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Customer Understanding

The customer should be at the heart of all of your small business marketing. If it isn’t it needs to be.

These Customer Understanding blogs aim to help you, as a small business owner, to re-focus your marketing messages and improve your marketing performance.

Written by small business marketing consultants to help you grow your business

Getting your marketing messages right

By Customer Understanding, Marketing Plan

Marketing success is getting the right messages in front of the right people at the right time. Our recent article looked at the timing, so this one looks at another aspect – getting your messages right. There are three aspects of your marketing messaging you need to think about – and one to definitely not focus on.

  1. How you help your clients
  2. What success looks like
  3. The evidence you have to support what you’re saying

We’ll look at these in more detail in a moment, but let’s first look at why you need to do this.

Making you stand out from the competition

Unless your small business offers something rare or unique, there will be others who are competing with you. To win more business, you need to stand out from your competitors. Luckily for you, a lot of your competitors will be doing one of two things:

  1. Still talking about features of their business, or
  2. Saying the same things as everyone else.

If you’re not doing either, you will stand out and have a far better chance to engage with, and sell to, your target audiences.

How you help your clients

If your marketing messages are about how you help your clients, they show two things:

  1. That you understand your target audiences, and
  2. You have ways to help them.

We are all exposed to 100s of marketing messages every day, so we have very little time to process each message, seeing whether it sticks. If it becomes difficult to work out whether the company using that marketing message is going to be useful to you, you generally discard it. Onto the next one.

If your marketing messages make it easy for people to identify how you can help them, the message, and your brand, will stick. Of course, you need to keep getting the message to stick regularly until they need what you sell.

What success looks like

The classic line, from Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt, is that “nobody buys a quarter inch drill; they’re buying a ¼ inch hole”. The more your marketing messages talk about the end result, the more your target audience will believe that you understand their needs and issues. The more they believe, the more likely they are to buy from you.

Supporting Evidence

But all of the above has to be supported by evidence. Evidence that you can deliver what your marketing messages are promising. Let’s face it, we all shop online now. The first thing we look at when considering whether to buy a particular brand or model of the product we want is the reviews. We’re looking for evidence that others have tried and really like what we’re considering buying. It’s the same whether the product is from a huge business, or from one of the smallest.

It’s just as true for B2B as it is for B2C, except we look for slightly different evidence. Case studies, testimonials, knowledge pieces – all will be considered when deciding who to buy from.

When using evidence, particularly at the bottom end of the sales funnel, make sure that the evidence you present to potential clients is from their peers. If you are selling, for example, temporary space solutions for construction sites, you wouldn’t show a prospect case studies for 50th birthday parties or for restaurant seasonal extensions. All are valid uses of a marquee, but the construction prospect wants to see that you have worked with other construction firms – and delivered a great solution effectively.

A Set for each target audience

Something we see too much of is trying to use the same marketing messages for different target audiences. Don’t do it!

Whilst many different people may use the same product, they will have many different reasons for using it. They may even use it differently.

Final point

There is one final key point when it comes to your marketing messages – stop using big words!

Too many people think that big words make them look intelligent and that they know a topic inside out. Big words and jargon usually do the opposite, and you run a real risk of using them incorrectly. And that’s never a good thing.

If you want to discuss your marketing messages or need some help developing them, get in touch. Call us on 020 8634 5911 or you can book some time directly into Nigel’s calendar.

Is your shop window right?

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance

Your customers buy from you because they like what you have to offer and they see how it can help them. But they can only buy if they have entered your “shop”. That doesn’t mean you have to have premises on the high street or the local shopping centre. Your website is just as much a shop window as a physical premise. Let’s look at why this is important and how you can make sure your shop window entices people in, maximising the chance that they buy from you.

Why a good shop window is vital

There are three core reasons why it is vital that your shop window or website is right:

  1. Wasted time and money

Driving traffic to your website takes time, effort and, often, money.  Using all this resource only for people to quickly leave is a waste. Here’s some examples we’ve come across over the years:

92% bounce rate

A kitchen company asked us to look at their Google Ads account as it “wasn’t working”.  Their ads had a 17% click-through rate (CTR) so they were definitely working, but the site’s content was so bad they had a 92% bounce rate (in old Google Analytics terminology)

£5k a month

An appliances business was spending £5K a month on Google Ads, sending traffic to their site. But the site wasn’t right, so much of this investment was wasted.

0.2% conversion rate

Great social media and natural SEO drives a lot of traffic to another site we’ve seen, but the usability of the site meant that people were looking but not buying.

These are just three examples of how you can invest time, effort and money in your marketing, only for it to fail at a critical point – the “shop window”

  1. Poor first impression

People make up their minds about something quickly. First impressions count. It takes less than 3 seconds for people to get that first impression and it takes a lot of effort to make them change their minds. There’s some great stats about website first impressions here.

  1. Lost opportunities

How many sales opportunities are you losing because your website isn’t great?  Your website is there purely to generate new business for you, so if that isn’t happening, what do you do?

How to improve

  1. Make it about them

Let’s for a moment put aside the design element.  The headline and all the content (except the About Us page) should be focused on the reader and not on you.

Content is about how you help, not what you do

Putting it bluntly, nobody cares what you do. They do, however, care about how you can help them. The content needs to be about the issues you know they face and what you can do to help them. What is the end result they are looking for? Make sure your content talks about that.

Plenty of evidence you can deliver

You have lots of stories about how you’ve helped your clients in the past. You wouldn’t be in business if you hadn’t.  Even if you are a brand new business, chances are you’ve got stories from the past where you’ve helped people.  It is rare for someone to start a business they have no experience in, so use that experience and your stories to prove you can deliver on your promises. You can see more about how to effectively use your stories here.

Multiple ways to get in touch

Many people think that if they pick up the phone, you will start trying to sell to them straight away. Even if that isn’t the case, that’s what they believe, so give your audience multiple ways to get in touch with you and get the information they want initially.

  • Brochures they can download (may be gated, may not)
  • Telephone numbers – maybe a WhatsApp alternative
  • Email addresses
  • Appointment booking
  • Contact Forms

This is about what your prospects want – not what you want.  The more you restrict their ability to get in touch in the way they wish to, the more likely that person is to go elsewhere.

If you’re not getting the leads you want from your website, stop spending time and money sending people there. Put your effort into working out what needs to be done to make your website more effective.

If you need some help, call us on 020 8634 5911 or use any of the other contact methods that you can see here.

Man of colour pointing at you to get you to stop talking about you in your small business marketing

Stop talking about you

By Customer Understanding

The easiest topic in the world for you to talk about is you. Let’s be honest, nobody knows you better than you. You are the expert on you. It’s the same with your business. You know why you set up your business and you know, intimately, what you do.  That makes it a very easy thing to talk about in your marketing. Unfortunately, it is one of the worst things for you to talk about in your marketing. This article looks at why you need to stop talking about you and what you should do instead.

Five reasons to stop talking about you

1. Nobody Cares!

Slightly harsh, but relatively accurate. People will listen to you but they then make assumptions and have pre-conceived ideas about what a marketing consultant/software developer/accountant/[insert what you do] does. If you want to grab their attention, you need to talk about them!

2. It wastes time

Talking about you, especially when you get into the nitty gritty of how, is burning time. Imagine you’re at a speed networking event. You have a minute to grab their attention and get them to want to talk to you again in the future. If you talk about what you do, you’re wasting time because you aren’t talking about what they want to hear.

3. It puts images in people’s heads

People have pre-conceived ideas about what you do. Most people think that an accountant lives and dies next to a calculator or spreadsheet. Most of the time, this image in their head is completely wrong, but it happens, and it is negatively impacting your opportunity to generate a connection or prospect.

4. Do you really understand your clients’ needs?

If you’re talking about your business, you run the risk of people thinking you don’t understand them. Buying from a new supplier is always a risk and if your prospects start to think that you don’t understand them, the level of perceived risk in their minds is going up and not down. You can find out more about perceived risk, and what to do about it, here.

5. You don’t stand out

There are now very few businesses that do something completely unique. There are lots of small businesses in your area that do what you do. If you talk about what you do, you’re doing the same thing as most others. You’re not standing out as different to the crowd (there’s an article here about the importance of being different). When people start looking for a new supplier of what you do, they will develop a shortlist. Normally they shortlist the people who are different from the others and are showing that they understand them.

If you don’t stand out, you run the risk of rarely being on the shortlists.

5 things you need to do:

1. Talk to them

Talking to them, particularly online, means writing in the 2nd person. If you were standing in front of them, you would talk in the 2nd person. As people rarely share computer screens today, why would you not talk to them in the same way?

2. Show you understand them

When you talk about their needs and issues, you show that you recognise what they face and what they need. This grabs their attention and keeps them engaged with your brand. Matching what you do with their needs and issues further proves that you understand them.

3. Talk about success

The classic line is “people don’t buy a ¼ inch drill, they buy a ¼ inch hole”. They buy the drill bit to get what they want – the hole. People want the result, so you should talk about the result.

4. Tell stories

Everyone loves a story. We all grew up consuming stories. Starting with people reading them to us, going through reading books and watching films. You can vividly remember your favourite stories. When people are looking for a solution to a problem they have, they will remember stories you tell them much more than a description of what you do. Make the stories about their peers (so they resonate and they recognise themselves) to make them even more effective.

5. Provide evidence

Talking about the person and how what you do helps them, along with what success looks like, is going to move you much closer to closing the sale. Proof that you can deliver on your promises is going to get you even closer. Evidence, in the form of case studies, testimonials and reviews, reduces risk in the mind of your prospect and helps them make the decision to use you.

Next steps

Take a look at your marketing, particularly your website and answer these questions:

  1. Does the first sentence talk about you or your target audience?
  2. Use this test to see if your website pages are more about you or about your target audience.
  3. Is your marketing written in the 2nd person (you) or the 3rd person (he/she/they)?
  4. Do you have a set of stories you can tell people that demonstrate how you help your target audience?
  5. Is there an evidence set easily found on your website and/or social media?

If your answers show you are talking about your business, rather than to and about your target audience, you need to take action. If you would like to talk to us about how we can help you, click here or call us on 020 8634 5911.

image showing a man cutting a piece of paper saying risk to support article about perceived risk

How to reduce perceived risk for your prospects

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding

and make more sales

Reducing perceived risk in the mind of your prospects increases sales and grows your business. There are several ways your marketing, and everyone in your business, can help you reduce perceived risk. This process starts from their very first engagement with you…

1. Make sure your website is helping

Your website is the first touch point for many people. As your shop window, your website is there to do two things: invite them in and make it easy to start the buying process.

  • Clear headlines and content that show how you can help them.
  • Contact details on every page, above the fold.
  • Proof that you have the knowledge and experience they need.

Make sure it looks up to date too. If it looks old, it will suggest either you don’t care, or you cannot afford to get an updated version.

2. Telephone manners

Ensure everyone in the business answers the phone in a professional manner. “Good morning/afternoon. company name, first name speaking. How can I help?” is a good starting place. Make sure they know how to then transfer the call to the right person too, especially now that many of your team are working remotely.

3. Respond quickly

When someone wants to talk to you about your products or services, they usually complete a form on your website. The sooner you contact them, the more likely they are to buy from you. The average response time, from Harvard Business Review research is 42 hours.

Getting in touch within an hour of the enquiry makes you at least 7 times more likely to qualify the lead. More qualified leads lead to more sales.

4. Tell them a story

You have always loved stories. When your parents put you bed and started: once upon a time, you loved it. As you grew up Roald Dahl took over and then maybe JK Rowling. Maybe Helen Fielding, maybe Arthur C Clarke and maybe Tom Clancy. Whoever wrote them, you have always read stories and enjoyed it as they take you through a process.

  • What stories do you have within your business that can help your prospects visualise what you do and how it can help them?
  • What have you done with other clients that demonstrates you understand the issues your prospect faces and will show what a successful resolution looks like?

Put some of these stories where they will be found early in their movement through your pipeline (your website) but keep one or two for when you’re sitting in front of them. The impact there will be even higher.

5. Stop talking about you

75%+ of the marketing material I see (both online and off) talks about the company. It talks about how good the company is at [insert topic] and that they’re the leading proponent of that topic (whether they are or not). NOBODY CARES
Change your messaging so that it talks about the target audience and how you help them. Change the wording so that you’re talking to an individual…

  • We help our clients by
  • You can benefit in this way from working with us

Changing your point of view and language helps prospects to understand, and believe, what you can deliver for them.

6. Provide proof

If you look for something on Amazon, they make sure that you see review ratings, and can filter by those ratings, before you get to filter by price. They know that peer reviews will make you spend more as they are evidence that the product you are considering is worth a little extra cash.

If you can put a series of reviews (also called testimonials) in front of a prospect, they will start to see the value you provide, and the level of perceived risk is reduced. If these reviews are from people similar to them, the level of risk drops even further.

Case studies work even more effectively as they put more meat on the bones. The 5 key parts of a case study each do a specific job in reducing perceived risk and there’s more detail on this in another of our blogs. You can read that here.

If you’re not sure your case studies are effective, we offer a free review. Sign up for the review here.

Summary

For a prospect to continue moving through your pipeline, and then sign on the dotted line, you need to reduce the level of risk they perceive. After all, nobody likes change. It’s a risk; what if things go wrong? Who is going to get blamed?

These tips will reduce the perceived risk your prospects have in their minds. They will never make it go away, but they only need to get it down to an acceptable level. One where the prospect says “yeah. Let’s go”.

Your marketing plays a critical role in reducing the perceived risk for buyers. By establishing trust, managing perceptions of risk, and providing education and support, a company can help alleviate buyer concerns and make the purchasing decision more comfortable. While there is no single approach that will work for every buyer or every transaction, companies that invest in their marketing efforts are more likely to see success in the competitive world of B2B sales.

Of course, if you need a hand working out exactly how to reduce perceived risk for your small, call us on 020 8634 5911 or get in touch here.

 

image showing a man cutting a piece of paper saying risk to support article about perceived risk

Why you need to reduce perceived risk in the buying process

By Customer Understanding

image showing a man cutting a piece of paper saying risk to support article about perceived riskIn the B2B (business-to-business) buying process, there are many factors that influence the decision-making process. One of the most important factors is perceived risk. Perceived risk is the level of uncertainty or concern that a buyer has about a product or service. In B2B buying, perceived risk can be a major obstacle to making a purchase. Here are some reasons why reducing perceived risk is essential in the B2B buying process.

1. Increase the likelihood of the sale

Firstly, reducing perceived risk increases the likelihood of making a sale. B2B buyers are often cautious and conservative, especially when it comes to large purchases or investments. They want to make sure that the product or service they are buying is going to meet their needs and provide a good return on investment. If they perceive too much risk, they may decide not to buy at all. By reducing perceived risk, you can increase the buyer’s confidence and make them more likely to move forward with the purchase.

2. Build trust

Secondly, reducing perceived risk can help to build trust and credibility. In the B2B world, trust is crucial. Buyers need to trust that the seller is going to deliver what they promise and that they are going to provide good service and support. By reducing perceived risk, you can show the buyer that you understand their concerns and that you are committed to providing a high-quality product or service. This can help to build trust and credibility, which can lead to long-term business relationships.

3. Differentiate your products

Thirdly, reducing perceived risk can help to differentiate your product or service from the competition. In many B2B markets, there are a lot of similar products or services available. Buyers may have a hard time differentiating between them and deciding which one to choose. By reducing perceived risk, you can make your product or service stand out from the competition. If buyers perceive your product or service as being less risky than the competition, they may be more likely to choose you.

4. Minimise post-purchase regret

Fourthly, reducing perceived risk can help to minimise post-purchase regret. In the B2B world, buyers often have a lot of regret after making a purchase. They may feel like they made the wrong decision, or that they could have gotten a better deal elsewhere. By reducing perceived risk, you can help to minimise these feelings of regret. If the buyer feels like they made a well-informed decision and that they have made a good investment, they are less likely to regret their purchase.

5. Increase customer satisfaction

Finally, reducing perceived risk can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. If the buyer perceives your product or service as being less risky, they are more likely to be satisfied with their purchase. This can lead to increased loyalty and repeat business. Additionally, if the buyer feels like you have taken their concerns seriously and have worked to reduce perceived risk, they are more likely to recommend your product or service to others.

Reducing perceived risk is essential in the B2B buying process. It can increase the likelihood of making a sale, build trust and credibility, differentiate your product or service from the competition, minimize post-purchase regret, and lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. To reduce perceived risk, it is important to understand the buyer’s concerns and address them in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. By doing so, you can build strong, long-lasting business relationships that benefit both you and your customers.  In our next article we will provide a range of tips on how your marketing can help you deliver on all of the above. To ensure you don’t miss that article, either follow our Company Page or subscribe to our mailing list here.

dog showing trust by exposing its belly

How marketing helps develop trust within the buying cycle

By Customer Understanding, Delivering your marketing

Marketing for small businesses is often considered to be all about generating leads for the business. At which point, many people think that marketing stops and the sales function begins. With today’s buyers often completing up to 70% of the buying process before they talk to anyone (even in the B2B world), marketing’s role in supporting the sales process has perhaps never been more important. A massive part of this is helping the buyer to trust you and believe that your business can deliver. This article will discuss how marketing helps develop trust and help buyers to trust small businesses.

Perceived risk

It’s been some time since we last wrote about perceived risk (and you can read that article, including the 7 different types of perceived risk, by clicking here) so let’s quickly cover it here and explain why its so important.

Perceived risk is the level of risk someone believes there is in doing something, in this case in buying something. The level of perceived risk varies dependent on these things:

  1. The cost of what they are buying.
  2. The importance of the purchase to them or their business.

To help them buy from you, the level of perceived risk in their mind has to be reduced to an acceptable level. The role of marketing is to put in front of buyers the three key tools you have for reducing risk:

Knowledge

The knowledge and expertise within your business is a key part of your ability to deliver on your clients’ needs. The more people consider you to be an expert in your field, the more likely they are to approach you in the first place. Assuming that demonstration of knowledge continues during the sales process, the buyer is much more likely to buy from you.

Evidence

If you “stand” in front of a prospect, saying “I can deliver what you want, honest guv!” or words to that effect, they might buy from you. If you can put evidence in front of them that backs up your claims, they are far more likely to buy from you. Evidence comes in many forms:

Case studies

Examples of work you’ve done for other clients. These show that you understand the prospect’s industry and have helped others just like them. Here’s an article about the key parts of case studies and why you should include all the parts listed. You can see some of our case studies here.

Stories

Most effective when given verbally, but often contained within articles and blogs. Stories usually look in more detail about a specific part of something you’ve done for a client.

Testimonials

The words of your clients carry a lot of weight with your prospects and will really support the sales process. Ideally in video format and should include the name, title and company of the person who said it.

Reviews

Most reviews are placed on independent sites, so you have no ability to edit them. We generally recommend Google Reviews, but companies like Trustpilot and Feefo have been around for years.

Value

Most often delivered as the results part of a case study (see how we believe a case study should be structured in this article), showing how you have delivered on previous clients’ needs is a key part of demonstrating value. If you talk about how you have saved a company 10x what they spent with you, or quickly found them a member of staff they’ve been trying to find for ages, you’re demonstrating real value. The more you can do this, the better.

Marketing’s role

Depending on the size of your business and the way clients buy from you, the role of marketing is developing trust can vary.

At its most basic level, marketing:

  • Produces content that demonstrates the knowledge and expertise within your business
  • Writes case studies and publish them onto your website.

This is where a lot of small businesses make a big mistake.  They spend the time collating all the proof we’ve discussed above. It goes onto their website and it …. Just sits there. The real role of marketing is getting this content in front of the right people. Assuming you have already identified and mapped your Ideal Clients (see here for more information on that), it is time to get this evidence that you can deliver in front of them. Within the buying process this can mean:

  • Building automated email campaigns that share this content at the right time within prospects’ journey through your pipeline.
  • Making print and digital versions for sharing by Sales, either at trade shows or through trackable email clicks.
  • Embedding your Google reviews on your website.
  • Tracking WHO is reading what so that your Sales team know what to talk to people about.
  • Getting them back to the website regularly until they are ready to buy.
  • Analysing how people are engaging with the website to improve it, thus increasing leads and sales.

All of the above can happen after a potential client has made that first contact. If your Sales staff do this, you are taking them away from that vital role, so let your marketing continue after the lead is generated.

To find out more about how SME Needs can help you with this, give us a call on 020 8634 5911 or click here to get in touch.

 

 

how to choose the right crm image to support article

Which is the best CRM for small businesses?

By Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan, Strategic Planning

how to choose the right crm image to support articleSales are the lifeblood for an business, particularly small businesses. Without them, you have no business. Knowing what sales you have coming in, likely to close or simply in the pipeline, is vital information for any small business owner.  To collate this information you have three options: 

  1. Keeping it all in your head – only good if you have very few sales opportunities – and not that great at that. 
  2. A spreadsheet – a great way to start and we have a template you can use available here, but they lack functionality to help you to predict your pipeline and close more sales. 
  3. A CRM – great, but which do you choose as there are so many out there? 

With so many CRM solutions on the market today, which is the best CRM for small businesses? Let’s look at what we consider to be the most important factors when you start your search for the right CRM for your business 

Intuitiveness 

How quickly can you pick up the right way to use the CRM? Intuition is different for everyone, but the best CRMs will have done a lot of work on making it as easy as possible for you to log in and start using the platform. 

Functionality 

In our opinion, most CRM solutions put too much functionality in. They are built to provide every possible tool for every possible type of business. Presumably this is so they can capture as big a chunk of the market as possible. 

The problem for the user is then finding the right functionality for their needs. The language used by the different CRM providers varies (perhaps deliberately), so terms mean different things on different platforms. On Hubspot an individual person is a contact, but in Salesforce they are a lead – for example. 

Whilst we are fans of functionality, we believe it is far better for it to be hidden and available to be turned on. Far better than having to work out what can be turned off and working out how to stop people in your small business using different functions. 

Adaptability 

CRM solutions are used throughout a business. From the owner/MD to Sales, from Marketing to Admin. The right CRM will help the whole business to perform effectively and efficiently. But not everyone needs the same functions and the same reporting. Being able to adapt and customise to the individuals’ needs is key. 

Integrations 

The bigger platforms, such as Hubspot, are looking to completely replace your marketing technology stack. They will provide landing pages, help with your SEO, send and track email campaigns, schedule your social media posts and help you manage your sales pipeline. All great so far, but this comes at a price and that price jumps a lot as you take on more functionality and have more contacts in the system. 

A CRM that effectively integrates with other tools helps your small business in two key ways: it controls the price and allows you to get best of breed technology across the board. As a Mailchimp Partner, we believe it is the best email marketing platform out there, so being able to integrate and sync data from our CRM to, and from, Mailchimp is a real bonus. Being able to integrate with Outlook and Gmail too puts all communication in the same place. 

Reporting 

Adding data is all great, but doesn’t help you manage your business and your pipeline. We’ll go into this in more detail in a future blog, but we believe there are 4 key reports you need from a small business CRM to help you manage your marketing and your pipeline: 

  1. Leads by source – where are your leads coming from and over what time period? 
  2. Pipeline by stage – how many leads do you have at each stage of your pipeline and where are they dropping out? 
  3. Pipeline value against target – what is likely to come out as sales and how does that compare to your sales targets? 
  4. Win/loss reasons – what are the reasons you are losing sales, and why are you winning them too? 

Adding performance by individual, by office and by product will also help to manage and improve sales and marketing performance. 

Support 

Intuition and functionality can only go so far. Sometimes you need some support to work out just how to do something within your CRM. The best CRM for small businesses will have both prepared support (documents and video). They will also have either a phone number or Live Chat function  – usually for when you simply cannot get your head around something, or the support pages. 

Price 

Last, but most definitely not least, price is a key factor when identifying the best CRM for small businesses.  A search on” best free crm uk” provides nearly 34 million search results. For many people, these can provide enough, but we’ve already been worried about the lack of reporting available on the free CRM solutions. 

Once you start paying, you can quickly rack up your monthly subscription. The more functionality you want, the more you have to pay and the price steps are often huge.  

Which is the best CRM for small businesses? 

We’re not brave enough to say XXX is the best CRM for small businesses. Since SME Needs was formed in 2011, we have used for our own needs just three solutions, one being the spreadsheet we have made available for you. We currently have clients using a number of different solutions, including Keap, Hubspot, Salesforce, ACT and then specialist products like Eventpro. A previous project led to us recommending Insightly to a client because of their very specific needs and that is the important factor. What are your CRM needs? The platform we are currently using is uPilotWe’re using it because it delivers on most of the factors we list here and if you want to have a look at it, click here. 

We hope our look at the CRM factors that are important proves to be useful for you. If you want to talk more about your marketing and your use of CRM for your small business, simply click the button below. 

Image of Battleships game to support an article about battleships and your marketing strategy

The battleship marketing strategy

By Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan, Strategic Planning

Play a game to sell more to your current clients

Children’s games are rarely something that comes up in a conversation about small business marketing. There is one game (sort of) you can play that will definitely help you to sell more to your current clients: Battleships! 

Remember Battleships? 

Whether you played it on paper, the manual plastic version or the really posh one: Computer Battleships, you must remember the game.  You start with a grid, about 10 squares each way. You then draw on a set of ships (two squares for a frigate, 3 for a sub and 4 for a battleship). Your opponent does the same and then you use grid references to guess which squares their ships are in. First one to destroy the fleet wins! 

The marketing version.

The marketing version is similar, but you are aiming to build sales, rather than destroy ships. 

  1. Start with a grid
  2. Clients down the side 
  3. Products across the top
  4. Mark which clients have bought what products/services
  5. The gaps give you a list of clients to market to and try to sell more.

Why you should do this. 

There is more about why you need to be marketing to your current clients in this article, but these are two key reasons for playing this version of Battleships… 

1. Stickier clients stay with you 

You are highly unlikely to have a client that buys everything you sell from you. But the more an individual client buys from you, the stickier the relationship becomes and the longer they stay with you. 

2. Easier to sell to

They already know and trust you, so if they can use additional products/services that you provide, why would they not buy from you? 

What you get from this.

The simplest way to describe it is a list of new business opportunities. There is no reason why your current clients shouldn’t buy more from you, so why not try. They may currently have another supplier, but that can always change.  They may not actually need more from you, but (again) that can change in the future. 

Put it this way: if they know you, trust you, have a need and don’t already have a supplier, the only thing stopping them from buying from you is you asking them to. 

If we can help, please get in touch

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

Why people buy people is still very true

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding

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

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

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

Know, like and trust

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

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

People need to know you exist before they can buy from you.

  • They are more likely to buy from you if they like you.
  • They absolutely must trust you will deliver on your promises.
  • Whilst Ivan was talking about this in a referral context, it is very true in a marketing and sales context too.

People buy the ‘Why’

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

How to help others buy YOU

To get people to buy you, there are a series of things you need to do. Here’s what they are and why they are important.

1. Get out there

If people don’t know you, there is no chance of them buying you. So the first step is to ensure that more people know you exist and know about you. For many small business owners, that means more networking. We’ve already mentioned the, very formal, BNI, but there are plenty of others. Nigel goes to Fore Business events (you can read why here) as well as more local events such as Connecting Croydon

2. Use stories

From childhood onwards people have always loved stories. Bet you remember some stories from your childhood! People remember stories better than facts, so what are the best stories you have about how you’ve helped your clients? If you’ve never really thought about this, have a think.

  • Which clients have you achieved the best results for – and how did you do it?
  • Which clients are in the most niche sectors (check out the Cat Doctor and what we did for them) – and what did you achieve for them?
  • Have a story, or two, for each sector you work in, so you can tell relevant stories to the people you are talking to.

Before you tell your stories to someone, find out something about them first. You can then choose the best stories to tell them.

3. Always look to help others first

We all want to make more sales and grow our client base. But if you can help others without expecting something in return, it will come back to you. Whether it comes from the people you helped, or via another route, it will happen.

People remember that you helped them. If they cannot help you back, they will talk about you to others.

4. Deliver on your promises

If you do make commitments and promises to others, make sure you deliver. Remember it is your reputation that is on the line here. Deliver and your reputation, in that person’s mind, grows. If you don’t, you slip down in their estimation.

5. Collect and use testimonials

Before you get to meet someone, it is highly likely they’ve reviewed your LinkedIn profile and your website. Having a good set of testimonials/Recommendations in those places will help to improve their perception of you prior to the meeting – a leg up to start with.

If you haven’t got any, its definitely time to start. Ask your best clients and request recommendations from your best LinkedIn connections.

6. Get more reviews – and share them

Similar to testimonials, reviews can really help people buy you. Whilst they may be about your company, it is common for people to include names in their reviews, particularly in a B2B scenario. The other great things about reviews are:

  • You cannot edit them, particularly on Google or platforms such as Feefo or TrustPilot. People get to read both the good and the bad.
  • However, you do get the opportunity to reply

We recommend that you always reply to reviews – because it shows you care. For a good review, a thank you goes down well. For a poor review, either correcting the story or working to fix the situation is a must.

Setting up your Google Business Profile doesn’t take long. As soon as it is live you can start collecting reviews.

7. Culture

A business’ culture comes from the top. As your business grows, your team need to continue to build on 3 & 4 above. Whilst clients and prospects will not always be dealing directly with you, they will still think about you and what you’ve built when considering to buy, or buy more.

Recruiting the right people, training them and supporting them are vital.

8. Become your business’ figurehead

Part of developing that people first culture is demonstrating what you want your team to do. They will look to you for guidance and they will copy what you do. Think of the people you know and recognise as the “face of their business”. The more people think of you as a figurehead, the more they will think of you when thinking about what you do.

 

What to do next

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

The biggest mistake in marketing today

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

Are you making the biggest mistake in marketing?

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

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

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

Do you talk about your Expert Subject?

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

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

Nobody cares what you do

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

Insurtech – re-focus

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

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

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

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

Who is going to translate?

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

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

Don’t claim what you cannot prove

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

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

They want someone who understands them

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

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

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

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

Measure the issue

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

Brainstorm

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

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

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

Revise your content

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

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

Prove you understand your clients’ needs

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

1.      Your Blog

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

2.      Your case studies

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

3.      In conversation

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

social media

Which social media marketing platforms are best for my business?

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Plan

social media

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

Go where your ideal clients are

B2B social media effectiveness

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

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

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

1. LinkedIn

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

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

2. Twitter

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

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

3. Facebook

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

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

4. Instagram

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

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

Less is more

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

Leave your comfort zone

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

Which social media platforms are generating traffic and leads?

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

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

In closing…

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Positive brand feelings

How can small businesses encourage a strong response from a client?

By Customer Understanding, Small Business Marketing

“What about you?” 

What about you makes you the best choice for your potential client to work with instead of others? 

This blog post will help you to recognise and communicate what your brand means to your client. 

Positive brand feelings

This is the third post of the ‘activate fierce brand loyalty’ series. 

So far we have covered, “who are you?” and “what are you?”in the previous two blog posts. 

After answering those two questions, your ideal client will start to form feelings and judgements towards you. This is due to having a base of broad awareness. Following this, the brand building blocks of performance and imagery are then taken into consideration. 

The ability to create intensely positive feelings 

A brand is more than its product or service. 

A brand evokes feelings. 

As small business owners, you must consider how your brand makes your customers feel about you and them.  

There are the four responses your business faces:  

  • intensely negative  
  • mildly negative  
  • mildly positive   
  • intensely positive. 

How best to handle a negative comment

The reality for most UK businesses is that you rarely experience mildly negative or mildly positive feelings in the form of reviews or social media interactions.  

However, you know when someone has a negative experience; it is quintessentially British to make sure everyone knows about it!  

For example, someone may dislike the opinion piece you shared in your weekly e-newsletter.  

They email you angrily about how you are a total and utter disgrace!   

It is important to politely respond. Apologise for how they feel and do your best to resolve it. If the negative feedback is unwarranted and unreasonable, do not be afraid to unsubscribe them from your list. It is best to focus your time, efforts and content towards those that value it. 

Turning the peri-peri meter from mild to spicy 

Potential clients who have an intensely positive feeling towards you are likely to follow you on social media. They may be subscribed to your e-mailing list. Most importantly, it will lead towards an intensely positive feeling in which they are more likely to buy from you. It is vital to be able to communicate your knowledge and expertise consistently. There are various ways to do so: 

  • Tips and guides 
  • Case Studies 
  • Testimonials 

To make the most of these methods to showcase your knowledge, it is best to share content to specific segments of your audience. If you are aware that your potential client is in the tech industry, share a tech-related testimonial with them.  

A practical tip is to share specific e-mail content to a specified segment of your audience that it is applicable to. Following this, send a follow up email. To be able to turn a potential client’s mildly positive feeling to intensely positive, it is necessary for them to engage with the content. A follow up email increases the likelihood of opens and click-throughs, which then leads them towards the landing page with a call-to-action.

The more relevant the shared content is, the more likely they are to react to it. 

Through these feelings, positive judgements will be formed of your business and what it represents. It will enhance your image of credibility and superiority that makes you a business worth working with and paying for. 

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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

Develop strong brand awareness

4 simple tips to build your brand awareness! 

By Customer Understanding, Small Business Marketing

simple tips to build your brand awareness! 

Activate fierce brand loyalty series – Part One 

What is brand awareness?

What is brand awareness? 

Have ever been at your local supermarket and you realise you’re running low on tea, so you walk to the tea aisle and pick up Twinings or Yorkshire Tea without thinking about it?  

The reason you gravitate towards certain brands is because you already have positive associations of them in your brain. This includes the performance, in the case of of Twinings, it could be through the packaging or the taste. 

This post will give practical recommendations that put your small business in the mind of your potential clients. 

Why should brand awareness be something small businesses think about? 

This is because at the point of consideration, you want your ideal client to think of you.  Following this, you would want them to have a preference to select your business ahead of your competition. This is especially relevant for B2B businesses as once a potential client selects a business to potentially work with, they will dedicate a lot of time and resources to explore that particular avenue. Therefore, you want to be the particular business that they have chosen to give their time to as you navigate the protracted decision-making process. 

This blog post will cover three crucial brand awareness tips that help you, as a small business owner, to build brand awareness.  

Engage with your audience 

As a small business, your communication with potential and existing clients should be frequent.  

Frequency is a fantastic start but your communications must be relevant to your audience, as well as well-timed. 

If you know there’s a current sentiment, feeling or occasion, take advantage of it and join the conversation 

This can be relatively cheap or even for free in our current environment by engaging in active social media hashtags. Especially if they  happen to cross over and relate with your business or industry. 

This can occur at networking events. It provides the opportunity for you to share how you stand out from the crowd in a face-to-face environment! 

Connect with your target audience 

One of the strongest assets small businesses can have that helps build brand awareness with their audience is their ability to develop an emotional connection! 

This can be done through inexpensive methods such as social media advertisement campaigns. Some may have not tested these waters but they can be tailored to your needs and budget.  

There is a great flexibility in targeting audiences with social media platforms. It allows you to target people based on your current followers. Furthermore, you can customise your audience preferences based on the geo-location or their interests.  

With a simple slider based on your daily budget and duration, it gives you an approximate figure of the reach of that advertisement.  

It can be as cheap as a coffee and a croissant from your favourite local shop! Therefore, it is a worthwhile option to explore to be able to connect with your ideal client. 

However, the world is not just online for small businesses. It is important to be vocal and active in our local communities.  

Through your goodwill, character and personable behaviour with other local businesses and customers, it will build a positive image of your business and the values that underpin it. Trustworthiness doesn’t have to cost a thing but can help your small business quietly thrive. 

The importance of visible feedback!  

Credibility is a highly sought-after attribute for all small businesses. How do I show my experience and expertise to my target audience on a minimal budget?  This question has probably popped into your head at some point. 

The primary answer is something that is easily taken for granted. 

Reviews!  

It is important to utilise your existing customers who have a positive impression of your business, your personality and the quality of your services.  

This is because your target audience is far more likely to believe in what your business provides from someone who actively bought from or used your service than from your own mouth.  

In a sea of marketing, your ideal client is quite frankly overloaded with everyone saying they are the best. 

This is why client considers reviews as more genuine as it is coming from a source other than the business itself. 

So if you know a client who is extremely happy at the service you have provided or the product they have bought from you, do not be afraid to ask for a review.  

Each one counts 

For example, when potential clients find your business on Google and see a substantial amount of positive reviews, even if your brand isn’t instantly recognisable, it becomes associated with being trustworthy 

Keep it up! 

The best method to activate brand awareness is through small and consistent efforts.  

Repetition is key! 

Through an application of one of or a combination of the previous tips, you can achieve the first and the most crucial stage of brand loyalty in brand awareness. 

This is by making the most of your touch-points with your target audience, firstly, by making sure you bring your business into the conversation and then developing on that by building an emotional connection.  

Over time, through persistent engagement and connection, a broad positive awareness and recognition will occur in the mind of your targeted client when they think of anything that relates to your business and the service you provide. 

Final Thoughts 

These simple tips to build brand awareness should get you thinking the next time there is a decision to make.

The next time you need something, think about what brand or business you choose over the other options.  

It could be when you think about your biscuit tin contents running low? 

Perhaps you need some tech developers to build an application for your business? 

Maybe it’s time to upgrade your phone?  

Or maybe you’re looking for a marketing agency to build your business’ strategic plan with?  

This should help you consider the importance of brand salience and why you should build it for your business.  

In terms of your own business, you know you have achieved brand awareness and recall when an enquiry is made, either in person in your local area, on the phone or through your website when a potential client thinks of needing something connected to your services or industry. 

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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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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!

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 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.

the definition of marketing insanity

The Definition of Marketing Insanity

By Customer Understanding, Marketing Performance

marketing insanity image

Are you suffering from Marketing Insanity?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. The definition of marketing insanity is, therefore, doing the same marketing over and over again and not getting any better results. So why do so many small businesses insist on this approach when it comes to attracting new prospective clients?

There are two reasons for this:

  1. They haven’t measured the performance of the marketing they have been doing.
  2. They have knowledge of only a certain number of ways of marketing their business.

Does this sound like an issue you have? Let’s see how we can improve things for you.

Why Measure your marketing?

There are three reasons to measure your marketing:

Time

Time is a resource that you always need more of. Using up time on marketing activities that aren’t generated leads and clients for you is wasting that time. It is time that you cannot get back. It’s gone forever.

Money

The old saying “time is money” counts here, but it is also the amount of money you spend on marketing activities that don’t work, that has to be considered. The more money you waste on marketing activities that don’t work, the less reaches your bottom line.

Quality

Too many people measure the vanity metrics of Likes, Follows and Shares. Whilst important, as they are likely to be pointing people at your website, or where people buy from you, they are not THE measures of success. From there, people often then measure the number of leads developed by a particular marketing channel.  Again, whilst important, it is not the most important measure. The most important measure of success is return on investment. Let me explain.

Leads that don’t turn into sales are also a waste of time and money. If you stop measuring at Leads, you risk wasting more time and money. If the leads aren’t turning into sales, they are probably the wrong leads.

Limited Knowledge

When, as a business owner, you have limited time, you can only do so much. If you invest time in learning how to do certain types of marketing, you want them to work otherwise you think that you have wasted your time.

That’s actually not true.

What you’ve done is tried something that you can now cross off the list.  There are huge numbers of ways to market your business and the chances are you only have time to work with a small number. If you have tried certain marketing channels over and over, don’t succumb to marketing insanity. Get some advice and look at what other marketing channels you could be using.

 

 

 

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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