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

what does your brand mean to your target audience

What does your brand mean to your target audience?

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing

What does your brand mean to your target audience?

This is the second part of our ‘Activate Fierce Brand Loyalty’ blog post series. The first of which helps your brand to develop an awareness with your target audience.

This blog post follows on from the development of building awareness through your client asking,

“What are you?”

what does your brand mean to your target audience

How can you differentiate yourself from your competition?

The concept of brand development is to be able to differentiate yourself from your competition. One of the pitfalls small businesses may fall into is focusing on promoting their service or product only. Your competition will be doing the exact same thing.

This becomes confusing for your potential client who is hearing the same thing from multiple businesses. Whether that potential client is in your local area or finds you through online searches and research.

This blog post provides guidelines to help develop a meaning to your target audience. This helps you to stand out from the crowd of business that provide similar services.

Once your target audience is aware of you, they feel inclined to learn more about you. There are two vital factors that communicate what your brand means to your target audience.

  1. Performance

What can you do to meet your target audience’s needs?

Five performance based categories meet the needs of your target audience:

  • Characteristics and features
  • Reliability
  • Durability or duration
  • Serviceability (effectiveness and efficiency)
  • Design and price

Potential clients will want to build on their awareness of your brand by trying to figure out important questions that define what you mean to them.

An example could be, ‘How effective will SME Needs strategic marketing plan be for my business in the short-term and long-term?’

Apply this line of questioning to your own business.

What factors of performance distinguish the service you provide for your target audience?

  • How much more could I get done to grow my business if I entrust all my IT requirements to this business?
  • In terms of efficiency, how productive can my project be if I engage with this consultancy firm?
  • How cost effective would it be to invest in this specialised equipment and how long will it run smoothly for?

2. Imagery

If your brand was a human, how would you be perceived?

Small businesses have personality in abundance!

This is something that you should capitalise in the way you communicate your brand’s image. This creates positive and strong associations and perceptions of your brand in the mind of the client.

Your target audience will form an image of you from their personal experiences with you, through targeted marketing or through word-of-mouth. As a small business, much of what image they will have of the brand will be associated with the personality traits of the owner.

Are you sincere and friendly? Spirited and imaginative? Or maybe you are reliable and hard-working?

As a small business, inject your brand culture into everything, from your logo, to your website, to the way you present yourself in meetings or at networking events.

At any touch-point with a potential or existing client, you should aim to have a consistent image you communicate. It is important to maintain your image and personality in both an online and offline setting.

An image is built over time. Therefore, it is about consistency in the way you push your brand’s meaning in your marketing message and communications.

Once you develop a positive brand image, the key values of your business will be reflected in the mind of the target client.

Your marketing communications and messaging transmits your key values.  This applies to both a physical and digital setting.

An example could be SME Needs reflecting trustworthiness through meetings that are personal and specific to understand your business needs to develop a tailored marketing plan.

Overview

Through a combination of performance and imagery, you enhance the meaning you have to potential or existing clients.

This then helps to secure a sale or a deal as the client understands how you meet their needs and also develop a strong sense of the values and personality your brand has communicated to them.

If you want to learn further how you can identify and improve your marketing performance and build a positive brand image, SME Needs is ready to support you and is only one click-away.

SME Needs is a Mailchimp Partner

Mailchimp’s New Customer Journeys

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning, Technology & your business

screenshot image for Mailchimp Customer Journeys

At Last!

Customer Journeys, from Mailchimp goes live from today and will be available to all Mailchimp customers by the 7th August. It is something that we’ve been waiting for, for a very long time. Here is why.

Single Routing

Mailchimp’s products have a huge number of positives and that’s why we’re a Mailchimp Certified Partner. The Automation function meant that we could set up email campaigns, for our clients and ourselves, to go to people based on specific criteria, whether this was information in certain contact fields or Tags. But after that first email went out, Automations only gave you limited options:

  • Send the next email if they clicked
  • Send the next email X period afterwards

If you wanted to have multiple options, you had to set up multiple automations, based on the actions your contacts took from the previous email.

Single Starting Points

A single starting point also limited your options, or complicated matters as you built multiple Automations. Multiple automations increased your chances of doing something not quite right, which could upset your contacts.

As you can see from the image, that is now changing…

image showing Mailchimp Customer Journeys

Simplified Marketing

With the opportunity to use multiple triggers and multiple branches, it definitely means that email marketing will become a little simpler. I definitely see it as a time saver and it will save our clients some money, as we are not building large numbers of automations.

First Impressions

Even as a Mailchimp Partner, we haven’t got this functionality on our accounts yet; it goes live today. We will be spending quite some time looking in more detail at how Customer Journeys works and the benefits it can bring for us and for our clients. As soon as we have had a “play”, we will report back on our first impressions.

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Talk to Them

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding

image to support article about how to talk to your target audience

How to talk to your target audience and effectively engage

If one of your target audience was sitting in front of you, or was on the end of the phone, you would talk to them on a one to one basis. If you are presenting to an audience, you will talk to them as if you were talking to them individually. So why don’t you do it in your marketing collateral? Let’s address the issue of how to talk to your target audience through your marketing.

Talk in the Second Person

To maximise the possibility that your marketing content, both online and offline grabs the reader, use the same language as you would if you were talking to them. By using the second person (you), rather than the third person (he, she, it, they), you are having a conversation. You are helping the reader to engage with you.

Which of these is more powerful?

“Our clients typically see a 45% increase the number of leads they get each year”.

OR

“You could get a 45% increase in the number of leads you get each year”.

Gathering around rarely happens

Long gone are the days when there were only a few PCs in your office and people would gather around to view them. Same with printed marketing material. People within your target audience rarely gather around a brochure, flyer or proposal. Even if they do, “you” is the second person plural as well, so you are still talking directly to them, both as a group and as individuals.

Compare it to dating

Look at your marketing as a first date. You wouldn’t talk about “your partners” if you wanted a second date. If you want your marketing to lead to a meeting and a sale, you need to talk to them in the right way.

More Engaging

Using the second person is more engaging and more active. It gets them thinking about themselves and how they can benefit from working with you. When talking to decision makers, that is exactly what you want to happen, so why does your marketing material mostly use the 3rd person, or even worse, the 1st?

They’re important – not you

We looked at this in more detail in a blog earlier in the month, but let’s touch on it again. If your marketing, whether online or offline, talks in the 1st person, whether singular or plural, you’re saying you are the most important part of the relationship. As you want them to become a new client, this is clearly not the case.

Quick Test

Pull up the home page of your website. Which of these words do you come across first: We or You? If you find “we” first, may I humbly recommend you look to re-word that page? It is, after all, the first page 60-70% of all your website visitors will see.

If your marketing isn’t as effective as you want it to be, this may well be a key part of the problem!

To discuss the focus of your marketing, give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

meme image to support article about grabbing the attention of your target audience

How to grab the attention of your target audience

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding

meme image to support article about grabbing the attention of your target audience

Talk about them not you

Whatever marketing channels you decide to use (we’ll come onto that in a later blog), if you want to grab the attention of your target audience, you need to make sure you are talking about them, rather than you.?

Nobody cares what you do!

Rather a blunt statement, but so very true.

They don’t care that you believe you are the UK’s leading provider of….

If you’re a small business, how are you going to gather proof that you are the UK’s leading provider? If you cannot back up your statement, it’s not worth using and your target audience won’t believe you.

They don’t care that you’ve been trading since the year Dot.

Business changes at an ever faster rate. In 1984, the FTSE100 was established. In 2017, just 28 of the original 100 remained. Some of the biggest, and most well known, companies did not exist 30 years ago.

  • Amazon formed in 1994
  • Facebook formed in 2004
  • Uber formed in 2009

Some people may consider older companies to be stuck in their ways and unable to adapt to modern business or society.

The fact that your staff have all the latest badges won’t impress them – well, maybe a little

The badges are signs that your staff have taken, and passed, exams. They have the theoretical knowledge, but can they put it into practice?

Your ability to talk in jargon from your industry really won’t impress them. Indeed, its likely to put them off.

If your target audience is going to engage with you, they want to understand what you are talking about. They want to be able to clearly see what working with you will get them. You need to learn their language. In a completely different location, think about this. Spanish waiters learn English so they can serve you and take your orders, but if you know some Spanish and can talk to them in their language, the service you get is so much better.

They care about how you can help them!

People buy a solution to a problem. The classic adage from marketing classes is that people don’t buy a 1/4 inch drill bit, they buy a 1/4 inch hole.

  • They want to communicate better, not buy a Unified Communications platform.
  • Directors want their teams to be able to work effectively, not buy IT support services.
  • They want more engaged staff, not L&D consultancy.

What they are buying is all in the 2nd half of these sentences, but what they want is the first half.

Talk about their issues

Doing this shows that you understand them. It shows that you have kept up with what is important to your target audience.

Making their issues go away

The issue that is their top priority right now is one that is impacting their business, or them personally. If you talk about solutions to that issue, they will pay attention. They will want to know more about what you do and how that will help them.

Picture Success

If you’re selling unified communications (for example) solutions, what will better communication do for a company?

If you sell Leadership & Development training, what does a company get from having more engaged staff and higher staff retention rates?

In the same way that TUI shows you pictures of pristine beaches (with no litter and crowds rushing for the sunbeds) and Apple shows you wonderful night time pictures of your family, you need to get your target audience thinking about the end result.

Where you should talk about you

There is only two places you should be talking about you:

  1. Your About Us page.
  2. Your personal LinkedIn profile

 

By talking about your target audience, you demonstrate that you understand them. Most of your competitors will still be talking about themselves, so you can grab the attention of your target audience by being different.

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Are you focusing on the right people?

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Marketing Plan

image to support article: focus your marketing

As we all emerge from lockdown, you need to focus

If money is tight, you cannot afford to scattergun your marketing activity. If you do, it will be ineffective. Even if you have got some money spare, why waste it?  To get the best return on investment from the time and money you have available, it has to be focused.

Who should you focus on?

If I were a psychologist, I’d say: who do you want to focus on?  But I’m not, so I won’t. The best people to focus your marketing on are:

  1. People who are similar to your current clients.
  2. People in a similar geographic area to you

Easiest to impress

As we all emerge from lockdown and money is tight, we want to get the best we can for our money. Your target audience will be acting in a very similar way, so they will be looking for suppliers they believe can deliver on their promises. If you can show them you’ve delivered for a number of clients who are very similar to them, they will be much more inclined to believe you can do the same for them. Of course, you will need the evidence to back up your claims – more on that later.

Easiest to get to

If you are selling a service, chances are you will have to go to the prospect at some point very soon. Either as part of the sales process (maintaining social distance rules, of course) or to deliver part, or all, of the service. People who are close to you take less time and less money to get to. Far better to travel 10-20 miles than 2-300!

Of course, you can still do much of the sales process remotely. Phone, email and your preferred flavour of video conferencing will enable you to make sales, but lockdown won’t last forever (we hope), so those closest to you will be easier to account manage going forward too.

Once you start making sales, you can either add additional target audiences or increase geographical coverage, because you will have the budgets to do so.

Of course, you can always leave that boring stuff to us. Call us on 020 8634 5911 for any enquiries.

Want some help focusing your marketing?

 

How much should a small business spend on marketing?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

image of calculator to support article on how much should a small business spend on marketing

This is a question we get asked on a frequent basis but we’ve never covered in a blog, so here goes. This is what we believe a small business should spend on marketing.

General Rule of Thumb

There are huge numbers of articles out there that will tell you how much you should spend on marketing. A search on the title of this article showed 294,000,000 results! Gartner does a CMO Survey every year. Their latest figures, published in October 2019, show marketing spend averaging at 10.5% of revenue. The US Small Business Administration suggests 7-8%. B2B Marketing magazine’s survey of 2018/19 marketing budgets said the average small business owner will dedicate 16% of their annual budget to marketing.

How to work out what you should spend

As small business marketing consultants, the way we help our clients to calculate their marketing budget depends on the answers to six questions. Let’s look at how you can use those questions to calculate your marketing budget.

  1. How much did you spend on marketing last year?
  2. How much of that spend delivered a good return on investment (ROI)?
  3. How many new clients did you acquire, compared to how many you lost?
  4. Do you want your growth to be faster, or the same, as last year?
  5. How long is your typical sales cycle?
  6. How competitive is your market and where do you sit in the hierarchy?

Let’s look at these in a little more detail…

How much did you spend on marketing last year?

This should be a fairly simple question to answer. Your accounts system, particularly if you are using something like Xero or Quickbooks, will give you the answer in moments. We will expand on the question to identify how your marketing spend was spent.

  • How much on staff/agency fees?
  • How much on marketing technology – to help deliver the marketing?
    • Mailchimp, or other email marketing tools
    • Your CRM
    • Hootsuite or other social media management tools
    • SEMrush, or other SEO monitoring tools
    • Website hosting
  • Advertising spend, including social media?
  • Networking event?
  • Etc.

The final question here is: was this a budgeted spend, or did it happen as and when you could afford stuff?

How much of that spend delivered a good ROI?

There is no point in spending more money on marketing that didn’t work last year. The only proviso here is if you were unsure whether you were doing it right. Some guidance, or training, in that marketing channel may deliver far better results.

If you don’t know what is working for you, work it out. Assuming you have a list of every lead you generated last year and have marked it with the lead source, the calculation should be easy.

Marketing Channel ROI = revenue generated from that channel/Marketing Spend on that channel

The marketing activity that delivered a great ROI should definitely be done again, maybe with even more resource dedicated to it. Those with a poor ROI are unlikely to be done again. If you need a hand calculating this, please get in touch.

How many new clients did you acquire, compared to how many you lost?

Marketing isn’t just about acquiring new clients. Alongside your account management activity, it is also there to help you keep your current clients. Unless every client you have is buying every product or service you sell, there are still sales opportunities in that pot.

Growth for your business meaning acquiring more clients each year than you lose. If you are losing clients at a rate that means you aren’t growing, more of your budget needs to be spent on either marketing to your current clients, or on delivering what they want.

Do you want your growth to be faster, or the same, as last year?

Let’s say your business grew by 15% last year on a marketing spend of £50,000. How does your target for this year compare to that 15%? If you want to grow by 30% this year, you need to allocate 100% more (£100,000) to your marketing budget this year. It may be that you don’t spend all of that, but better to budget and not spend, than not budget. It is unreasonable to expect your marketing to deliver more for the same. Whether you credit Henry Ford, Albert Einstein or Tony Robbins with the phrase, it is still true. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”

How long is your usual sales cycle?

For sales revenues to grow, you need to be able to do, at least, one of three things:

  1. To increase prices
  2. To sell more to your clients
  3. To sell to more clients

For this to happen, the creation of leads needs to start before the revenue starts to increase. If you have a three-month sales cycle, you need to start creating more leads three months before you want revenues to start increasing.

How competitive is your market and where do you sit in the hierarchy?

If you are entering a completely new market, you have to make a lot of noise to generate awareness. If you are entering a highly competitive market, with competitors who are spending on marketing, you need to either spend more or shout louder/better. The only time you can get away with a, slightly, reduced marketing spend is if you are one of the top players in that market. I say slightly because you still have to maintain brand awareness and you have to continue to show why you are better than the rest.

Answering the question “how much should a small business spend on marketing” initially sounds like a simple question of percentages. Whilst that is a good starting point, it then needs to be adjusted to meet your growth targets and aspirations. These questions will help you get to the answer you’re looking for. It may be that your marketing budget can be below the 10.5% that Gartner’s survey suggests. Of course, it may also be higher than that too.

If you want to see Gartner’s CMO survey results, you should click here.

The B2B Marketing I refer to is here.

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How to Protect your Social Media from disgruntled employees

By A Helping Hand, Social Media

Social Media can do wonderful things for your brand image in a very short space of time. You are able to get your brand in front of the people you want to see it in a few short steps. but what happens if you have a team member leave; one who has admin access to your social media accounts?  If they left unhappy, there is a real risk that they will post content that can damage your brand. Here are our thoughts on how to protect your social media.

LinkedIn Company Page

When I first wrote on this topic, way back in 2011, your LinkedIn company page was far more open than it is now. You had what they called designated users. Almost anyone in the business could post on your Company Page. Thankfully now, only Admins can post. If one of your Admins leaves the business, simply go in and remove their access.

You may also want them to add an “until date” on their Experience section, so they are no longer listed as an employee. If they’re leaving under a cloud, good luck with that!

Hootsuite

This is a great tool for managing multiple social media accounts. But if you’ve locked this person out of your LinkedIn company page, but not from Hootsuite, they could still post to it. They can post to any account this is connected to. Delete them quick!

Twitter & Instagram

Twitter, and Instagram, are a little more complicated. This is simply because they don’t have users; the account has only one username and password. If you want to stop a disgruntled employee from using this, you have to change the password – and then get it to everyone else who has access.

Facebook

If you have set up your Business Page correctly, securing it is much the same as LinkedIn – remove their admin rights. If, however, you have set up a personal page for your business (instead of a Business Page), you’ve got the same issue as with Twitter.

Better safe than sorry

If you are unsure about what they have access to, you’re better off changing passwords on all your social media channels. Better safe than sorry. Others who need it will soon be in contact, and that gives you a chance to properly control who has access.

What if they post comments?

If you have locked them out, you’re safe from them posting unsuitable content, but you cannot stop them posting comments onto your posts, or mentioning your company on their own posts. Of course, you can appeal to their better nature and ask them to take posts and comments down. If they are libelous, you have more leverage (assuming you want to get solicitors involved). Deleting the post they commented on will remove their comments from that location, but not from their feeds.

In reality, very few people will post detrimental comments and you like to think that they will quickly become bored and move on to something else. If your HR department has a checklist for what needs to be done when someone leaves, willing or otherwise, ask them to add a social media box to the end of the list.

If you  want to talk about how to protect your social media and manage it more effectively, get in touch. We work with a wide range of marketing specialists, including social media. We’re only going to do good things with your social – it’s not worth our reputations not to!!!

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when do you need a marketing manager

How not to run a business during lockdown

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding

In the current unusual circumstances we are all facing at the moment, there has emerged five different types of business. A brief description of each is below and I think it’s clear which I think are good and those that aren’t. During the lockdown and the following weeks, the way your business is perceived is going to be very important to how your business performs, particularly once things return to normal (whatever the new normal is). These are our recommendations to ensure that your marketing means you come across in a positive manner.

We see the five different types of business as:

1. Those Taking Advantage

In any given situation, there are always businesses that will take advantage. You’ve heard stories of people selling toilet rolls and sanitiser at many times the normal cost. There are, of course, the cyber criminals who have increased efforts by 667% in March alone.

They are playing on peoples’ worries and fears. They know that people will pay inflated prices for what they think will allay their fears.

2. Those doing Nothing

Many businesses fit into this category, and it’s certainly understandable. They are worried about money. The money they have in the bank will only last so long, and they have no idea of how much money will be coming in. For some, events industry companies for example, their clients dried up overnight. For others, such as many types of retailer, government instructions have stopped customers buying. Their insurance may, or may not, cover their losses.

3. The services that are needed

In the same way there are companies who take advantage of a situation, there are others whose services or products are desperately needed. Companies selling exercise equipment are seeing sales spike, for example. These companies could hike prices, but they don’t. They accept the bonus trade and they do what they can to meet customer demand. They also know that this won’t last forever. They are giving back to society because they can.

4. Continuing as normal

This type of company knows they need to continue talking to their clients and their target audience. They understand that they need to continue communicating in order to maintain awareness for the future. However, they do something that isn’t great. They ignore the current climate and keep treating things as if they are normal. Perhaps they don’t want to admit issues. Perhaps they are trying to hide their concerns about the impact today’s situation will have on them.

5. Those who adapt

Companies can adapt in a number of ways in order to survive and make the best of the situation. The Portobello Road Gin Distillery is now making and bottling sanitiser for the Metropolitan Police. Ventrade is providing free vending machines for NHS locations in their area. These are just two examples.

Many food and drink producers are changing channels, going much more online. The Cronx is a local brewery to us, here in Croydon. Their bar is no longer open, but you can still enjoy their beer by buying online. A butcher local to our director’s home is now delivering instead of you going to him.

Others are adjusting their messaging to talk about how they can help clients with issues that they are facing now. This may mean simply changing some of the wording they use within their marketing. For others, it’s about using the skills they have within their business in different ways.

Which one are you?

How to make sure you come across well

1. Don’t just throw the words around

The importance of the NHS, care workers, retail staff and delivery drivers has come into stark relief over the last couple of weeks. People want to show that they recognise the work these groups are being made. However some are now talking about these groups in their social media and other content, simply to try and come across as caring. If you haven’t talked about them before, don’t go overboard on your support for them now. It runs the risk of being insincere.

2. It’s not about you

Your marketing content should rarely be about you, but never more so than now. If your marketing communications are talking about how you are contributing to society, make sure it is about the recipients of your help, not about you. Talk about how you are helping others.

3. Adapt, don’t change

Some companies can make radical changes to their business quickly, but they are few and far between. Whilst there is nothing wrong with making some changes, for example: how you communicate, if you make massive changes to your marketing messages, you will confuse your target audience and your network. Big changes have to be explained carefully and clearly.

4. Keep your focus

Just because your business is quiet at the moment, it doesn’t mean that you can suddenly deliver services to new sets of clients or customers. You run risk of alienating your current audience and confusing your network if you do.

Your target audience may not be buying much at the moment, but you need to ensure that your marketing really is showing the value you can deliver, to increase the chances of them buying in the near future.

5. Review your scheduled content

If you work ahead of time, so you have web content or social media posts scheduled to go out weeks, or even months, in advance, you need to review that content. You don’t want to be posting inappropriate content.

6. Don’t hike your prices

If you are lucky to be a high demand business at the moment, hiking your prices to take advantage of the situation is going to come across very negatively. You may make more money for a period of time, but it is likely that people will move away from you very quickly – as soon as one of your competitors is back trading.

7. Keep talking, but not too much

We get 1000’s of messages thrown at us every day. We can only absorb so many of those. If your company stops talking to your target audience, you run a real risk of being forgotten.  Whilst people may not be buying right now, they will need your services at some point in the future. If you stop talking, the chances of them remembering you are slim.

However, don’t over communicate. If you are struggling, there is a real temptation to up the frequency, particularly via email or social media. If you do this, you are running a risk in two ways:

  • You will annoy people with too much communication. You can easily come across as desperate.
  • Too much communication suggests that you have plenty of time on your hands -and so cannot be much good.

8. Don’t sell

Don’t get me wrong, you have to still generate revenue for your business, but be mindful of the situation and peoples’ circumstances. People will buy from you, if you are selling what they really need right now. This may not be want you want to hear right now, but if you try and sell to people who really don’t want to buy now, you run a real risk of damaging your brand forever. Better to have a couple (hopefully) of quiet months than a quiet forever.

9. Be honest

When talking to people, be honest. If you’re struggling but your bravado means you claim things are good, people will expect you to behave as normal. That means paying bills, delivering on time etc. If you need some leeway or some help, you are far more likely to get it if you are honest.

We hope this has given you something to think about. Of course we are going to say you need to keep marketing through these uncertain times, but we want to make sure you’re doing it in a way that will improve your brand, not damage it. Keep safe!

Before we go, we just want to say thank you to Chantal at Panpathic. She’s has been really helpful with some of these tips. If you want to talk PR, she’s the lady we recommend!

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8 of the best remote marketing tools

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

marketing tools article open sign image

With the threat of Coronavirus upon us, and many people predicting a real hit on the economy that could last months, it is vital that you keep your marketing going. In a world where we get so many messages every day, it is easy for people to forget about you. So here are 8 marketing tools that will allow you to keep in touch with your target audience…

Email

If you have their contact details, email marketing is one of the easiest ways to maintain awareness within your target audience.

Whether you are using email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp, or simply sending them from your Outlook or Gmail account, keeping a regular stream of relevant and useful emails going out to your target audience will show them how you add value and will ensure they remember you when the time is right.

Social Media

Our phones are rarely more than a few feet away from us. This means social media is another marketing tool for small businesses to use to maintain awareness. Remember that the social media tools you should be focusing on are the ones your target audience uses. Don’t try to include every single platform just in case. You are far better off using two platforms, perhaps LinkedIn and Instagram, and doing it well, rather than trying to maintain accounts across LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and others – the more you try to use, the less time you have to generate great content.

And don’t forget to also share other people’s content when you believe it will be useful for your target clients – this can generate just as much credibility for you as a post of your own.

Blogs

Articles that show how you help your target audience are proven to maintain and increase brand awareness, increase SEO performance and generate leads. They also provide valuable material for you to share over email and social media.

Think about the issues facing your target audience, both right now and throughout the year. What can you write that will show them you can help them?

Webinars

Webinars allow you to talk directly to your audience without the need to be in the same room as them. Email and social media can be used to make your target audience aware and to get them to sign up; the webinar gets you in front of them.

Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way of travelling with your target audience. Your listeners can either stream or download your podcast, with many people listening whilst they travel or during a bit of work downtime. If people are self-isolating because of coronavirus, there is only so much daytime TV they can watch! Give them something useful to listen and you can quickly build an audience.

Video

In the same way that webinars and podcasts allow you to reach your target audience remotely, video content (via YouTube or Vimeo) will help you get your marketing messages across. Your phone’s camera is perfectly suitable for creating video and all you need is a space you where you won’t be disrupted.

Make video content that shows how you help your target audience and they will remember you when they need help. Great content is always shared too, expanding your audience even further.

Direct Mail

Not something you would normally think about, but if you are self-isolating, think about writing a few letters. If your handwriting is good enough (meaning I will always be typing!), handwritten letters are effective. People recognise the time you have invested.

Your Phone

Perhaps the least used feature on many people’s phones is… the phone.

Dial someone’s number and talk to them. Humans are naturally social animals and there is only so much isolation we can take. This more static period is the perfect time to build and strengthen relationships. Get on the phone and have a chat. Check in on how contacts and clients are doing and show you care about them and their business.

 

To keep your business growing during times of economic uncertainty, whether that is the current coronavirus epidemic or a recession, the small businesses that keep their marketing going are the ones that survive and the ones that benefit most when things return to normal. Even when the decision makers aren’t buying, you need to ensure that you remain in their thoughts. When they are ready buying again, they remember you. The time you have invested up to now mustn’t be wasted by allowing them to forget you going forward. These eight marketing tools will help you maintain awareness within your target audience so you are at the forefront of their minds at the point they need your help.

For help with marketing your small business in this difficult time, give us a call on 020 8634 5911. I hope this has helped you and that you, your loved ones and your business stay healthy and prosperous through this tough time.

image to support pointing you in the right direction article

Winning Clients: The 4 Step Programme

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance
image to support pointing you in the right direction article

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How to attract and win more clients

The role of the owner of a small business is varied, encompassing a wide variety of different tasks. From finance to sales, from marketing to operational delivery. The problem is that most entrepreneurs go into running their own business because they love what they do. Does this sound familiar? Do you love doing what you do and really wish you could spend the vast majority of your time doing just that? You are highly skilled in delivering your passion. You know exactly what to do and how to help your clients. And the biggest problem is actually finding more of those clients to help! Let’s look at a quick and easy solution to help you do that; one that doesn’t cost the earth and won’t take up huge amounts of your working week – however long that may be. The process of attracting, and then winning, new clients can be complex, particularly when you aren’t 100% sure on what you are doing. Here’s our four-step programme on how to attract and win more clients.

1. Know what has worked so far

Do you know how you won the clients you have right now and the ones you’ve had before now? How about how you attracted the prospects that you didn’t convert? Knowing this is a vital step in winning more of them.

If you know what worked and generated more leads, in stands to reason that you would do more of it. Conversely, if you know what isn’t generating leads, you’d stop doing that wouldn’t you?

Tracking your leads and your sales is actually relatively easy. You write them down somewhere. For some companies, it makes sense to invest in a CRM. For others, a spreadsheet will be more than sufficient.

2. Decide who you want as new clients

There is nothing to stop you signing up whoever comes to you, assuming you are confident you can deliver and they will be profitable. However, when it comes to being proactive to attract new clients and generate leads, you have to be focused. The word anyone MUSTN’T be in your vocabulary.

Identifying the industry sector, geographical area and decision maker allows you to focus your marketing. Focusing means your resources aren’t spread thinly and will be more effective.

Once you identify who you want to acquire as new clients, you can develop the right messages, by ensuring they show how you can help that target audience. In today’s world, people no longer care what you do, they care how you can help them.

Finally you can pull together a book of evidence that proves you can help them and deliver on your promises. In the same way that you look at reviews on TripAdvisor before booking a hotel, prospective clients want to see proof you will deliver value for money.

3. Determine how you are going to generate leads

How many sales do you need to achieve your targets? How many leads do you need to generate those sales? What marketing is needed to develop the leads? You must start with a target and work backwards.

  • If a client is worth £15,000 a year to you and you want to grow by 10% from your £1,500,000 revenue last year, you need 10 new clients this year.
  • If you convert 10% of all leads, you need 100 leads.
  • Last year’s marketing generated 60 leads, on a budget of £75,000, so you need to generate 2/3rds more this year.

You have a choice at this point. Simply do more of what you know worked last year, whilst stopping what didn’t work. Or, identify other marketing activities that you believe can bring in more leads.

4. Get it done

Perhaps the hardest part of this four-stage process is getting the marketing done. At the beginning of the year, you will be eager and you’ll keep to your marketing plan. What happens when it is working, generating the leads and you are converting them to new clients. You’re going to be busy delivering for your clients. If you want to attract and win more clients, this has to happen.

How are you going to maintain the marketing plan so you have a consistent level of marketing activity happening?

Two choices – employ or outsource – or a 3rd in work every hour sent!

One of the conversations we have very early on with, almost, every prospective client is around the fact that what we do, they could do most of:

  • With some thought and number-crunching, you could quite easily measure your own marketing performance.
  • Looking back, and thinking ahead, identifying your target audience and pinpointing your Ideal Client would take time but you could do it.
  • Developing a plan and then delivering it is all well within your capabilities…

 

So why use SME Needs? Because the hat you want to wear is the operational delivery hat. You want to do what you set up this business to do – work with your clients and grow your business. Your marketing is all about how to attract and win more clients. We help you ensure that happens properly.

To talk about how this process can help grow your business, give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Image of Ansoff's Growth Matrix to support article on small business marketing and growth plans

4 Questions to Grow Your Small Business

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

Which Box?

If you’ve done any studying around business or marketing, you will remember Ansoff’s Growth Matrix. For those of you who weren’t quite so “lucky”, let me quickly go through it and show you why it is a highly useful tool to help guide your growth planning and therefore your small business marketing.

Image of Ansoff's Growth Matrix to support article on small business marketing and growth plans

 

The matrix has four boxes:

1.       Market penetration = Existing markets buying current products

2.       Product development = Existing markets buying new products

3.       Market development = New markets buying current products

4.       Diversification = New markets buying new products

Where are you now?

If you are still an early stage business, you are almost certainly in the Market Penetration box. You’ve identified a product (or service) and you are working to maximise the size of your client base. You are probably selling to clients who are similar in nature, or need. Your customer base may be across multiple geographical areas, but it if you deliver a service that involves your time, you are almost certainly selling within a fairly tight geographical region. This is simply because of the time, and cost, involved in travelling to other areas.

Moving boxes as a small business growth strategy

The decision to move into a different box, from Market Penetration, is a big one. It is a big commitment and can come with some risk, dependent upon which box you are considering. The decision to move boxes should be guided by your answers to the following questions…

1. Have you maximised sales of your current products to your existing markets?

The answer to this question is almost certainly no. Unless you are the market leader for your region, there will always be the opportunity to sell more. If you are struggling, a market development or product development strategy may work for you. It will depend on whether you believe you know the product or the market more.

2. Are your competitors dominant in your existing markets?

If you were late into the market, it is likely that there are a number of dominant players. They will make it difficult for you to develop your market share, so a different box may be a good alternative for you.

3. Are there products you can sell to your existing market?

If you’re in the technology market, for example, there is always a new product to sell. Many will be updates of what you are already selling them, so that doesn’t count, but there will be alternatives:

  • If you’re an MSP selling on-premise solutions, Cloud would certainly count as new product, as would telecoms.
  • If you’re selling cost savings, are you providing a full range of utilities, plus telecoms or connectivity?

These are just a couple of examples of how moving into the Product Development box may be a good small business growth strategy. However, try not to go too far away from your core products. If you currently provide software solutions, trying to add office furniture to your portfolio is probably a first step too far.

4. Can you properly serve additional markets?

A new market can be one of two things: a new geography – selling in Birmingham, to add to Bristol, for example. Or it can be a new sector – selling to the hospitality sector as well as the leisure sector. If you want to sell to this new sector, can you say you know enough about the sector and their needs to be able to generate sufficient sales within that sector? Developing a good knowledge of the new target market is vital if you want to sell existing products into a new market.

The route through the boxes

Businesses rarely go from Market Penetration to Diversification. Why? It’s simply too much of a risk. Trying to sell products you have little experience of to markets you have limited knowledge of is a gamble. A gamble that most businesses wouldn’t take.

Product or Market Development?

Truth be told, most companies do some of both. Over time, new products appear to sell to existing markets. At the same time, the reach of businesses, particularly in our digital world is constantly extending and orders come in from around the country, or even around the world. “Accidental” market development, however, often means a lower profit margin. Getting your product, or service, to different parts of the world can mean an impact on delivery costs. Customers may not want to pay a premium (at least that’s the way they see the increased costs) to get your product. You then have to decide whether you want to deliver, or not.

If, as a business, you are looking to grow, you will almost certainly have to move into a new box. It doesn’t mean you are leaving the old box behind. Over time, it will actually mean you are working with multiple sets of boxes. One set for each product or market. As you grow you simply move again.

If you are looking to grow your business, consider which is going to be the best first step: product or market.

Of course, if you would like to discuss this in more detail and see how we can help you develop the right small business growth strategy for business, call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here.

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

With the coming of Christmas many businesses usually stop, or at least slow down, around the 20th December. Very handily that gives us 12 days of Christmas before everyone returns on the 2nd January (although that may extend to the 6th – but there isn’t a 16 of anything around the festive season!). So for your delectation, here are our 12 marketing days of Christmas…

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

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

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

If you don’t know how 2019 went business-wise, how can you set targets and make plans for next year? Review your 2019 performance to see what went well and what didn’t. What didn’t work is the most important piece here, as that is the current drain on time and money. It needs to be improved or it needs to be stopped. Either way, you have to know what needs to be worked on before you can fix it.

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

To implement a marketing plan that will hit your 2020 targets, you need to ensure those skills are available to you. That means:
1. Find out who has marketing skills within your business
2. Assess whether they have time to use them
After all, it they don’t have time, their normal work will take priority and your marketing won’t get done.

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

On the 2nd day or Christmas, you worked out how you did in 2019. Now, what do you want to achieve in 2020? If 2019 was a good year, compared to 2018, do you want the same level of growth or was that an exceptional year? Remember that continually achieving the same %age growth rate becomes harder and harder as the numbers get bigger.
If you don’t set targets for the business, you won’t achieve them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image of jacob rees-mogg

Don’t be a Jacob Rees-Mogg!

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Focus


image of jacob rees-mogg

To give him his full title, The Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, is well known, perhaps infamous, for his use of language within the House of Commons. His, presumably, intimate knowledge of the processes and procedures within parliament give him an incredibly wide vocabulary to call upon when he talks to the house.

But just because he has this vocabulary doesn’t mean he has to use all of it. Whilst, I hope, most of his fellow MPs know what he is talking about, many people outside of parliament will listen for a short time before either:

a)       Scratching their head, wondering what he is going on about, before switching channels, or

b)      Think that he is being deliberately over-complicated to try to appear intellectual.

In a very truncated version of his words, “I put it to you that he is making a mistake”.

The question is: Are you doing a Jacob Rees-Mogg?  Are you using terminology and language within your marketing activity that your target audience and prospects don’t want to hear?  If you are, you run the risk of them doing the same thing – stopping listening!

The Jargon

Every industry has its own language. Its own terminology that people use internally so that they all know precisely what they mean. Acronyms can be found alongside this language so it is shortened, whilst complicating it further for anyone outside of the industry. Some people even write a book to help others to understand what everything means.

Drop the Jargon

The problem with jargon is that only one small group of people actually knows that it all means.  For others, it is hard work, confusing and unnecessary. If you are using the jargon from your industry within your marketing, you are not giving your target audience what they really want to hear. They want to know that you understand and can talk about three things:

1.       Their needs, issues and problems.

2.       What success looks like.

3.       Evidence you can deliver success.

 

Their Needs

Long gone are the days when your marketing could talk about the features of your service or product. You can no longer expect your target audience to then work out how those features will help them.

If you are not talking about their needs and problems, your competition will be and that’s where your target audience will go. As a client of mine describes it, every story has a dragon. This dragon need to be identified before a solution can be discussed.

Does your marketing make it clear to your target audience that you understand their needs, their dragon, or are you concentrating on talking about your business and what you do?

We carried out a short survey, across four different industry sectors, to see what their website content focused on.  The website content of 60% of IT support companies, 55% of accountants and 85% of lawyers started with them, rather than their target audience. When we looked at marketing consultants in London, 60% of their websites focused on their business rather than the needs of their target audience.  If you are in one of those sectors and you concentrate on your audience, you’ve probably got a good head start!

 

Success

A solution to their problem delivers success. Whether that is better analysing complex data to deliver workable information, fixing a laptop so users can work flexibly and remotely, or increasing web traffic to drive more leads, you have to talk about what your target audience wants.  They want success.  They will buy success from you, if they believe that you can deliver that success.

Your marketing needs to talk about how you help your target audience to achieve the success they are after.  Some of this will be a description of what you do or sell, but very little. Concentrate on talking about what your audience wants to buy – success.

 

Your Evidence

Some people are great at talking the talk.  It is the evidence you can put in front of your target audience that proves you are able to walk the walk too!

Evidence, in the form of testimonials, case studies, videos or imagery, is key to helping your prospects believe that you are the right company to deliver a successful resolution of their problems/needs.

 

Perceived Risk

The aim of your marketing is to generate leads that turn into new clients for your business. By talking about the client, about their needs and proving you can deliver a successful solution, you are reducing the perceived risk in the minds of your prospects. Buying from a new supplier is always a risk. Your marketing needs to reduce that perceived risk to the point they are happy to talk to you. Your sales activity, supported by your marketing, then aims to reduce the perceived risk even further so that they believe you can deliver on your promises and will sign that contract.

 

So don’t be a Jacob Rees-Mogg.  Use the language of your target audience so you help them truly understand that you can help them.

Get in touch if you need a hand.

graph showing the number of steps to marketing success

How many steps to marketing success?

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing

Every marketing consultant worth their salt has, at one time or another, published a “X Steps to Marketing Glory” style post. SME Needs certainly has, with our first one being “Effective Referral Generation – a few simple steps” and the most recent being “How to maximise the ROI from exhibiting at a trade show”.

What we’ve never done is an over-arching “X Steps to Marketing Success” guide. Many others have and it led us to wonder just how many steps it really took to generate marketing success – so we checked.

It’s at least three!

graph showing the number of steps to marketing success

The graph above is the number of steps recommended by the first 100 search results for the term “Steps to marketing success”.

It seems that there marketing industry says there are, on average 7.093 steps needed to deliver marketing success. Seven is the median (middle) number and 5 the mode (most popular).

The good news is that nobody thought it was really, really simple.  Nobody suggested that there is only one, or even two steps needed. However, 8 articles suggested it is as simple as 1,2,3.

Why So Few?

With the average being 7.093 steps, it got me thinking: Why is the number so few? Surely that suggests that getting your marketing right is simple, you’re unlikely to need a marketing consultant to help.

My theory is this:

A few steps makes it sound cheaper!

Let me explain my theory.

Most small business owners and directors know where their skills lie. They also know just how much money there is in the business and what they are prepared to invest. If they see an article that suggests 7.093 steps to get the marketing success they want, they will read it. They will recognise that there are a number of steps they cannot do and so will consider investing some money into getting those steps done.

If they saw an article titled “87 Steps to Marketing Success”, would they still feel the same? I doubt it.

Where do we sit on this?

As mentioned earlier, we’ve never done a “X steps to Marketing Success” blog, so there won’t be a number at the end of this sentence. What we see is that the number will be different for everyone – and it will be many more than 7.093. This is particularly true for small businesses that have done little or new active and consistent marketing for some time.

However, the results of a multi-stage marketing programme that has been thought out carefully and is delivered consistently will be impressive. It will take time, but it will deliver.

If you need someone to talk your marketing strategy through with, give us a call on 020 8634 5911, or click here.

12 time saving tips and apps for business leaders

12 Time Saving Tips and Apps for Business Leaders

By A Helping Hand

Time Saving Tips designed to give you back the time you need

There are so many hats to be worn when running a small business. To enable you to deliver under each of these hats, you need to maximise use of your time. Ensuring you don’t waste time is one thing. Using technology and techniques to save more is another.

These are 12 time saving tips we’ve picked up over the last few years to help you out…

1. Control your email

Email can eat your day. We all get huge numbers of emails. If you react every time your Inbox beeps, it distracts you, consumes a couple of minutes to read and react to. You then have to get back into whatever you were doing before. It only takes 120 emails, at 5 minutes each, to eat up your whole day.

  • Learn to batch read, keeping Outlook closed except for 3-4 sessions a day.
  • Delete everything that you really don’t need. That “might be interesting” stuff can consume lots of time. If you must keep it, stick it in a folder for reading when you really have some spare time.
  • Unsubscribe as soon as you find emails either annoying or not useful. It will keep the email volumes down.
  • You don’t need to Reply All every time. Simply respond when you need to – and encourage others to do the same.

Of all our time saving tips, it is between this one and No.3 as to which can consume more of your time.

2. Delegate when you can

Creating time to do everything, including growing your business means getting rid of the stuff you don’t need to do. This will, of course, vary dependent upon where you are in your business life.

  • Outsource when you can, using book-keepers, virtual assistants and marketing agencies to get rid of the stuff you don’t like doing or when they can do it more effectively than you can.
  • Recruit staff into those roles when the outsourcing costs will regularly be higher than the costs of a member of staff.

3. Limit your time on social media

LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram can be even greater consumers of your time than email. Checking your feeds, just in case something interesting has come in, will chew through time.

  • You don’t need to spend any more than 10 minutes per day per channel to react to others in your network and post your daily updates.
  • Schedule time to find others you want to connect with once a week. You don’t need to do much more than that.
  • If you want to post throughout the day, use something like Hootsuite to bulk schedule, rather than going into that platform multiple times a day.
  • It’s better to do 1-2 social media channels well, than 4-6 poorly. It also consumes far less time

4. Close your door

The office door delivers a message quickly. It tells others you don’t want to be disturbed. It gives you time to concentrate on what you need to do.

  • Develop a system that ensures people know when they can, and really cannot, knock. Perhaps your door is pushed to, but not closed means they can knock. Maybe a Do Not Disturb sign.
  • Disappear to somewhere else. If they cannot find you, they cannot disturb you.
  • If you work in an open plan space, your headphones are the next best thing. Tell your team, and others around you, that you don’t want to be disturbed if you have your headphones on.

5. Do the stuff you don’t like first

Nobody likes paying the VAT bill or dealing with a disciplinary issue, so get them out of the way first. Worrying, whilst trying to do something else, makes you less efficient and wastes time.

6. Take time to plan

Working on the business on a regular basis, rather than in the business all the time, makes you more efficient. If you’re in the business, you will be reacting to things as they happen. This may, or may not, be in the right order, meaning time is wasted.

  • Write down what you plan. Writing them down helps you remember them and make sure they get done.
  • Use online tools, with built-in reminders and scheduling tools to help you. Basecamp and Zoho Projects are just two of your options.

7. Set yourself deadlines

I’ll do it tomorrow is a great way to never get something done. Refer to point 5.

8. Automate invoice chasing

Making just one or two calls to chase each invoice can eat your time, especially when the invoice is really late and they don’t want to talk to you.

  • Use online tools such as Avrium to chase invoices automatically. Most people pay late because they’ve forgotten. A gentle reminder works wonders.
  • Knowing who hasn’t paid can stop you doing work that you may not get paid for. Your time is precious enough when you are getting paid. It’s a double waste if you then don’t get paid for it. Assuming your clients really need your service/product, they will quickly pay up when you stop delivering.

9. Keep your network up to date

Saving time is the theme throughout here, so why not make use of the tools that can keep everyone in your network up to date – all at the same time? We’re not suggesting you don’t take time to talk to your connections on a one-to-one basis, but you don’t have to do it all of the time.

  • Mailchimp is a great email marketing tool, with more features being added all the time, to help you communicate and educate effectively.
  • LinkedIn is, of course, the master at this. Just remember what we said in 3.

10. Instant Messaging

You also need to keep in touch with people you are working with, both within your team and with external suppliers and clients.  The number of tools available to do this continues to grow. We’ve already mentioned Basecamp, so here are three others to consider:

  • Slack is a good instant messaging tool, but it takes a little getting used to. We’ve struggled with finding things once they slide down the timeline a bit.
  • Microsoft Teams allows you to communicate both internally and externally in a number of ways. It is something we are seriously looking at within SME Needs.

11. Schedule time for yourself

As they say, all work and no play makes {insert name} a dull boy. It also keeps your stress levels constantly high; something that is never good.  Take time to relax and do what you enjoy doing – away from work. Whether that is golf(!), yoga or simply spending time with the family, downtime is a great way of ensuring you don’t burn out.

12. Public transport is your friend

I know some of you are looking at your screen, thinking we’ve gone mad. Seriously, we think public transport can be a good thing.  You cannot really get your laptop out when on the bus or the train, but you can use your phone.

  • Take time to call your network and catch up. Find out what they’re doing and let them know what you are doing. The more you know about each other, the more you can make introductions that can lead to new business.
  • Do the social media posts you want to do.
  • Check out the “potentially interesting” emails we referred to early on in this article.

If public transport really isn’t your thing, or you spend hours in the car, use that time to make the calls. Please make sure you’re using your hands-free and certainly don’t try to catch up with your social media in the car.

So here are 12 time-saving tips to help you make the most of the time you have available. Of all 12 time saving tips, perhaps the most important is No.11.  We all want to grow our businesses and that usually translates into we work every hour available. The problem is that is rarely healthy and taking time out allows us to reset and go again.

I hope this helps.

How can a small business marketing consultant help your business?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

Question: how can a small business marketing consultant help your business?

Quick Answer: by helping you to…

  • develop and implement the right marketing strategy and plan for your business
  • one that brings you the type of clients you are looking for, and
  • helps you achieve the growth targets you have for your business.

If we look at this in more detail, it looks like this…

We often get asked how a small business marketing consultant can really help a small business. After all, isn’t the classic consultant there to tell you the time, after borrowing your watch? Let’s look at the key ways a marketing consultant can help a small business:

In the beginning

Some time ago, you decided that the life as an employee wasn’t for you. You loved doing what you do, but didn’t want to do it for someone else all the time. So you started your own business. For a little while you delivered for your clients outside of normal working hours, because you recognised the need for cash to pay the bills.

Success meant you were quickly able to say goodbye to your employed colleagues and go it alone. Your clients loved you and what you did for them and kept asking for more. You worked hard, steadily built a team around you to continue delivering on your clients’ needs.

As the responsibilities of running a business and delivering for your clients added up, the rate of growth slowed because you weren’t able to get out there quite so much. Marketing and business development activity slowed as operational activity took priority.

You are an expert at what you do

You know you, and your team, do fantastic work and that delivering that work has to be your priority, but you want to continue to grow the business. But how? What are your options?

  1. Employ a junior marketing executive to keep the social media happening, and the blogs being published.
    • Needs managing to keep on track
    • How do you know they are performing?
    • Are these the right marketing activities for your business? Going to cost £15-20K a year
  2. Employ a Marketing Manager
  3. Hire a small business marketing consultant
    • Only pay for time used
    • Brings experience from lots of other companies to bear on your marketing
    • Has a network of experts around them with the skills your business needs

Show you which “50% is working”

The old adage still holds true. Many small business leaders know they are generating leads and sales, but cannot identify what is bringing them in. Word of Mouth is probably responsible for a chunk of them, but what else?

By identifying what marketing is and isn’t working, your small business marketing consultant will quickly deliver a return on investment (ROI) on their fees through the cost-cutting opportunities identified. After all, why spend money on marketing that isn’t generating leads of moving people through the pipeline.?

Helps translate features into benefits

As an expert in your field, you know exactly what you are doing, all the software and hardware involved and all the jargon. Day to day activity means this is the language you are using all the time.

But it always isn’t the language your clients use. You need to look at the language your clients and target audience will use. You should also be looking at what a client gets from using your products or services and make sure your marketing talks about the benefits and what success looks like. A small business marketing consultant will definitely help in this area. They will have gone through this many times and will know what questions to ask you to get the information needed and ensure you are using the right marketing messages.

Develop the right marketing strategy for your business

You would naturally expect a small business marketing consultant to say they can help you by developing the right marketing strategy for you, but what does that mean? For us, it means the following:

1.     A marketing strategy that builds on what you know is working

2.     One that is focused on achieving your growth targets

3.     That fits with your budgets and utilises the skills available within your business

4.     A marketing strategy that aims to bring in your Ideal Clients

There is one last factor; the most important one: it is a marketing strategy that you have contributed to, are committed to and have bought into. Only at this point do you have the right marketing strategy for your business.

A marketing consultant keeps marketing happening consistently

Once you have a marketing strategy and a plan in place, you need to ensure the plan is followed and that marketing happens on a consistent basis. Whether you have a internal junior who needs guidance, training and some management, or whether you have no resource at all, a small business marketing consultant really can help.

Thinking about recruiting a junior marketing exec?

Sometimes there is a lot of “stuff” that needs doing and it makes sense to recruit a junior marketing executive. How are you going to find the find person? If you were looking for someone to help you deliver your product or service, no problem. You know exactly the skillset and the attitude you need. But if you’ve had to bring in a marketing consultant to help develop and implement the right marketing strategy for you, how likely is it that you can find the right junior marketing exec?

A small business marketing consultant will have worked with you for some time and will understand your business culture, so the right attitude profile can easily be developed between you. The consultant will be able to identify the skillset and the aptitude you need. Plus, be able to “smell the cow’s excrement” at interview stage.

A small business marketing consultant can help your business in a number of ways. We hope we’ve shown you how above. Of course, if you would like to talk about how we can help you specifically, give us a call on 020 8634 5911

 

how to improve your marketing performance

How to improve your marketing performance

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance

how to improve your marketing performance

If you’re looking to improve your marketing performance, it’s safe to say you’re not getting the results you want. Let’s have a look at how you can get the results you want and improve your marketing performance.

There are a number of stages to this process

Know exactly what is and isn’t working

When people say to us that their marketing isn’t working, it’s rare that they are able to say exactly what isn’t working.  Is it their social media marketing or their email marketing? Is it their networking or trade shows? It is unlikely that everything isn’t working, but without knowing what is and what isn’t, you cannot take any action to improve your marketing performance.

Continue doing what is working – it pays the bills

You cant stop marketing while you work out what is the right marketing strategy for your business, but you can stop what isn’t working and carry on what is.  By doing this, you instantly improve your marketing performance. It also means you continue to get a flow of leads into the business, albeit not as many as you would like.

Identify exactly who you want to sell to

Is your marketing attracting the clients you want to sell to? If not, it’s probably because you’re not being specific enough in your marketing so that you attract the people you want to talk to. There is nothing wrong with working with a range of different clients, but you shouldn’t go chasing everybody because you don’t have the time or the money.

Set Targets

How can you measure your marketing performance without having targets to measure against? If you want to improve your marketing performance, you need a set of targets that will show the progress you’re making. Targets such as web traffic, leads and sales will clearly show how your marketing is improving.

Identify what issues they need to resolve

The days when you simply said “we sell a widget” and people come a-running are long gone. Your prospects want to know how what you sell is going to help solve an issue they have. That could be as complex as meeting FCA compliance requirements or as simple as providing new laptops for their staff. Whatever it is, they expect to help them.

Develop messaging that shows how you can help

Whatever marketing channels you use to improve your marketing performance, you need a set of core marketing messages that will help you improve your marketing performance. Messages that demonstrate you understand them, their issues and what they are looking to achieve will help them believe you can help.

Gather evidence that proves you can deliver

There’s a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. Your target audience needs to see proof you can deliver on your promises.

Testimonials, case studies, reviews and ratings are all really useful in helping someone believe you can help them. If the evidence is from their peers, their level of perceived risk will drop even further.

Develop and agree a marketing strategy you believe will work

There are many things that go into developing a successful marketing strategy: skills, time and budgets. You will have your opinions about what you believe will, and won’t work and you need to believe that the strategy uses the right balance…

  • Skills can be sourced from within your business or externally
  • Time – the skills may be there, but if those staff don’t have time, it needs to be sourced elsewhere
  • Budget – (you have to pay for everything)

We believe that combining the knowledge, expertise and opinions from SME Needs and our clients is the best way to develop a marketing strategy that both parties buy into and believe will succeed.

Gather the resources and skills you need to deliver

As referred to earlier, the marketing skills needed to implement your plan, to improve your marketing performance, need to be sourced from somewhere. If they aren’t available from within your business, where will they come from? Two options:

  • From third parties you know and trust
  • From your marketing consultants

Our approach is one of finding the right people from within our network, or from within yours. Of course, we can do a lot of what is needed, but we’ll never attempt to build you a website or get your marketing content into the press. Our partners have the right skills and so we bring them in and manage them on your behalf.

Implement the plan

Once you have a plan that you’re agreed upon, it’s time to implement that plan. There’s little point in investing time and money on developing it, if you don’t then do it! Hopefully you will see the improvement in your marketing performance you are looking for.

Measure, adapt, go again

As you go, you need to measure your marketing performance. Is it improving? What is improving and what isn’t delivering? By measuring your performance, you get the information you need to make further adaptations to your marketing to develop a process of continuous marketing improvement.

We hope this helps

If you need a hand with improving your marketing performance, give us a call on 020 8634 5911 or click here and we’ll call you.

 

9 ways your best client can help you win more business

9 ways your best client can help you win more business

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding

There are many ways your best client can help you win more business.

Our last blog talked about using them to develop an avatar and the key messages that form the core of your marketing communications. Let’s look at just how many different ways your best client can help.

1. Developing your Ideal Client

We cover this here, but it makes absolute sense that you want more clients just like your best one(s). Why wouldn’t you.

2. Developing your Messaging

Again we’re nicking the kudos of the last blog, but it’s still valid.

3. Referrals

Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first shall we! Whether they give you referrals because you ask them to, or completely off their own back, you want them to give you referrals. It shows they trust you and believe in you.

4. Testimonials

The words they provide are hugely powerful. We all buy online and we’re influenced by the reviews provided by others who have bought that product. As your best client has been using your services for some time, they will be respected by their peers and will support your sales efforts.

5. Case Studies

Potentially even more powerful, assuming you include the results you deliver rather than just what you did. People who read the case study will be looking to understand what your best clients gets in return for using your services. They’re not as interested in what you did and what happened. For a complete guide on what makes the best case studies, click here.

6. References

Do you ever offer a prospective client the opportunity to talk to your clients? In the same way you look for references when employing a member of staff, prospects often look for the same. Of course, testimonials and case studies can provide an alternative, but some still want to talk to a real human being. Who better to give them to talk to?

7. Feedback

If you’re thinking of adding services or changing something, running past your best client is a good idea. Depending on why you are making changes, getting their opinion on whether the changes are positive, or not, is really useful feedback. If, as your best client, they wouldn’t buy the changed product or service, should you be trying to make the changes?

Of course, a sample of one is never a good idea, but it’s definitely a starting point.

There are other ways your best client can help you. It doesn’t just have to be about winning new business.

8. Recruitment

We’re not suggesting you steal their staff – that’s not a good idea. However they may know people who can fill your vacancies. Keep them up to date with the people you are looking for.  You never know.

9. New Suppliers

If your business is a similar size or has similar needs to your best client, why not ask them who they use? Perhaps your office cleaners aren’t very good or you’re looking for new office furniture. Who did they use and would they recommend them? By asking them, you’re showing you respect their opinion and you trust them too.

I hope this helps

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image: make the best start to 2019 with our small business marketing tips

8 Small Business Marketing Tips to make a great start to 2019

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Small Business Marketing

image: make the best start to 2019 with our small business marketing tips2019 has begun. Are you ready to take it by the scruff of the neck and make it your best year ever? Here’s a few small business marketing tips to help you make the most of this year.

1. Know what works for you

The first of our small business marketing tips is probably the one we see more companies in need of that anything else. Your time and money are valuable. If you’re spending either on marketing activities that aren’t generating leads for your business, you are wasting that money. Finding out is one of the quickest ways to improve your bottom line, because you stop spending on activities that don’t work and spend it on those that do. Here’s some numbers you should be looking at.

2. Focus on your Perfect Client

No single company in the world tries to sell to everyone. For every product or service they provide, they have a picture of who will buy it and why. Do you have this to help focus your marketing?

By focusing on your Ideal Client, you think about:

  • What are the issues they have that you can help with
  • How you can help them
  • Why they should buy from you
  • What you need to say to them in order to get them to buy from you

The more you focus, the more you will get the people you want to talk to.

3. Be consistent

Unless you have a real niche focus, there are lots of people out there doing what you do. There are certainly lots of marketing consultants. To ensure that people remember you for when they need your services, you need to maintain a consistent level of marketing activity. Otherwise people will quickly forget you in the cloud of messaging they are exposed to every day.

That doesn’t mean you have to communicate every day. Maintain a level of consistency that you are able to, and one that is most likely to work with your target audience. If people consume your product/service rapidly, the marketing frequency needs to match consumption levels. If you work on annual, or longer, contracts, it may be that 3-4 times a year will be sufficient.

4. Stop talking about yourself

Far too many businesses open their marketing with the word we. Your target audience doesn’t want to know about you.  They want to know how you are going to help them. So talk about that. You know your clients and the issues they have, so talk about that. Show you understand their issues and that you have a solution. Then people will come to ask you about how you can help them.

5. Build and Maintain Relationships

Most small businesses get much of their business through referrals. Referrals come because of three things:

  1. People know you and trust you
  2. They know exactly what you are looking for
  3. They believe in what you are selling

Are you ensuring that the people who can refer you know what you are looking for, and that they remember who you are? Maintaining these relationships is not easy. We are all busy people. There are three key tools we can use to maintain these relationships:

  1. Coffee: Meet people face to face and talk to them. Help them understand what you are looking for, whilst ensuring you are listening and understanding what they are looking for too. You can substitute beer/wine/tea here, of course!
  2. Telephones: Your phone is less than six feet from your hand right now. Whether that is your mobile or your landline, make use of it and talk to your network, so they don’t forget you.
  3. Email: we all get huge numbers of emails, but I bet you most of your network will open at least one email a year from you. Mailchimp and its ilk are great tools to keep in contact with people and keep them aware of what you are up to.

Whatever way works for your business, don’t lose the referrals you can get in the future by losing touch with your network.

6. Use more video

world populations as part of our small business marketing tips

World Populations, according to @Socialnomics

80% of mobile consumption is video and it’s rising. If you want to communicate with today’s decision makers you need to use video.

  • Develop a set of short messages that show how you help your clients.
  • Your phone is perfectly acceptable for this type of educational video, so you don’t need to invest in expensive hardware or pay lots of money for others to video you.
  • Add them to YouTube and use your preferred social media channels to distribute them too.
  • Make sure your network know where they are, so they can share them to increase your reach.

We must admit, of all our small business marketing tips, this is the one we need to do more of ourselves – oops!

7. Know who is visiting your website

image of CANDDi screenshot as part of our small business marketing tipsYour website is your window for the world. There will be few potential clients who don’t check you out, so it makes sense for you to know who is looking at your website. Tools such as CANDDi provide you with a huge amount of information about who is on your site and what they are doing on there. They cannot identify every visitor, but they will check fixed IP addresses and give you information about the company. They collect information about the person from Contact Forms, Web Chats and when you email someone. Imagine knowing when your latest prospect reads your proposal and then checks out your case studies – buying signals or what!

8. Prove you can help

The last of our small business marketing tips is, probably, one of the easiest to implement.

Taking on a new supplier is a big risk. If you’ve never worked with them before, how do you know they will be any good? Your prospects will be thinking this too. How do they know you are any good and can deliver on your promises?

Use the evidence you have. Make sure you have testimonials scattered across your website, so people can see what their peers think of you.

Case studies, including the results, are tremendously powerful. Not only does the reader get to see themselves in the description of your client, they see that they share similar problems. More than anything, they see you delivered a solution that worked. Why would they not want to work with you?

Knowledge articles. Whether published on your blog or through other media channels, share your thinking with others to show them you know what you are talking about.

Marketing today is all about consistency and demonstrating you can help. As a small business owner, you only have a limited budget, so make the most of it by focusing, but if you do one thing only, let it be this one: Talk to your audience about them – not about you.

We hope these small business marketing tips help.

If you need some assistance with taking your marketing forward, simply complete the form below and let’s talk.

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