in
  • You finish delivering for the clients and have nothing more to do

You run from periods of excess to periods of nothing. You cannot plan for the future because you don’t know what is going to happen.

What happens with consistent marketing

Consistent marketing helps your company stand out from the competition. Your target audience regularly sees your brand and how you help your clients. Your consistency builds trust and loyalty, so that when companies are ready, they come to you.

How to stop this being a problem.

1. Schedule time into your diary

Having time in your diary to do your marketing is vital. If it isn’t in there, you will always find something else to do with that time.  Don’t move it either. Treat your small business as a client and prioritise your business. If you really have to move it, make sure it happens in the same week.

2. Develop a marketing plan

The time is good, but what are you going to do? Having a plan of action means you will make the most of that time.

3. Make use of any spare time.

If you do find yourself with spare time, get ahead of your marketing plan.  If you have a content-led strategy, write some of the articles or new pages ahead of schedule. Just because you have written them, you don’t have to publish them yet.  Make use of the scheduling tools within your content management system so your marketing content is published according to your schedule.

4. Get some help

Obviously we are going to say this, but having someone independent to help you can be invaluable. Someone who can review what you are doing and answer your marketing questions will help you maximise the performance of your marketing. They will also keep you on schedule – you don’t want to tell them you haven’t done something!

5. Outsource your marketing

At the point where you are simply too busy to do your own marketing, get someone else to do it. You can concentrate on delivering for your clients and keeping them happy.

 

By putting your small business first, you ensure that you get the growth you are looking for and that you are there for your clients. If you’re doing a great job for them, they will want you to be successful and be around in the future.

marketing budget

What should you spend your marketing budget on?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

Questions to ask yourself to work this out

As the owner of a small business, you want the best return on investment possible from your marketing budget. Once you have determined what your marketing budget should be (click here for our blog on how much you should spend), you need to work out what to spend your marketing budget on. Here is our guide to doing just that.

No quick answer

As with most things business-related, there is no quick answer to what to spend your marketing budget on. It depends on several factors and there are a few things you should definitely not do.

Strategic Planning

If you haven’t already done the strategic marketing thinking, this is the first thing you must be spending money on…

What has worked before?

We’ll cover this in more detail in the next article (click here to ensure you don’t miss it), but have you measured marketing performance up to now? Too many small business owners will simply look at their total marketing spend and their total sales.

By drilling down, you can identify what didn’t work. If you stop doing that, you will save both time and money. Time and money that is freed up for other activities, either that you know work or you have yet to test.

Who is/are your Ideal Client(s)?

Getting your marketing messages in front of your Ideal Client(s) is the first function of your marketing plan. If you sell your product to, for example, HR Directors in large multi-nationals you will have vastly different routes to market than if you sell to consumers in your local area.
Identifying your target audience(s) is one of the first things you need to do before deciding how to spend your marketing budget.

What marketing are you going to do?

Developing a plan gets you going in the right direction. A plan means you will know whether your marketing is working, or not. Without a plan, you will spend your marketing budget in a haphazard way that is unlikely to deliver on your business goals.

What marketing channels?

Yes, we’ve just said you need to plan, but we haven’t said what should be in the plan. Let’s look at what should be in your marketing plan and what you should be spending your marketing budget on.
It starts with doing more of what you know has been delivering a great ROI.

Awareness generation marketing

Nobody can buy from you if they don’t know who you are. Getting your name and your marketing messages in front of your Ideal Client for the first time is critical.
For many small businesses, networking is a key part of their marketing. They rely on their network to make introductions and referrals. Don’t forget that there is a cost to this, in both time and money.
For others it may make sense to buy marketing data lists. Whilst GDPR makes this a little more complicated, most list providers now

Progression marketing activities

Once people know about you, how do you get them doing something? What marketing channels are right for this?
Let’s go back to strategic section – who are your Ideal Clients – and look at possible options…

  • If local business owners are your target audience, networking, sponsoring local events and email are highly likely to be part of your marketing mix.
  • If you sell to the C-suite of multinational companies, you’re going to be attending conferences and events. Email will be an essential part of the mix too.

Whatever you use, the aims are to keep you front of mind (for when they need what you sell) and to show them more about how you’ve helped others.

Evidence generation and sharing will be a key part of this stage. Case studies (written and video), testimonials, white papers are static pieces of evidence for your website and social media. Presenting at trade shows, conferences and events will you a proactive, live, opportunity to talk about what you have achieved for your clients and how you help them.

Generating the lead

Maintaining awareness is good and much of this will lead to inbound leads and to conversations where they ask for your advice on an issue… Sometimes you may need a little more.

  • Seasonal offers may be needed to get them across the line.
  • Get someone in your network to put in a good word – especially when they are part of their network too.
  • Remind them of the pain. Sharing content that talks about the pain they face if they don’t use your services.  How many times do you get a letter or email from the HMRC reminding you of the fines if your VAT return or corporation tax payments are late!!!

If you were looking for this article to say “spend 20% on social media, 10% on email marketing” etc, we are sorry, but it isn’t that simple. It will be different for every company.

The good news is that by answering the questions included here, you will be able to work out what to spend your marketing budget on. Of course, if you need a hand, give us a call on 020 8634 5911

image to support pointing you in the right direction article

Why your business should be using a Virtual Marketing Director

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

12 reasons to be using a Virtual Marketing Director

Every small business needs marketing, but until you get to a certain size and complexity, it doesn’t make financial sense to employ your own marketing team. Here are 12 benefits your business will get from using a Virtual Marketing Director

1. Giving you time to work ON the business

As the business owner, or Managing Director, you are always busy, spinning many plates at a time. Much of your time is often consumed working in the business, ensuring your staff are delivering and your clients are happy. Marketing often slides down the priority list, particularly when you are busy. By working with a Virtual Marketing Director, we take one of those plates from you. We manage your marketing meaning you can focus on your business.

2. Providing the marketing expertise you need in your business

You’re an expert on what you do. Your business has got to where it is now because of your knowledge, expertise and dedication to delivering for your clients.  In the early days, much of your business is likely to have come from Word of Mouth (WOM) – the best route.

As your business grows, you need to do more marketing, but you’re not sure what to do and how to do it. We bring both the strategic and operational marketing expertise you need.

3. Filling in the marketing knowledge gaps

You wouldn’t have got to where you are without some marketing knowledge. You’ll know how to do some things really well, but not others. There will be times when you are looking to get advice on something – perhaps the content of an article, or whether you should choose a certain marketing activity. Perhaps more than both of these, there is the not knowing what you don’t know piece. A Virtual Marketing Director fills all of these gaps, based on many years of working with a range of small businesses and knowing what does and doesn’t work.

4. Saving you money by identifying what marketing isn’t working

Too many business owners keep spending money on various marketing activities, knowing that leads are being generated, and sales made. But they don’t look at this in detail. Not doing this means you’re missing out on ways to improve your marketing ROI.  85% of Google Ads campaigns, as an example, never make a profit. If you are spending with Google, and not looking at what it is generating, you may be wasting money you don’t need to. We recently saved a client over £20,000 a year by reducing their Google Ad spend to only the individual campaigns that were working.

5. Delivering marketing consistency

Consistent marketing keeps your target audience’s awareness levels high. When they need you, they will remember your brand. If your marketing is inconsistent (with peaks and troughs of activity), you run the risk of being forgotten at that crucial time.

6. Focusing your marketing to reduce budget waste

Scattergun marketing comes from not deciding who to sell to. By the very nature of scattergun, much of the marketing effort (therefore budget) is wasted as it doesn’t land anywhere near someone who is interested in what you sell.  Focusing your marketing is like moving from a blunderbuss to a sniper’s rifle – much more likely to hit the target.

7. Ensuring that marketing suppliers are delivering on their promises

Ever been confused by what an SEO company is reporting?  Ever been overwhelmed by what a website company is saying? Do you wonder what you are getting from a PR company sometimes?  These are just three examples of where SME Needs works to manage the specialists. We ensure they are reporting the right stats and showing how they deliver, so you know you are getting a return on investment.

8. Increasing engagement with your current clients to generate upsell/cross-sell opportunities

Too many companies forget to keep in touch with their current clients. They already buy something from you, so let’s see what else they might be interested in.

9. Encourage referrals from your clients

Do you get many referrals? Statistically companies close a higher percentage of referral leads than any other source, so lets make sure that your clients are introducing you to their contacts

10. Educate your target audience on how you can help them, rather than simply tell them what you do

Look at your competitors’ websites. Does their marketing talk about what they do or how they help their clients?  Hopefully the former, so that you can start using more effective marketing messages – about how you help your clients, as that is what they want to hear.

11. Provide the management and support your marketing exec needs

If you’ve made that first step towards having your own internal marketing team, are you supporting that person?  Are you giving them the support, training and guidance they need?  If you employed them because you know the company needs marketing, you’ll know they need support in the same way that every other member of staff does. We can provide that support and guidance so you can concentrate on running the business.

12. Grow your business until it makes sense to employ your own marketing director

At some point, it will make sense to employ your own Marketing Director. Until then we’ll help you grow.

moving marketing up the to do list to prioritise your marketing

Why you must prioritise your marketing

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Marketing Performance

Breaking the habit of not marketing your small business

If you’ve been running your own small business for a number of years, it should not come as a surprise that you may have developed a number of habits – most good, but some may be not so good. One of these not so good habits will be within your prioritisation. You prioritise your clients over your own small business!

STOP – WAIT – WHAT???

Right now, you’re saying: Of course I do. While there is nothing wrong with you doing this for much of the time, you absolutely need to put your business first some of the time. This is why…

Keeping the money flowing

Putting your clients first will keep the money flowing in for the work you have been contracted for. It’s absolutely right that you keep to your commitments on this. Forward planning is just as important

Money flowing in

As you, presumably, want to both keep the money flowing in, and increase the amount of money coming in, you need to prioritise activities to ensure this happens.  This means committing time to three things:

  1. Account management
  2. Sales
  3. Marketing

Account management

Maintaining and building relationships with your current clients will help ensure your current contracts are maintained/extended. You get to discuss what else you can provide to them too – cross-sell/upsell opportunities.

Sales

If you’re not prioritising time for sales activity, you will be tempted to follow up sales opportunities with emails only. Emails are great, but talking to your prospect is far more effective. Yes, you may then have to listen to someone saying no, but you also get the opportunity to ask why and, perhaps, change their mind if you’re on a call instead of in your inbox.

Marketing

Marketing is often the activity that drops down the To Do List when you’re busy delivering for your current clients. For some reason (and we are guilty of it sometimes), a ‘bird in the hand’ belief comes into being. “We’re better off bringing in the money we know we’ve got committed” is the thought process. That’s not a good idea. What happens when the current work is finished?

The money gap

When considering why you need to prioritise your marketing, think about the money gap. The money gap is the time between when your current clients make their last payment and the time until you receive more money. There are three parts to the money gap.

Marketing time + sales cycle + invoice period = money gap

1. Marketing Time

If you don’t doing any marketing because you’re busy delivering what your current clients have ordered, you’ll have to start again once you’re finished. From a standing start, you will need to:

  • Re-establish brand awareness
  • Explain how you can help your target audiences
  • Convince people to get in touch

2. Your sales cycle

How long does it normally take for you to convert a sales opportunity into a paying client? Maybe you’re lucky and people decide quickly. For most B2B businesses, the sales cycle is measured in weeks, or even months. If you have prioritised marketing, client attrition and replacement should become a natural circular process.

3. Invoice period

Do your clients pay up front or do you invoice and give them 14/28/90 days to pay that invoice?  Do they pay on time?  If not, you’ll need to factor in the average invoice payment time too.

The total of these three parts shows you how long it will be between payments coming into your business account. Can your business cope with that?

Consistent Marketing

By prioritising your business, and particularly the marketing of your business, the money gap problem goes away.  By regularly marketing your business, you will generate a regular flow of leads into the business. A regular flow of leads means sales happen frequently and that means the money continues to flow.

Some of these new clients will replace others who stop using your business. Hopefully most will be adding to your client numbers, growing your business.

By ensuring you prioritise your business for part of the time, you stop the money gap impacting your business and you keep your business healthy and growing. Is that a good enough reason? Of course, the next question is how much time…

How much time should be prioritised for marketing?

If you have read our previous blog on marketing spend, you will know we recommend your spend 5-10% of revenue on your marketing. The amount of time dedicated to your marketing should be a minimum of 10% of your time. If you work on your own, that means half a day a week. If your business is bigger than this, simply multiply up.

This time is then split into doing and measuring. The measuring ensures you are doing the right marketing to grow your business.

Of course, at a point where you either simply don’t have the time, or you don’t have the skills, you can call us on 020 8634 5911.

How to prioritise your marketing

When a client wants your time, you schedule it into your diary and then nobody else can have that time. So why not treat your own business in the same way?  Schedule the time into your diary and don’t move it.  When someone requests a timeslot that isn’t available, they don’t ask what you’re doing if you say that time is taken, so there is no need to say ‘that is my marketing time for the week’. If it really has to be moved, re-schedule in the same week. Don’t move it to the following week, or you will start de-prioritising your marketing again.

What is next?

Once you’ve committed the time to prioritise your marketing, you then need a marketing plan. That will be the next blog topic!  To be notified when that is published, click here to subscribe to our mailing list. If you want to talk about your marketing, you can book a time directly into the diary here.

ying and yang symbol representing why marketing needs sales and sales needs marketing

Why Sales & Marketing Teams need each other

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

ying and yang symbol representing why marketing needs sales and sales needs marketingWhy marketing needs sales

In every offline, and most online, sale there is a role for Marketing and a role for Sales. The two teams are linked and they need each, no matter what some individuals may say. Here’s an explanation of why Marketing needs Sales.

Quick version

Marketing lines them up, and Sales knocks them down!

Most marketing people will tell you they don’t want to be in Sales (a few, deluded souls may disagree here) and most Sales people aren’t interested in being in Marketing (again, a few may disagree). They are two very different skills sets but without one, there is no place for the other.

As Jason Jones will tell you in a recent LinkedIn post, the role of your salesperson is to convert leads into sales. If they spend their time talking to the right people at the right time, their time is being used well by your business and your business will be growing.

Getting these leads isn’t easy for Sales. Spending lots of time “kissing frogs” will use up his time. Marketing’s role is to get the right people in front of Sales.

The role of marketing

  • Awareness – making sure your target audience know who you are
  • Interest – explaining how you can help them (notice this doesn’t say what you do)
  • Desire – showing them what can happen if they use you
  • Action – getting them to do what you want them to do

At any one of these stages, and into the sales process, things can stall. If they do stall, Marketing goes back to awareness, but in a maintenance rather than creation mode. If a prospect likes what they see, but the time isn’t right (other priorities, no budget etc.), Marketing needs to keep your brand in their mind, until the time is right. Once the time is right, Sales can do their thing!

Why Marketing needs Sales

1. Validation

The true measure of marketing performance is growth in the business. Feedback from Sales is key to ensuring that the marketing messages being used are right. If too many leads are being qualified out early on, it is most likely a marketing problem. The messages are creating leads from too far outside the Ideal Client definition. Please note, this should be constructive feedback and not criticism.

2. Data

Whilst Marketing can collect a great deal of data, one of the most difficult, but critical, data points is “where did the lead come from”. Asking the prospect is the best way to get this information. Whilst they may see your brand in multiple places, the one they tell you, when asked, is the one that had the biggest effect and should be what is recorded in your CRM.

3. Evidence

The desire to buy from you comes from seeing the results you can deliver. When a prospect sees what success looks like, they are far more likely to buy from you. Evidence, in the form of case studies, testimonials, reviews etc. are key to this. Sales, and Operations, can tell Marketing who will be a great case study. They are likely to be the people the client emails with a great comment. Marketing’s role is to get that evidence in front of the target audience and prospects.

4. Progress

Marketing doesn’t stop when the lead is handed to Sales, no matter what some salespeople tell you. As prospects move through the pipeline, particularly if the sale process stalls, Marketing can help progress things, or maintain awareness. It is a joint effort to maximise sales for your business.

5. Feedback

New opportunities to increase your sales can be identified by both Marketing and Sales. With the Sales team usually closer to the client, they are more likely to either hear how clients are using your products in a different way than you expect. When that is fed back to Marketing, the opportunity can be assessed and a marketing plan developed to take advantage of the opportunity, particularly if it gives you first mover advantage over your competitors!

As both Jason has said, and we have, There is no point in doing marketing if you haven’t got someone with Sales responsibility and Sales will waste a lot of time without Marketing. If the traditional silo approach is taken, productivity and ROI will not be very good. By working together, great things can be achieved.

Why Sales needs Marketing

In the sales cycle there are 5 stages.

  1. Attention – Hello (is it me you’re looking for?)
  2. Information – I’m from….
  3. Credentials – You can trust us, here’s why.
  4. Discussion – How can we meet your needs?
  5. Action – What do we need to do now, to make you a customer?

That’s not to say every sales conversation goes exactly that way or every conversation that does, is guaranteed a sale but it follows a logical progression.

You can’t tell them who you are until you have their attention and you can’t solve their problem if they don’t trust you to. So the most important points are getting their attention and proving your credentials. Finding them and convincing them you are worth their time matters.

What is good prospecting?

A good Salesperson understands what prospecting is, finding those who are a match for what your expectation of a good customer is and knowing how to get in front of them. Discovering these prospects on an individual basis can be laborious, time consuming and there’s a lot that can go wrong in the cycle.

  • What if they have a need but at the wrong time?
  • What if they already have arrangements with someone else?
  • What if their last experience wasn’t a positive one?
  • What if they don’t see the value?

Unless you find the ideal candidate, at the ideal time, every time, the return on investment for your time and energy diminishes with every “No Thanks” or “Not right now”.

Why Sales needs Marketing

For a Salesperson, the dream scenario is that every conversation they start, begins with “Yes, I do have time for you, I do know who you are and this is my situation. What can you do for me?”

Even better would be if the customers came to the Salesperson, saying “I’ve seen who you are and from what I understand, you can solve my problem”.

Advertising what you do means the Salesperson can reach more prospects with less prospecting, promoting to the right audience means the Salesperson spends more time having meaningful conversations and less time sorting the potential interest from genuine requirement.

Marketing, achieves the first 3 stages of the sales cycle at a scale the Salesperson cannot reach on their own and improves the return on investment of the Salesperson’s time and effort.

This also means that the Sales and Marketing are inextricably linked.

Sales are made and deals are done when a Salesperson understands what they are offering, when they understand what the customer’s needs are and successfully matches that offering to address those needs. Not understanding the offering, means not being able to provide the right solution, which can result in a missed sale (meaning no revenue) or worse still, a bad sale meaning you may even take a loss to put the situation right.

The marketing message, the product knowledge, the right audience are all as important to Marketing as they are to Sales and it has to be a consistent message. Its important that Sales has input into the Marketing and that they also buy in to the Marketing strategy.

Going off topic or sending mixed messages increases the likelihood of a bad sale.

Sales needs Marketing to advance the sales process on a wider scale, to develop and promote a message that both they and the customer clearly understand.

Both Sales and Marketing need to figure out who bought in the past, why and what made them buy. They also need to recognise what didn’t work, what should change and what sort of difference any improvement can make.

Marketing is not selling, selling is what happens when marketing places a buyer with a need, in a position to buy. You might even argue that online for example, you don’t even require the Salesperson for the sales but that would be a mistake.

Even something as automated and impersonal as an online shopping cart has a Salesperson’s input. While marketing can drive an audience to a site, while they can reinforce trust in the brand and the product to solicit a sale, there are elements that belong to sales.

Upselling, asking the client if what they bought fulfils the total need or if anything else is required, is a sales technique. If the required product or service is unavailable, finding out what alternatives would be acceptable comes from a sales perspective. If there is an objection or an obstacle between the customer and the completing of a sale, the Salesperson is the one tasked with finding a solution.

Marketing and Sales are not separate from each other and some people can be effective at both but it works best went done together.

Sales needs Marketing to make the sale easier and more often.

 

Now that you have seen why both Sales and Marketing need each other, have you assessed the relationship between your teams? If you want a hand with Marketing, please get in touch with us.  If your Sales function needs some work, I am know that Jason can help you.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

good marketing helps your small business hit the target - an image of a dart to support the article

What does good marketing look like?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

good marketing helps your small business hit the target - an image of a dart to support the articleThe ultimate role of your marketing is to generate new business opportunities for your small business. You know that as well as we do, but how do you ensure your marketing does this? What does good marketing look like? Spend the next couple of minutes with us and we’ll explain exactly what it looks like.

10 factors of good marketing

Consistency of marketing activity

Possibly one of the hardest things for small businesses to do is ensure that there is a consistent level of marketing activity (see our tips on achieving marketing consistency here). If you haven’t got any marketing staff within your team, it is even harder. Delivering for your clients is the most important thing you do, so if you’re busy, getting a consistent flow of marketing happening can be difficult.

But it is important because:

  • Marketing consistency maintains brand awareness.
  • Marketing consistency maximises the chances that your small business will be remembered when someone needs your products or services.

Helps your target audience(s)

If you sell a service, rather than a product, your marketing needs to both show you can help your target audience(s) and help them. A first read of that sentence may seem wrong, so let’s explain.

Most of the people who visit your website, or click on links in your social media posts do so because they are looking for a solution to an issue they have. A large number of them will be looking for advice and guidance. Many of them will be looking for a way to do it themselves, if they can. By providing them with some guidance, they see that you know what you are talking about and, when they run out of ability/expertise/time, they can come to you for more help.

Proves you understand your target audience(s)

Our target audience is owners of small businesses looking to improve their marketing performance. Your target audience is, almost certainly (unless you’re a competitor) different. The content we publish and the language we use is all about the marketing issues faced by small businesses. Is your marketing proving you understand your target audience?

  • Do you use the right terminology?
  • Are the images you use appropriate?
  • Are your case studies from their peers?

If you work across multiple industry sectors, be very careful about, for example, editing content on your landing pages so you make the right first impressions.

Uses the right marketing channels

Too many small businesses try, for example, to maintain activity levels on lots of social media channels – just in case someone sees something that convinces them to buy from them. Unless you have access to Jeff Bezo’s bank account (and are confident he won’t notice you dipping into it), you need to pick the marketing channels that are most likely to get your messages in front of your target audience(s). The marketing channels to reach millennial males are likely to be very different to those used to connect with middle-aged women. If your target audience is Finance Directors at the top 100 legal firms, you won’t use the same marketing activities to someone focusing on independent restaurant owners.

Good marketing will get your messages seen by the same person in multiple places, so you need to choose the right marketing channels. Don’t waste time and money on trying to be everywhere!

Delivers quality leads

Seeing lots of new contact forms from your website when you open your Outlook in the morning is great. But if most of the forms are from people who are highly unlikely to buy from you, you will waste a lot of time chasing them. If your marketing is working, it will be attracting the right leads for your business. Leads that match your ideal client definition, meaning the conversion rate will be much higher.

We did some work in 2019/20 for a company that, in their words “just wants leads”. Their previous marketing agency generated loads of leads they said – mostly from Pay per Click (PPC) advertising. The fact that none of the leads from this channel had ever converted seemed to have escaped his attention, as he wanted us to continue “generating leads”. Needless to say, we didn’t work together for long!

Maintains engagement

When someone first engages with your marketing, they may or may not be in buying mode.  If they are inbound, they are more likely to be, but not always.  If your marketing is good, it will start and then maintain engagement so that when they are ready to buy, your business will be, at least, one of the companies they talk to.

Supports the Sales team

The relationship between Sales and Marketing is often a fractious one (here’s our thoughts on how to get them working together more effectively). Marketing lines them up and Sales knocks them down – if the leads are good. You will know all the ways that the two departments can blame each other, so let’s not go there this time.

Marketing doesn’t stop at the point the lead is generated. It doesn’t stop when the sale is made either. Positive marketing continues engaging the lead/prospect/client until that person unsubscribes.

  • It attracts the lead.
  • It supports the sales process by continuing to provide compelling evidence.
  • After the first sale, it helps Sales/Account Management in the cross-sell/upsell/more-sell process.

Proves you can deliver on your promises

A powerful part of a good marketing plan is the evidence put out. Particularly if there is a high perceived risk attached to your product or service, evidence that you can deliver is critical in both generating the lead and converting the sale. Case studies, testimonials and reviews all play a role in proving to a prospect that you can be trusted to deliver.

Our guide to writing, and using, effective case studies can be seen here.

If you would like a free review of your case studies, click here.

Supports your business plan

If your business plan is to double the size of your business in the next two years, then a valuable marketing plan will show how the leads needed will be developed to generate that growth.

Our marketing spend survey (click here to take the survey) currently shows 83% of respondents don’t have a marketing plan and that their marketing “just happens that way” Nearly half of them are unhappy with their results! That is poor marketing.

Is a living document

A good marketing plan is adapted over time. You may be lucky and every marketing activity delivers a great ROI, but that is unlikely. But you should be monitoring the performance of all your marketing and adjusting as needed. If something isn’t working, reduce or stop it. If it is, put more resource into it, until things change.

Good marketing constantly works to produce better results.

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

With the coming of Christmas many businesses are planning to stop around the 22nd December. Very handily that gives us 12 days of Christmas before everyone returns on the 4th January (although that may extend to the 6th – but there isn’t a 16 of anything around the festive season!). So for your delectation, here are our 12 marketing days of Christmas…

On the first day of Christmas my Marketing said to me: Thank you for the bus-iness

Thank your clients for the business they’ve given you this year. Whilst some of them may never use your product or services again, it doesn’t mean they won’t tell others who can. For those who continue to work with you, they will certainly appreciate the gesture.

One the second day of Christmas my Marketing said to me : How did you do?

If you don’t know how 2021 went business-wise, how can you set targets and make plans for next year? Review your 2021 performance to see what went well and what didn’t. You can use our Marketing ROI Calculator here.  What didn’t work is the most important piece here, as that is the current drain on time and money. It needs to be improved or it needs to be stopped. Either way, you have to know what needs to be worked on before you can fix it.

On the third day of Christmas my Marketing said to me: what can you do?

To implement a marketing plan that will hit your 2022 targets, you need to ensure those skills are available to you. That means:

  1. Find out who has marketing skills within your business
  2. Assess whether they have time to use them

After all, it they don’t have time, their normal work will take priority and your marketing won’t get done.

On the fourth day of Christmas my Marketing said to me: What do you want?

On the 2nd day of Christmas, you worked out how you did in 2021. Now, what do you want to achieve in 2022? If 2021 was a good year, compared to 2020, do you want the same level of growth or was that an exceptional year? Remember that continually achieving the same %age growth rate becomes harder and harder as the numbers get bigger.
If you don’t set targets for the business, you won’t achieve them.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Show me money

It doesn’t matter how you slice it, you have to spend on marketing. That spend may be in the form of your time, but as time is money, it amounts to the same thing. You then need to take skills and opportunity costs into account. Whether you have the marketing skills available (the 3rd day) or not, can you earn more by working than it will cost you to pay someone to do your marketing? If yes, then outsource it and keep working.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Can Cli-ents buy more?

Not many companies only sell one product or service. How many do you sell and which clients buy what from you? As your clients already trust you, it is far easier to sell to them than to prospects who don’t know you any better than they know your competitors.
Map your products and clients and see what opportunities there are to sell more to them. You can use our free tool here. The bigger your share of their wallet, the harder it becomes for them to stop using your services – and assuming you’re doing a great job, they aren’t likely to anyway.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Who’s your Ideal Client?

There isn’t a company on the planet who sells one product to everyone in the world. There are plenty of companies who sell lots of different products to lots of different people, but each product has a difference set of benefits and a different set of customers who need that product.
Heinz Baked Beans may be the only exception – selling over 540 million tins a year in the UK!

Having a clear picture of who your Ideal Client is will help improve your marketing in 2020.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Put More Time A – Side

Working in the business, without regular time spent working on the business, will deliver what you’ve sold a little quicker, but will not help you achieve the targets you have for the business. You have to put time aside to review, assess and adapt your marketing plan if you are to achieve your business goals.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Where’d you get your Leads?

Too many companies measure the wrong things when looking at their marketing. Do you, for example worry about the number of Likes and Followers you have or the number of people on your mailing list? If you do we’re sorry to say that they aren’t the most important numbers. Whilst a big mailing list can be good, you’re far better off with a small, but highly engaged, list. The number of Likes you have is superseded by the revenue generated from social media in the vast majority of cases.
Your marketing budget should be concentrated on what is driving new business and growth. To know what is working, you need to know where your leads came from. In the B2B sector, the easiest way to find out is to ask them. Then make sure you record this somewhere. We use uPilot as a CRM. You can find out more about uPilot here.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Do you Have a Plan?

If you don’t have a plan, you cannot deliver that plan and it’s highly unlikely you will hit your business goals for the year. You are, broadly speaking, simply hoping you will hit your targets for the year. Does that sound like a good idea?

Developing a plan doesn’t mean spending days working out what to do, or committing huge amounts of money to marketing. A good marketing consultant will work with you to develop the right plan for your business. One that, as much as possible, fits your targets, your budgets and the skills/resources you have within the business. Of course a tiny budget and a large growth target rarely go together, so you may not get everything…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Who can Really Help?

If your marketing plan includes marketing channels you have little, or no, experience of, you need to find a supplier who can help. You want one with a great track record, one with experience in your sector and one you trust to deliver on their promises. As a Virtual Marketing Director, we help you manage third party suppliers to ensure they deliver on their promises. We have a good network of suppliers. Suppliers we know and trust and we can work with people you know and trust to. Using someone like us to help you manage your marketing means you have more time to concentrate on what you are good at.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Marketing said to me: Really get a-going

All the planning in the world won’t deliver a single new client unless you implement the plan. Carrying out what you have agreed in your marketing plan for 2020 that will you achieve your goals. If you need more help than you originally thought (perhaps your marketing has been really successful and you have less time than you thought), better to spend a bit more of getting the assistance you need, than for your plan not to be implemented.

If you a hand implementing these to make a great start to 2022, call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here and we will call you.

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 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.

How to help others buy YOU

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. Add them to your services pages, as well as having a testimonials page.

2. Set up on Google Reviews

Have you set up your Google Business Profile 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.

What to do next

  1. Take a look at your own presence. Does it sell you as well as your business?
  2. Complete steps 1-4 above
  3. Get in touch if you would like an independent opinion or some help.

 

 

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