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What should you spend your marketing budget on?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

Questions to ask yourself to work this out

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

No quick answer

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

Strategic Planning

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

What has worked before?

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

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

Who is/are your Ideal Client(s)?

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

What marketing are you going to do?

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

What marketing channels?

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

Awareness generation marketing

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

Progression marketing activities

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

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

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

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

Generating the lead

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

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

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

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

image to support pointing you in the right direction article

Why your business should be using a Virtual Marketing Director

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

12 reasons to be using a Virtual Marketing Director

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

1. Giving you time to work ON the business

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

2. Providing the marketing expertise you need in your business

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

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

3. Filling in the marketing knowledge gaps

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

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

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

5. Delivering marketing consistency

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

6. Focusing your marketing to reduce budget waste

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

7. Ensuring that marketing suppliers are delivering on their promises

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

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

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

9. Encourage referrals from your clients

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

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

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

11. Provide the management and support your marketing exec needs

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

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

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

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

What does good marketing look like?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

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

10 factors of good marketing

Consistency of marketing activity

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

But it is important because:

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

Helps your target audience(s)

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

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

Proves you understand your target audience(s)

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

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

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

Uses the right marketing channels

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

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

Delivers quality leads

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

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

Maintains engagement

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

Supports the Sales team

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

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

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

Proves you can deliver on your promises

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

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

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

Supports your business plan

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

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

Is a living document

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

Good marketing constantly works to produce better results.

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image about making 2022 a great year

Are you ready for 2022?

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan, Uncategorized

image about making 2022 a great yearWith the new calendar year just a few weeks away, you really should be thinking. Thinking about what you are going to do to make 2022 a really successful one for your small business. Maybe 2021 has been a quiet one due to the pandemic. Maybe you were able to pivot your business to make this year one of your best ever. Whatever happened, 2022 is a new year and you cannot simply assume that you will get the same results by doing the same things. Here are the four steps you need to take to make 2022 a great year…

What worked in 2021?

Have you reviewed and measured your marketing performance for the last year? If not, it is time to start. By measuring your marketing performance, you can quickly make decisions about:

  • what to continue – because it is working.
  • what to review – because you believe it can work better
  • what to stop – as it is simply not working.

If you have had a really successful year, imagine what next year could be like if you cut out what marketing hasn’t worked and did more of what has been working!  Click here to our download ROI calculator.

If you haven’t let’s identify what channels haven’t worked so they can be reviewed or stopped. The time and money saved can be re-focused.

How many new clients did you acquire?

Not gross, but net new clients. Deduct the number you lost from the number you won.  Compare this to 2020. Is your net new client number higher or lower? Is it higher because you won more or lost fewer? The other way around if it is lower.

Which marketing channels did the new clients come through? How much did each new client cost? What is your lead conversion rate? What is the value of a new client (average)?

By answering these questions, you start to develop a picture of how much marketing you need to do in 2022 to hit your business goals.

Example:

  • Your business goal for 2022: increase turnover by £250K
  • A typical client spends £10,000 per year with you.
  • Last year you added 15 new clients, but lost 3
  • Your marketing spend was £30K

If the ratios stay the same, you will need a marketing budget this year of £60K – assuming the ratio of clients lost to clients gained stays the same, as does cost per client acquired.

Focus

What does your Ideal Client look like? If you look back at the clients you acquired in the last year, how many of them match the description of your Ideal Client?  If you are acquiring clients that don’t match this description, do you need to review that description or add another?

How many of the clients you lost last year matched that description? If they were a long way from being Ideal Clients, it may be that you simply weren’t able to properly meet their needs. There are times when you need to consider walking away from a sales opportunity if you cannot properly meet their needs.

Reviewing your Ideal client description, as needed, will help to re-focus your marketing messages so that they work more effectively. The marketing messages will be different for each Ideal Client you have as they have different needs and may use your products/services in different ways. Just in case you’re interested, this is one of our Ideal Client descriptions.

Planning your marketing

If you have followed the recommendations above, you will know what marketing worked for you in the last year. If they worked last year, it is likely they will work in 2022, so it is now simply a case of scheduling the activity into your marketing plan. Then decide whether to do the same amount, or more, of this marketing.

Now, what else will you be doing this year? If your growth targets are higher for 2022 than for 2021, you need to be doing more marketing in the coming year. You know what hasn’t worked, so what other marketing is likely to work?  If want to discuss this, give us a call on 020 8634 5911.

Do you have the time?

If you managed, or even did, your marketing last year, will you have the time to do it again in 2022?  If you are planning to do the same amount of marketing as you did last year, you probably have. If you are planning to do more, you may need some help. Of course, once the sales start coming in, more of your time will be focused on delivering what your clients want. Unless you have no need for a work/life balance (??), no worries. But if you do want some time away from your business (it is recommended), you need someone who can manage or do your marketing for you. Our Virtual Marketing Director service is ideal for owners of small businesses who don’t have time, but aren’t yet in a position to employ their own marketing team. Does that sound like you?

Why do all this?

Too many owners of small businesses spend too little time working ON the business, rather than IN the business. This leads to “stuff happening” rather than planned activity. As the old saying goes : fail to plan – plan to fail.  By investing a few hours in planning for 2022, you will see a significant uplift in performance and more growth.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

What your marketing needs more than money

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

Three things that have the biggest impact on your marketing performance

When you start thinking about the marketing for your small business, is the first thing you think about money? Your marketing budget is really important and we cover that in more detail here, but there are three factors that will have a far bigger impact on your marketing performance than the budget you allocate to it.

You used to see lots of social media activity loosely titled “How I built an audience of 1 million people without spending a penny”. Their aim was to attract people who would then “spend money” with them to build audiences. Thankfully, those posts and blogs have gone away as people saw through them. Pretending you don’t have to spend money on your marketing is wasting time, but let’s look at the three things that make the biggest impact on your marketing performance

Time

Effective marketing takes time. For any small business owner, the choice is whether they spend the time doing the marketing, or whether they pay someone else to do it.

In the early days of most small businesses, there is time available that can be used to market your business. Networking is just one way that time is used effectively, whether that is formally (through organisations such as Fore Business, BNI or ONLE) or informally as you spend time with people to really get to know them.

Writing a blog for your business will typically take 1-3 hours and then you have to add on the time taken to distribute that content piece. Adding it to the website, producing social media posts and email campaigns – they all take time.

Quick question: is the hourly rate you charge higher than the cost of getting this done for you?  If it is, it makes sense for someone else to do it for you.

Knowledge

You will have heard many versions of this over the years:

You called an engineer out because your central heating boiler has stopped working.

He comes out, looks at the boiler and taps it with a hammer.

Engineer: That will be £200 please.

You: But you’ve only been here two minutes. Why is it so much?

Engineer: £1 for my time and £199 for knowing where to tap the boiler

It is the same with marketing. Knowing how to write and distribute a great press release is an artform, as is getting a great return from PPC advertising. These are just two examples, but you get the point. You are great at what you do, but unless you have the marketing skills you need within your business, you need to bring them in.

Having a plan

You can burn through huge amounts of time, and money, if you don’t have a plan! A marketing plan that is aimed at getting you, and your knowledge, in front of the people who can use your products/services will clearly show:

  • What you are going to do, and when
  • What it will cost
  • What you aim to get from the activities.

A marketing plan will keep you on schedule. After all, marketing consistency is a key part of keeping your brand in the mind’s eye of your target audience. The chances of them needing you the first time they see your marketing messages are slim. Ensuring they regularly see/read/hear about you maximises your chances of being contacted when they need something.

Not having a plan means you do stuff when you have time (see above) and you may, or may not, hit your targets.

What should you do next?

There is nothing stopping you for developing a marketing plan for your business. Even if you do bring in someone like SME Needs, you still need to be involved in the plan development. If you don’t, your buy-in won’t be there and it won’t be delivered effectively.

There is nothing stopping you gaining the knowledge and expertise you need. But do you have the time and does it make sense financially?

Of course, there is nothing stopping you investing the time needed to do your marketing. As before, in you are in the early days of your business, you may well have the time available. But as your business grows and clients take up more and more of your time, does it really make sense to do your own marketing?

 

The most frequent question we get asked is “how much is this going to cost?”. Perhaps people should be considering things a little differently. If you’d like to talk about how SME Needs can provide the time and the knowledge you need to make your marketing highly effective, give us a call on 020 8634 5911 or click here to book an appointment to talk.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

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

image to support article about where to hire a content writer

When should you hire a content writer?

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

Four questions before you hire a content writer.

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

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

How much content do you need to put out?

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

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

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

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

What is the quality of your current content?

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

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

How valuable is your time?

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

What is your budget?

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Time to starting marketing after lockdown

12 Top Tips for Marketing After Lockdown

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

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

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

Start – if you haven’t already

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

Freshen up on old skills

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

Listen First

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

Elevator Pitches

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

Tell Stories

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

Remember to Follow Up

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

Make a plan

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

Utilise Automations

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

Update Your Case Studies

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

Need a hand measuring with your marketing planning

Click here for more tips

Capitalise on new opportunities!

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

New Digital Content

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

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

Virtual Meetings

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

In closing

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

social media

Which social media marketing platforms are best for my business?

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Plan

social media

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

Go where your ideal clients are

B2B social media effectiveness

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

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

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

1. LinkedIn

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

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

2. Twitter

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

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

3. Facebook

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

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

4. Instagram

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

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

Less is more

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

Leave your comfort zone

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

Which social media platforms are generating traffic and leads?

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

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

In closing…

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article: focus your marketing

Are you focusing on the right people?

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Marketing Plan

image to support article: focus your marketing

As we all emerge from lockdown, you need to focus

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

Who should you focus on?

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

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

Easiest to impress

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

Easiest to get to

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

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

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

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

Want some help focusing your marketing?

 

How much should a small business spend on marketing?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

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

How much do you currently spend?

This article will help you work out what you should be spending, but we’d love to know what small businesses are actually spending on their marketing. Click here to complete a 4-question survey (no requirement for you to give us any contact details) so we can see just what small business owners are allocating to marketing

How to work out what you should spend

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

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

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

How much did you spend on marketing last year?

When looking at how much your small business should spend on marketing, this fairly simple question is one of the first you should answer. Your accounts system, particularly if you are using something like Xero or Quickbooks, will give you the answer in moments. We will expand on the question to identify how your marketing spend was spent.

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

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

How much of that spend delivered a good ROI?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long is your usual sales cycle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Rule of Thumb

There are huge numbers of articles out there that will tell you how much you should spend on marketing. A search on the title of this article showed 294,000,000 results! Gartner does a CMO Survey every year. Their latest figures, published in early 2022, show marketing spend averaging at 9.5% of revenue. The US Small Business Administration suggests 7-8%. B2B Marketing magazine’s survey of 2018/19 marketing budgets said the average small business owner will dedicate 16% of their annual budget to marketing.

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

The B2B Marketing I refer to is here.

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

4 Questions to Grow Your Small Business

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

Which Box?

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

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

 

The matrix has four boxes:

1.       Market penetration = Existing markets buying current products

2.       Product development = Existing markets buying new products

3.       Market development = New markets buying current products

4.       Diversification = New markets buying new products

Where are you now?

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

Moving boxes as a small business growth strategy

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

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

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

2. Are your competitors dominant in your existing markets?

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

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

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

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

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

4. Can you properly serve additional markets?

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

The route through the boxes

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

Product or Market Development?

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

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

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

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