Category

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

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

image of cave drawings as part of an article about the power of storiesStories 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

Image to depict mistake

Are you making the biggest mistake in marketing?

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

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

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

Do you talk about your Expert Subject?

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

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

Nobody cares what you do

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

Insurtech – re-focus

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

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

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

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

Who is going to translate?

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

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

Don’t claim what you cannot prove

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

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

They want someone who understands them

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

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

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

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

Measure the issue

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

Brainstorm

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

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

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

Revise your content

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

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

Prove you understand your clients’ needs

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

1.      Your Blog

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

2.      Your case studies

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

3.      In conversation

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Image to depicted marketing tools

14 effective business marketing tools

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

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

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

Mailchimp

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

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

Mailchimp offers a free version for up to 2000 contacts.

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

Hootsuite

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

Subscriptions start at £39 a month (one user)

Canva

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

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

HubSpot

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

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

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

CANDDi

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

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

CANDDi starts at £149 a month.

WordPress

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

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

EventBrite

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

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

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

Zoom/Teams

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

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

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

YouTube

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

YouTube is free to set up and upload content.

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

LinkedIn

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

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

LinkedIn business membership starts at £39.90 a month.

Google Analytics

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

Google analytics is free to use.

Business cards

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

Standard business cards start around £12.57 for 100

Modern data transfer cards start at around £40

Coffee/Beer

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

Your Network

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article about where to hire a content writer

When should you hire a content writer?

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

Four questions before you hire a content writer.

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

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

How much content do you need to put out?

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

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

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

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

What is the quality of your current content?

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

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

How valuable is your time?

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

What is your budget?

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

heartbeat image for feast and famine article

How to avoid the feast and famine trap

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Uncategorized

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

What is the feast and famine trap?

See if this sounds familiar…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why you need to avoid the trap

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

1. Irregular Cashflow

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

2. Energy & Stress levels

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

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

3. High staff turnover and Job insecurity

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

4. Client satisfaction

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

How to avoid the feast and famine trap

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

1. Dedicate time to marketing

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

2. Add an in-house marketing team

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

3. Outsource your marketing

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

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

infographic showing what happens with inconsistent marketing

7 tips on why and how to deliver consistent marketing

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Uncategorized

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

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

Why you should practice consistent marketing

Break the cycle of “feast or famine”

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

Be ready for unforeseen opportunities

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

Make your brand synonymous with quality

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

Boost your social and search engine optimization

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

Maintain your reputation as a thought leader

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

How to implement consistent marketing for your small business

Create a comprehensive marketing plan

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

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

Sometimes less is more with content

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

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

Get help

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

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

How often should I write blogs

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 3. What should be in my blog?

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

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

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

 

Question 5. What does my content strategy say?

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

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

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

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

Question 6. What are my resources?

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

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

 

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

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

4 free ways to market your business online

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing

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

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

First things first

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

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

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

Virtual networking

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

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

Email marketing

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

Social media marketing

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

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

Content marketing

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

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

Time is money

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

To conclude…

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Case Study Ninja

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

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

image to support article about writing perfect case studies

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

What is a case study?

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

What are case studies for?

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

How to write perfect case studies

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

1. Identify happy clients 

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

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

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

Thees 4 parts of a case study are: 

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

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

3. The Headline

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

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

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

4. The validation 

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

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

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

The best mediums for your case study 

Written content: accessibility, SEO etc. 

Podcast: Interview with client, audio format.  

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

Video testimonials make great social media content too. 

How to use your case studies to increase sales

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

1. On your website

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

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

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

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

2. Social media

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

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

3. Newsletters

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

4. Email automations  

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

5. Proposals

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

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

 

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

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

Time to starting marketing after lockdown

12 Top Tips for Marketing After Lockdown

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

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

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

Start – if you haven’t already

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

Freshen up on old skills

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

Listen First

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

Elevator Pitches

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

Tell Stories

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

Remember to Follow Up

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

Make a plan

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

Utilise Automations

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

Update Your Case Studies

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

Need a hand measuring with your marketing planning

Click here for more tips

Capitalise on new opportunities!

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

New Digital Content

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

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

Virtual Meetings

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

In closing

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

social media

Which social media marketing platforms are best for my business?

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Plan

social media

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

Go where your ideal clients are

B2B social media effectiveness

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

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

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

1. LinkedIn

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

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

2. Twitter

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

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

3. Facebook

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

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

4. Instagram

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

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

Less is more

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

Leave your comfort zone

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

Which social media platforms are generating traffic and leads?

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

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

In closing…

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

where to start with digital marketing

Digital Marketing: where to start

By A Helping Hand

where to start with digital marketing

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

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

What is Digital Marketing?

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

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

Why start Digital Marketing?

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

1. Do a lot more with a lot less

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

2. Opportunities for more focussed, tailored marketing

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

3. Chances to measure effectiveness

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

What you need to start Digital Marketing

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

digital marketing tools

1. Digital literacy

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

2. Time and talent

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

3. A cutting edge

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

To conclude…

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

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

Ideal Client

How many Ideal Clients do you have?

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Small Business Marketing

Ideal Client

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

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

Why do you need to map an Ideal Client?

image to support article about ideal clients

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

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

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

Why would you need more than one ideal client?

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

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

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

The Ideal Client Grid

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

To summarise, if your product is:

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

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

2. You’re expanding your portfolio

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

3. You’re targeting a new industry sector

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

Are your current clients ideal clients?

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

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

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

What are your options with non-ideal clients?

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

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

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

To conclude…

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

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

 

is my marketing working?

Is my marketing working?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Measure

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

How can you measure your marketing?

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

Bounce rate

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

Engagement

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

Contact

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

Conversion rate

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

Shoring up your sales pipeline

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

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

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

Where are you losing prospects?

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

sales pipeline

Before the pipeline

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

Suspects into prospects

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

Prospects into qualified

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

Qualified into sales

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

How can sales find out how they failed to sell?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

SME Needs' four stage marketing process

11 Questions to ask yourself before outsourcing your marketing

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

Considering outsourcing your marketing?

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

1. How old is your business?

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

2. How big is your business?

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

3. How many products or services do you sell?

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

4. How many markets do you sell to?

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

5. What marketing skills do you have internally?

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

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

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

6. Are these skills available?

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

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

7. Do you want to do your marketing?

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

8. What should you spend on marketing management?

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

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

9. How many marketing service providers do you use?

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

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

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

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

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

11. Did you choose the right Marketing Manager?

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

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

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

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

Networking from home

8 tips on how to improve your business networking from home

By A Helping Hand

Networking from home

Networking doesn’t have to stop just because you’re working from home

Virtual networking can seem daunting to people unfamiliar with online platforms. There are, however, some advantages. In the time before Covid-19, to network meant a lot of legwork: Trade shows; industry events; lunches; parties; etc. Now, for the moment, we’re mostly stuck at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to neglect your network. As with most things in 2020, there’s plenty of online alternatives to the traditional ways of networking. By now you’re already a pro at #WFH, now it’s time to start acing #NWFH (networking from home). We’ve prepared for you 8 tips on how to improve your business networking from home, ensuring you are a top virtual networker in 2020 and 2021.

Where to do your business networking from home?

1. Your existing network

Your first port of call should always be your existing network. Take a step back and think about why you’re networking in the first place: to develop leads for your contacts. You’ll be far better off developing fewer, deeper, contacts than you will be chasing new ones. As a general rule of thumb, you should spend at least as much time maintaining your network as you should expanding it.

Those business cards on your desk

If you haven’t thrown them all away as part of a lockdown tidy-up, make use of the business cards you collected earlier in the year. Get back in touch and renew the relationship you started – or promised to start.

2. Social mediaLinkedIn logo

You can’t talk about networking in 2020 without mentioning LinkedIn. Undeniably, it’s a fantastic tool to easily follow, find and connect with people in your industry. But be sure to use it the right way and don’t fall into lazy practices. For example, don’t fire out dozens of cold requests. Instead, send a few requests to the people who will be most useful to you and to whom you can offer something in return. You should try to follow up requests with a message explaining why you want to connect. If you’ve not met before, tell them how you discovered them: was it via a recommendation, or from something they published? Tell them! People like to know that they’re being noticed, so it doesn’t hurt to start with a compliment (as long as it’s genuine).

3. Business virtual networking events

Besides being a vital skill in business, networking is also a huge industry in itself. Trade bodies such as London Chamber are still hosting networking events for their members on video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom. If you can live without the canapés, it’s well worth signing up for these events to stay up to date with developments in your industry and make contact with your peers.

4. Webinars

Similarly, lots of businesses are replacing in-person events with webinars. These events are a fantastic opportunity to learn something new and also demonstrate your industry knowledge. If you ask the right questions, come up with some sharp analysis in the breakout rooms, or better yet, volunteer as a guest speaker! Just like at in-person networking events, use the platform to demonstrate your value as a contact and watch the connections come to you.

What should you do when virtual networking?

1. Look professional

Just because you’ve been working from home all day in your comfy slippers doesn’t mean you should let your standards slip when it comes to virtual networking. There are a few easy tips to look professional via webcam (even if you’re still in your slippers):

  • Use books or files or whatever you have available to raise your laptop to eye level. This will make it appear as though you’re making eye contact, which is still important with virtual networking as it is with in-person networking.
  • Wear an appropriate top, brush your hair and adjust the lighting (if possible) to make yourself presentable (even if it’s just from the waist up).
  • Make sure anyone else in your house is aware that you’re in a meeting and so won’t disturb you.
  • Check your background: Bookshelves, plants or plain walls are fine. Otherwise, you can make use of Zoom’s ability to add a virtual background if your actual background doesn’t exactly scream “professional”.

2. Master Zoom etiquette

Beyond those first appearances, there’s also some nuanced Zoom etiquette that’s important to grasp when virtual marketing:

  • If you’re listening to a presentation or just not talking for a while, make sure to mute yourself to cut out background noise.
  • Say hello and goodbye, but only if you’re not interrupting. If someone is talking, say hello in the chat section instead.
  • As with in-person networking, try not to check your phone, leave your seat or anything that might suggest you’re not paying attention.

3. Boss the breakout rooms

At virtual networking events and webinars, just like in-person events, you’re not just there for the main event. You also want to (virtually) rubs shoulders with the other guests. Zoom has tried to replicate the mingling that occurs with “breakout rooms”; small groups where guests at virtual events can take a break to chat and catch up with each. Make sure you’re ready with something to say: an observation from the talk; an insight from your own business. Of course, remember to listen too. There’s only a set number of minutes in a breakout room before the host pulls you out, so make them count!

4. Foster deep connections

Building on this last point, the deeper you can establish your connections, the better. Your best connections have your business at the forefront of their minds, ready to recommend when someone enquires about a product or service you provide. Developing connections isn’t the same as developing leads; if done right, these deep connections can be a gateway to many more leads. The time you spend developing them should reflect that potential. So, to take us back to the first (and most important) point, build on your existing connections first, before developing new ones.

In some ways, networking in 2020 has been made easier: There’s no need to travel and you don’t have to shell out for dinner and drinks. And in others, it’s been made harder: You can’t circulate round a packed conference or use body language as effectively. It’s been a real mixed bag, but the opportunities are still there, just on different platforms. Some of the rules may have changed, like with the rapidly evolving Zoom etiquette, but at the end of the day, virtual networking is not too different to networking in person. These skills are easily transferable. Even when we’re able to shake hands again, the practical and logistical benefits of virtual networking means that it’s likely to stick around for certain events. Hopefully the tips in this blog will help you networking effectively both online and offline.

We hope this has helped you think more clearly about your business networking, whether working from home or, in the future, when we are back out meeting face to face.

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How to market over the Christmas holiday

How to manage your marketing over the Christmas period

By A Helping Hand

What to do, and not do, in readiness for the festive season

It’s time to think about Christmas marketing (and I don’t mean glühwein and sausages). It can be a stressful time of year, more so for people running their own small business. It might be your only week off in the year and let’s face it, you have enough to worry about with Christmas presents without worrying about social media presence as well!

To save you some of that stress, we’ve put together a guide for what you need to do (and more importantly, what you don’t need to do) with B2B marketing over the Christmas holiday. Follow these five tips to save time doing what’s essential, so you can spend the rest of your holiday doing what’s really important.

1. Don’t be Elf!

It’s easy to go overboard with your Christmas marketing activity. It’s an easy aesthetic to affect, and there’s Christmassy content puns by the sleigh-full. Just remember that if you’re not open for business there’s no point drumming up trade. Also, Christmas isn’t for everybody, for faith among other reasons. What’s seen as festive to some can come across as tasteless or tacky to others.

But don’t be a total Scrooge either. Keep it simple and professional: say Merry Christmas to your current clients and save the heavy selling for the New Year.

2. Update your business hours

If you’re shutting up shop for the Christmas holidays make sure to update your opening hours. It’s unlikely that you’ll receive enquiries at this time, but if potential clients don’t know you’re closed, you could lose out on potential leads.

Quick Tip: Make sure you update your opening hours across all your visible platforms: your website; LinkedIn; Google My Business; Facebook or any others you may have.

3. Schedule your Christmas marketing

You might have specific events, offers or updates to share over the Christmas holiday, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your hard earned holiday hunched over your laptop. Twitter has a new feature that allows you to schedule tweets for a later date from its desktop app. Other tools, like Hootsuite, allow you to schedule posts on many more platforms. Similarly, Mailchimp can schedule any seasonal emails, and social media posts, you might want to send to your clients. If you make good use of these marketing automation tools, you might even be able to close your laptop for a while.

4. Take a break!

Okay, now you can put your feet up. No, really. Why not close your laptop as well? It can be hard for small business owners to switch off, but if you don’t your family won’t be happy and you will get both cranky and tired. Follow the advice given in the previous points and you can afford to relax. If you’re not open for business, there’s no point in marketing. Over the holidays, your prospects aren’t buying and you’re not selling, so ease off the promotion. Remember that you are one of the company’s biggest assets! Save yourself from burning out and switch off, even if it’s just for a little while.

5. Strategise for the year ahead

Once you’ve taken some family time, you can, if you wish, go back to work. It’s worth taking some time during your quietest couple of weeks to take a birds-eye-view of your marketing strategy. Make use of free analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to see what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. With the New Year just around the corner it’s the best time to pivot your strategy, to double up on what works and cut out what doesn’t.

 

That concludes our five steps to help you market over Christmas, and hopefully enjoy a bit more of your holiday. The main thing to remember is that there’s no point marketing if you’re not currently selling! 

Instead, to recap:

  • Update your opening hours and let your clients know when you’re closed.
  • Queue any necessary social posts or emails via automation tools.
  • Take a moment to measure, assess and plan your marketing for next year.
  • Rest and recuperate for a busy new business year!

We hope this helps and gives you a very Merry Christmas!

image to support article on how to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

How to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing

More than 10 million blog posts are published every day! When do you next plan to add to the mountain of content out there?  As we spend a lot of time either writing content, getting content written, or checking the writing of others, we thought we would pick the brains of a number of experts we know. The aim: to help you avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing.

Our panel come from various parts of the writing world:

  • Professional content writers
  • Journalists
  • Authors
  • Public relations specialists

Between them, they’ve written millions of words, putting them in the right order to make people want to read more. Let’s now look at what they have to say…

1. Don’t forget who your audience isimage of Dr Claire Trevien

Dr Claire Trevien, a content specialist, says a common error she sees is people forgetting who their audience is. All too often she sees content that is focused on making the company look good or on details that aren’t really of interest to anyone external to the company.

You have to remember “what’s in it for them?” and make the content useful, or entertaining, or inspiring. Otherwise, why would anyone bother reading it?

2. Write what your audience wants to readimage of Chantal Cooke, PR specialist

Along a similar thread, Chantal Cooke,  from Panpathic PR, says from a PR perspective the biggest mistake she sees (again and again) is businesses focusing on what they want to say, not what journalists (or their audience) want to hear.  Yes, of course, the point of PR and creating content is to get your message out to a wider audience, but it needs to be framed and delivered in a way that people want to engage with it. Otherwise, at best, you’re wasting your time and at worst you’re irritating people and damaging your reputation. So before creating any content make sure it passes the ‘so what?’ test. In other words, if your audience will read it, shrug, and go ‘so what?’ – you’ve failed the test.

Whenever you are creating content, for any reason, about any message, ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the reader/listener/viewer? Why would they care?’ If you can answer that question, you’re well on your way to creating great content.

3. Remember the search engines too

Whilst we agree completely with both Chantal and Claire, it would be remiss of us to not mention the search engines at this point. You are producing content because you want to be found by your target audience and get them engaging with you. To do that, you have to be ranked in the search engines, so you do have to follow their guidelines too. by writing for your audience, you will meet many of their guidelines, but remember your meta descriptions, sentence length and keywords. If you have a WordPress website, Yoast is a great plugin that will really help.

Think of Google, et al, as a secondary audience, but one you do have to at least nod towards.

4. Remove the formalityimage of Nicole Johnston

Nicole Johnston is a ghost writer and writing coach. She thinks that people think that to come across ‘professional’ they need to write in formal language and use technical phrases for credibility. Nicole says the best approach with content is to write as you speak.  There are two advantages to this:

  • it builds connection and trust.  People feel as though they get to know us through our content and are therefore more likely to buy from us.
  • No-one wants to read formal or technical language.  Simple, ‘down to earth’ language will not only communicate our point better but will make us seem more accessible.

Nicole suggests that we almost need to ‘unlearn’ the academic and ‘correct’ way of writing to communicate effectively with real people.  Einstein said ‘If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.’ Nicole agrees with him.

Author and journalist, Emma Bamford,  agrees with this and says people try too hard. A lot of the time, when non-professional or less experienced writers write content, they get so worried about sounding good that they go a bit over the top and/or formal.

Emma recommends following George Orwell’s advice. In his 1946 essay “Politics in the English Language”, wrote: “Never use a long word when a short one will do.” Clarity is key; ditch the thesaurus and write in a similar way to how you would speak (but with better grammar).

Emma gave us three more errors she sees regularly:

5. Stop overusing adjectives and adverbsimage of Emma Bamford

When people write marketing copy, they often think that if they pile on the superlative adjectives, it’ll make their product seem amazing and people will be clicking the ‘Buy’ button like there’s no tomorrow. In truth, it can easily become too much, and have a ring of falsity.

Emma recommends that you:

  • Cut the adjectives and adverbs (the describing words),
  • Let the actual facts and features of the product or service do the selling.
  • Avoid overdone, meaningless descriptors such as ‘sumptuous’ like the plague. You might have used that word in copy/content, but have you ever said it out loud in conversation? I’m betting not…

Gary Adams, a financial journalist, also highlighted the use of additional, and unnecessary words. He gave a few examples:

  • Nobody has ever risen ‘down’ so why rise ‘up’?
  • You could just swap something rather than swap it ‘out’.
  • ‘Interestingly’, if you prefix a point with that word, it probably describes the exact opposite.
  • Do you expand ‘inwards’?

6. Cut out the jargonimage of Gary Adams

You spend your whole day using the jargon of your industry. You know it, you love it and your team knows exactly what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean your target audience does, however. Using too much jargon is highly likely to confuse your audience, so cut it out.  Your target audience wants to know how you can help them, not how many big words you know. For more on this topic, you should read one of last year’s blogs.

Gary supports this point and adds that the social media world has created a new type of jargon. Witness the change from investment ‘baskets’ to investment ‘buckets’ and from ‘embracing’ something to ‘leaning in’ for an example of how quickly pointless change is taken up on a global scale and how something descriptive quickly becomes a slogan, something used thoughtlessly. Endless repetition of ever-more refined phrases will steal your identity. It also dates your work.

7. Using the active voice is best

“I’m telling you – avoid the passive voice.”

“You’re being told by me to avoid the passive voice.”

Which sounds better to you? Both sentences mean the same thing, but the first version is in the active voice, and the second is in the passive. Passive adds distance between writer and reader. If you find it tricky working out if you’re writing in the passive voice, look out for tell-tale words like “being” and “by”. Check that the subject (the doer) in the sentence comes before the verb (the doing word), rather than after it.

8. Use the right wordimage of Maia Morris, journalist and sub-editor

The English language doesn’t always make this easy, with many words being very similar, but Maia Morris, a journalist and sub-editor, lists this as one of her biggest bugbears. You will be able to think of many different examples, but this is the one Maia gave:

  • To complement is to complete something, supplement it, enhance it, or bring it to perfection. For example, your accessories may complement your dress.
  • To compliment is to give praise. For example, if I were to say that you have a very nice turtle, this would be a compliment to both you and your turtle.

The mixing up of to, too and two, as well as your and you’re are frequently seen too.

9. Missing the possessive apostrophe

Maia also gave us this one. Saying it is one of Maia’s bugbears will keep her happy. If you said it was one of Maias bugbears, you would expect to face her wrath!

10. Over-use of punctuation

Maia also really hates it when she sees people over-using exclamation marks!!!!!!

11. Don’t go on too long

Shorter is almost always better, when it comes to content length. Get in, say what you want to say (clearly, cleanly and in active voice), and get out.

Brian McGee has a journalist background, is a qualified teacher and over 20 years’ experience in creating content. He gave us three tips to look out for

12. Never Deleteimage of Brian McGee

Brian says just keep writing, however much the words don’t seem right for now. You can go back and improve it in the next draft: delete, polish and craft then. Not before…

13. Remember the three sections

Brian says there is always a beginning, middle, end. It’s better still if your conclusion links back to the start of your writing, even if it’s a discreet nod. That doesn’t mean you need to draft in a linear way. You have more ideas about the conclusion after that bracing walk? Ignore the introduction and get (happily, here’s hoping) drafting.

14. Think flow

Brian’s final tip is that if the transition from one idea to another jars, record that in the draft. Seeing the shortcomings of the current version is progress too.

What have we missed?

If there are any key blogging errors we’ve missed in this list (we’re sure there are), add them as a comment below. In the same manner, if you disagree, tell us why…

To conclude

If you can avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing, it can make the difference between you wasting your time and you attracting your next big client. Writing styles and best practice changes over time, so these points may well be redundant in a few year’s time, as Gary points out above. When you’re next planning a content piece for your business, why not try some of these points. See how much of a difference it makes to the flow of the article. More importantly, look at your performance metrics in a few weeks’ time and see if there is a difference.

We hope the tips provided here will help you to improve your content generation and improve the performance of your content marketing. However, if you find that you simply don’t have time to produce the quality content you want, or you want someone to review what you have written, get in touch. Call us on 020 8634 5911 or email us on SMEgrowth@smeneeds.co.uk

What to do when a prospect doesn't buy

What To Do When A Prospect Doesn’t Buy

By A Helping Hand

What to do when a prospect doesn't buy

So, you found the perfect prospect through LinkedIn. You made first contact, an amazing introduction. Over a few weeks you built your relationship and waited until the time was right. Then  you hit them with the pitch… and they don’t buy it.

First off, it’s not the end of the world! It might be painful to fail in your pitch to a prospect you’ve spent weeks or even months buttering up, but you can’t win them all. At least not the first time around.

What’s important in this situation is not to sulk, and make sure your next step is in the right direction. They said no to your offer, but that doesn’t mean the door is closed. There’s several steps you can take to keep your foot in and catch that prospect the next time around.

At the point of purchase…

At the point of conversion there’s three things that can happen:

  1. They don’t buy at all
  2. They buy from a competitor
  3. They buy from you (hooray!)

Before we look at what you need to do, let’s look at why they may have made this decision…

1. If they don’t buy at all

Don’t be too hard on yourself (or your sales team). There are plenty of reasons why prospects don’t buy.

  • Cost: Maybe your prospect just doesn’t have room in their budget right now. This doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with your pitch, or that they won’t buy from you at a later date.
  • Priority: Perhaps there’s other more pressing purchases for your prospect to make before they buy your product.
  • Market forces: Recessions, price of goods and other external factors (global pandemics, for example) are beyond the control of yourself and your client and can make it impossible to buy.

2. They buy from a competitor

Ouch. It’s not nice to learn you’ve lost a prospect to a competitor. First, ask yourself why they went with the competitor. This is usually for three main reasons:

  • Price: If your competitor has a cheaper product, it’s possible that they’ve made a promise they can’t deliver on. It’s an old adage that “if you buy cheap you buy twice”, but if your competition fails to deliver, you want your name to be at the top of the prospect’s inbox.
  • Relationship: Maybe your prospect has a pre-existing relationship with a competitor. This kind of inside advantage can be difficult to overcome. But a good relationship with a rival salesperson doesn’t mean that your competitor has a superior product. Relationships may open doors, but if they don’t deliver, you want to make sure yours is the door they come knocking on.
  • Perceived risk: Perhaps your prospect bought from a competitor because there was a lower perceived risk with purchasing from them. Consumers are less likely to risk buying more expensive products, or from less established companies. Perceived risk can be reduced over time as your brand becomes and more established and reviews and recommendations begin to spread. Keep your prospects sweet and, in the meantime, see what you can do to reduce perceived risk.

3. They buy from you

I know this blog is called “what to do when a prospect doesn’t buy”, but it’s important to note that even if a prospect coverts, it’s still not the end of the story. In fact, it could be just the beginning. Some of the benefits of maintaining communication with your customer are

  • that customers who have already used your product will be more likely to purchase other products from you since they know you as a credible supplier.
  • They may choose you over your competitors for other products. The cost and logistical benefits of having fewer, bigger, suppliers means you always have the chance of increasing your sales to the same client.
  • Promoting your brand through regular communication will help you keep up with competitors. Remind your customer why they opted for you over your competitors to begin with!

So what do you do now?

The answer is simple. Keep in touch.

  1. Make sure they are on your mailing list. Regular email campaigns, sharing case studies, articles and whitepapers ensure your prospects are kept aware of what you are up to. There’s a chance they will unsubscribe, but only if your communication is too frequent and not relevant.
  2. Connect with them on social media. When you’re connected, you will stay in the back of their mind, in readiness for the future.
  3. Go to the same events. Particularly if they are local to you, “bumping into them” once in a while maintains awareness and gives you the chance to keep talking about how you’ve helped other clients.
  4. Call them. Nobody says you’re not allowed to call them every few months. Just because they didn’t buy before doesn’t mean they won’t in the future, and the personal touch could sway things your way.

Closing

It’s never nice to lose a prospect after you’ve spent resources promoting your business and time building a relationship. But it’s not a waste. There’s no reason for your relationship with the prospect to change: the economic climate is always moving and you want to put yourself in the best position when your prospect is looking to buy again.

Get back on the horse, keep communicating the value of your product and wait for the time and effort you’ve invested to pay off down the line.

If you need some assistance in ensuring you stay in touch with old prospects, give us a call on 020 8634 5911 or email us at smegrowth@smeneeds.co.uk