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Small Business Marketing

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14 effective business marketing tools

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

There are a variety of business marketing tools you’ll come across (and have advertised to you) when looking for ways to boost your marketing. They range from free to as much as you can spend, giving you plenty of choice. This decision may seem insignificant, but it couldn’t be more important. The wrong tools will have you pulling your hair out before lunch.

So here are our picks for the best business marketing tools.

Mailchimp

One of the most popular for small businesses, Mailchimp is almost an essential for starting out in marketing. Mailchimp quickly and intuitively acts as your virtual assistant, from designing email campaigns, tracking customers’ habits, statistical analysis and compatible with most other tools you really can’t go wrong.

We have been using MailChimp for years and are now a partner.

Mailchimp offers a free version for up to 2000 contacts.

If you need more than this, subscriptions start at £11 a month.

Hootsuite

An absolute necessity if social media is part of your marketing plan. Hootsuite’s primary function is to schedule and design social posts. Making social media a morning’s work rather than a constant at the top of every day’s to-do-list. Plan your marketing strategies in advance and then sit back as Hootsuite posts them for you at the optimal time, no matter what else you have going on.

Subscriptions start at £39 a month (one user)

Canva

A slightly more specialised tool than the rest on this list, but a really useful one. Designing your professional documents and social media posts is time-consuming and difficult to maintain consistency and quality. Canva lets you design posts and documents with ease. Fully customizable templates for all your content. Create your perfect Canva by saving your brand colours and design features.

Canva has a free membership option (that works very well).

HubSpot

More and more of our clients are turning to HubSpot. A customer relationship management system (CRM) that can not only keep track of your emails, clients and customers but actively manages them. Automated email responses and work flows, marketing reports and metrics, integrated forms and links to landing pages. This is a one stop shop for all your marketing needs.

HubSpot offers it CRM for free, this lets you get to grips with it and is very useful.

It’s marketing and sales hubs are ad-ons that cost around £40 a month each for a starting package.

CANDDi

Website analytics are crucial to your marketing success. When deciding which tools to use, make sure you get on that tells you WHO is coming to your website. CANDDi helps you track traffic on your website and lets you know who they are, where they came from, what they looked at and for how long.

This is exceptionally helpful for getting an idea of what is and isn’t working and the kinds of people you’re attracting to your website.

CANDDi starts at £149 a month.

WordPress

WordPress is the world’s leading website building platform. If you’re serious about growing your business and need an easy and intuitive system to help you run and update it, this is the tool for you. Make your own templates for blogs and news. Set out your website exactly the way you want it or hire someone else to set it up and you manage it.

WordPress allows you to create a website for free or £20 a month for a small business subscription.

EventBrite

Eventbrite is an events marketing platform. Easy to use and semi-autonomous it helps bring people to your events with automated reminder emails, links and is compatible with a variety of other tools.

Eventbrite is free to use and then takes a percentage of ticket sales £0.49 + 6.5%(+20% UK VAT) for the professional package.

Don’t charge for tickets, don’t pay fees.

Zoom/Teams

You’re probably familiar with these, but there are many ways to use them. Hosting webinars and podcasts can help grow your audience and increase exposure. They are also great at keeping in contact with clients and international meetings. ZoomInfo is a database that allows you access to all those who have paid zoom accounts whose details you can use in your marketing.

Zoom has a free membership or a small business one for £159.90 a year.

Teams has a free membership (with limited options), or is included with Microsoft 365 which starts at £3.80 per user per month. You cannot purchase teams separately.

YouTube

A highly influential advertising platform, make videos yourself and gain a following or pay to have your adverts on other peoples’. This platform has the added value of high traffic and exposure.

YouTube is free to set up and upload content.

YouTube adverts cost as much or little as you want with daily budgets.

LinkedIn

A business centered social media platform, LinkedIn has immense reach within the business community. A great way to organically grow your following and connect with other like-minded people and potential clients. LinkedIn gives you industries insight, salary insights and much more with a professional business dashboard.

LinkedIn has a free membership that allows you to connect with others.

LinkedIn business membership starts at £39.90 a month.

Google Analytics

The first place to go when looking for information on your website traffic. Track customers and their habits across your site and gain insight into how to better market and sell.

Google analytics is free to use.

Business cards

A physical item may seem out of place on this list, but business cards are still effective business marketing tools. Business cards have been updated and now they can transfer data and information just by being in others vicinity. A great way to keep hold of useful contacts on one small card.

Standard business cards start around £12.57 for 100

Modern data transfer cards start at around £40

Coffee/Beer

Networking is one of the best marketing tools and sometimes it is still done best in person. Social events provide the perfect opportunity to get to know others and their strengths. You could find your perfect client or new employee in the length of a pint.

Your Network

Your network should be your greatest advocates and business marketing tools. When you have done excellent work for someone, be sure to capitalise. Ask for a testimonial to use in your marketing or see if they would recommend you to others. Word of mouth creates a more lasting brand impression.

If you would like to talk through what combination of online tools and marketing support would work for you, give us a call.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

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

women writing a blog on her laptop - image supporting blog on how often should I write blogs

How often should I write blogs

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning

women writing a blog on her laptopAll good articles end with an ‘it depends’. So I will put mine at the beginning so you can make the right inferences for your company as you read through. Rather than giving you a prescriptive answer to the question “How often should I write blogs?”, let’s break it down into 6 questions that will give you an answer.

Question 1. Who do I want to read my blog?

Writing a blog is one thing, writing a purpose-filled blog is another. If you want your blog to bring in new people then the goal is reaching as many people as possible within your target market. This creates a need for more blog postings as growing an audience requires many blogs on different subjects and aspects of business.

If instead, you are writing for a group of people who you think will read most of the content you put out then you want to avoid ‘bombarding’ them with content and keep the blogs less frequent but in greater depth about specifics.

Question 2. How are they going to find my blog?

There are many ways people can find your blogs, but a search engine algorithm is the most common for new traffic. Assuming you want yours to be found by those most likely to possess a sympathetic ear, it is important to know how to make your work appear before your competitors. SEO (search engine optimization) is greatly helped by blogs and their content. New content is favoured as most people looking for information want the most recent accounts possible, this favours a high output of blog posts to always have something new.

Depending on the length of time your business has been releasing blogs however it may be that you have an awful lot of content already out there, but it is ageing and becoming obsolete. Updating your posts can be just as important and if you are a smaller team a lot more viable than writing new ones every day.

If people are coming across your content regularly then it is fair to assume they are interested in your business and have looked at your website (which you should link in your blogs). Make sure to have an obvious opt-in for email updates that will allow you to collect data on your readership and produce much more targeted marketing. Email campaigns are a sure way to reach people that have already found you, but for maximum exposure, it’s a good idea to diversify your content platforms. Social media is a real powerhouse when it comes to locating information, insure any posts about your blogs have the relevant hashtags to your sector and interests. This gives people the most chance of finding you.

Question 3. What should be in my blog?

When deciding what to write in your blog posts keep in mind that it is not what you want to write about but rather what your audience will want to read about. What sector you’re in, how you’ve segmented your market and what you are trying to achieve with your blog are large determining factors. If you are trying to entice your reader to purchase a product or service then the blog should lean towards the shortcomings of life without it. Avoid making sales to obvious, readers are aware there might be underlying reasons for the blog’s existence but it should remain an enjoyable and informative read none-the-less. ‘Bigging up’ your company and achievements is important just ensure it doesn’t sound like bragging or like you are overtly trying to sell something.

Question 4. What do I want my audience to do with the information?

So you have people reading your blogs – great, now what? It might be that your objective is complete already, they read it.  Releasing lots of blog posts can help accelerate brand awareness as the more content available the more chance of people finding it and remembering your brand. Interested readers alone often aren’t enough for small business though, they must create sales leads. This is the tricky part, if you create content on too large a variety of topics it might look like your business isn’t specialised enough, too little and you look unprofessional.  

 

Question 5. What does my content strategy say?

Blogs fall under the marketing umbrella and so it is a good idea to include them in your marketing strategy. This should be an in-detail plan of what is going where and when. Getting inspired by a blog on how often you should post and sticking to it, are very different. Remember when it comes to blog writing, consistency is key. Small businesses are often advised to release 16 blogs a month. This keeps them relevant while not taking up too much time (and budget) for the value they provide. Only you know how much of your business is dependent on blog generated leads so only you can know how much time to dedicate to them. 

Keep in mind all content strategies differ based on a few guiding factors, the size of your company being the first. Larger companies are likely to have better and longer relationships with clients and customers, this means their focus shifts towards fewer blogs in much greater detail. Your sector matters as well, some companies are a lot less dependent on a consistent stream of leads. One or two large clients may be all a small firm can provide for, reducing the amount of content they need to put out. 

Your content strategy should also outline whether you have an inbound (people coming to you) or outbound (you going to others) strategy. Inbound strategies require a greater amount of content as you will need to capture the most amount of interested people as possible. Outbound strategies require less content to avoid a ‘spam’ look and therefore require more careful drafting and a greater sense of quality.

Quality and quantity are often seen as an either-or, but for blog writing each company needs to strike its own balance. No matter what company you are, producing such high-level blogs that mean they are always in development, running overtime or missing the boat on time-sensitive topics are no good. Quantity is of course no good either without sufficient quality. As I said previously each company must find its own balance but a good test is to have someone else read your blog and tell you if what they think of it. If they report what you intended, the blog is finished.

Question 6. What are my resources?

The danger for lots of small businesses is picking a number of blogs to write a week while the pipeline is relatively quiet and then being overwhelmed by work the next week and therefore no content is released. If you are a small or even solo team then overpromising or overstretching yourself/s will only see your level of stress go up and eventually productivity will go down. 

The simple answer to the question “how often should I write blogs” is: the correct number of blogs to put out is the number that you can sustain over a long period. If you are too busy to do this, outsourcing your content creation as you grow is a great way to make sure your content strategy doesn’t fall by the wayside during busy periods.

 

At SME Needs, we’ve been crafting bespoke content strategies for our clients for years. If you’re one of the many businesses with too little time or knowledge to create your own, and without the budget to hire a full-time marketing executive, give us, your virtual marketing director, a call on 020 8634 5911 or click here.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article about free ways to market your small business

4 free ways to market your business online

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing

image to support article about free ways to market your small business
There’s a saying that nothing in life is free, which is likely the creation of some, witty marketing executive. However, the possibilities available to businesses in digital marketing, might just be the exception to the rule. Where offline marketing is notoriously costly, digital marketing has lots of opportunities to grow your audience and generate fresh leads.

Well, it’s not exactly “free”, since you have to spend time, rather than money, to make these strategies effective. However, for small businesses with a limited budget, but a lot of drive in their team, this approach can yield fantastic results.

First things first

Before diving headfirst into the digital water, you want to have a few questions in mind:

  1. Who’s your target audience?
    You might create a bold and edgy Instagram campaign, but if your target audience is mostly on LinkedIn, you could be investing your time more wisely. Look at your ideal client (or ideal clients);  what’s their demographic, pain points, their interests? Use this insight to focus your efforts on the places you know your ideal clients are likely to look.
  2. What do you want to get out of this?
    There’s not one way to measure the success of a marketing campaign. If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, then reach, engagement and traffic are the metrics you want to look for. However, if for B2B companies, you’re more likely to measure success by conversions. If the latter is your aim, then don’t fall for the trap of chasing engagement when it doesn’t lead to an increase in sales.

Keep both of these in mind all the time while following through on your digital marketing plan. Time is money, and if you want to make the most out of what you invest, you need to be selective. Now lets look at some of the free ways to market your business online.

Virtual networking

Networking is still the bread and butter of B2B marketing. Luckily (since we can’t leave our houses right now) there’s plenty of ways to network online. The usual trade shows and events are, for the most part, still taking place, albeit online rather than at a conference centre in Stoke (at least you can save on the train fare).

There’s also LinkedIn, which has become an indispensable tool in the world of B2B marketing. LinkedIn’s adjustable search tools make it very easy to find prospects by profession, role and location. Make the sure you follow up connections with a message, explaining why you’ve added them. Use the opportunity to create fewer, deeper connections, rather than casting a wide net.

Email marketing

Email marketing might be considered old hat, but it’s still the most reliable source of leads of B2Bs. If you’re not already making use of email marketing then you should be. If you are, find out how you can increase your performance by 50%. Even if you’re not making sales short term, having the name of your business at the top of your ideal clients’ inbox is a good way stay in their mind when the next spending cycle comes around.

Social media marketing

We’ve already talked about networking on LinkedIn, but that’s not the only free marketing opportunity it offers. If you are willing to spend a little bit of money, then LinkedIn Premium’s Sales Navigator is a great way of directly marketing to prospects. You should also build a professional looking business page, then like, comment and engage as your business. LinkedIn’s algorithms reward time spent and the variety of features you use.

The same goes for Facebook and Instagram. An active and responsive business account will be more visible than ones those that are infrequently used. Plus, posting regular content and replying to comments is a nice way of building an audience into a community. But remember that community doesn’t always equal customers, so do your research by creating a company page on every social media platform going.

Content marketing

Content marketing is another free way to generate interest, while also demonstrating expertise in your industry. The conventional way of doing this is via a blog, either on your own website or on a free blog site like Blogger. Putting out free content is a good way to appear generous and benevolent, while subtly prompting your readers to make contact or add their email to your mailing list.

But in the 2020s there’s far more options out there. Videos are a great way to capture people’s attention and also give a human face to your company. Almost all social media channels now support some sort of video feature and they’re simple enough to feature on your website. Anyone can do it!

Time is moneyfree online analytics tools

Once you’ve tried a few free online marketing strategies, it’s worth using analytics tools to assess which ones are working the best. Free tools like Google Analytics can trace the original source of your website traffic if that’s your marketing goal. Likewise, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have built in analytics tools to show you which of your posts are getting the most engagement and clicks. Time is money, so it’s economical do more of what works and cut out what doesn’t.

To conclude…

I hope this post has given you plenty of free and potentially lucrative free ways to market your business online. Before setting out remember to keep in mind your target audience and your goal. It pays (in time spent on trial and error) to do your research first. Try a couple of strategies and platforms, look at what the data tells you and narrow it down until your generating the most leads per hour spent online marketing as possible.

If you would like to skip the trial and error and cut straight to the chase, you can use our years of digital experience. Call us now

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Ideal Client

How many Ideal Clients do you have?

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Small Business Marketing

Ideal Client

The “Ideal Client” is a phrase used a lot in business. It refers to that archetypical business that: generates revenue; is the right size for your business; is easy to communicate with; and fits well with your own company culture. It’s the map of a theoretical perfect client against which to measure your real prospects. It’s important to know what your Ideal Client looks like so you can spot them when they appear. The term is a bit misleading, however. Most businesses don’t have an Ideal Client, but rather Ideal Clients.

Unless you’re just starting out it’s unlikely you’ll have just one. The Ideal Client is an essential term in B2B marketing, so it’s well worth keeping in mind when looking for new clients, as well as when dealing with your current clients.

Why do you need to map an Ideal Client?

image to support article about ideal clients

Think back to you last networking event (in person or virtual), how many people did you hear say: “I want to talk to anybody who owns a car (for example).” It happens all the time, even though it’s clearly not the most effective way to go. Think how much more effective the speakers pitch would be if they said: “I want to talk to people with old, petrol car, with bad mileage, in the Croydon area, looking to upgrade to something more fuel efficient.” The fewer people in the room this applies to are suddenly listening.

The scatter-gun approach is never going to work. At best it’s bland and impersonal, at worst it’s white noise in the background while your potential clients tune out. You want to focus on the clients with the need, means and intent to buy. It makes sense. Every pound spent marketing to this ideal audience will have a much better return on investment than a campaign targeting everyone with a car.

Picture it like this. Since your marketing budget is finite, it’s as though it’s being split between everyone in your target market. If your budget is £10,000 an your target market is 60 million, that’s not going to get you very much traction. The more you focus your marketing down to your Ideal Clients, the more likely you are to sell.

Why would you need more than one ideal client?

Unless you’re in your first year of trading, it’s unlikely that you only have one Ideal Client. If you sell to different regions, or several products or services, it’s savvy to map out several Ideal Clients. The following are a few reasons you might want to do that and how.

1. Your products or services are used in different industry sectors

You might only sell one product or service. Still, the way that product or service is used and the result it delivers might vary from sector to sector. The product or service stays the same, but the way you talk about it will be different depending on the sector it’s marketed in.

The Ideal Client Grid

Product/IndustryProduct #1Product #2Product #3Product #4Product #5
Industry #1ABCDE
Industry #2FGHI
Industry #3JKL
Industry #4MNOP

To summarise, if your product is:

  • Bought by the same decision maker,
  • delivering the same results,
  • used in the same way (even in multiple industries)…

Then it’s the same Ideal Client. Likewise, if more than one product is bought by the same decision maker in the same industry, it’s probably just the one Ideal Client.

2. You’re expanding your portfolio

If you’re adding a new product or service, it’s highly likely you will have at least one additional Ideal Client. This is simply because your new product (not including an upgrade of an original product) will deliver something new. It will solve new issues and problems. This may help your existing client base or it may address a completely new one. You need to map this out in order to identify the right marketing mix for each.

3. You’re targeting a new industry sector

Pain points in different industry sectors that purchase your product or service are unlikely to be totally distinct. There may be some overlap in the issues faced by a charity and a law firm, for example. But you wouldn’t use the same language or marketing mix to target both. Each time you look to specifically target a new industry sector, you have yourself a new Ideal Client.

Are your current clients ideal clients?

The idea of turning away potential clients seems to go against common sense, but in the long run, it can pay to be picky. Taking on all willing clients is a quick fix business plan that could lose you money in the long run. There are several possible disadvantages to taking on less-than-ideal clients:

  • They might be unwilling or unable to purchase more products/services from you.
  • Or they might be too big for your business to cope with.
  • They could be too small to be worth your time.
  • Perhaps they’re difficult to deal with.
  • They might not be the kind of business you want to be associated with.
  • Are they stagnant or declining?
  • Maybe they’re not turning a profit.

While these companies might be happy to give you their money, they could end up costing you more down the road. This also applies to your existing clients. Businesses that have been with you for a long time might no longer reflect your Ideal Client. If you have a number of current clients that don’t fit you Ideal Client description, you need to work out what’s the best thing to do. More on this in a little while.

What are your options with non-ideal clients?

As for your existing customers, what are your options if you find that not all of them fit your Ideal Client profiles?

  1. Bin them: A drastic option especially if this is the majority of your current clients.
  2. Keep them: If they are profitable, there’s no need to terminate their contracts.
  3. Add a new Ideal Client to your portfolio: If you have a number of clients that are very similar. In other words, using the same products in the same ways, this may be another profitable target audience.

The number of Ideal Clients you have determines the complexity of your marketing. The more you have, the more marketing you have to do to successfully target them and deliver sales. Most small businesses have 2 to 5. The most we’ve seen is 20, but that was a business selling internationally, with offices on three continents.

To conclude…

Only you know the answer to how many Ideal Clients you should have. It all depends on the size, variety and location of your business. What’s most important is having a clear picture of your Ideal Clients, so you can spot them when they appear. The better you get to know your Ideal Clients, the more chance you have to make lasting connections with businesses on the same, profitable, trajectory as your own.

If you would like help mapping your Ideal Clients and tailoring your marketing mix to them, give us a call on 020 8634 5911, or click here.

 

image to support article on how to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

How to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

By A Helping Hand, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

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

Positive brand feelings

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

By Customer Understanding, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

“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. 

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what does your brand mean to your target audience

What does your brand mean to your target audience?

By A Helping Hand, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

What does your brand mean to your target audience?

This is the second part of our ‘Activate Fierce Brand Loyalty’ blog post series. The first of which helps your brand to develop an awareness with your target audience.

This blog post follows on from the development of building awareness through your client asking,

“What are you?”

what does your brand mean to your target audience

How can you differentiate yourself from your competition?

The concept of brand development is to be able to differentiate yourself from your competition. One of the pitfalls small businesses may fall into is focusing on promoting their service or product only. Your competition will be doing the exact same thing.

This becomes confusing for your potential client who is hearing the same thing from multiple businesses. Whether that potential client is in your local area or finds you through online searches and research.

This blog post provides guidelines to help develop a meaning to your target audience. This helps you to stand out from the crowd of business that provide similar services.

Once your target audience is aware of you, they feel inclined to learn more about you. There are two vital factors that communicate what your brand means to your target audience.

  1. Performance

What can you do to meet your target audience’s needs?

Five performance based categories meet the needs of your target audience:

  • Characteristics and features
  • Reliability
  • Durability or duration
  • Serviceability (effectiveness and efficiency)
  • Design and price

Potential clients will want to build on their awareness of your brand by trying to figure out important questions that define what you mean to them.

An example could be, ‘How effective will SME Needs strategic marketing plan be for my business in the short-term and long-term?’

Apply this line of questioning to your own business.

What factors of performance distinguish the service you provide for your target audience?

  • How much more could I get done to grow my business if I entrust all my IT requirements to this business?
  • In terms of efficiency, how productive can my project be if I engage with this consultancy firm?
  • How cost effective would it be to invest in this specialised equipment and how long will it run smoothly for?

2. Imagery

If your brand was a human, how would you be perceived?

Small businesses have personality in abundance!

This is something that you should capitalise in the way you communicate your brand’s image. This creates positive and strong associations and perceptions of your brand in the mind of the client.

Your target audience will form an image of you from their personal experiences with you, through targeted marketing or through word-of-mouth. As a small business, much of what image they will have of the brand will be associated with the personality traits of the owner.

Are you sincere and friendly? Spirited and imaginative? Or maybe you are reliable and hard-working?

As a small business, inject your brand culture into everything, from your logo, to your website, to the way you present yourself in meetings or at networking events.

At any touch-point with a potential or existing client, you should aim to have a consistent image you communicate. It is important to maintain your image and personality in both an online and offline setting.

An image is built over time. Therefore, it is about consistency in the way you push your brand’s meaning in your marketing message and communications.

Once you develop a positive brand image, the key values of your business will be reflected in the mind of the target client.

Your marketing communications and messaging transmits your key values.  This applies to both a physical and digital setting.

An example could be SME Needs reflecting trustworthiness through meetings that are personal and specific to understand your business needs to develop a tailored marketing plan.

Overview

Through a combination of performance and imagery, you enhance the meaning you have to potential or existing clients.

This then helps to secure a sale or a deal as the client understands how you meet their needs and also develop a strong sense of the values and personality your brand has communicated to them.

If you want to learn further how you can identify and improve your marketing performance and build a positive brand image, SME Needs is ready to support you and is only one click-away.

SME Needs is a Mailchimp Partner

Mailchimp’s New Customer Journeys

By A Helping Hand, Deliver, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning, Technology & your businessNo Comments

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.

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Develop strong brand awareness

4 simple tips to build your brand awareness! 

By Customer Understanding, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

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. 

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image to support article about sales and marketing working together

Sales and Marketing working together

By Marketing Performance, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

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.

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 PlanningNo Comments

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.

graph showing the number of steps to marketing success

How many steps to marketing success?

By A Helping Hand, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

Every marketing consultant worth their salt has, at one time or another, published a “X Steps to Marketing Glory” style post. SME Needs certainly has, with our first one being “Effective Referral Generation – a few simple steps” and the most recent being “How to maximise the ROI from exhibiting at a trade show”.

What we’ve never done is an over-arching “X Steps to Marketing Success” guide. Many others have and it led us to wonder just how many steps it really took to generate marketing success – so we checked.

It’s at least three!

graph showing the number of steps to marketing success

The graph above is the number of steps recommended by the first 100 search results for the term “Steps to marketing success”.

It seems that there marketing industry says there are, on average 7.093 steps needed to deliver marketing success. Seven is the median (middle) number and 5 the mode (most popular).

The good news is that nobody thought it was really, really simple.  Nobody suggested that there is only one, or even two steps needed. However, 8 articles suggested it is as simple as 1,2,3.

Why So Few?

With the average being 7.093 steps, it got me thinking: Why is the number so few? Surely that suggests that getting your marketing right is simple, you’re unlikely to need a marketing consultant to help.

My theory is this:

A few steps makes it sound cheaper!

Let me explain my theory.

Most small business owners and directors know where their skills lie. They also know just how much money there is in the business and what they are prepared to invest. If they see an article that suggests 7.093 steps to get the marketing success they want, they will read it. They will recognise that there are a number of steps they cannot do and so will consider investing some money into getting those steps done.

If they saw an article titled “87 Steps to Marketing Success”, would they still feel the same? I doubt it.

Where do we sit on this?

As mentioned earlier, we’ve never done a “X steps to Marketing Success” blog, so there won’t be a number at the end of this sentence. What we see is that the number will be different for everyone – and it will be many more than 7.093. This is particularly true for small businesses that have done little or new active and consistent marketing for some time.

However, the results of a multi-stage marketing programme that has been thought out carefully and is delivered consistently will be impressive. It will take time, but it will deliver.

If you need someone to talk your marketing strategy through with, give us a call on 020 8634 5911, or click here.

8 things we learned from the Brighton SEO conference

8 things we learned from the Brighton SEO Conference

By Small Business MarketingNo Comments

Brighton SEO Conference image of giveaways

(see the last lesson for an explanation of the images)

8 SEO Lessons learnt or compounded

I went to the Brighton SEO Conference for the first time in 2019. Why? Two reasons: firstly to learn more about the “dark art” of SEO, and secondly because Mailchimp invited me. As a Mailchimp Partner, I like to keep that relationship running smoothly so that I can get the support my clients need.

So what are the SEO lessons learnt?

1. Misplacing Budgets

Many businesses, particularly bigger businesses, allocate budgets in the wrong way.  They will spend too much on production (specifically video). They spend too much on distribution and not enough on getting the right idea in the first place.

The traditional approach of expecting the agency pitching to have developed the ideas as part of their pitch no longer works. Target audiences are getting smaller as specific needs and wants are getting more and more personalised. The ideas that worked when advertising on TV (and newspapers) were key no longer work because of the diverse spread of communication channels today.

2. Integrating SEO into the business is a good idea

SEO is often considered to be a small tactic within the marketing of a business. It’s therefore of little concern to anyone outside the Marketing department. However, there are a number of ways that, by working together, the whole company can improve performance:

  • Naming of products should consider what the customer will consider to be the key feature(s), helping them to appear when customers search.
  • If marketing collateral is written by different people to the SEO team, they should work together to use complementary language
  • The Sales team can feedback the questions being asked by prospects during sales meetings, so it can be included in content.

3. Answer when your customers ask a question

Are you making it easy for customers to ask questions of you? Also, are you going to where they may be asking the questions? Sites such as Quora give you a great opportunity to identify the questions people want answers to.  You can then answer them on the platform, but more importantly, develop content that will answer the questions and shoot you up the rankings.

4. Look at intent within the sales cycle

Your content should help people throughout the sales cycle.  The content people see on your site when they are first researching a topic should not be the same as when they are actively buying. When aiming to educate through your content, you shouldn’t be selling.

5. Look at People Also Ask

Have you noticed when you type a question into the search bar, there are two things that appear:

  1. Featured snippet: what Google thinks is a very good answer to your question.
  2. People Also Ask: slight variations on the question and an answer to that question.

The People Also Ask section can be a great way of getting to the top of the search rankings,  often much faster than you can get onto page one for the normal rankings.

6. Don’t start a podcast unless you are really interested in the topic

Most podcasters don’t get past Episode 7. This is simply because they lose interest in the topic and that means they won’t do the work needed to produce a podcast that will deliver.

7. There are three key requirements when pitching an idea

If you want a client, or the boss, to authorise a project or campaign, there are three key requirements:

  1. Help them to justify the spend
  2. Prove the impact on the business this will bring
  3. Ensure it makes them look good

The last is almost certainly the result of the first.

8.  Only produce useful promotional merchandise that people will keep using.

As with any conference, every company was giving out goodies. These were either in the conference bag given to you at the door, or were given out when you went to a company’s stand. Which of the two in the header image do you think I will use more?

Which of these SEO lessons are you going to put into practice?

I hope this helps

 

image: make the best start to 2019 with our small business marketing tips

8 Small Business Marketing Tips to make a great start to 2019

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

image: make the best start to 2019 with our small business marketing tips2019 has begun. Are you ready to take it by the scruff of the neck and make it your best year ever? Here’s a few small business marketing tips to help you make the most of this year.

1. Know what works for you

The first of our small business marketing tips is probably the one we see more companies in need of that anything else. Your time and money are valuable. If you’re spending either on marketing activities that aren’t generating leads for your business, you are wasting that money. Finding out is one of the quickest ways to improve your bottom line, because you stop spending on activities that don’t work and spend it on those that do. Here’s some numbers you should be looking at.

2. Focus on your Perfect Client

No single company in the world tries to sell to everyone. For every product or service they provide, they have a picture of who will buy it and why. Do you have this to help focus your marketing?

By focusing on your Ideal Client, you think about:

  • What are the issues they have that you can help with
  • How you can help them
  • Why they should buy from you
  • What you need to say to them in order to get them to buy from you

The more you focus, the more you will get the people you want to talk to.

3. Be consistent

Unless you have a real niche focus, there are lots of people out there doing what you do. There are certainly lots of marketing consultants. To ensure that people remember you for when they need your services, you need to maintain a consistent level of marketing activity. Otherwise people will quickly forget you in the cloud of messaging they are exposed to every day.

That doesn’t mean you have to communicate every day. Maintain a level of consistency that you are able to, and one that is most likely to work with your target audience. If people consume your product/service rapidly, the marketing frequency needs to match consumption levels. If you work on annual, or longer, contracts, it may be that 3-4 times a year will be sufficient.

4. Stop talking about yourself

Far too many businesses open their marketing with the word we. Your target audience doesn’t want to know about you.  They want to know how you are going to help them. So talk about that. You know your clients and the issues they have, so talk about that. Show you understand their issues and that you have a solution. Then people will come to ask you about how you can help them.

5. Build and Maintain Relationships

Most small businesses get much of their business through referrals. Referrals come because of three things:

  1. People know you and trust you
  2. They know exactly what you are looking for
  3. They believe in what you are selling

Are you ensuring that the people who can refer you know what you are looking for, and that they remember who you are? Maintaining these relationships is not easy. We are all busy people. There are three key tools we can use to maintain these relationships:

  1. Coffee: Meet people face to face and talk to them. Help them understand what you are looking for, whilst ensuring you are listening and understanding what they are looking for too. You can substitute beer/wine/tea here, of course!
  2. Telephones: Your phone is less than six feet from your hand right now. Whether that is your mobile or your landline, make use of it and talk to your network, so they don’t forget you.
  3. Email: we all get huge numbers of emails, but I bet you most of your network will open at least one email a year from you. Mailchimp and its ilk are great tools to keep in contact with people and keep them aware of what you are up to.

Whatever way works for your business, don’t lose the referrals you can get in the future by losing touch with your network.

6. Use more video

world populations as part of our small business marketing tips

World Populations, according to @Socialnomics

80% of mobile consumption is video and it’s rising. If you want to communicate with today’s decision makers you need to use video.

  • Develop a set of short messages that show how you help your clients.
  • Your phone is perfectly acceptable for this type of educational video, so you don’t need to invest in expensive hardware or pay lots of money for others to video you.
  • Add them to YouTube and use your preferred social media channels to distribute them too.
  • Make sure your network know where they are, so they can share them to increase your reach.

We must admit, of all our small business marketing tips, this is the one we need to do more of ourselves – oops!

7. Know who is visiting your website

image of CANDDi screenshot as part of our small business marketing tipsYour website is your window for the world. There will be few potential clients who don’t check you out, so it makes sense for you to know who is looking at your website. Tools such as CANDDi provide you with a huge amount of information about who is on your site and what they are doing on there. They cannot identify every visitor, but they will check fixed IP addresses and give you information about the company. They collect information about the person from Contact Forms, Web Chats and when you email someone. Imagine knowing when your latest prospect reads your proposal and then checks out your case studies – buying signals or what!

8. Prove you can help

The last of our small business marketing tips is, probably, one of the easiest to implement.

Taking on a new supplier is a big risk. If you’ve never worked with them before, how do you know they will be any good? Your prospects will be thinking this too. How do they know you are any good and can deliver on your promises?

Use the evidence you have. Make sure you have testimonials scattered across your website, so people can see what their peers think of you.

Case studies, including the results, are tremendously powerful. Not only does the reader get to see themselves in the description of your client, they see that they share similar problems. More than anything, they see you delivered a solution that worked. Why would they not want to work with you?

Knowledge articles. Whether published on your blog or through other media channels, share your thinking with others to show them you know what you are talking about.

Marketing today is all about consistency and demonstrating you can help. As a small business owner, you only have a limited budget, so make the most of it by focusing, but if you do one thing only, let it be this one: Talk to your audience about them – not about you.

We hope these small business marketing tips help.

If you need some assistance with taking your marketing forward, simply complete the form below and let’s talk.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Five great sources of market information

By A Helping Hand, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

When looking to expand your business, it’s vital that you research the market and the opportunity.  If you don’t there is a chance that your business expansion plans don’t deliver the business growth you are looking for.  The question is: where do you go to understand the size of the opportunity?

Here are five really good sources of quantitative information:

1. The Office Of National Statistics

Want to know about the businesses in your county, borough or town; look no further. ONS will provide information by industry, by size, by age and a whole lot more.

2. LinkedIn Search

How many, for example, solicitors are there within 10 miles of your office? Don’t know – used LinkedIn to find out.  With over 7 million people in the UK on LinkedIn and 141,842 UK companies  it is a great source.  Want to know if they are in private practice or within a commercial organisation – simple use another filter.

Just in case you wanted to know, there are 5,404 solicitors within 10 miles of my postcode.

3. CreditSafe

Is your prospective client creditworthy? How much money did they make/lose last year? You can find out here.  There are plenty of other similar sites out there but this is one of the best.  It’s a paid for service but it will tell you what you want to know about your clients and prospects.

4. Companies House

Don’t want to subscribe to an annual service – go PAYG instead at Companies House. Annual Reports direct from Companies House are just £1 each.

5. Facebook Ads

You don’t need to spend any money to get numbers from Facebook.  With 35 million UK adults regularly using Facebook where’s better to get information about the consumer market?

Set up a Facebook Ads account (no charge) and use the plethora of filters to understand how big your target market is. If you think of all the information you put into Facebook, that’s the number of filters you can apply to really target your search.

 

bounce rate statistics from Google Analytics. Image to support article on creating more traffic for your website

How to attract the right traffic on your website

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Small Business MarketingNo Comments

Creating more website traffic is a key goal for most small businesses, as more traffic means more business – right? Most of the time, yes, but not always. There is good website traffic and then bad traffic. Here are 15 tips to improve the website traffic your small business gets…

Good Website Traffic

In a perfect world, every person who visited your website would get in touch, as they want to buy what your small business sells. In reality, a 1-2% contact rate is going to deliver a great flow of leads into your business. There are a number of different ways to recognise good website traffic, so you can do more to encourage it.

Bounce rate

Do you know the bounce rate on your website? If you don’t you need to as it tells you whether you are making a good first impression. Google defines a bounce as:

The percentage of visits in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further.

If you haven’t got Google Analytics on your website, click here to set up your account and get your web developers to add it.
A healthy bounce rate is 15 – 40%. If it is above that, you are attracting the wrong visitors, or you are not giving them what they are looking for on the first page they land on.

How to improve your bounce rate
  1. Look at what pages have a good bounce rate, and which don’tbounce rate statistics from Google Analytics. Image to support article on creating more traffic for your website
  2. Is there a big look or feel difference between the content on the good and not so good pages?
  3. Use Search Console to identify the keywords that are generating natural, or paid, search for that page.
  4. Shape the content so the viewer is getting better information when they land on those pages.

Returning Traffic

How much of your traffic is returning? If viewers are returning to your website, it suggests that they are interested. Google Analytics shows you two stats to help this: New vs. returning and Depth of Visit.
To increase the amount of returning traffic, look at the pages that are being returned to and create more content like that. Alternatively, consider using remarketing as a way of getting people back to your site after they’ve visited.

Engaged Traffic

If your website is grabbing the attention of your visitors, they will stay and read more of the content before getting in touch. Again, two numbers to keep an eye on: Length of visit, and Number of Pages Visited. The longer the visit and the higher the number of pages visited, the better.

How to improve website engagement
  1. Look at what pages have a high Exit Rate. They either do not have useful information or they don’t clearly show the viewer where to go next.
  2. Review your website routing. Is it logical and giving the viewer a good route around your website?
  3. Are there appropriate Calls to Action on the website. Too few will mean people don’t get in touch and too many will seem desperate, and put people off.

Traffic that is making contact

Do you know how many people are calling you (is there a phone number on the website?) or completing a Contact Request form? These are the lifeblood of your small business, giving you a flow of leads you can convert to new business. Without a steady flow of new leads, you are going to struggle to achieve your growth and performance targets.

How to increase the number of people who contact you

1. Add a phone number. Too many websites lack a phone number and so will stop people getting in touch.
2. Ensure they are links to your Contact Us page on every page of the site. For some landing pages, you may want to add a Contact Form to those as well. Not too many though (see above).

Are your mailing list and social media working?Google analytics screen shot to support article about increasing website traffic

Do you know how much traffic hits your website from your social media activity or your email marketing? If these marketing channels are part of your marketing mix, you will be investing considerable amounts of time on them. You need to know whether the time is being invested wisely. Google Analytics will show you how much of your website traffic is coming from these channels.

From the right keywords

Google Analytics, Search Console and other premium tools, such as SEMrush or Moz, will tell you what keywords are driving traffic to your website. You want to drive more traffic from the right keywords, but ensure that the wrong ones (cheap, free, in another geographic region, etc.) are not driving traffic.
For Google Ads, this is simple; you simply add negative keywords to your campaigns so that Google doesn’t show your Ads to people who type them into the search bar. For natural search, this isn’t quite as easy.
You cannot block natural search, but you can ensure that your content and metadata doesn’t include the negative keywords you want to avoid. If “free” or “cheap” are being used in different parts of your website, in conjunction, with your service or product offering, you run the risk of getting natural search traffic that you don’t want.

The Bad traffic

Bad website traffic isn’t just a waste of bandwidth. It’s a waste of your time too. If you are getting enquiries coming in from people who are expecting something different to what you are selling, they take up time before you qualify them out. Let’s look at this in more detail.

Traffic that Bounces or leaves quickly

Google may not use bounce rate data directly within its algorithms, but it does pay attention to how long people stay on your site after a search. If they see lots of people leaving very quickly, that tells them your site isn’t providing what people are looking for when using the keywords they searched on. Google will then move you down the rankings for that search term.

Traffic from outside your target area

If you only sell to companies in the UK, the last thing you want is traffic, and potentially enquiries, from outside the UK. Appearing in their searches is simply wasting their time. Enquiries from them are wasting your time. Nobody wins.

Stopping this type of website traffic isn’t always easy. Probably the easiest way to limit the amount of out of area traffic is to talk more about the area you want business from. You’ll see on our Contact Us page a map showing where our clients have been based. We’re actively looking for clients across the UK, so we use the map to show this. Look at how your website content shows where you want to work. Include an address on the site (not just in the Privacy Policy page) so it is very clear. Add a telephone number so the search engines can pick up your area dialling code too.