How to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

More than 10 million blog posts are published every day! When do you next plan to add to the mountain of content out there?  As we spend a lot of time either writing content, getting content written, or checking the writing of others, we thought we would pick the brains of a number of experts we know. The aim: to help you avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing.

Our panel come from various parts of the writing world:

  • Professional content writers
  • Journalists
  • Authors
  • Public relations specialists

Between them, they’ve written millions of words, putting them in the right order to make people want to read more. Let’s now look at what they have to say…

1. Don’t forget who your audience isimage of Dr Claire Trevien

Dr Claire Trevien, a content specialist, says a common error she sees is people forgetting who their audience is. All too often she sees content that is focused on making the company look good or on details that aren’t really of interest to anyone external to the company.

You have to remember “what’s in it for them?” and make the content useful, or entertaining, or inspiring. Otherwise, why would anyone bother reading it?

2. Write what your audience wants to readimage of Chantal Cooke, PR specialist

Along a similar thread, Chantal Cooke,  from Panpathic PR, says from a PR perspective the biggest mistake she sees (again and again) is businesses focusing on what they want to say, not what journalists (or their audience) want to hear.  Yes, of course, the point of PR and creating content is to get your message out to a wider audience, but it needs to be framed and delivered in a way that people want to engage with it. Otherwise, at best, you’re wasting your time and at worst you’re irritating people and damaging your reputation. So before creating any content make sure it passes the ‘so what?’ test. In other words, if your audience will read it, shrug, and go ‘so what?’ – you’ve failed the test.

Whenever you are creating content, for any reason, about any message, ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the reader/listener/viewer? Why would they care?’ If you can answer that question, you’re well on your way to creating great content.

3. Remember the search engines too

Whilst we agree completely with both Chantal and Claire, it would be remiss of us to not mention the search engines at this point. You are producing content because you want to be found by your target audience and get them engaging with you. To do that, you have to be ranked in the search engines, so you do have to follow their guidelines too. by writing for your audience, you will meet many of their guidelines, but remember your meta descriptions, sentence length and keywords. If you have a WordPress website, Yoast is a great plugin that will really help.

Think of Google, et al, as a secondary audience, but one you do have to at least nod towards.

4. Remove the formalityimage of Nicole Johnston

Nicole Johnston is a ghost writer and writing coach. She thinks that people think that to come across ‘professional’ they need to write in formal language and use technical phrases for credibility. Nicole says the best approach with content is to write as you speak.  There are two advantages to this:

  • it builds connection and trust.  People feel as though they get to know us through our content and are therefore more likely to buy from us.
  • No-one wants to read formal or technical language.  Simple, ‘down to earth’ language will not only communicate our point better but will make us seem more accessible.

Nicole suggests that we almost need to ‘unlearn’ the academic and ‘correct’ way of writing to communicate effectively with real people.  Einstein said ‘If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.’ Nicole agrees with him.

Author and journalist, Emma Bamford,  agrees with this and says people try too hard. A lot of the time, when non-professional or less experienced writers write content, they get so worried about sounding good that they go a bit over the top and/or formal.

Emma recommends following George Orwell’s advice. In his 1946 essay “Politics in the English Language”, wrote: “Never use a long word when a short one will do.” Clarity is key; ditch the thesaurus and write in a similar way to how you would speak (but with better grammar).

Emma gave us three more errors she sees regularly:

5. Stop overusing adjectives and adverbsimage of Emma Bamford

When people write marketing copy, they often think that if they pile on the superlative adjectives, it’ll make their product seem amazing and people will be clicking the ‘Buy’ button like there’s no tomorrow. In truth, it can easily become too much, and have a ring of falsity.

Emma recommends that you:

  • Cut the adjectives and adverbs (the describing words),
  • Let the actual facts and features of the product or service do the selling.
  • Avoid overdone, meaningless descriptors such as ‘sumptuous’ like the plague. You might have used that word in copy/content, but have you ever said it out loud in conversation? I’m betting not…

Gary Adams, a financial journalist, also highlighted the use of additional, and unnecessary words. He gave a few examples:

  • Nobody has ever risen ‘down’ so why rise ‘up’?
  • You could just swap something rather than swap it ‘out’.
  • ‘Interestingly’, if you prefix a point with that word, it probably describes the exact opposite.
  • Do you expand ‘inwards’?

6. Cut out the jargonimage of Gary Adams

You spend your whole day using the jargon of your industry. You know it, you love it and your team knows exactly what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean your target audience does, however. Using too much jargon is highly likely to confuse your audience, so cut it out.  Your target audience wants to know how you can help them, not how many big words you know. For more on this topic, you should read one of last year’s blogs.

Gary supports this point and adds that the social media world has created a new type of jargon. Witness the change from investment ‘baskets’ to investment ‘buckets’ and from ‘embracing’ something to ‘leaning in’ for an example of how quickly pointless change is taken up on a global scale and how something descriptive quickly becomes a slogan, something used thoughtlessly. Endless repetition of ever-more refined phrases will steal your identity. It also dates your work.

7. Using the active voice is best

“I’m telling you – avoid the passive voice.”

“You’re being told by me to avoid the passive voice.”

Which sounds better to you? Both sentences mean the same thing, but the first version is in the active voice, and the second is in the passive. Passive adds distance between writer and reader. If you find it tricky working out if you’re writing in the passive voice, look out for tell-tale words like “being” and “by”. Check that the subject (the doer) in the sentence comes before the verb (the doing word), rather than after it.

8. Use the right wordimage of Maia Morris, journalist and sub-editor

The English language doesn’t always make this easy, with many words being very similar, but Maia Morris, a journalist and sub-editor, lists this as one of her biggest bugbears. You will be able to think of many different examples, but this is the one Maia gave:

  • To complement is to complete something, supplement it, enhance it, or bring it to perfection. For example, your accessories may complement your dress.
  • To compliment is to give praise. For example, if I were to say that you have a very nice turtle, this would be a compliment to both you and your turtle.

The mixing up of to, too and two, as well as your and you’re are frequently seen too.

9. Missing the possessive apostrophe

Maia also gave us this one. Saying it is one of Maia’s bugbears will keep her happy. If you said it was one of Maias bugbears, you would expect to face her wrath!

10. Over-use of punctuation

Maia also really hates it when she sees people over-using exclamation marks!!!!!!

11. Don’t go on too long

Shorter is almost always better, when it comes to content length. Get in, say what you want to say (clearly, cleanly and in active voice), and get out.

Brian McGee has a journalist background, is a qualified teacher and over 20 years’ experience in creating content. He gave us three tips to look out for

12. Never Deleteimage of Brian McGee

Brian says just keep writing, however much the words don’t seem right for now. You can go back and improve it in the next draft: delete, polish and craft then. Not before…

13. Remember the three sections

Brian says there is always a beginning, middle, end. It’s better still if your conclusion links back to the start of your writing, even if it’s a discreet nod. That doesn’t mean you need to draft in a linear way. You have more ideas about the conclusion after that bracing walk? Ignore the introduction and get (happily, here’s hoping) drafting.

14. Think flow

Brian’s final tip is that if the transition from one idea to another jars, record that in the draft. Seeing the shortcomings of the current version is progress too.

What have we missed?

If there are any key blogging errors we’ve missed in this list (we’re sure there are), add them as a comment below. In the same manner, if you disagree, tell us why…

To conclude

If you can avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing, it can make the difference between you wasting your time and you attracting your next big client. Writing styles and best practice changes over time, so these points may well be redundant in a few year’s time, as Gary points out above. When you’re next planning a content piece for your business, why not try some of these points. See how much of a difference it makes to the flow of the article. More importantly, look at your performance metrics in a few weeks’ time and see if there is a difference.

We hope the tips provided here will help you to improve your content generation and improve the performance of your content marketing. However, if you find that you simply don’t have time to produce the quality content you want, or you want someone to review what you have written, get in touch. Call us on 020 8634 5911 or email us on SMEgrowth@smeneeds.co.uk

5 expert ways you can benefit from your brand advocates

brand advocacy strength

Brand advocacy is the ultimate goal for small businesses that helps strengthen your competitive advantages.

Marketing has generated the lead. Sales has closed the deal and Operations has delivered a great service/product. You have a very happy client; a brand advocate. What can you do from this point to maximise the benefit your small business gets from this?  Here are 5 ways you can use the brand advocacy to your advantage… 

This is the final blog post in ‘activate fierce brand loyalty’ series.  

 “What about you and me?” 

This is what a client would ask when they consider active advocacy towards your brand. 

The answers to the questions below that relates to why a client would think of choosing you can be found in the previous blog posts: 

Through a combination of brand awareness, understanding of performance levels, strength of imagery, forming positive judgements and experiencing positive feelings, a potential B2B client feels inclined to work with you.  

They are in-sync with you and your brand.  

Your client feels a deep psychological bond with your brand and everything it represents. 

To maximise this intensely positive relationship, there are five key areas that can increase your advantages.

Ask for a testimonial 

A happy client will say great things about you and your business, but sometimes you need to nudge them just a little. 

When you talk to them, for example as a project is finished, ask for a testimonial. They can either say something during the conversation, or email something to you. Use that testimonial across your online and print marketing collateral.  

If you add the testimonial to LinkedIn or Twitter, make sure you mention them in the text (@insert name) so they get notified and either Like or comment – a further endorsement. 

If they could do their testimonial as a video, that would be even better! 

Their words, and feelings, can be tremendously powerful. 

Ask for a referral 

Who do they know who could also use your services/products? When doing this, try not to use the word anyone – it makes things surprisingly difficult. 

  • Perhaps they are connected to someone you’ve been trying to get hold off. Could they do an introduction? 
  • Be specific if you cannot identify a person. Who do they know in this role in this industry sector? Of course, this will have followed on from you researching their clients and their network. 
  • Ask for three. That way you may get one. 

Prospects who have been referred by a brand advocate become clients at a far greater rate than any other lead source. 

Invite them to Events 

Nobody likes someone that talks too much about themselves! That is just what you have to do as a

 small business when marketing yourself.  Sincerity is something highly valued when building business relationships. 

However, it is much more powerful to have a client who has built a strong relationship to represent your brand. Conversations ensue in the hustle and bustle of a lively event your hosting. 

In and amongst you speaking for and representing yourself, you would want advocates in the crowd to support your claims. Their intensely positive experience with you carries a weight you cannot replicate yourself. The marketing happens organically and likely to be received better. 

Develop a case study 

A well-built case-study goes a long way for a small business. It helps communicate a story that relates directly to an advocate’s experience with your brand.  

This is a fantastic tool to utilise an existing advocate to generate further leads. Prospects will search for answers as they require services for their business. It is second nature to Google and research. Especially when a large sum of money is in the equation relative to the size of the business. 

A case study narrative helps a prospect discern: 

  • The advocate’s original challenge 
  • How your business presented a solution 
  • How the solution was implemented practically  
  • The results, a prospect always wants to know what the end results are 

Go to networking events they go to 

Make the most out of that intensely positive relationship by frequenting network events they attend.  

The relationship will sell itself. Remember, however, this is a networking event so don’t monopolise their time. 

Both parties mutually benefit. Through prompting and suggesting one another if a conversation occurs where anything that connects to your brand or service is mentioned. 

There is an underlying trust and loyalty fostered over time between you and your advocate and your presence reminds them of the pleasant experience they have had with you. 

Looking to strengthen your brand advocacy? 

Do you need advice on how to strengthen your brand advocacy through your marketing efforts? SME Needs is ready with expert advice, planning and implementation of your specialised marketing plan. 

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

“What about you?” 

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

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

Positive brand feelings

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

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

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

The ability to create intensely positive feelings 

A brand is more than its product or service. 

A brand evokes feelings. 

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

There are the four responses your business faces:  

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

How best to handle a negative comment

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

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

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

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

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

Turning the peri-peri meter from mild to spicy 

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

  • Tips and guides 
  • Case Studies 
  • Testimonials 

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

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

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

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

Make Them Believe!

Image of the Monkees who sang I'm a Believer

It doesn’t matter whether the decision maker is the CEO/owner, a director or manager, they all have one over-arching need from you. Few will readily admit it, but it is the priority for any purchase…

To make them look good.

Most people have a boss. Whatever they do is aimed at making them look good to that boss. That is what ensures they keep their job and, maybe, even get promoted in the future. People want to be seen as good at their job. They want to feel valued and to be proud of the work they do. Much of that pride and value comes from comments made by their stakeholders – their peers, their bosses, and their reports.

Even if the decision maker is the top boss, he/she wants you to make them look good. Their investors/shareholders expect performance. Their staff expect the boss to make the best decisions. Bosses who make poor decisions either don’t last long in the job or their company doesn’t last long.

The role of marketing is to make the decision maker believe that buying from you will make them look good to the people they report to.

Your marketing is, of course, just one part of the equation:

  1. Marketing makes them believe
  2. Sales get them to sign on the dotted line
  3. Operations delivers on the promises made by Marketing & Sales

5 ways to make the buyer look good

There are, broadly speaking, five ways your business can make the buyer look good:

1. Save them money

Delivering a product or service more cheaply than their current provider is a great way to make the decision maker look good. But only if you are delivering on at least one more of these.

Saving money must always come another of these ways to make them look good. The old adage “buy cheap, buy twice” should never be mentioned when a client is talking about you.

2. Improve Performance

Whether you are marketing, and selling, a product or a service, performance improvement is another excellent way to make a buyer look good.

  • Ensuring their IT simply works
  • Increasing the traffic to, and the leads from, their website
  • Servicing the company car fleet, so they never break down
  • Training staff to increase their skills and improve their individual, or team, performance

are just a few examples.

3. Make them look good

Rather than the perception improvement, by this we mean you make them, or where they work, look good.

  • Providing great looking staff uniforms to improve customer perception
  • Supplying and installing new furniture to improve the look, and comfort, of their office.

for example.

4. Repair what is broken

Going back to the adage “buy cheap, buy twice” is often used; just make sure, if you are in this equation, you are the second purchase! Repairing something vital to their business, ideally quickly, will definitely make them look good.

5. Make them safe

Whether it is physical security issue (access control systems etc.) or cyber security (anti-malware applications), we all live in a world where security concerns are increasing. Making the business secure, particularly in this time of remote working, is a very good thing.

So how does your marketing do this?

Three Ways to Make your Target Audience Believe

1. Demonstrate you understand the issues they face

As referred to in a recent blog, all your marketing content should be about them – not about you. Make sure your website, e-brochures, whitepapers etc. all address issues they have that you can resolve for them.

Today’s decision makers don’t have time to work out whether what you sell will help them, so you need to make it abundantly clear from the moment they engage with your marketing.

2. Prove you can deliver a solution

Talk about what success looks like. The difference between what they are experiencing now and what they could be getting shows that you have experience of helping others with very similar issues. This is a key part of getting a prospect to engage with your marketing and enter your sales pipeline.

3. Back it up with evidence

Saying you can do something is one thing. Proving you can be integral in helping your prospect to become a client. Case studies and testimonials, as well as reviews on sites such as Google Local and Feefo, are highly effective. Ensure you have enough evidence to use both to get them into your sales pipeline and then to help them over the line.

If you have a new business, there is nothing wrong with a little creative license. I’m not advocating making up the evidence, but you can use your previous experience to great effect. Most people set up a new business doing what they have vast amounts of experience doing. Use that experience to demonstrate, and prove, you can deliver – at least until you can build a new set of evidence under your new brand name.

 

When your marketing makes people believe you can help them, and make them look good, they will engage and enter your sales pipeline. It’s then up to the rest of the business to deliver.

 

Need a hand? Give us a call: 020 8102 8241

Just in case you’re wondering about the choice of image, click here.

Mailchimp’s New Customer Journeys

screenshot image for Mailchimp Customer Journeys

At Last!

Customer Journeys, from Mailchimp goes live from today and will be available to all Mailchimp customers by the 7th August. It is something that we’ve been waiting for, for a very long time. Here is why.

Single Routing

Mailchimp’s products have a huge number of positives and that’s why we’re a Mailchimp Certified Partner. The Automation function meant that we could set up email campaigns, for our clients and ourselves, to go to people based on specific criteria, whether this was information in certain contact fields or Tags. But after that first email went out, Automations only gave you limited options:

  • Send the next email if they clicked
  • Send the next email X period afterwards

If you wanted to have multiple options, you had to set up multiple automations, based on the actions your contacts took from the previous email.

Single Starting Points

A single starting point also limited your options, or complicated matters as you built multiple Automations. Multiple automations increased your chances of doing something not quite right, which could upset your contacts.

As you can see from the image, that is now changing…

image showing Mailchimp Customer Journeys

Simplified Marketing

With the opportunity to use multiple triggers and multiple branches, it definitely means that email marketing will become a little simpler. I definitely see it as a time saver and it will save our clients some money, as we are not building large numbers of automations.

First Impressions

Even as a Mailchimp Partner, we haven’t got this functionality on our accounts yet; it goes live today. We will be spending quite some time looking in more detail at how Customer Journeys works and the benefits it can bring for us and for our clients. As soon as we have had a “play”, we will report back on our first impressions.

 

4 simple tips to build your brand awareness! 

simple tips to build your brand awareness! 

Activate fierce brand loyalty series – Part One 

What is brand awareness?

What is brand awareness? 

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

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

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

Why should brand awareness be something small businesses think about? 

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

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

Engage with your audience 

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with your target audience 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The importance of visible feedback!  

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

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

Reviews!  

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

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

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

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

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

Each one counts 

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

Keep it up! 

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

Repetition is key! 

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

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

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

Final Thoughts 

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

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

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

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

Maybe it’s time to upgrade your phone?  

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

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

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

The power of brand knowledge

How can small businesses utilise the power of brand knowledge?

Knowledge is Power. That’s a phrase we have many times over but how does it connect to you as a small business in an ocean of competition fighting for the same space in the minds of your target audience?  Through harnessing the power of brand knowledge, this blog answers that exact question.

This post answers it above by providing a pyramid which consists of four brand developmental building blocks that helps to positively establish your brand in the minds of your clients. 

Why is this helpful you ask?  

Each stage of this pyramid has its own rewards and merits as it helps you to build aspects of your brand which are covered below. This culminates in gaining active, loyal, and recurring clients, who also share the benefits of partnering with you to those around them. 

Brand Resonance Pyramid building blocks

Step 1 – Identity 

Firstly, we start with salience, the fundamental foundation for all the other brand building blocksSalience is the ability for a small business to build a detailed firm awareness of our business in their headsKnowledge from the perspective of a small business is in how you convey who you are to your clients. Who you are is dependent on how clients recognise you when you come to their minds.  

The biggest businesses and brands in the world all had to start with being recognisable. When we think of some of the largest B2B brands such as IBM or Adobe, the performance of their products would mean absolutely nothing if you didn’t initially recognise them! 

Once you reach the point of salience, you become a part of the mental conversation of a client that gives you the potential to gain opportunities to business growth and awareness! 

Step 2 – Meaning 

Simply being recognised isn’t enough though, once you achieve the base of brand knowledge in salience, clients then search for the meaning of your brand and consider is it matches their needs and wants.  

This can be surmised by the next question that forms in the minds of potential clients; ‘what are you?’ 

What your business isis dependent on how you meet the needs of your clients in terms of product or service performance, as well as socially and psychologically. 

One fantastic example that allows you to express the meaning of your small business is through providing case studies and testimonials. This covers both the performance and provides positive imagery of what it means to do business with you. 

Step 3 – Response 

Following this, clients will make judgements about your business and construct feelings towards your brand: 

  • They will assess the quality of the product or service; the actual quality, as well as the perceived quality based on your marketing message 
  • They will also consider the level of credibility your business has through three key criteria: the level of expertise, the amount of trustworthiness and through the extent of likeability 
  • Consequently, clients will weigh up the level of relevancy your product or service has towards their needs and wants 
  • Finally, clients will measure you against potential competitors and consider what competitive advantages you have that makes you the superior choice to select 

Clients will have formed these judgements based on the quality and likeability factors you have provided in your marketing messaging or through referrals 

You will know you have reached this stage because clients will be making enquiries, as well as increase their levels of engagement on platforms such as social media or by click-throughs on email newsletters. 

Step 4 – Relationships 

Once you show this level of knowledge through your marketing communications, you reach the pinnacle of the pyramid, brand resonance. 

This is the place all small businesses will want to reach because once you reach this stage; it activates four crucial factors: 

  • A fierce loyalty which results in recurring clients and purchases 
  • It evokes a strong attachment and trust in which they consider it a ‘special’ engagement 
  • You develop a powerful sense of community amongst your clients who feel like they are part of a business ‘family’ who share similar values and understanding 
  • Clients remain actively engaged which is the strongest form of resonance as they carry the business values and vision as an ambassador into their personal conversations and engagements, this is one of the strongest forms of word-of-mouth marketing and is viewed as sincere and authentic by those that hear of your business  

Similar to stage 3, as a small business, it will become evident you have reached resonance through seeing increased engagement from clients, but on top of this, they will carry your brand strengths and values in conversations, both online and offline if the occasion occurs where your brand is recalled or relevant to the discussion. 

What does all this mean?   

Once you have achieved all 4 stages, the relationship your clients have with you, and your brand, will both increase the frequency they refer you within their network. Furthermore, they remain a loyal client for a long time to come.

Transmitting knowledge is a key cornerstone in building a healthy flourishing business, and at SME Needs we have the rights tool, connections and listening skills to share your vision with your potential customers.

Sales and Marketing working together

image to support article about sales and marketing working together

 

As a small business, you measure your sales performance in a number of ways:

As a small business you measure your sales performance by number of sales, percentage of leads closed, percentage growth, etc…

All are valid ways to measure sales performance, but poor results may not be all the fault of the sales team. As someone who has spent most of my sales and marketing career on the marketing side, this isn’t the easiest thing to admit, but some of the issue lies with how (and if) Marketing & Sales are working together. Let’s look at the sales process to show you what I mean…

First contact

If the Sales team are calling outbound, they need to ensure they are calling the right people so, for now at least, let’s assume the first contact is an inbound enquiry…

Someone calls in and they are logged into your CRM (or other sales tracking tool), including a record of how they found you (which is a necessity for measuring market performance). They talk about why they’re calling and two things can happen:

  1. Qualified out. It may soon become clear to one party, or the other, that you cannot help them.
  2. Move further down the sales pipeline. It’s a good conversation and you both agree to at least a next step.

If this lead is qualified out, it is most likely to be Marketing’s fault (we’re assuming that the sales person isn’t brand new and not making rookie mistakes). Whether they found you via a natural search, a paid click or social media, the messages they read on your website did not accurately communicate how you help, what you do and they type of clients you work with.

In the middle of the pipeline

Some companies believe that Marketing’s role ends once the lead is created; we believe differently. Marketing’s role continues through the pipeline. It has a role in supporting the sales process:

·       Case studies need to be produced regularly to prove you deliver a consistent service/product to your clients.

·       Knowledge articles show the depth of knowledge and expertise within the business. These should be being shared with prospects, either via the sales person or through email automations triggered by new leads reaching a certain point in the pipeline.

·       Having a set of advocate clients, who are happy to talk to prospects during the latter stages of the sales process, is a joint Sales, Marketing and Account Management function. If you can get them to provide public reviews (Google, Feefo etc.), all the better.

Asking for the sale

At this point, it does become a Sales function. Marketing cannot ask for the sale, so if Sales doesn’t, there is a risk of losing the sale.

How to Maximise the Sales rate

1. Define your Ideal Client and Target Audiences

If your description of an ideal client includes the words anyone or everyone, you’re on a hiding to nothing and a lot of duff sales leads (or none at all). In the beginning, this is a conversation between the business owner and the marketing function.

Over time, the definition of an ideal client will change. Using what happened in your sales pipeline, you can fine-tune the Ideal Client definition. A teamwork approach from Marketing & Sales will ensure you are both working towards attracting the right audience.

2. Identify their pains, needs and priorities

No matter how you argue, your target audience cares not a jot about what you do. They care about how you can help them. They want what you do to help them with their priorities, deal with their needs and make their pains go away. If your marketing messages and content show how you can help them, they are far more likely to engage than if you simply talk about what you do.

3. Identify what you believe to be the best marketing channels to communicate these key messages to your target audience.

It doesn’t matter whether you really like using Facebook or Twitter, if your target audience doesn’t use them, there is no point in using those social media channels. If you are struggling to work out the right channels, we can help, or talk to your peers.

By collecting information on what marketing channels are working, you can fine-tune your choices.

4. Keep Talking to your prospects

Just because they didn’t buy from you this time doesn’t mean they won’t buy from you in the future. Even if they buy from someone else, they may want to talk again in the future, if their original choice proves to be unsuitable.

5. Get Sales & Marketing working together

If Sales are moaning about the quality of the leads, and aren’t talking to Marketing about it, they only have themselves to blame. When the Marketing team is just blaming Sales for not handling them properly, banging their heads together should help. If the leads coming in meet the definition of your Ideal Client, there are two possibilities:

  1. The Ideal Client needs to be re-defined as it isn’t quite right
  2. Sales are not following through correctly

Working together, Sales and Marketing can define and develop the right sales support materials, including timings and choice of transmission channel – digital or physical. Failure to do this weakens the ability of the Sales team to close the deal.

Everything we do is about marketing support for small businesses. If you are a small business and looking for some marketing support, simply call us on 020 8634 5911 or email us by clicking here.

4 Questions to Grow Your Small Business

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.