Four Questions to ask when considering your small business growth options

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.

Four Changes to maximise growth in 2020

image to support blog post: maximise growth in 2020 Small business marketingJanuary 1st 2020 brought not only a new year, but a new decade. The political scene is one of turmoil and this is going to impact the business environment. As a small business owner, if you want to make the most of 2020 and the new decade, here are four things to do with your marketing to maximise growth in 2020…

Don’t stop talking

When businesses start to worry, they start saving. They stop spending time and money on things they believe they can save on. Talking (or marketing) is one of them. But, when you stop talking, people are quickly forgetting what you want them to remember. We all see too many messages for everything to stick. Only the really memorable, or often repeated, will remain.

As your competitors stop talking to your target audience, you have the opportunity to make more of an impact. With, fewer voices out there, you have a better chance to being the one being listened to and being sought out for assistance.

NEED HELP KEEPING YOUR MARKETING CONSISTENT? CLICK HERE

Talk about your clients – not yourself

There are still too many businesses out there talking about themselves. They talk about how they are “the leading provider of…”, or they talk about the features (and usually complexity – because that means they are clever) of the product or service they provide. The problem here is that they are expecting the target audience to translate that into how it helps them to resolve their problems. Something they simply don’t have time to do.

Take a look at your service/product from the client’s perspective. What is it they are looking for? If you talk about things from their point of view, about how you can help them, they will “get it” faster. They will look at you positively because you’re thinking about them and they are far more likely to get in touch and talk in more detail about how you can help.

Finally, talk in the language of your clients. Using the language of jargon of your industry means you can understand what you’re saying, but you are the person who needs to understand your marketing messages. If your target audience cannot understand your messages, they won’t engage and they won’t talk to you.

Talk to the right people

With reduced investment in marketing comes reduced focus. After all, it takes less time to send, for example, an email campaign to everyone in your mailing list, than it does to segment your audience and ensure the right messages get in front of the right people. Here’s just a few thoughts…

  • Define your Ideal Client(s). The more precise you are, the better you can make the marketing messages you use. You can also use this to ensure your network knows exactly who you want to talk to.
  • Segment your emailing lists, using segment or tags. You may need to add to the data you have in order to do this.
  • Go to topic or industry-specific networking events, rather than the bigger events where you will meet anybody.
  • Consider direct mail campaigns. The higher costs of postage and printing will make you think twice about just how many people you include in the campaign. This gives you the opportunity to make your DM campaigns highly targeted. The more relevant to the reader, the more likely it is to work.

If you really want to maximise growth in 2020, the more focused you are, the better.

Show off your successes

You have delivered some great work for your clients this year. Stop for a moment and think about the projects you’ve delivered and the successes.  Your target audience want the same results, but they won’t know you can deliver those results unless you tell them.  Case studies and testimonials are great evidence that you can deliver on your promises. Add them to your website and use them in your marketing, so you’re spreading the word about just how good you are.

If you have decided to make 2020 the year you really kick start your small business, these four points are where you need to start. Of course, if you would like a hand, get in touch and we will help you maximise growth in 2020.

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

image to support blog: 12 marketing days of christmas

The 12 Marketing Days of Christmas

With Christmas on a Wednesday this year, many businesses plan to stop, or at least slow down, after 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 deluctation, 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.

How Opportunity Costs impact your Marketing

No one likes the idea of wasting time or money, especially marketers. However, no matter the industry, everything you do comes at a cost. This is why it is crucial you weigh up the pros and cons of your marketing efforts and ensure they are helping you achieve your goals in the most efficient way possible. Opportunity costs aren’t something that can be avoided. Instead, you need to learn how you and your business can best navigate through it.

But first, what is opportunity cost?

Opportunity cost is the benefit or opportunity you sacrifice when you choose an alternative option. Understanding the value of the alternative is an incredibly useful skill to have. It means your decision making is precise and done in consideration for what other options were available.

To calculate something’s opportunity cost, you need to predict the return on investment of each alternative and compare it to the chosen option. If the cost is not a concrete figure, rather an opportunity, you will need to decide which you feel will be the bring the biggest benefit long term.

So how does this affect my marketing?

The concept of opportunity cost affects your marketing strategy more than you may think. The aim of a marketing campaign is to efficiently reach a certain group of people and direct them back to a product or service that they then purchase.

What tends to happen is a company’s marketing strategy will be working, so they do not question it. However, what they don’t realise is they could be doing even better had they gone a different route. For example, say you have a successful Facebook campaign in action and that’s where all of your marketing budget is going. This means you don’t have any budget for LinkedIn marketing which would have brought you double the amount of leads.

To avoid losing out on the opportunity cost of your marketing efforts, before committing to an avenue of marketing, explore all of the options. This means looking in detail at how each alternate could benefit you both short term and long term. From there you can decide which option best aligns with your company’s goals.

If you need help understanding and navigating the opportunity costs of your current marketing strategy, give us a call. We’d be happy to walk you through it.

Cost of marketing support vs. doing it yourself

When thinking about marketing and the costs involved, you have to think about the physical cost of it as well. You have two main options. You either hire marketing support or you do the marketing yourself. These are both great options and which is best will differ from company to company. So what is best for yours?

If you’re currently doing all of your own marketing, there are a few things you may want to take into consideration. Similar to what we discussed above, could your time be better spent elsewhere? Are there more profitable things you could be doing instead of doing your own marketing? If so and these things bring in more income than what it would cost to outsource your marketing, it’s probably a smart decision to consider making the swap. That way you can be confident that you’re delivering great marketing content while having more time to dedicate to other aspects of your business.

If you have any questions about outsourced marketing and whether it’s the right fit for your company, give us a call and we’ll help you with everything you need to know.

Four ways to maximise the Brexit Opportunity

image: making the most of the brexit opportunity


It doesn’t matter where you hide, Brexit will find you. Whether you’re in business owner or consumer mode, it will impact your life going forward – whatever happens. The media coverage is split between the doomsayers and those pitching a brave new world, with much of the coverage saying businesses are sitting on their hands and aren’t prepared. Prepared for what is the question many will ask. Many businesses, including no doubt, some of your competitors, are keeping their cash close to their chest. They are not investing in their businesses and that means Brexit offers a big opportunity for you, if you are prepared to invest. Let’s look at how you can take advantage of the Brexit opportunity.

Don’t stop talking

When you stop talking, people are quickly forgetting what you want them to remember. We all see too many messages for everything to stick. Only the really memorable, or often repeated, will remain.

As your competitors stop talking to your target audience, you have the opportunity to make more of an impact. With, at least, one less competitive voice out there, you have a better chance to being the one being listened to and being sought out for assistance.

NEED HELP KEEPING YOUR MARKETING CONSISTENT? CLICK HERE

Change the Topic

There are still too many businesses out there talking about themselves. They talk about how they are “the leading provider of…”, or they talk about the features (and usually complexity – because that means they are clever) of the product or service they provide. The problem here is that they are expecting the target audience to translate that into how it helps them to resolve their problems. Something they simply don’t have time to do.

Take a look at your service/product from the client’s perspective. What is it they are looking for? If you talk about things from their point of view, about how you can help them, they will “get it” faster. They will look at you positively because you’re thinking about them and they are far more likely to get in touch and talk in more detail about how you can help.

Whilst this is something you should be doing anyway, if you are looking to take advantage of the Brexit Opportunity, have a look at the marketing messages you are putting out as part of that process,

Talk to the right people

With reduced investment in marketing comes reduced focus. After all, it takes less time to send, for example, an email campaign to everyone in your mailing list, than it does to segment your audience and ensure the right messages get in front of the right people. Here’s just a few thoughts…

  • Define your Ideal Client(s). The more precise you are, the better you can make the marketing messages you use. You can also use this to ensure your network knows exactly who you want to talk to.
  • Segment your emailing lists, using segment or tags. You may need to add to the data you have in order to do this.
  • Go to topic or industry-specific networking events, rather than the bigger events where you will meet anybody.
  • Consider direct mail campaigns. The higher costs of postage and printing will make you think twice about just how many people you include in the campaign. This gives you the opportunity to make your DM campaigns highly targeted. The more relevant to the reader, the more likely it is to work.

Prepare your Business

Nobody knows what is going to happen at the moment. The government is increasing preparation for a no-deal Brexit, but you never know (here is the British Chamber’s Brexit Checklist to help you). Whatever way the country goes, the best way you can prepare is to ensure you are maximising your pipeline. More sales opportunities usually mean more sales. More sales means more money coming into the business and that is definitely what you want to happen. Sitting on your hands (or wallet) is not a good idea. Let’s hope your competitors are doing just that and leaving the Brexit opportunity to you.

NEED A HAND GETTING YOUR MARKETING READY FOR BREXIT? CLICK HERE

How complex is your Marketing?

Why you need multiple strands to your marketing plan

do you have a marketing plan

Developing a marketing plan for your business takes time. It takes you away from generating cash through delivering for your clients. Now I’m asking you to do it multiple times! Read more

Can your marketing protect you from Brexit?

Brexit

March 29th is just 7 months away. Based on the current situation, there is no Brexit deal and it doesn’t look like there will be one anytime soon. Most experts believe the Chequers Proposal (at least in its current form) to be unworkable, so nobody really knows what is going to happen.

So how are you going to protect your business from Brexit? Can your marketing protect you from Brexit?

The simple answer is Don’t Know.

The less simple answer starts with “It depends” and it is from here that I believe you need to start.

Positive Outcome

There is a chance (you can determine how much) that Brexit won’t be a problem and we will all continue trading as we have done. If this happens, how are you going to maximise the opportunities?

Less than Positive Outcome

The simple truth is that nobody knows what is going to happen. The world isn’t going to fall apart and planes will continue to fly, so the absolutely worst thing you can do for your business at this point is baton down the hatches and pray. You need to have a plan. The question is: how do you plan for something where you have (and indeed most people have) no idea what is going to happen?

Plan for the Worst. Pray for the Best

There are many versions of this statement, with Denis Waitley adding “prepare to be surprised”. This combination of planning and hoping is certainly better it happening the other way around.  If you plan for the best and then the worst happens, you are in serious trouble.

So what does this look like for your marketing?

What does the Worst Look Like?

The worst is that all your clients leave and nobody wants to use your services, or buy your products, anymore.  This is highly unlikely to happen all at once, so here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What costs can you cut from the business to stay alive?
  2. What is the absolute minimum revenue levels you can cope with?

Now we’ve got the Armageddon questions out the way, let’s look at how you can combat a worst case scenario.

Don’t cut what everyone else does

In a recession, most companies cut the budgets on the two areas they really shouldn’t: training and marketing.

Assuming you are selling something that really isn’t a luxury, there should always be clients for you. If you cut your marketing budget, those prospective clients won’t know you exist and so cannot buy from you.  If you cut your training budget, your staff won’t have the skills to deliver on your promises. This can impact the quality of service and your ability to keep your current clients.

If Brexit does lead to a recession, it’s best that you follow the rules of marketing in a recession.

10 Brexit marketing tips:

  1. Don’t Panic: things may become difficult but if you’re careful, you will minimise the pain
  2. Cut the right costs: we’ve discussed training and marketing, but if you must cut some marketing costs, make sure they are the right ones: the costs that aren’t delivering a positive ROI. Do you know what marketing is working and what isn’t? Click here for some assistance.
  3. Keep Communicating: recessions are distracting and make people forget. If you aren’t maintaining communication with your network, clients and target audiences, they can quickly forget about you. If they forget about you, they cannot buy from you. There are huge amounts of research out there that shows those who cut spend in this area take much longer to recover.
  4. Maintain brand awareness: keep talking about what makes your business so good and the value you provide to your clients. When times are tough, value is a strong driver when prospects are considering a new supplier.
  5. Share your evidence: we all use peer reviews when considering purchases, so use this within your business. To share relevant case studies and testimonials with your prospects, you need to keep producing more evidence.
  6. Focus: convincing prospects to buy takes time and can take longer when times are tougher. If you’re chasing too wide an audience, you risk wasting lots of time on leads that will never convert. By focusing your marketing on those you can really deliver for, you maximise your marketing ROI.
  7. Keep an eye on your competitors: if they cut their marketing budget, take advantage of their mistake and keep talking. Let your target audience forget about your competitors and keep reminding them of the value you deliver.
  8. Support your channels: if you sell through resellers, help them to sell your products and services. This way, you are continuously reminding them you exist and can help their clients. They will sell more for those who help them.
  9. Build your network: if you are quieter, use that time to build for the future. Building relationships takes time, so meet new people, get to know them and help them when you can. They will return the favour.
  10. Retention generates referrals: really look after your clients and then ask them for referrals. We discussed reviews earlier and what better review is there when a client recommends you to one of their network. When is the best time to ask for a referral? Click here to find out.

If these ten tips will help you in a recession, they will help you combat Brexit. There is a real risk that Brexit will create another recession in the UK, at least for a couple of years. If it does, and you’re prepared, you can fight your way through and come out the other side.  If it doesn’t, you will be in great shape to capitalise.

We hope this helps.

Click here for help with your Brexit Marketing.

Does your marketing support your business goals?

You have goals for your business.

You may want to sell your business in five years’ time. Perhaps you want to keep growing, simply to see how big you can get. Whatever your goal, you have to have a marketing strategy that supports your business goals. Let’s look at whether your marketing will support your goals. Read more