A helping hand is just that. These are posts we believe will help you to improve your marketing.

  • Helping you measure your marketing more effectively
  • Helping you focus so you get a better ROI
  • Ensuring you are planning and then delivering your marketing

Of course, if you need a hand with any of this, we would love to have a chat and see how we can help you improve your marketing and grow your business.

Give us a call on 020 8634 5911. Let’s arrange a time for a coffee and a chat.

Digital Marketing: where to start

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.

How many Ideal Clients do you have?

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/Industry Product #1 Product #2 Product #3 Product #4 Product #5
Industry #1 A B C D E
Industry #2 F G H I
Industry #3 J K L
Industry #4 M N O P

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?

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.

 

 

11 Questions to ask yourself before outsourcing your marketing

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.

8 tips on how to improve your business networking from home

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.

How to manage your marketing over the Christmas period

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!

4 Marketing Automation Tools To Save Time And Money

marketing automation tools

Why should you use marketing automation tools?

Marketing automation tools are an asset that can’t be overlooked in 2020. This recent lockdown has been hard on SMEs. Lots of small businesses have found themselves in a position where they need to hold back on investment to make ends meet, stripping back anything that isn’t essential. One cost that’s often thrown out first is marketing. That’s understandable, it’s not like rent or rates, cutting back on marketing isn’t going to put you out of business straight away. However, marketing is a lot like central heating: you don’t notice how much you need it until it’s gone.

Savvy business owners will be maintaining or increasing their marketing spend through lockdown because they know it’s all about staying in the mind of the client when the forecast favours buying again. You don’t need to break the bank to take this approach. There are plenty of tools out there to help you increase your online presence while also reducing the amount of time you dedicate to marketing (or the hours you spend having someone do it for you). The secret is marketing automation tools! 

We’ve put together four of the best marketing automation tools that we’re using right now:

If you want to watch the video version, skip to the bottom, or click here

1. Missinglettr

Missinglettr is a marketing automation tool that likes to use futuristic phrases like ‘AI’ and ‘machine learning’. What that translates into is software that generates social media posts to promote your original content.

All you have to do is create your own blog post, then the clever software will scan for keywords, check this against SEO and trending hashtags then custom make promotional posts for the major social media platforms. All of which builds your brand profile, builds engagement, and links back to your website to increase that all-important traffic.

Pricing: Missinglettr has a free version for one profile, and has a tiered pricing structure depending on the amount of profiles and platforms.

2. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a marketing automation tool that allows you to see a battleplan of your entire social media strategy in one place. It’s a central platform through which you can write, schedule and post from any of your social media accounts.

This has fantastic money-saving implications. It allows you to write and queue up all your social posts for the week, or beyond, in one day. Thereby reducing the time you have to dedicate to keep all of those platforms up to date with promotional posts.

Unlike Missinglettr, it doesn’t create these posts for you, it simply allows you to get your social media strategy out of the way on Monday, and leave Hootsuite to post your content throughout the week.

Pricing: Hootsuite lets your request a free demo and has tailored pricing plans, starting at $9.99.

3. Mailchimp

Mailchimp lets you do it all: create websites’ build landing pages; create surveys and post ads on socials. In terms of saving you time and money, its best feature is its email marketing automation tools. We maintain that email marketing is still the number one way to engage with your customers. When done right, email marketing can deliver real results.

But Mailchimp goes even further by allowing you to create and entire ‘customer journey’ that automates the entire seller/customer relationship. For example, clicks on website pages can be programmed to trigger a follow up email, etc.

Once again, this kind of product can take the labour-intensive side of marketing off of your hands so you can spend your time where it’s most needed.

Pricing: Mailchimp has a very accessible pricing structure with a free version, and plans ranging from $9.99 to $299 a month.

4. CANDDi

CANDDi is a great marketing tool for identifying your website traffic. Not only will it tell you who’s accessing your site, it’ll also tell you how long they spend, where they go and whether they’ve been before. Such a detailed breakdown of traffic is vital for identifying prospects and generating sales.

CANDDi will even build profiles of your frequent website visitors and assess them based on their readiness to buy from you. It’s not an automation per se, but it certainly saves the time you would have spent manually researching prospects.

Pricing: CANDDi has various pricing plans, starting our at £149 a month.

 

There you have it! Four fantastic tools that can help shoulder some of the burden of your marketing, leaving you free to work on the hundred other things on your plate right now. Employed correctly, these tools can considerably reduce the cost of your marketing plan.

The Video Version (sound on please)

If you would like help managing your marketing tools, or help integrating these tools into your existing tech stack, tap into our expertise. Call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here.

How to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

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

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’s 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

6 reasons you should invest in marketing now

picture of tree and sapling to illustrate article about reasons why you should invest in marketing nowNobody is buying, why should I invest in marketing?

With the latest restrictions imposed by the government, this is a question that many will be asking. With these restrictions potentially in place for six months, why should I not just wait until they are lifted before starting my marketing again? Why should you invest in marketing now? Here are six reasons why you should invest in marketing now…

People forget

How many emails do you get a day, even discounting those you delete immediately? How many WhatsApps and texts? Add on phone calls and all the marketing messages you see on the odd occasion you leave the house these days. There is only so much room in our minds before older, perceived less important, messages get pushed to the back of our minds and then (if you have watched Disney’s Inside Out) to long term storage.

You have to keep your brand and how you help your target audience in the front of their minds. To do that you have to have a consistent marketing programme.

Brand reinforcement

You aren’t the only company out there that does what you do. SME Needs is not the only company helping small businesses improve their marketing. We all have to keep reminding people about the value we deliver, so they remember the brand and they remember how we can help them. You have to remind your target audience and I have to remind you!

Climbing the priority ladder

You have any number of priorities to deal with. In these difficult times, you will be juggling these priorities. You will be trying to work out what really are the priorities and then making sure you don’t drop them. Your Ideal Clients will be doing exactly the same thing. They will, as you do, get any number of messages telling them why other things should be high on their priority list. If budgets are tight, as they are for many at this time, it is only those right at the top that are acted upon. The rest will have to wait.

Getting your share of their wallet

Unless what you sell is deemed a real luxury, what you sell should eventually reach the top of the priority ladder. As the third of our reasons why you should invest in marketing how, we think this is a pretty important one! When things ease again (as they will eventually), you want your target audience to be opening the company wallet and giving you some of what is available. Of course your competition want that share; what happens if they have been marketing and you haven’t?

Staying ahead of the competition

At this point, you’re hoping your competitors are thinking the same as you – why should we invest in marketing now. What happens if they are following the Kellogg’s example of the 1920’s and 30’s? You can read more detail here, but put succinctly, Kellogg’s continued marketing in the Great Depression, whilst their main competitor, Post (??!) cut back. Kellogg’s captured the market and you’re probably never heard of Post!

If your competition are still actively marketing, can you risk not maintaining your marketing activity?

Can you pivot?

Just because you have always delivered a certain solution to a certain target audience, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to change? If you can identify an opportunity to solve a real problem that people are facing during this pandemic, you need to tell them. Of course, this does mean that you change your marketing, but you are still getting your brand out there. You will still be remembered, even if it is in a different sector. If this is the case, you have permission to divert SOME of your marketing activity and budget. If you divert all of it, you risk losing your other markets when the economy returns.

People Forget

It’s been a couple of minutes since you read the 2nd paragraph of this blog. Your phone had bleeped a few times and your inbox is a little fuller. Lots of distractions and other messages have arrived in that time. If you can get distracted in two minutes, imagine what will happen in, up to, six months!

So here are 7, well 6, reasons you should invest in marketing during the pandemic . Any questions?

If we have, let’s talk. Click here or call us on 020 8634 5911