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Small Business Marketing

As small business marketing consultants, we help you grow your small business into something bigger.

We know you’re great at what you do, but you may not be as good as working out what marketing is right for your small business. You probably don’t have time to then do what is needed.  That is where SME Needs comes in. We will help you:

  1. Work out what has and hasn’t worked in the past by measuring your marketing performance.
  2. Identify who you want to market and sell to, by focusing on your Ideal Clients and target audiences
  3. Develop a marketing plan that will meet your budgets and targets
  4. Deliver on that marketing plan, so you get the leads you want and need to grow your small business.

These articles are designed to help you, but if you need a hand implementing your marketing, give us a call on 020 8634 5911

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

How to attract the right traffic to your website

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Small Business Marketing

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 on how to attract the right traffic to your website…

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.

Mailchimp logo - the tool we recommend to help small business run great email marketing campaigns

10 Great ways for small businesses to use email marketing

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Small Business Marketing

If you are a small business owner and you’re not using email marketing within your marketing mix, you’re almost certainly missing a trick. Here’s 10 ways that email marketing can help you withinmailchimp certified your small business.

At SME Needs we recommend Mailchimp (we are a Mailchimp Partner) as our preferred tool, but our clients use a range of other email marketing platforms. All of them can help you in these ways; its just that we prefer the functionality and intuitiveness of Mailchimp.

1. Email marketing is one to many

Perhaps the most obvious way an email marketing tool helps you is by giving you the ability to communicate with many people at once. Having a mailing list gives you the ability to not only send lots of emails at once, but also personalise them with merge fields (first name, company name and much more). The rest of these are more about the why than the function…

2. A great way of maintaining relationships

You know 100s of people. Your customers, prospects and your network can easily add up to a lot of people. Maintaining relationships with that many people without email marketing is going to be difficult. Imagine the number of calls you’d have to make or the time it would take to write individual emails to them.

But it is vital that you maintain these relationships. The last thing you want is for people to forget about you just before they identify a need for what you sell.

3. Helping you sell more to your current customers

Whether you’re an e-commerce business or a B2B services provider, email marketing is a great tool for helping you sell more to your current customers.

As a B2B services provider, you will have very few customers who are buying ever service you offer. Email marketing, using segmentation to ensure you send campaigns to the right people, is a great way to promote other services they can benefit from.

For e-commerce businesses, there are huge numbers of ways email can be used:

  • Abandoned baskets (see more below)
  • Regular reminders
  • Associated products
  • Tips to use what your customer has bought (improves brand satisfaction)
  • And many more…

You can see more about how we help e-commerce businesses here.

4. Superb for nurturing your pipeline

Not everyone who subscribes to your mailing list is yet ready to buy. Most will be researching, looking for information. But once they subscribe, you want to help them into, and through, your sales funnel.  A series of nurturing emails will help people to understand how you can help, provide things for them to think about, and share evidence that you can deliver on your promises.

5. You should only be sending relevant content to people

The people in your mailing list will vary. Some will be customers and some prospects. Some will have bought from you and some have not yet bought. Even those who have bought will have bought different things. If you want to promote a particular product, you don’t want to send that campaign to people who have already bought it (unless it is something that is used regularly). Being able to use the data stored against each contact allows you to segment your audience and only send campaigns to relevant people.

The more relevant your email’s content is to the reader, the more likely they are to react how you want them to.

6. Are you collecting reviews and testimonials?

People will frequently look for reviews of your products or your business when considering buying from you. The more review you have, generally, the better. Once someone has bought from you, setting up an automated email marketing campaign to ask for reviews and testimonials.

Particularly suitable for e-commerce businesses, you can easily set a campaign to go out X days after a purchase. One small business client of ours is adding a couple of reviews a week because of the automated campaign we set up for them.

7. How are you recovering abandoned basket sales?

30% of the total retail market in the UK is now online. People add items to e-commerce baskets every day, but they may not be yet ready to buy. 69% of baskets are abandoned. Setting up abandoned basket campaigns that go out a little while later can remind people so they return and buy from you. Combined with remarketing PPC ads, these emails can make a significant difference to your sales.

8. You are following up events, aren’t you?

You invest time and money putting on events and attending trade shows. So you need to maximise the value you get from these events. Far too many companies fail to follow up with the people who attend events or that they talk to at a trade show. You can see more about how to follow up on a trade show here.

Sending an email out to people the day after the event to thank them for attending is a great way to build your brand and to start getting them to do something you want them to do. That may simply be to arrange a time to talk; it may be to buy something. Setting up a series of emails, particularly to people that weren’t previously on your mailing list will start getting them into your sales funnel and encourage them to buy from you.

9. Do you know when someone has engaged with your email campaign?

Once you’ve sent your email campaign, particularly sales campaigns, you’ll want to follow up on the phone. If you use Outlook (or similar), you have no knowledge of who did what with your email. When you follow up, you want to do so to the people most likely to engage/buy. Tools such as Mailchimp give you a list of:

  • Who opened your email campaign.
  • Who clicked, and what they clicked on.
  • A rating on how they have engaged with other email campaigns recently.

The time saved using the data provided can be huge. It also means that you can have relevant conversations because you know what they are looking at.

10. What are they doing after that first click?

Moving slightly away from the email marketing tool, there are other digital tools that help you follow up even more effectively. At SME Needs we recommend CANDDi as we believe it provides great data, good value and really helpful people.

Once someone clicks on your email campaign, they land on your site, but what do they do next? If your follow-up conversation relates to the pages they looked at on your site, imagine how much more effective that conversation will be?  Once CANDDi knows about their first visit, they can also notify you when that person (on the same device) returns to your site. You can find more about CANDDi here.

Next Step…

If have already have an email marketing account set up, you’re probably doing at least some of these. If you want to know how to do more of these, or simply want someone to review how effective your email marketing is, either click here or simply give us a call on 020 8634 5911.

two small business owners working together on a laptop

Exploring Ways Small Businesses are Wasting Leads

By Small Business Marketing

Are you wasting leads?

In today’s highly competitive business landscape, lead generation is a vital aspect of your small business’ success. However, many small businesses struggle with converting leads into loyal customers due to various inefficiencies and wasteful practices. In this article, we will look at the ways you may be wasting leads and what you can do about it.

1. Not capturing them in the first place

If you make it difficult for prospects to get in touch with your business, you cannot be surprised if they go elsewhere.

If your website doesn’t have a contact form, an email address and a phone number, you may be losing leads to your competitors. Some people want to talk now, whilst others are happy to wait and little while.

If you are using contact forms, how are they getting to you? Have you checked they’re not being grabbed by your spam filters, or going into Junk folders?

Have you connected your CRM to your contact forms, assuming you use a CRM. If you are struggling to find a simple to use CRM, click here to find out more about the one we use.

2. Not responding quickly

When a new lead gets in touch, they want to hear from you. But they have probably contacted some of your competitors too! If you leave that lead unattended, you’re giving your competitors the opportunity to make a great first impression and take the lead.

Statistics show responding within 10 minutes gives you a 92% chance of getting hold of them and doubles your chance of closing the deal. 35-50% of sales are closed by the first person to respond.

The longer you take to get in touch to respond, the less likely you are to close the sale.

Your options include:

  • Get a colleague to call instead of you, if you really are too busy.
  • Outsource initial calls to a Virtual Assistant or calling service. They can collect information you need and provide basic information to the prospect.
  • At the absolute least, have an automated email go out to people.

Whilst there may be a cost implication to these, it will easily be paid for with increased conversion rates.

3. Lack of Lead Qualification

As a small business owner, you and your sales team only have so much time available. Qualifying your leads, to remove the ones you are unlikely to close (or don’t want), frees up time to concentrate on the others.

You should develop a lead qualification process that helps identify high-value leads. Think about geography, industry sector, company size. Look at who is making the enquiry – are they likely to be at least an influencer, and ideally the decision maker?

4. Pushing too hard

New leads are great. They’re exciting, they’re potential growth for your business. You want the lead to become a client quickly. But that may be too fast for the lead. Their timetable is unlikely to match your’s, and pushing them to match yours is usually a mistake. There may be great reasons why they should buy sooner rather than later (offers expiring, HMRC deadlines, etc.) but if you push too hard, they are likely to push you away too.

If they do seem to be slowing down, talk to them. Find out if there are reasons for the delay. Being understanding of their situation develops a better relationship and will ultimately help in the long run.

5. Ineffective Lead Nurturing

Moving your leads through your sales pipeline is important. Just because they have shown some interest (downloaded a white paper, for example) doesn’t mean they are ready to buy from you. Some people will move quickly and become a sales lead soon. Others will take their time as they learn to trust you and see the value you deliver. Moving them too quickly, or forgetting to move them at all, is another way to waste leads. When you try to move them quickly, they are likely to push you away (see above). When you aren’t nurturing, they are really likely to forget about you.

Marketing, particularly nurturing, is about consistency. Make sure you are regularly communicating with them. At the top of the funnel, this is most likely to be email campaigns and social media. Further down, it may be sharing case studies or other white papers.

Failure to nurture leads properly is another significant contributor to lead wastage. Many small businesses overlook the importance of cultivating relationships with leads over time. Instead, they resort to immediate sales pitches or neglect leads that are not yet ready to make a purchase.

6. Lack of Follow-Up and Persistence

Most salespeople (92%) only follow up 4 times. 44% only follow up once! After that, the followups drop off dramatically. According to Hubspot 80% of prospects say no 4 times before saying yes. Most of these Nos are not “leave me alone”. They are “not yets”. People are busy and what they are considering buying from you may not be at the top of the Priority List right now.

Make use of the Tasks or Reminders function within your CRM to ensure you keep following up. If you don’t have a CRM, use your Outlook calendar or even a paper diary to ensure you keep in touch.

7. Taking No for an answer

At that moment in time when a prospect decides, there are only three things they can do:

  1. Buy from you
  2. Buy from someone else
  3. Not buy at all

Let’s skip point 1 for now (article on lifetime value coming soon) as that isn’t a wasted lead. Just because they have said no, doesn’t mean that it is no forever.

There is more detail on a previous article on what to do here, but the short version is keep talking to them. Your prospects may come back in the future, but they won’t if you take no for an answer and stop talking to them.

Conclusion

As a small business owner/director, you should look at all of the above and see how many of these relate to leads you’ve had over the last few years. By following a few basic rules, you can stop wasting leads and grow your business faster than ever before.

Outsource marketing or marketing team image - SME Needs

Should you outsource your marketing or employ your own marketing team?

By Small Business Marketing

If we were being a little unethical, we would simply answer this question – yes, you should outsource. But that isn’t the ethical answer and it’s much better that we give you the points to consider so that you can answer this question in a way that works best for your business. So, what should you consider when deciding whether to outsource your marketing or employ your own marketing team?

Budgets

The amount of cash you have available for your marketing is important in two ways.

  1. What are you going to spend on marketing your business?

Put simply, if you don’t have a big budget, there is little point in employing your own team, or even person. If there isn’t a budget for them to spend, they will get bored very quickly and leave.

  1. Can you pay people?

The average salary for a junior marketing exec is rapidly approaching £25K a year and you should expect to pay upwards of £40K a year for a Marketing Manager, particularly in London.

Marketing Skillsets

The term marketing is a catch all phrase for many different specialities. In the same way you would never ask an IT support engineer to write code for a new mobile app, asking someone with web development skills to run a PR campaign is unlikely to get the results you are looking for. If your marketing plan uses more than a couple of marketing channels, you will need a diverse skillset. There are three ways to do that:

  1. Find a highly skilled marketing manager with a strong, but diverse, skillset. Extremely hard to find
  2. Employ a marketing manager but give them a marketing budget to bring in contractors with the skill set you need.
  3. Outsource your marketing to a company that can gather these skills for you.

Maintaining those skills is not easy. As in many industries, marketing changes at a remarkable rate. If you employ your own team; they must have time to learn. That’s “not your problem” with outsourced providers.

Of course, there is no reason why you cannot have a combination of these three. We frequently work with clients who have a junior marketing exec, who we work with to ensure they are doing what they are supposed to and have someone to go to when they have issues.

Marketing Best Practices

You’ve grown your business to the size it is now using a combination of marketing activities. Most have worked for you and that is great. But what other marketing could work even better? Bringing an independent point of view into the business will help identify opportunities to further improve your marketing performance. This doesn’t have to be a long-term thing; it can be a consultancy project for a brief period.

A marketing consultant will have far more exposure to different marketing channels, and know more about what can be achieved than an internal marketing manager.

Time

As a business owner much of your time is managing your team. What time isn’t used this way is working with clients or working ON the business. Whether you outsource your marketing or employ your own team, you will need to dedicate time to the relationship. But an outsourced provider will need less of your time that your own marketing team will need.

Your skills are in delivering what your clients want and need. This may not include much in the way of marketing skills, so your time is better spent on what you are good at.

Changing your mind

If you use an outsourced marketing solution, and find that it isn’t working, you can get rid of them easily (subject to contractual commitments). Another agency can be up and running very quickly. Replacing a marketing manager who isn’t delivering is far harder. Disciplinary procedures (should they be needed) and notice periods make things complicated.

A good marketing agency will want to be let go. At SME Needs, we work with small businesses to help them grow until it makes sense to move to an in-house solution. The decision is normally based on marketing complexity, volume, and costs. We’ll even help you find the right team to take over.

If you are looking to strengthen your marketing, these five questions will help you to decide whether to outsource your marketing or bring someone in house. We are, of course, more than happy to talk this through and answer any questions you have. Give us a call, on 020 8634 5911, or contact us here and we will call you.

email marketing tips image someone using a computer

11 tips to improve your email marketing performance

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Small Business Marketing

email marketing tips image someone using a computerEmail marketing must do’s

Email marketing is a core part of many small businesses’ marketing activity. But, as a Mailchimp Partner regularly reviewing accounts for clients, we see a lot of strange practices. This article aims to point out those strange practices and give you some guidance on what you should be doing.  Here are 11 tips to help you improve your email marketing…

 

1. Stop sending everything to everyone

This is probably the biggest mistake we see people do.  No matter whether you have a few dozen, or many 1,000s of people in your mailing list, don’t send every email campaign you produce to every person on the list. It just annoys people and increases the number of people who unsubscribe.

Segment instead

You sell multiple products/services to multiple types of people who use what you sell in various ways.  Each campaign should only go to the contacts it is relevant for. By segmenting your audience, based on the information you have about them, you will:

  1. Increase open & click-through rates & your email marketing performance.
  2. Improve the relationship between your business and your target audience(s).

2. Have more information about your contacts

All you need, at least theoretically, is an email address to add someone to your mailing list. You can then start sending campaigns to them. This leads to a range of different problems for you, and your email marketing performance:

  • You cannot add those contacts to segments and focus your email campaigns.
  • You lose the ability to personalise.  How do you feel when an email greeting just says “Hi,”?
  • Timing is important in marketing, but how can you time your emails more effectively without any information to use?

Collect more information

Depending on your account type, Mailchimp allows you to use up to 30 (80 for premium accounts) audience fields for each contact. Combined with Groups, Segments and Tags, you can add a huge amount of information to your contact records.  Using that information to make your emails  more relevant, and therefore useful, improves your email marketing performance. Sending a campaign asking people to update their information can help you with this; it will only take a few minutes to set up and send.

3. Don’t use irrelevant subject lines

Your open rate is affected by the quality of the subject line more than anything else. A poor subject line generates poor open rates – and then impacts everything else too. A new client of mine recently sent out an email to a cold list with the subject line of “A quick catch-up?” The open rate was less than 2% – why would anyone open it?

Grab their attention!

Subject lines need to pique curiosity, especially if it is to a contact list that knows very little about you. I’ve seen people recommend subject lines like “Don’t miss out” or “Take a peek at…”. As we have been recommending you segment your audience, you should know your target personas and be able to draft subject lines that talk about the pain or what success looks like.  When we run a campaign to promote this article, the subject line is likely to be along the lines of “Are you happy with your email marketing performance?” or “Get better email marketing results with these steps”.

Testing different lines will give you better results.

4. Make sure you are testing

Email marketing platforms provide A/B testing (sometimes call split testing) options that allow you to test, and improve, your email marketing campaigns.  Testing means that most of your audience get the best performing campaigns.

If you’re testing subject lines, write 2-3 (depending on how many people in your mailing list) and then split 50% of your list over those subject lines. Whichever line wins after (usually) four hours is then sent to the remaining 50%.  That way the best content has gone to 67+% of your audience.

Test both subject lines and content

You may want to test both subject lines and content, but don’t be tempted to test both at the same time. If you do, how do you know which criteria produced the best results?

5. Make use of merge tags

Merge tags take data from an audience field and insert it into your email. This can be in the subject line, the preview or the main body. Most people will know that their name/company name has been inserted in this way, but when people see their name, it grabs their attention. They are far more likely to then act on the message, especially a compelling one.

Make use of merge tags

But use them sparingly. Inserting lots will have the opposite effect.

 

6. Don’t add too many Calls to Action

When you send someone a marketing email, you want them to engage. You want them to, for example, click on an offer and buy something. Alternatively, you may want them to read an article. If you put too many links and buttons into your email marketing campaigns, you reduce the number of people who will do what you want them to do. The more opportunities people have to click, the less likely they are to pick the one you want them to.

Add text links and buttons

if your main call to action is a big bold button, add a link, early in the text, to the same place. People often click the first link they come to, so by doing this you increase the number of people who go where you want them to go.

7. Make sure you have some Calls to Action

At the opposite end of the scale, I see campaigns going out with no calls to action, or just email reply clicks. The easier, and less scary, you make it for people to engage with your marketing, the better.  With >70% of the sales process often taking place before a buyer talks to sales person, offering only an email link, for example, will put lots of people off.

8. Add a sign off section

When you email someone from Outlook or gmail, you have a block at the bottom, starting with “kind regards” or something similar. So why do you not have one on your email marketing campaigns? People love to engage with people so why make your emails come from a faceless organisation?

For small businesses, this is even more important. The owner of many small businesses is the figurehead. The person people want to engage with; the person they think of when your company name is in their head. As companies grow, they will be more people who become the face of the business, but people still want to engage with people. A sign-off block helps people to imagine that face and your brand.

Multiple ways to get hold of you

We recommend you include multiple ways to get hold of your small business in your sign off block. Not everyone wants to go via your website; some want to talk directly to you.

9. Send the email campaign again

When you send an email marketing campaign, XX% will open it. But that leaves a lot of others who didn’t. Some will see it, but ignore it because of the subject line. Some will simply miss it because of the amount of emails they get and how busy they are.

Sending a campaign again will get more people reading it and doing what you want them to do. But, please, only send it to those who didn’t open it first time!  All email marketing platforms have tools that allow you to filter your audience – some are better than others.

Resend soon

You should send this second version at a different time of day and within 24-72 hours of the first one to maximise the success of this one. You should see a 25-50% uplift in email opens.

 

10.Follow up

Your email campaigns are there to get the contacts within your mailing list to engage; to do what you want them to do. But sometimes, especially when you have a high ticket value, they need a nudge.  Do you look at what your contacts have been doing and then follow up?  If not, you’re missing out on sales.

Choose who to follow up first

Use the contact rating (Mailchimp term) or equivalent to identify the people who are frequently opening and clicking on your campaigns. Call them or email them from your personal account to follow up and help them towards buying from you. Look at what they have been clicking on to identify what is of interest – and therefore what to talk about.

11. Make sure your campaigns go out regularly

As the last of our email marketing tips for improving your email marketing performance, make sure you are sending regularly.  Too frequently and you will annoy people (leading to unsubscribes), but too infrequently and you run the risk of people forgetting who you are.

Regularity you can commit to

If you find yourself with plenty of time, don’t increase the frequency of your emails, as people will come to expect more from you. Something you may not be able to deliver when you get busy again. Far better to use the time to generate the campaigns, and then schedule them to go out at a frequency you know you can maintain when you are busy.

 

We hope these 11 email marketing tips help you to improve your email marketing performance. If you need any more guidance or would like an independent review of your email marketing, let us know. As a Mailchimp Partner, we can review your Mailchimp account without needing your log-in details and without using a precious seat. We do also review other platforms.

the Namos Solutions team

6 reasons you need to be doing internal marketing

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Small Business Marketing

the Namos Solutions team

Are you marketing your business internally?

When you first started your business, there was you, and possible one or two others. Internal communication was easy and a lot of it probably took place down the pub. As your small business has grown, you’ve added more people to your team. Are you keeping them up to date with what you are doing? Let’s look at 6 reasons why you need to be using internal marketing as well as marketing your small business to your target audiences.

Keep them in the loop

In a small business, it is rare that people have just one job to do. Even if individual staff members spend the majority of their time on one role, they will still be doing things like answer the phones. Keeping everyone in the loop ensures that they know what you, as a business, want to achieve, where your focus is and what is expected of them.

Show you value them

Whilst there will be certain things that will be on a “need to know” basis, the more you share with your team, the more you are showing them that you value them.
What employees want from you has changed over the years. Whilst a competitive salary will always be on the list, there are many intangibles on there too. Always in the list of things employees want is trust (usually top 3) and communication. The more you communicate with them, the better.

Get feedback on your ideas

When was the last time you asked your staff for feedback on an idea? Just because you’re the boss and its your idea, it doesn’t mean it is always a good idea. Remember that your team, at least some of them, has to deliver on your idea. If they really think it is a bad idea and not possible, surely the feedback is needed. Better to get the feedback than spend time and money on a bad idea?

Get their ideas

If you are communicating with your team and that includes both targets and issues, there is a good chance they will have some great ideas that can help you. You never know where the next great idea is going to come from, so make sure they know that communication is a two-way thing and that you want them to share their ideas with you.
If you don’t, you may well miss out and they could even take that idea and, either, run with it themselves or take it to your competitors!

They can help spread the word

You’ll have seen their CVs and you may have even had a cursory look at their LinkedIn connections. But you won’t know who they really know. If you’re looking for a new member of staff and you tell the team, there’s a good chance they will know someone. Think of the saving, compared to using a recruitment firm.
As your team know more about the business and the type of clients you want, they can easily spread the word. Getting them onboard will get them:
Commenting on your company’s social media posts, increasing their reach.
Talking positively about the company when with their friends and family (at least for a little bit of time)
Listening out for when people talk about issues they need help with – that your business can solve.

Retain your team

Valued staff are loyal staff. When they believe they are a valuable part of something special, they will stay. If they are simply treated as a functionary and a number, they will go whenever there is an opportunity.
Figures vary on the cost of replacing a member of staff but you can be sure it isn’t cheap. Recruitment costs (assuming you’re not using what was mentioned above), plus training plus lost productivity (whilst the new person gets up to speed) all add up. Surely some internal marketing is worth it, just to save you these costs?!?

Great ways to do your internal marketing

So we’ve looked at 5 reasons why you should include internal marketing within your overall marketing strategy; now lets look at how to make this happen.

Consistent marketing

In exactly the same way that consistent marketing is needed to attract new clients, consistent internal marketing will help you communicate effectively with your team. Little and often is a great approach that helps you manage the time needed to do this.

Advocates and Champions

Within every small business, there are a few people that everyone talks to. Alongside the management team, these people can be invaluable at helping you communicate the right messages to the rest of your team. Identifying them is easy and if they feel valued, they will help you communicate with the team.

Digital Tools

Right now, you probably have a large part of the team working remotely. You’re using Teams/Zoom/IM/email/phones to talk to them all now, so make use of the same tools to ensure they have the information they need and should know.

Face to face

As and when you get an opportunity, face to face is a great way to keep the internal marketing going. If you have an annual event, think about using a, short, part of that event to update your team on what is happening and where the business is going. During the rest of the year, schedule conversations with your team to keep the information flowing – in both directions.

Hopefully we’ve given you something to think about here. When you next review your marketing strategy, make sure that internal marketing is part of that strategy.

To add internal marketing to your company marketing strategy, give us a call and let's talk

Tel: 020 8634 5911

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7 questions and tips for small business about SEO

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Small Business Marketing

Should you pay for Search Engine Optimisation?

Search Engine optimisation (SEO) is often promoted as a key part of any digital marketing strategy. As a Virtual Marketing Director service, we get lots of enquiries from SEO companies asking us to re-sell their services. For the right businesses, SEO can deliver a great return on investment, but it isn’t right for everyone. That saying, you need to ensure you are doing the basics right, so that people can find you, even if they are using your company name because they became aware of you in some other way. Here are 7 small business SEO tips to get you started, before considering whether to invest in SEO…

What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation is defined by SEMrush as “SEO is the art and science of persuading search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem.

It is about getting your web content in front of potential clients so that they engage and consider using your small business as a solution provider.

Where do your leads come from?

Before you even consider asking “should I pay for SEO”, you need to be able to say where your leads are currently coming from. If you cannot, there is a good chance you are wasting at least some of your marketing budget anyway. If you don’t know where your leads are coming from, how are you going to measure the performance of any SEO you get done?

Have you got the SEO basics right anyway?

There is a lot of on-site SEO you can easily do for yourself and that can quickly improve your search engine performance, with the only investment being some of your time. Have you:

  • Added meta descriptions to every page?
  • Ensured your images have alt-tags, so the search engines know what they are of?
  • Fixed any broken links on your website, so you aren’t penalised by the search engines?
  • Added internal and external links to relevant content within your site and on others, improving the user experience?
  • Written enough content on the pages, so the search engines consider that page worthy?

None of these are difficult. Investing some time into these can pay dividends? If you would like to know just how much there is to do on your site, we can tell you. We’ll do a free audit, so you can get the SEO basics right.

If you have a WordPress website (almost all our clients do, alongside 35% of the websites in the world), tools such as Yoast or RankMath can help you get these right.

Is your Google My Business account set up right?

When someone searches on your company name, you want them to see not only your website, but also your Google listing. Google My Business not only helps you improve your local SEO performance, but it also gives people the ability to provide independent reviews on how your business performs. You can comment on what they say, but you cannot alter it, so other people really trust the rating you get from this.

What other local directories are you in?

If you sell locally, you should be in as many local online directories as you can. The more places you can be found, the better. Plus, all of these provide valuable inbound links to your website, improving your SEO performance.

Are you in a highly competitive market?

Entering a highly competitive market isn’t easy, especially if you want to rely on SEO to get found. SEMrush stats show, for example “IT support” has 12,100 searches a month and have 16.9 billion search results. “Marquee hire” has 14,800 UK searches a month and whilst “small business marketing” has only 720 searches a month, the keyword difficulty score of 77 suggests it would be a hard search term to rank well for. SME Needs currently [1]ranks on page 6 for “small business marketing”, but at No.1 for “small business marketing support” – just in case you were curious!!

Making use of and SEO ranking tool, such as SEMrush and Google’s Search Console, can help you find the right keywords and the difficulty you face in getting traffic from those keywords.

Do you have the budget available?

SEO is, perhaps above all, time-consuming. That time has to be paid for, so if you have limited budgets, SEO is probably not the right marketing tool for your business. If you aren’t spending at least £500 a month on SEO, with a plan of what you want from that spend, don’t do it. Spend your money on other channels that are far more likely to generate a return on investment.

Are you getting a great marketing ROI at the moment?

If you know where your leads are coming from, you should have a good idea of the marketing ROI from each channel. If you don’t this tool will help you.

If you are getting a great ROI from your current marketing channels, why are you thinking about SEO? Until your marketing ROI starts to decrease, it is our definite recommendation that you simply spend more on what is working for you. By doing this, whilst, keeping an eye on that ROI, you will continue to grow your pipeline and grow your business. At the point the ROI starts to dip, then it is time to consider other marketing channels.

[1] Correct as of 25/6/2021

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The What, Why and How Many of having great stories in your business

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Small Business Marketing, Uncategorized

Stories have always been a powerful way to get information across. Before the spread of the written word, our elders would tell stories to ensure that information was passed from one generation to the next. In many places cave drawings were used as part of the story-telling process, ensuring that the stories lasted.  Over time the communication tool has changed – books, films, audiobooks – but the reason for telling them remains the same. We want people to know them, love them and remember them. This article looks at that third point, ‘remembering them’. It’s the key reason why you need great stories in your business.

5 reasons you need great stories in your business

1. Build the culture

When you first starting thinking about your business, there was a reason for starting it. You wanted to do something. Whether it was about failing lots, but only needing one success (Angry Birds), or Hozah’s mission to stop us all getting parking fines, there is always a story.

Telling that story, and getting it repeated frequently, will help you find the right people for your business. It will help you to shape your business and ensure the way things are done here is the way you want them to be.

2. Attract & converting new prospects

New prospects want to understand your business and how you can help them. Telling them what you do rarely works, but stories are highly effective. Great stories help your prospects in a number of ways:

  1. Stories help them understand what makes you tick and what your priorities are.
  2. They provide examples of how you’ve helped others.
  3. Stories get your prospects relating to you – we have that issue, or I want some of that!
  4. They reduce the perceived risk in their minds, about whether you can help them. You can read more about functional perceived risk here.

Great stories help you convert these prospects too, by:

  1. Proving you can deliver on your promises.
  2. Showing you understand them.
  3. Making you more memorable, so you stick in their minds.

Next time you’re talking to a potential client, think of a story you can tell them, instead of simply explaining what you do.

3. Public Relations

PR can be hugely beneficial for your business, or massively damaging. Both depend on the story that gets into the media. Don’t forget that PR isn’t just about what appears in newspapers or magazines anymore. Social media can be massively important in getting stories out there about your business. Many will be out of your control.

Tesco scored serious brownie points with their recent campaign asking us all to support our local pub instead of buying beer from them. As we all emerge from lockdown, everyone knows that the hospitality industry has really suffered, but the supermarkets have prospered. It’s a simple, but powerful, story.

At the opposite end of the scale was BP’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The story is still in the press ten years later.

4. Attracting and retaining staff

The right stories will help you to build your company and your culture, and they can also help with staff recruitment and retention. A compelling story will keep people working for you, supporting your business, even when things aren’t going well.

The brand story will help you attract people that will fit in well, simply because they agree with your approach and they want to work for a reason they believe in. More and more people want to work for companies they believe in, rather than the one that pays the most.

Employee experience is massively important in retaining staff. Telling stories about how staff have really delivered (whether this includes naming them or not) clearly communicates expected behaviours. Not only does it help you keep the staff that recognise and agree with the story, it will help weed out those that shouldn’t have been employed in the first place.

5. Attracting Investors

When you have great stories within your business, you attract people for multiple reasons. For some businesses, the most important group is, initially, investors.  If you have a great story, but little money to make things happen, you need to attract people who believe in your story and your goals.

The 6 parts of every great business story

When looking at why you need great stories, we need to look at what is in them. For your business stories to be listened to, and remembered, each one needs these 6 key parts…

Relevancy

The story has to be relevant to the listener. If you tell a story about something they cannot relate to, you will lose their interest quickly. Stories that show you understand their needs will be remembered.

The Problem

Every successful business solves a problem for their clients. For Bentley, that (seriously first world problem) is how to get from A to B in luxury, whilst showing your status in the world. For Atom CTO, it is about how to use technology to achieve business goals. What’s the pain [problem] your business solves?

Outcomes

Your prospects don’t buy what you do. In the early stages of your business, they may be buying you, as the core of the business, but what they are really buying is success. They want to know what came from you working to solve the problem. At SME Needs, we help people to focus on these outcomes and we help people grow. You can see those stories about our work with Charcoalblue here and with Systems IT here, respectively.

Real people

Including real people is an absolute must in a great business story! For all stories, the real people involved help the listener to engage, empathise and hopefully recognise themselves (the importance of relevance). For example, a story about bringing a network server back to life is likely to bore people to tears, but when the story is about getting, for example, a charity back to helping the homeless, it provides context and impact. Something that the listener will remember.

Believability

A story that sounds too good to be true probably isn’t true. If you do have a story that stretches the bounds of believability, make sure you have the proof. Stories that people don’t believe will negatively impact your credibility, and that isn’t good for anyone.

Consistency

When you tell your business story to people, keep it under control. A story that grows, helping more people or solving a bigger problem runs a real risk. If people hear it more than once, you will not only confuse them, but there’s a danger they may not believe the whole story.

The 5 types of business story

To us, there are 5 different types of business story. Let’s look at what they are and why you should have them.

Your reason for existing

Nobody wants to hear that you started your business purely for the money (well, not many). They want to hear what happened to make you start your business and what you went through in the early days. They want to like your business and to trust it.

The case study

If you’ve been in business for a few years, you will have a great set of stories that show how you solve the problems your clients have. You’ll be able to talk about your client, about their issues and about the results you delivered for them. If you haven’t written these down, stop reading this article and start now. They are a critical part of attracting new prospects and converting them to clients. You can see our case studies here.

When you’re at the very early stages of your business, you will still have stories of this kind – they just happened when you worked somewhere else. People rarely start a business they have no experience in, so use the stories you have from your past.

The employee story

In every company there is the perfect member of staff. The person who consistently delivers great results and lives the corporate culture. There are also those who are the complete antithesis. You will know who these people are in your company and in your past companies.

Talking about these people demonstrates to others who and what you respect and, also, what you abhor.

The failure and recovery story

Nobody is perfect. Stories that show you are fallible will work to endear you to others, particularly to employees and other stakeholders. Stories that include what you did to recover from failure will go even further.

The path to the ultimate goal

Of all the business stories we’ve discussed, this one can change. As your business evolves, this should change because you are moving, hopefully, towards your ultimate goal. If you have a family business, your goal may be to pass it on to your children. If you’re a charity, the eradication of the problem will always be the ultimate goal. The story of why and how you aim to get there will be a powerful one.

Your Next Steps

You will have some great business stories. You just haven’t written them down and remembered them yet. So, it’s time to rack your brains (you and your team) to develop these stories. Tell them to each other to get feedback and to ensure you are telling them consistently and effectively. Then it’s time to start telling others.

Of course, at SME Needs we can help you find your unique business stories and then tell them to the right people. So, if you need a hand developing them or want someone to brainstorm with, get in touch.

Need a hand developing and using your business stories? Give us a call and let's talk

Tel: 020 8634 5911

Image to depicted marketing tools

14 effective business marketing tools

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, 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

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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. Here’s a few way to market your business that you may not have considered before.

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 money

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

Case Study Ninja

How to write perfect case studies and use them to maximise sales

By A Helping Hand, Delivering your marketing, Marketing Performance, Small Business Marketing, Uncategorized

image to support article about writing perfect case studies

In a time when much of what you buy is based on peer reviews, there has never been a time when case studies have been more important. This article will take you through how to write perfect case studies and then how to use them to maximise sales. 

What is a case study?

Put simply, it is a summary of your engagement with a specific client. Case studies will describe your client, what you did and what you achieved (more detail to follow). It will be no more than two pages (when printed) and should take only a minute or two to read. 

What are case studies for?

Case studies show people what your company is capable of delivering. In the same way that a 5-star review will prompt people to buy on Amazon or TripAdvisor, a case study will help potential clients to move closer to buying from you. 

How to write perfect case studies

If you haven’t written any case studies yet, the next couple of minutes will give you a very clear, step by step, guide to writing case studies that will be highly effective. 

1. Identify happy clients 

Who is your happiest client? Who has been a client for a long time? Which clients have you generated outstanding results for? 

The answers to these questions will give you a list of clients to develop case studies for. Now all you have to do is ask them. Asking them when you are delivering good news always helps.  

2. Start writing 4 of the 6 key parts of a case study 

These 4 parts of a case study are: 

  1. Who are they? – a description of the client, aimed at helping readers identify with them. Companies like to buy from other companies who understand their industry sector. 
  1. Where is their issue? – what did you help them with? Again, potential clients like to see that you understand the issues they face. 
  1. What did you do?  – probably the least important piece, but still needs to show you know what to do and you have the knowledge and expertise looked for. 
  1. Why did it work?  absolutely the most important part. People buy results and success. They want to work with companies that can prove they can deliver. Include numbers to show your results, but be specific. 96% growth, rather than “doubled sales”. Graphics will help communicate these more effectively. 

At this point there are two pieces missing from the perfect case study. Let’s look at them in a little more detail. 

3. The Headline

The newspapers used to refer to the backbench; where the sub-editors used to sit. They were the highly paid specialists responsible for writing headlines that would sell that paper in the millions. A catchy headline would easily divert people from buying one newspaper to another. They wanted to know what the paper had to say, based purely on the headline. Back then, these were highly paid employees – not any more. 

But the headline is still vitally important. The headline will determine whether someone reads the case study or not. So what should be in a headline? 

One of our latest case studies is headlined: Adding a £million to turnover in six years. It communicates a great result; something any small business owner would like to see happen for them. Headlines should be about something the reader cares about: results, money, solutions – are just some examples. There is plenty of guidance online. 

4. The validation 

Once you’ve done all of the above, you need sign-off from the client, and you need them to validate your case study. 

Sign-off is simple. You send it to them and they agree that what you have written is accurate. The validation is what they write about you and you then use as proof that you have delivered and you have a very happy client. Their testimonial is the final piece of the perfect case study. 

The cynical ones out there could, if there was no testimonial from the client, say you made it up. With the testimonial, that goes away. The only time a happy client is unlikely to give you a testimonial is when you are solving an issue that they shouldn’t have, or they don’t want to admit they have. Insolvency practitioners, for example, can struggle at times.  

The best mediums for your case study 

Written content: accessibility, SEO etc. 

Podcast: Interview with client, audio format.  

You know that video content is highly powerful and is beloved by the search engines. Video testimonials that support a written case study can really improve the impact of your case studies. 

Video testimonials make great social media content too. 

How to use your case studies to increase sales

Once you know how to write perfect case studies, you can use them to drive sales. Case studies work at both ends of the sales funnel. They will nudge people into starting a conversation with you and they will convince people to sign on the dotted line too. Let’s look at where you should use your case studies to maximise their performance. 

1. On your website

This is the first place to put it because it is rare for someone to enter your sales funnel without at least one visit to your website. Make sure it is used in multiple places across your website 

  • A case study page will show website viewers that you have lots of happy clients 
  • Including relevant case studies on the product page will mean they are seen more often, and are more effective. 

 Include links from the case study both to the client’s website/social media and to the product/services they bought. This helps both your SEO and the user experience. 

 At the end of the case study, ask if this results sounds like something the reader would like for their business. Get them thinking… and acting. 

2. Social media

Sharing your case studies on your social media channels increases the numbers of times they are seen, particularly if you have video content. Perhaps you can pin, at least for a while, your latest case study to the top of your profile page to maximise views. Check your Analytics to see if it is driving traffic when pinned. If not, unpin it. 

Remember that individual case studies can go through social media more than once. Only a small percentage of your followers will see it each time. Not everyday of course! 

3. Newsletters

If you use a newsletter to keep your mailing list up to date, make sure you include your case studies in there. Mailing lists include clients, prospects, stakeholders, suppliers and networking connections. Showing them the great results you have achieved for a client can encourage new sales (from prospects and current clients buying more/something else) and referrals. 

4. Email automations  

Email automations are great ways to quickly educate new subscribers about what you do, how you help and the results you achieve. Case studies will help these new subscribers to believe your promises.  

5. Proposals

When you get to the point of developing a proposal for a new client, a great case study, or two, supports your pitch and increases the value propositions. Choose highly relevant case studies. Ones that are for companies with similar issues to your prospect and with a similar profile – industry, company size, location etc. Don’t simply use the same case studies for every proposal. 

 If you use something like CANDDi, you may want to include links to the case studies in the proposal, rather than the whole things. Knowing that they have clicked through shows the prospect really is interested. 

 

Case studies must be part of your marketing collateral. Used properly the perfect case study can be highly effective. It will help you fill your sales pipeline and they will help your Sales function to close more too.  

If your case studies aren’t working, or you haven’t got any, get in touch. We can help you both produce them and then make use of them to drive more sales. 

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?

There are X reasons:

image to support article about ideal clients

1. Make it easier for your network to refer you

Think back to your 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 cars, with bad mileage, in the Croydon area, looking to upgrade to something more fuel efficient.” People then start to think about others they know with old cars, rather than everyone they know with a car.

2. Focused marketing is far easier

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.

3. Make your marketing budget more effective

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 and your target market is 32 million people (the number of car owners in the UK), that’s not going to get you very much traction. The more you focus your marketing down to your Ideal Clients, the more likely they will enter your sales pipeline.

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 Marketing

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 Marketing

“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 Marketing

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, Delivering your marketing, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning, Technology & your business

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 Marketing

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 Marketing

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.

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