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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.

where to start with digital marketing especially when it isn't working

6 reasons why your marketing isn’t working

By Delivering your marketing, Marketing Plan

and what to do about them!

 

Assuming you are like every owner of a small business, you want your marketing to deliver the leads you need to grow your business. If your marketing isn’t working, there are six main reasons why. This article will look at each of these six reasons, explain the issue and what you can do about it.

Let’s go!

1. Focusing on the wrong audience

There are currently 68 million people in the UK. The vast majority of these people will never buy what your small business sells, so why do so many businesses try to maximise the size of their target audience?  Too many people believe that trying to appeal to huge numbers will generate more sales. The opposite is actually true, and will save you a huge amount of money that will be wasted when you try to engage huge numbers.good marketing helps your small business hit the target - an image of a dart to support the article

The more people you’re trying to market to, the more your messaging is compromised. It becomes ineffective and a waste of time and money.

Even the biggest companies focus their marketing. They have a range of different products that appeal to different audiences.

What to do

Develop personas for each of your Ideal Clients; most businesses will have more than one. Your marketing must focus on your Ideal Clients to be effective and you can find out more about how to do that here.

2. Ineffective marketing messages

Too many businesses use ineffective marketing messages. 43,600 companies claim to be “London’s leading provider” of whatever they do. 435,000 companies claim to be the “UK’s leading provider” Chances are none of them are – and people won’t believe them either.

Let’s use accountants as an example, but this applies to all business types.  If an accountancy firm’s marketing says “We are accountants” or “We are London’s leading accountants”, there are three problems:

  1. People say “And….”
  2. They have a preconceived idea of what an accountant does – that is often wrong.
  3. They don’t stand out from the competition.

How can we put this? Nobody cares what your business does!

They care about:

  • how you can help them.
  • how you solve their needs and issues.
  • Having someone who understands them.

What to do

Think about the needs and issues of your Ideal Clients and how you can help. Think about what success looks like for your Ideal Clients. That will help you develop far more effective marketing messages.

3. Using the wrong marketing tools

Using the wrong set of marketing tools happens for three reasons:

  • FOMO (the fear of missing out) is often a major problem within small business marketing, particularly when it comes to social media. “If we have content on all the social media platforms, we’re making sure that people don’t miss us”.
  • These are the tools I know and understand”. This is particularly relevant when small business owners are not willing to get some expert advice.
  • A marketing agency sells you what they do as the right set of marketing tools for your business. Find out more about our approach here.

When the wrong tools are being used, it means your marketing isn’t reaching your target audiences. It doesn’t matter how good you are with these tools or how effective your marketing messages are, if they are never seen, they won’t work.

What to do

Yet again, think about your Ideal Clients.

  • social channels are they most likely to be on regularly?
  • How do they travel to work?
  • How are they likely to search for companies who can help them?

If you’re really not sure, you can always ask some of your current clients.

The other thing to do is look at the ROI of each marketing channel up to now (great tool to help you available here).  Which are effective and which aren’t? If something isn’t working, stop doing it and invest that time and money in something that will.

 

4. Using the right tools poorly

Getting the best from many, particularly online, marketing tools requires training, practice and regular use. That’s why SME Needs works with a range of marketing specialists to deliver what our clients needs. Typical mistakes we see regularly being made include:

  • Email marketing campaigns always being sent to the whole contact list (see some tips here).
  • Social media activity that is only ever posting, rather than engaging with your audience and responding to posts/comments.
  • Very little use of video to explain complex stories.

You may get some results from using the right tools, but imagine what is possible when they are used well!

What to do

This depends on how much time you have available. If you have time and want to do your marketing yourself, get some training. There are plenty of companies that will train you in various aspects of small business marketing.

If you don’t have time, bring in the specialists. Whilst you will have to pay for their services, the ROI from improved marketing will be much higher than you will get without them.

No marketing consistency

Consistent marketing ensures your target audiences see your brand regularly. They get to know more and more about what you do and how you can help. When they realise they need what you sell, they are much more likely to get in touch with you. If your marketing is inconsistent, Sod’s Law says they will need your products/services just after they’ve forgotten who you are because they haven’t seen your brand for some time.

What to do

When planning your marketing, make sure that you are consistent with everything you do. If you simply don’t have time to produce a, for example, LinkedIn post every day, make sure you can get one out every other day. Make use of scheduling tools (we often use Publer and Mailchimp) to help you and build up a bank of marketing material in advance so that you can keep the consistency going.

If you really cannot meet the consistency levels needed (the more competitive your industry, the more frequent you are likely to need to be to maintain and build your brand recognition), bring in some help.

Not doing enough marketing

Related to consistency is the sheer volume of marketing you need to do. The more competitive your industry sector, the more you have to do.  That doesn’t mean doing 10 Instagram posts a day; rather its making sure that you are seen in multiple ways. Unless you have something that makes you markedly different from your competitors, you will need to be seen frequently enough that your brand and your messages are seen sufficiently enough that you are remembered at the same time (and ideally before) your competitors are.

What to do

Based on your Ideal Clients, you need to maximise the number of opportunities they have to see and engage with your brand and your messaging. An omnichannel approach (see here for a full explanation) means people continue to see your brand and your messaging, even when they are not actively searching.

 

If your marketing isn’t working, let’s talk. After reading this, you may have identified why your marketing isn’t working and simply need help fixing the issue. If you need help identifying why it isn’t working, that is always the first step we take new clients through. Give us a call on 020 8634 5911 or simply book a meeting into Nigel’s diary by clicking here.

 

opportunity cost, time is money, smart time management, opportunities

Getting the timing of your marketing right

By Delivering your marketing, Marketing Plan

Marketing is all about saying the right thing to the right people at the right time. This article will concentrate of the last piece of that statement – the right time. When is the right time?
This, of course, depends. It depends on two key things:

  1. When your product/service is going to be used
  2. When the buyer starts to think about the issue you help them with.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail…

When your product will be used

At the simplest end of this scale are highly seasonal products: Easter eggs, Christmas decorations, gifts that are aimed at any of the parent’s days. The purchase must be made directly from the manufacturer/ecommerce retailer in time for it to be delivered. If a store-based retail purchase, it can even be the same day.

In this scenario there is wholesale and consumer marketing times to consider, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on direct to user marketing.

For these products, there are firm start and end points for the marketing. Whilst this makes the timing easier, the competitive nature of the markets means your marketing needs to really stand out.

At the other end of the scale will be high value services that are used all year round and can be bought at any time of the year. Marketing is going to have to be done all year round, with other factors having more of an impact on your marketing timing.

When people start thinking about the issue

When buying something, people don’t think about the product, they think about the issue, the activity or the holiday. Business owners that buy accountancy or IT support services don’t initially think about IT support or accountancy, they look at productivity, lost time or think about why their tax bill was so high last year. Consumers of seasonal products look back at last time thinking “did we have a good Christmas?” – or equivalent.

Next their minds go to “how can this be better?”
• Should they buy something different, or a better version of what they bought?
• What else is needed?
• What does a good result look like?
• Should I have bought earlier, or later?

Whilst the first three questions here relate more to your marketing messages, the last one is absolutely relevant to the timing of your marketing.

Let’s start with the same two scenarios initially…

Seasonal timing

If we go to extremes, you will see many of the supermarkets selling Christmas products in August. People have usually booked (maybe even gone on) their summer holidays by this point, so the next big expenditure is Christmas. Because some people will want to spread the cost of the festivities over a period of time, it makes sense to start so early.

For you, it may be different. Consider these questions:

1. When did you starting marketing your seasonal products last year?
If you had a good year last year, it may make sense to simply start at that point again.

2. Were sales quick or slow when you started?
Slow sales are likely to indicate that you started your marketing too early. You were marketing before people had really started thinking about it. If sales were really quick, you may want to start a little earlier.

3. When did your competition start their marketing campaigns?
Keeping an eye on your competitions’ marketing is always a good idea, but don’t immediately think that you need to match them. They may be going too early and you definitely don’t want to rush the design of a campaign just to get it out there.

4. What is the best day?
Particularly for consumer marketing, knowing what days, and times, to start marketing campaigns is important. We’ve just analysed the email marketing for an ecommerce client and it clearly showed:
• Fridays are a really bad day to send email campaigns for them, with Monday & Thursday being far better.
• Weekend mornings perform so much better than afternoons

Just make sure you’ve been sending throughout the week before you do the analysis!

5. When did your seasonal products start selling last year?
If your products started selling before you were actively marketing them, people were definitely looking for what you sell before you realised it. If you’ve got an ecommerce site, your records will show when you started selling products, so you can alter your marketing schedule accordingly.

Timing for your marketing for year-round products/services

If there really is no seasonality for your products/services, you will need to be marketing throughout the year. Frequency of activity is important, as you need to tread that fine line between too much marketing and not enough.
Your marketing has three goals:
1. Get them into the top of your pipeline
2. Nurture them so they move through that phase
3. Get them to become a sales opportunity.

Top of pipeline timing

This activity has to take place throughout the year with your principal timing issue being about how frequently you are marketing.

A constant light touch

Spread your activity out when using multiple marketing channels. You don’t want your target audience to see you everywhere for a few days and then see nothing for weeks. Far better that they see a message a day over 10 days (for example) than 10 messages in a day and nothing for two weeks.

Moving them through your funnel

Decision makers will need to be confident that you can deliver what they need. Content that demonstrates the knowledge and expertise within your business should be shared with your target audience regularly.

Permutate the knowledge demonstration campaigns with more salesy campaigns that challenge their thinking and get them to think about their current provider. These should generate some inbound enquiries, converting them to sales opportunities.

Converting to a sales opportunity

Many small businesses simply rely on the funnel to call them when they are ready. Whilst you know at this point they are ready to talk, you are leaving things to chance. Keeping an eye on how your pipeline is engaging with you, and then following up, can generate sales leads more proactively, assuming you have the tools to show you who is engaged.
• Email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp, will tell you who is opening and clicking on your campaigns.
• CANDDi can give you a real insight into who is looking at your website, what they are looking at and how they got there.
• Integrating both of these with your CRM puts all the information needed in front of your sales team (whether that is you or others in your business).

Regular reviews of the information in your CRM can give you a list of people to follow up with. That can be through personal emails, but far better if you pick up the phone and call them.

 

Can you get helpful information?

As people enter your funnel, can you get information from them that will help you? Renewal/replacement dates would be really useful to you, as would notice periods. Perhaps a short survey can get the information you are looking for, if you’re not yet talking to them.

What to do when you have a date

If you can get a date, work backwards from there based on your experience.
• If you have a renewal date, how much notice do they normally need to give?
• From the notice date, how long do people, on average, take to review a proposal and make up their mind?
• How long does it take to complete your sales process?
• Add on some time for the length of the campaign you’re planning.

This is likely to add up to a good few months, so don’t expect the sales to start quickly.

Some marketing options when you have dates

1. Automated email campaigns based on date information
2. Set tasks in your CRM to get you to pick up the phone
3. Direct mail campaigns can be highly effective, as people will keep good quality marketing collateral

This has hopefully explained the importance of timing within your marketing, and given you some ideas on what you can do to improve your marketing. If you would like to talk, or you have some questions about this, please get in touch.
• smegrowth@smeneeds.co.uk
• 020 8634 5911
• Click here to book time into my diary

Making the best use of video

By Delivering your marketing, Marketing Plan

How Business Owners Can Maximize the Impact of Video Content

According to a study by HubSpot, including video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%. Video content engages both visual and auditory senses, making it more memorable and compelling than text alone. This article is a combination of tips from video experts from with the SME Needs network, much as we did a while back with one on copywriting (you can read that here).

A few stats about video content on websites

Some useful / interesting stats:

  • Only 20% of website visitors will read a document, but 80% will watch a video.
  • 72% of customers would rather learn about a product through video
  • 84% of people say they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video
  • People stay on websites with video 5.3X longer

Figures like this make a compelling argument for you to add video content to your website.

Different types of video content

There are many ways small businesses can use video to level the playing field with big-named and deep-pocketed rivals; here’s the key ones and a reason for producing each…

Explainer videos

An explainer video is just that; a video which neatly explains your business, product or specific feature in a short, succinct package. Usually 45-90 seconds long. Click here to see an example produced by Hotwolf.

How To videos

How To content can be a great way to show your product in action – to help new / existing customers get the best out of it, or to entice new customers by showing-not-telling how easy / effective it is. There are a good set of this video type here.

Product videos

Depending on your product, you can really lift your website with individual and group videos of your products – people want to see physical products in 360. In fact, modern audiences expect it.

Testimonials

User-generated content (UGC) is the ultimate in “don’t just take our word for it” validation content. You can easily say they’re the best at XY and especially Z, but authentic comments from a real customer can do so much more to convince a potential purchaser.

Branded Content / infotainment

Who says brand content has to be boring? Creating genuinely entertaining videos, aimed squarely at your target demographic can be a great way to engage, promoting recall and putting your brand in a positive light with the right people. Give them a reason to follow you on social, or to look forward to your next output.

Influencer Videos

Using the authentic tone of voice and the existing audiences of established influencers can be a great way for an SME to reach a wider audience. We  recommend you agree beforehand any Do’s and Don’ts with the influencer / agency. Whilst you want the influencer’s authentic take (this is what you’re buying, as much as their audience), you need to be confident going in that they’re not going to denigrate your brand.

Meet the Team

Introducing the people behind the product can be a great way to humanise your brand and engender a more human engagement from your audience.

How to use your video content

As a small business owner, you can maximise the impact of video content in a number of ways. Here are some practical tips to make better use of video content:

Define Clear Objectives

Identify the specific goals you want to achieve with your video content. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or boosting sales, having clear objectives will guide your content creation process.

Know Your Audience

Understand your target audience’s preferences, interests, and challenges. Tailor your video content to resonate with their needs and preferences, ensuring that your message is relevant and engaging.

Create Compelling Storytelling

People connect with stories. Craft compelling narratives that showcase your brand’s personality, values, and unique selling points. Use storytelling techniques to create emotional connections that leave a lasting impact on your audience.

Optimise for Different Platforms

Adapt your video content for various platforms and devices. Each platform has its own specifications and audience behavior, so optimize your videos for social media, websites, and mobile devices to maximize reach and engagement.

Embrace Live Video

Leverage the power of live video to engage with your audience in real-time. Live streams on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn allow you to interact directly with viewers, answer questions, and showcase behind-the-scenes content, fostering a sense of authenticity.

Invest in Quality Production

While you don’t need Hollywood-level production, investing in good video quality is essential. Clear audio, well-lit scenes, and professional editing contribute to a polished and trustworthy image for your brand.

Implement SEO Strategies

Optimise your video content for search engines by using relevant keywords, creating descriptive titles, and writing detailed video descriptions. This will improve the discoverability of your videos and enhance your overall online presence.

Utilise Analytics

Track the performance of your video content using analytics tools. Pay attention to metrics like views, engagement, and conversion rates. Analysing these data points will provide valuable insights into what works best for your audience, allowing you to refine your future video strategies.

Encourage User-generated Content

Foster community engagement by encouraging your audience to create and share their video content related to your brand. User-generated content adds authenticity and can broaden your reach through diverse perspectives.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is key in building a strong video presence. Develop a content calendar and regularly release videos to keep your audience engaged. Whether it’s weekly updates, monthly series, or timely event coverage, a consistent schedule builds anticipation and loyalty.

By implementing these strategies, you can leverage the dynamic and engaging nature of video content to effectively connect with their audience, build brand loyalty, and achieve their business objectives.

Thank you to our contributors

Greg Stocks is an Event Videographer and you can find out more about his services at  www.peakfable.com

Matt Rook is the Founder and Managing Director at Hotwolf. You can find out more at hotwolf.co

If you would like to discuss how video content can become a core part of your marketing strategy this year, call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here to book a time directly into our diary.

How to make 2024 your best year yet

By Marketing Plan, Strategic Planning

There’s just a month to go until the year changes from ’23 to ’24 and, if you want next year to be an improvement on this one, it’s time to start planning. So, here are our 12 top tips to help you make 2024 your best year yet

Commit time to working on the business

As the owner of a small business, it is easy to get lost in the business. There’s always something you need to do for your clients, your prospects or your team. Even more so if your business is just you. However, if you don’t spend time working on the fundamentals, you’ll struggle to make 2024 any different from previous years.

Therefore, it’s essential to schedule regular time into your diary to focus on the business as a whole. Ideally this time should be away from your day-to-day responsibilities, or at least away from your phone and laptop. Remove the distractions and you’ll use your time more effectively.

Know where you are now

For 2024 to become your best year ever you need to be clear on a few things. What do you have to achieve? How is your business performing in 2023? Was that better or worse than 2022?

Go through your accounts and your CRM to get the information and then set targets for 2024 for…

  • Revenue
  • Profit
  • of leads and conversion rate
  • of clients

These are just some of the measures you can use for your targets, but you need to choose what will work best for you.

Focus on your Ideal Clients

Every business has clients they like working with and clients they don’t. We all work better and deliver better results for the clients we like (and who pay their invoices), so focus on attracting more of the clients you like.

Develop personas for these clients:

  • Who are they?
  • What is important to them?
  • How can you help them?
  • What does success look like?
  • How can you get in front of them?

If your marketing is focused on the types of clients you like working for, it will attract more of them.

Get your messaging right – it’s not about you

Building on the previous point and being blunt: Nobody cares what you do as a business. They care about how YOU can HELP THEM. If your marketing starts with the word “we” you’re heading in the wrong direction.

Your marketing must demonstrate that you understand their pains, needs and issues – and that you can deliver a solution.

Quick tests:

  • Does your website’s home page talk about your business or your target audience?
  • Is the first thing in your website menu the About Us page?
  • Does the phrase “leading provider of…” appear anywhere on your website or marketing collateral?

If you say, “yes” to any of these (unless you can prove you’re the leading provider), you’re going to alienate people you can help.

Schedule marketing into your diary

We’ve talked about the feast and famine cycle in previous articles (see one of them here) because it can happen so easily. You do some marketing, sell some stuff and then get your heads down delivering what you’ve sold. While you’re delivering no marketing is done and then you wonder why you have no more leads and sales opportunities.

So, schedule time into your diary to ensure your marketing happens. Even if you have internal marketing staff or you use someone like us, you still need to dedicate time to marketing. Outsourced providers will need things from you, such as checking new content is absolutely correct or to discuss upcoming campaigns. So will your internal team. Don’t remove this time. You wouldn’t move a sales/client meeting, so don’t move your marketing time. It’s just as important as a sales meeting.

Make more noise

If you’re converting a decent percentage of your leads, but you want to grow your business more than last year, you need to generate more leads. That means either improving your marketing performance or doing more. If you haven’t measured your marketing performance recently, there’s a great tool here.

More marketing will require a bigger investment (in time or money). However, when it leads to more growth, it’s all good.

Talk to more people

Most small businesses get a big percentage of their leads through referrals. Having a stronger network is highly likely to generate more referrals and introductions for you. BUT that doesn’t simply mean more connections on LinkedIn. This only works with a quality network, rarely with a quantity network (see point 7 here).

And, with the acceptance of Zoom/Teams since the pandemic, there’s no reason not to regularly talk to people so you can maintain and grow your network.

Respond fast

When you get a lead through your website (or other online tools), get in touch with them as fast as you can. Pick up the phone and call them within 10 minutes and you have a far better chance of converting. More stats on lead response times can be found here.

Make sure that your Contact Forms don’t go into your Junk folder. If you aren’t the lead sales person in your company, make sure that person always has their email open. If your website is integrated into your CRM, can you set up a task that tells people a new lead has come in?

Be consistent

Marketing consistency is about frequency and quality. Keeping a regular flow of good quality marketing going out the door does three things:

  • Maintains and increases brand awareness
  • Proves you know what you are talking about
  • Ensures your brand will be remembered when someone has a need for your services/product

If you do find yourself in a quiet period, use the time to create marketing content, collateral and campaigns, but don’t send it all out over a short period of time. Spread it out, so that you maintain consistency and take the pressure off when you’re busy.

Test

Try new things. Perhaps try marketing channels that you’ve not used before. Maybe send campaigns out at different times to normal. You may be getting good results now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better results by doing something different.

Keep a log of what you test, so that you know what works and what doesn’t.

Measure

The only way you’ll know if 2024 looks likely to be the best year ever is to keep measuring your performance. Your accounts will tell you whether the financial aspect is on target, but to achieve that side, you need the lead flow.

  • Are you getting enough leads?
  • Are they converting consistently?
  • Are they your target audience?
  • What marketing is most effective?

Keeping an eye on the numbers as you go through the year will allow you to adapt things if needed

Get help

As your business grows, the demands on your time will only increase. To maintain the quality all around the business, you’ll need support in the right places. If you’re a customer delivery expert, bring in back office help (marketing, accounts, admin etc.), so there are no issues in those areas. If you’re better in marketing/sales, perhaps an Operations person is what you need.

Remember, without this help things will suffer. Either your client delivery work will, leading to unhappy clients. Or your marketing will, which stops the lead flow and the growth you want.

Start the process now…

So, now is the time to act if you really want 2024 to be your best year so far. Start by working out what you want and what needs to happen to get you there. And, if we can help, call us on 020 8634 5911 or get in touch here.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Planning your small business marketing for 2024

New Year, New Start

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

Planning your small business marketing for 2024With the new calendar year just a few weeks away, you really should be thinking. Thinking about what you are going to do to make 2024 a really successful one for your small business. Maybe 2023 has been a quiet one for various reasons. Whatever happened, 2024 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 2024 a great year…

What worked in 2023?

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! We have an ROI calculator that you can download:  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 2022. Did your overall client number increase or decrease? Is it higher because you won more or lost fewer?

  • 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 2024 to hit your business goals.

Example:

  • Your business goal for 2024: 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 2024, 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 2024 than for 2023, 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 2024?  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 2024, 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

The role of a Virtual Marketing Director

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

Occasionally, we throw out a controversial statement. Partly to see if anyone notices, but mostly to see what people think. It’s time for another one, so here goes.

 

I’m not here to do your marketing!

 

My role with you is to ensure the right marketing happens and that it works. Let’s start with the Why and progress through to the How.

Why is this important?

Small businesses rarely have huge marketing budgets, if ever. That budget needs to be spent in a way that delivers the best ROI possible. That comes from having the right people doing the marketing.

In the very early stages, where money is really tight, the right person is usually the owner. They know their business inside out, but need help to work out what to say, where to say it, and when to say it.   A little further down the line, when there is budget available it makes real sense to use experts. You wouldn’t want me building you a website (I’ve tried; its not pretty!) and its a long time since I’ve spent any real time working out the best way to do paid ads on Google etc. As I know, perhaps, two journalists, you don’t want me doing your PR. Get the point?

The great thing is that I know lots of experts in their fields. Here’s just a few:

These are just a few of the people that could become involved. They bring their expertise in their specialist field to bear on your marketing, but you only pay for what you use.

Working this way gives you the best balance of expertise and budget available to you, alongside the support and guidance I bring.

How I help: 4 recurring stages

To ensure the right marketing is being done for your small business, there are 4 stages that we rotate through.

1. Measure

Knowing what is and isn’t working is vital to deliver a great marketing ROI. Put simply, if it isn’t working, stop doing it. Spend the money and invest the time doing what you know is working or trying something different.

We analyse your marketing spend, marketing activity and results to see what is and isn’t working for you.

We have a Marketing ROI Calculator you can download here if you wish to start measuring your own marketing performance.

2. Focus

You cannot sell to everyone, and you don’t want to be saying you’ll sell to anyone. Every product or service has an Ideal Client. Someone that is looking for that and will make best use of it. Whilst there will always be people asking to buy that are way outside your Ideal Client description, you don’t market to them because they will be rare.

One of the easiest ways to work this out is to think about your best client…

We work with you to map out your Ideal Client, work out what to say to them and pull together that evidence set that will be key to proving you can deliver on your promises.

3. Plan

You have targets for your business. Your marketing plan, when implemented, needs to deliver the leads you need to hit your targets. It needs to utilise the available skills within your business (saving you some money), and it needs to work, ideally, within your marketing budget (more about that here).

We work with you to develop that plan. A plan that you buy into and commit to. If you don’t buy into it, it won’t work!

4. Deliver

Once the plan is in place, it must be done. My job is to use your marketing plan and ensure that everything is done when it is supposed to be, and that you know the results. You’ll see the leads coming in and we’ll talk about the conversion rates, as the leads turn to sales. If the leads aren’t converting, we’ll work with you to work out why as well.

If we see that some things aren’t working, we’ll look at them. Did they not work because:

  • That marketing takes time, and it is too early to see
  • It wasn’t done very well
  • That it isn’t the right marketing for your business (we have to experiment sometimes)

We can then work with you to decide what to do next.

I hope this has explained what my role is and how SME Needs can help you. The important thing is that we can start helping you from just a few hours per month. As you grow and there is more marketing needed, we can do more – all the way up to the point in makes sense for you to recruit your own marketing director.

 

If you’d like to have a chat about this, call me on 020 8634 5911 or you can book something directly into my diary here.

image of a laptop and note book to support an article about the impact of lifetime customer value on your marketing budget

Are you considering Lifetime Customer Value?

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

In the fiercely competitive landscape of the UK small business market, effective allocation of marketing budgets is crucial for sustainable growth and success. While there are various factors to consider when you are planning marketing budgets, one vital aspect that often gets overlooked is the concept of Lifetime Customer Value (LCV). Understanding the LCV of your clients is essential for making informed decisions about:

  • marketing investments
  • maximising profitability, and
  • building long-term relationships with your target audience.

This article will look at why you need to consider LCV when considering your marketing budget.

Defining Lifetime Customer Value

Lifetime Customer Value refers to the projected revenue generated from a client throughout their entire relationship with a business. Instead of focusing solely on individual transactions the first-year value, LCV is about the total value a client brings over time. Think about your clients’ spend patterns:

  • How frequently do they spend with you?
  • What is the average value?
  • Over how many years do your clients keep spending with you?

By considering these factors, you can make better decisions regarding budgets going forward.

The Importance of Lifetime Customer Value

Long-Term Profitability

Understanding the LCV helps you identify high-value clients and tailor marketing efforts to acquire, retain and nurture more high value clients. By focusing on client retention, you can extend client lifespan, increase purchase frequency, and maximise revenue per client. All of which increase profitability for your business.

Efficient Resource Allocation

Effective marketing budgeting comes from allocating resources where they will have most impact. When you look at where and how to invest your marketing budget, lifetime customer value information will help guide your choices. Here’s an example:

A few years ago, we used Google Adwords (now Google Ads) as a core marketing tool. Starting on just £10 a day, and slowly increasing spend, we spent about £6,000 in the first year, generating first year revenues of about £20,000. Not bad, but not great. We knew that this small business kept its clients and so continued to use this channel. Over a 5-year period, we spent £129,000, but clients generated from this investment spent over £4.2 million, and rising.

Instead of blindly spreading resources across various channels, you can concentrate your efforts on marketing activities that yield the highest returns, improving marketing ROI.

Enhanced Client Acquisition Strategies

Knowing the LCV of your existing clients can guide your marketing. If you could confidently expect a new client to spend £100,000 over the next five years, how much would you spend on acquiring that client? If you based your marketing investment on the first-year spend (call it £20k), you are likely to make different investment decisions.

Prioritising Client Loyalty

A higher LCV often indicates a stronger client relationship and loyalty. Identifying your high LCV clients and investing in account management activities that foster loyalty contributes to your bottom line. These clients also serve as brand advocates, spreading the word for you and generating more sales opportunities.

Strategies to Increase Lifetime Customer Value

Improve Client Experience

The happier your clients are, the more they will spend over time. Providing exceptional service, personalised interactions, and timely support can foster stronger relationships and encourage your clients to remain loyal for an extended period.

Implement Effective Client Retention Programmes

What can you do to keep your clients longer? Depending on your sector, you may consider loyalty programmes, exclusive offers or VIP memberships. These programmes not only increase client satisfaction but also encourage repeat business, further increasing LCV.

Upselling and Cross-selling

Most of your clients can buy more from you. We never see situations where every client has bought every product/service a small business sells. Your current clients already know and trust you, so offering complementary products/services will both increase their LCV and, often, make it harder for them to move away from you. There’s a great article about how to do this here.

Conclusion

Lifetime Customer Value plays a critical role in guiding marketing budget decisions for small businesses in the UK. Making decisions based on individual purchases or first year revenues often mean that you are missing opportunities and not maximising growth.

If you would like to talk more about your marketing performance, call us on 020 8634 5911 or book a meeting here.

inbound or outbound marketing strategy - which is best for small businesses

What is the right marketing strategy for your small business?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

inbound or outbound marketing strategy - which is best for small businesses

Get it right and your company will sky-rocket

When we searched marketing strategies for small businesses, every article on Google’s first page actually talked about marketing tactics – the tools you can use – rather than the marketing strategies small businesses can use. Here’s our thoughts on how to choose the right marketing strategy for your small business.

What is a marketing strategy?

Oxford Dictionaries define a marketing strategy as “a plan of action designed to promote and sell a product or service.” 

Your marketing strategy is a long-term plan of action, not something that will start working within days. 

What is in a marketing strategy?

A small business (indeed any business) marketing strategy has six key components: 

  1. The product – what are you actually selling?
  2. Target audience – who are you selling your product to? 
  3. Targets – how much do you want to sell, in unit or monetary terms and time? 
  4. Competitors – who are you competing against? 
  5. Marketing activities – what marketing are you going to do? 
  6. Measurement – what are you measuring as KPIs? 

Your marketing strategy options

At the very highest level, there are just two marketing strategies: 

1. Inbound marketing strategy

An inbound marketing strategy is designed to get your target audience to come to you – the enquiries/purchases are inbound. Whilst your marketing activity is based around the needs and wants of your target audience, you have no real control of the type of enquiries that come into your small business.  

Inbound marketing is most commonly used for high volume sales, usually low value too. 

Key components of an inbound strategy include SEO, PPC and content generation. 

2. Outbound marketing strategy

This is where you identify the specific clients you want to work with and focus on getting in and generating interest and a live sales opportunity. Most often used in high value, usually B2B, markets. Outbound marketing takes longer, from starting the strategy to signing the client. The acquisition costs will be higher too, but that will be balanced against higher contract values and lifetime value. 

Key components of an outbound marketing strategy are email, trade shows, LinkedIn and content written specifically for the target. 

Most small businesses use a combination of the two. 

How to choose the right marketing strategy for your small business

It starts with your target audience

The choice of marketing strategy starts with who your target audience(s) is/are. If the sale is: 

  • Complex 
  • Involves multiple people inputting into the buying decision 
  • Involves high levels of perceived risk  

you are most likely to use an outbound marketing strategy. One that can go right down to different marketing activities for each individual target prospect.  

If you are selling a product where: 

  • Most, if not all, of the buying decision can be made by the client prior to any active engagement with you. 
  • The purchase is straightforward, perhaps even completed online, 
  • There is a low level of perceived risk 
  • Your business plan relies on high sales volumes. 

Inbound marketing is going to be the best option for you. 

Has a purchase decision been made? 

Once a decision has been made that something is needed, people start looking. Many will ask their peers for guidance/referrals, with (almost) everyone going online to find a solution and then find a product. Inbound marketing activities, such as SEO and content will help people find a solution. Content on “how to” can help your target audience find your small business. Pay Per Click (PPC) is often used to help people find the product they need, once they have worked out what that product is.  

When you target a specific client, they may not know they need what you sell yet. The research you’ve done prior to contacting them will have shown you an opportunity, but they are likely to be educated on how your product can help them to achieve a goal or resolve a problem. You cannot do this if you want the prospect to come to you, so outbound marketing would be needed here.  

What is the cost of your product?

If you are selling a low-cost product, you need to get generate high levels of brand awareness, interest and desire. You then need a sales process that enables lots of clients to buy easily. Ecommerce is a prime example here. One to many, inbound, marketing activities such as advertising, social media and SEO will give you the opportunities and the economies of scale you need. 

High-cost products, often with big profit margins, give you the marketing budget needed for outbound marketing activities.  

What marketing skills do you have?

This is something that should NOT impact your choice of marketing strategy for your small business. If you are selling a high-cost product to a complex market, your experience of running Google Ads campaigns should not come into the equation. Whilst there is a chance that you could get some leads, there may not be the ones you want or be likely to convert into sales.

If you don’t have the marketing skills you need, you need to learn them or find someone who can help you with what you need. Of course, we can help you here. 

Inbound components within an outbound marketing strategy

Once you have made contact, or at least got your brand in front of your outbound targets, you may need to use what are normally considered inbound marketing tools to support your outbound marketing.  

People will look at your small business and your products to assess whether you can help them, and whether they believe you can deliver on your claims. 

Content marketing

Generating content isn’t just about climbing the ranks on Google (other search engines are available). It needs to prove to your target audience(s) that you know what you are talking about. They want to be confident you understand them, and your business contains the knowledge and expertise they need.

Reviews

Most companies use testimonials to show what their clients think of them. Reviews, either on Google or platforms like Trustpilot are better. This is simply because you have no opportunity to change, or influence, what someone writes about you. Good volumes, regularly posted, of Google Reviews can be instrumental in helping your target audience decide you use you, instead of one of your competitors.  

Remarketing

Once someone has visited your website, remarketing can be an effective way to get them back to your site. If you’re not sure what remarketing is, have you ever looked at a product online, only for that product or brand to pop up all over your web browsing for the next few weeks?  That’s remarketing.

Choosing the right marketing strategy for your small business will dictate the return on investment (ROI) you’d get from your marketing budget and just how quickly you achieve your company targets. 

If you would like to discuss your marketing strategy options, call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here and we’ll call you back 

image of man pondering about how to market to his current clients

What is in a great marketing plan?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

Great marketing results start with a great marketing plan.

As long as that plan is implemented well and measured regularly, the leads, and then the sales, will come. So let’s look at what a great marketing plan contains…

Your targets

To succeed you need something to aim at. The best sport stars have trophies/medals they want to win; it is no different for you as a business owner. Setting a target gives you:

  • Something to aim for
  • Something to plan around
  • A way to measure how well you are doing in your financial year.

Many business owners will have a growth target – XX% more than last year – they use to determine what their target for the year is. Alternatively you may want to have a client number target.  For some reason, most IT companies want to add one new client a week. Don’t know why, but that seems to be a standard goal for that industry.

Whatever your target is, you then use it to assess how much marketing has to be done.

Target to marketing goals

Your numbers will help you identify how many sales you need to make, how many leads you need and therefore, how much marketing you need to do. By working out how much marketing you need to do, you can develop a better marketing plan.

Your target audiences

By including your target audiences, and Ideal Clients, within your marketing plan, you make sure that everyone involved knows who they are aiming at. They know who they are talking to and so will use the right language and terminology.

A plan that is talking about ‘anyone’ and ’everyone’ too much, you run the risk of generic, non-specific language. If you’ve read anything about marketing focus, you’ll know the more specific you are in your marketing messages, the more effective they will be.

You almost certainly have have multiple target audiences, you may want to alternate between audiences within your marketing plan, if budgets are limited. Of course, if your marketing budget allows you to focus on more than one audience each month, feel free.

The marketing channels you are going to use

What are you going to do and how often is the core of your marketing plan. For your marketing to be successful, it has to be consistent and coordinated. If your approach is expertise-led you may have something like this:

  • One blog a month, each looking to help your target audience with a key issue.
  • A company page post on LinkedIn each week, sharing a key point in the blog.
  • Two tweets a week, around the same topic, looking for engagement and sharing to increase your reach.
  • A set of email campaigns, aimed at the different segments within your mailing list, to maintain and increase awareness and generate leads.

If you are using other marketing channels, you must make sure they link with these too.

Who is doing what

If you don’t allocate each marketing activity to specific people, you run the risk of ‘I thought Bob/Dave/Sarah was doing it’. When everyone knows what is expected of them, they can plan their own time and make sure everything happens when it should.

It, almost, goes without saying that your team members have agreed to what has been allocated to them…

& by when

When your team know what they have to do, they also need to know when they have to have it done by. In a ideal world, your marketing is ready well ahead of time, giving you some leeway – just in case. Getting things done ahead of time also allow you the opportunity to make a change, should an opportunity arise.

Space for the results

With any plan, you do three things:

  1. Develop the plan.
  2. Implement the plan.
  3. Measure the performance of the plan.

By measuring what happens, you can make sure you remain on target to achieve, or even beat, the targets at the top of this article. If things aren’t working, you have the opportunity to make changes too. You can get a free Marketing ROI Calculator here.

These 7 parts will be in all good marketing plans.  Are they in yours?  If they are not, give us a call on 020 8634 5911 and lets talk about getting your plan better structured and working effectively.

If you would like to discuss your marketing plan, or lack thereof, give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

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 3rd January . 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 2022 went business-wise, how can you set targets and make plans for next year? Review your 2022 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 2023 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 2022. Now, what do you want to achieve in 2023? If 2022 was a good year, compared to 2021, 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 2023 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 2023, call us on 020 8634 5911 or click here and we will call you.

do you have a marketing plan

5 reasons to continue marketing in tough times

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

And 5 things you should make sure you are doing

Inflation is at a 40-year high and people are using the R-word (recession) more and more. As people and businesses consider tightening their belts, there is a chance that your sales pipeline will start to be less full than before. Prospects may start taking longer to give you an answer or may even park projects in order to reduce outgoings. This may lead to you considering cutting your marketing budget to save money. Here are 5 reasons to continue marketing in tough times.

1. You can take advantage of others cutting their marketing

When things get difficult, companies cut their marketing budgets (here’s what you should be spending, if you’re wondering). Chances are, some of your competitors will do exactly that. This means there is less noise out there. Less competition for you to compete against. Your marketing automatically becomes more effective and is far more likely to be seen by people who have never seen your brand before.

Keep an eye on what your local competitors are doing and if you see their branding less, you will know it is time to keep your marketing going.

2. You can stand out more easily

Even if your marketing messages are different to those your competitors use, they may not have been heard very much. If there is less noise out there, you have a much better chance of being seen and heard.  Share of Voice (find out more about Share of Voice here) increases typically lead to an increase in share of market.

3. You don’t want to be forgotten.

You have invested time, effort and money in building brand awareness to this point. It takes time to build a brand, but far less time for people to forget a brand. Perhaps one of the most famous (at least in marketing circles) is the Kelloggs story from the Great Depression. Kelloggs increased its advertising budget whilst the market leader at the time (Post(!)) cut theirs. Post no longer exists and Kelloggs grew 30% in four years and they have been the market leader ever since.

4. You can project stability

In a weak economy, people will look for stable companies for products and services. They want suppliers that will still be there in a few years’ time. By continuing your marketing, you give the impression (even if it isn’t quite true) that you are a stable business and so you’re more likely to get someone’s attention.

5. You can save money

Supply and demand maths says that rates drop. As advertising channels look to keep revenue coming in, they drop their prices. Trade show organisers will reduce stand costs so they don’t have empty stands. Of course, some marketing costs may increase. As buyer behaviours change, those marketing channels that meet the new needs will become more expensive.

Keep an eye on costs, and particularly cost per acquisition, as you continue your marketing.

What you must do

1. Measure your marketing performance

When times are tough, you absolutely need to know the impact of every penny you spend on marketing and advertising. We recently reduced a client’s PPC spend by 85%, without them losing any web leads. If you don’t measure your marketing performance, how do you know what to continue and what to stop? Download our Marketing Performance Calculator here.

2. Stop the hard sell

When times are tough, you may be tempted to push harder to get the sale. Pushing harder is the last thing you need to be doing, as people will react negatively.  The more you can help them in tough times, the more likely they are to buy from you when they can.

3. Review your messaging

Your current marketing messages address the needs of your clients and show how you can help. In tougher times, those needs may change and so your marketing messages may need to change too. Think about, for example, how your products or services can save people money, or reduce consumption of energy/consumables/travel – for example. Make sure that you have plenty of evidence available to visitors to your website. If you would like us to review your evidence, click here.

4. Review your budgets

If savings have to be made within the business, what other options are there? Where can savings be made that will allow you to continue marketing?

5. Review your marketing channels

The measurement of your marketing will show you where savings can be made. Savings that can be used on other marketing that can be more effective. Can you make use of channels that are becoming cheaper? Could, for example, Broadcast Video on Demand, or radio advertising be better than TV or magazines? Could direct mail make you stand out, where your emails get lost in the volume?

Turning off your marketing when times get tough is a bad idea, but it doesn’t mean you simply carry on with what you’ve been doing. These 5 steps will help you continue your marketing and make your marketing more effective as they combine with the reduced noise from your competitors making the mistake of turning their marketing down or off.

 

 

marketing budget

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.

one red tulip amongst lots of yellow to support an article about the power of different

The power of different

By Delivering your marketing, Marketing Plan

one red tulip amongst lots of yellow to support an article about the power of different

6 ways to make your small business stand out from the competition

It is rare to find a unique business. Having said that, every business is unique.

“That doesn’t make sense”, you cry. “How can businesses be unique whilst not being unique?” Let’s explain what we mean and why the power of different is important to you, as part of your marketing strategy.

Few Businesses are unique.

Doing some research as part of a proposal the other day, we found out that there are:

  • 9955 hotels in the UK (2020 figures)
  • 17,600 care homes
  • LinkedIn lists around 20,000 marketing agencies in the UK, and
  • 39,000 IT support companies

Developing, launching and making a success of a truly unique business is hard work. Every one of these businesses has customers. Some will have a lot, with others having very few. The difference between them having lots of customers and having very few is how they make themselves stand out. How they make use of their uniqueness and the differences between them and their competition.

Every Business is unique

You do things differently to your competitors. The people and their skillsets will be different too. The reasons why you set up your business will not be the same as others in your sector. Perhaps most importantly, the results you get for your clients will be different.  The question is: are you using that uniqueness and those differences effectively?

There’s lots of competition out there.

The FSB says there are 1.4 million businesses in the UK with staff. Let’s, for a moment, imagine that every one of them needs help with their tech and is looking for an IT support company. How does any one of the 39,000 we mentioned earlier make themselves stand out and be chosen by some of those 1.4 million? Let’s look at what can make you stand out and appear different (unique)… 

Don’t tell them what you are

If you’re an accountant, don’t tell them you are an accountant. If you do, they will picture you in the same way they think of all accountants. If you tell them you reduce their tax bill, or help them build their business through better financial planning, you are far more likely to get people asking for more information.Think about what they want – not what they have to do.

Talk to and about them

Talking about yourself is never attractive. People want to see that you know them, or want to get to know them. If your website has a “look at me! Aren’t I great” vibe about it, you may get lots of hits, but you will also have a very high bounce rate. People who leave your website quickly don’t buy from you – and you cannot pay the bills with Google Analytics statistics.

If all your marketing shows you understand your target audience(s) and how you can help them achieve what they want to achieve, your next visit to your Google Analytics will show high engagement levels, lots of returning visitors and great conversion rates.

Don’t make outrageous claims

You are not [insert region name]’s leading provider of [insert what you do]. Even if you are, nobody will believe you unless you can prove it.  A survey of IT support companies in London (done admittedly quite some time ago) found 53 companies who all claimed to be “London’s leading IT support company”. Who can you think of that makes outrageous claims?

Show the proof

Talking the talk is good – if you can prove you can walk the walk too!
You will have lots of stories (blogs and case studies) about how you have solved issues for clients. You will have lots of emails from clients thanking you for helping them (testimonials). Share them with your pipeline and your target audiences.

The e-commerce world has proved that testimonials/reviews/ratings are highly important in the decision making process. Your proof will show people that their peers use you – if you’re doing good work for their peers, they are much more like to believe you can do a good job for them.

Stick to your specialisms

Too many companies start to provide services, or products, that they get asked for, without thinking things through properly. A client asks if you know someone who does X. As it is slightly related to what you do, you may be tempted to say “we can do that”. If you do it, and do it badly, you run the risk of losing that client. Far better to protect your reputation and refer them to someone you know who really is an expert.

We wouldn’t dream of building a website for our clients, but we know a number of people we can highly recommend. We’ll help to get the user experience and the messaging right, but wouldn’t dream of even trying to do the tech stuff!

Share your knowledge

People want to use experts. You have a huge amount of knowledge and expertise within your business, so why not share some of that. Blogs, PR articles, webinars and speaking engagements are all opportunities for you to share your knowledge. You aren’t giving away the crown jewels when you do this; you are attracting new clients.

 

When you are in a highly competitive industry sector (aren’t they all!), you need to stand out from your competition and that’s where the power of different comes into play. Following these six suggestions will make you stand out and generate the leads you need to grow your business.

If you would like some help getting these right, give us a call or click here and we will give you a call.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

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. 

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