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Marketing Plan

What your marketing needs more than money

By Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

Three things that have the biggest impact on your marketing performance

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

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

Time

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

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

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

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

Knowledge

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

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

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

Engineer: That will be £200 please.

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

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

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

Having a plan

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

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

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

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

What should you do next?

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

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

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

 

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

how to choose the right crm image to support article

Which is the best CRM for small businesses?

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

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

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

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

Intuitiveness 

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

Functionality 

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

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

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

Adaptability 

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

Integrations 

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

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

Reporting 

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

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

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

Support 

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

Price 

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

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

Which is the best CRM for small businesses? 

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

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

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

The battleship marketing strategy

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

Play a game to sell more to your current clients

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

Remember Battleships? 

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

The marketing version.

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

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

Why you should do this. 

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

1. Stickier clients stay with you 

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

2. Easier to sell to

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

What you get from this.

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

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

If we can help, please get in touch

image to support article about where to hire a content writer

When should you hire a content writer?

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

Four questions before you hire a content writer.

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

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

How much content do you need to put out?

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

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

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

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

What is the quality of your current content?

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

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

How valuable is your time?

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

What is your budget?

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Time to starting marketing after lockdown

12 Top Tips for Marketing After Lockdown

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan

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

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

Start – if you haven’t already

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

Freshen up on old skills

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

Listen First

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

Elevator Pitches

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

Tell Stories

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

Remember to Follow Up

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

Make a plan

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

Utilise Automations

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

Update Your Case Studies

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

Need a hand measuring with your marketing planning

Click here for more tips

Capitalise on new opportunities!

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

New Digital Content

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

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

Virtual Meetings

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

In closing

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

social media

Which social media marketing platforms are best for my business?

By A Helping Hand, Customer Understanding, Marketing Plan

social media

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

Go where your ideal clients are

B2B social media effectiveness

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

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

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

1. LinkedIn

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

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

2. Twitter

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

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

3. Facebook

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

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

4. Instagram

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

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

Less is more

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

Leave your comfort zone

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

Which social media platforms are generating traffic and leads?

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

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

In closing…

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

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

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article: focus your marketing

Are you focusing on the right people?

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Marketing Plan

image to support article: focus your marketing

As we all emerge from lockdown, you need to focus

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

Who should you focus on?

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

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

Easiest to impress

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

Easiest to get to

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

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

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

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

Want some help focusing your marketing?

 

How much should a small business spend on marketing?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

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

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

How to work out what you should spend

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

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

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

How much did you spend on marketing last year?

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

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

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

How much of that spend delivered a good ROI?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long is your usual sales cycle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Rule of Thumb

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

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

The B2B Marketing I refer to is here.

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

4 Questions to Grow Your Small Business

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

Which Box?

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

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

 

The matrix has four boxes:

1.       Market penetration = Existing markets buying current products

2.       Product development = Existing markets buying new products

3.       Market development = New markets buying current products

4.       Diversification = New markets buying new products

Where are you now?

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

Moving boxes as a small business growth strategy

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

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

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

2. Are your competitors dominant in your existing markets?

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

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

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

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

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

4. Can you properly serve additional markets?

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

The route through the boxes

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

Product or Market Development?

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

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

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

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

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Plan

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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