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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

heartbeat image for feast and famine article

How to avoid the feast and famine trap

By A Helping Hand, Focus, Uncategorized

heartbeat image for feast and famine articleBy their very nature small businesses have limited resources. Whether your business consists of one person or 30, there is always a long To Do List. Without very careful use of these resources, it is easy for a small business to fall into the feast and famine trap. This article outlines the feast to famine trap and how to avoid it’s pitfalls.

What is the feast and famine trap?

See if this sounds familiar…

  1. You do some marketing
  2. It generates some leads and you convert some into sales.
  3. Heads down; we have to deliver the sales, so we get paid.

But whilst you have your head down and are delivering what you sold…

  1. You don’t do any marketing
  2. So you don’t generate any new leads

Which means: no new sales and you’ve run out of work again. So you start the process again..

Marketing… Sales… Heads down. No marketing, no sales….

This trap starts happening either to very early-stage businesses, or to those going through a bit of a sales slump. If you’ve been through this (or are in it) how can you get out and avoid it in the future?

Why you need to avoid the trap

There are 4 primary reasons. Let’s look at them…

1. Irregular Cashflow

Never knowing how much money will be coming into the business from one month to the next makes it very difficult to plan for the future. You’ll probably end up with an overdraft for a chunk of the time (paying more bank fees). Whilst you will ensure you pay the staff, your earnings may get hit, at least temporarily.

2. Energy & Stress levels

Across your team, energy levels will rise and fall. Great when energy is high, but you know it can only last so long. If energy levels drop, service quality can easily drop too, threatening the relationship you have with your clients.

Your stress level is, almost certainly, going to be constantly high. You’re worrying permanently because of the fluctuating work and cash levels.

3. High staff turnover and Job insecurity

How can you plan, recruit and retain staffing when you’ve never quite sure how much work you will have next month? Your staff are also going to be worrying, distracting them from their jobs and impacting service quality – again.

4. Client satisfaction

Your clients will quickly see that you are really busy part of the time, as you are dedicating less time to them. They won’t like that and will start looking for alternatives.

How to avoid the feast and famine trap

If you know that the marketing you are doing is working, why not do it consistently? A consistent flow of marketing activity will deliver a consistent number of leads and sales. Easier said than done, we know, so you have three choices:

1. Dedicate time to marketing

By blocking out time in your diary – and not changing it – you are making marketing a priority and that will help you deliver consistent marketing and avoid the trap.

2. Add an in-house marketing team

These additional resources allow either them or you to do the consistent marketing that is needed to deliver the leads and sales you want. But it does mean recruiting (takes time and money), salaries (more tied up money) and, lockdown notwithstanding, desk space. All of which tie up valuable resources – time and money. This ignores the fact that finding someone with exactly the right mix of skills is going to be very difficult.

3. Outsource your marketing

Of course we are going to say this, but what other option is there? There are also a number of key benefits here:

  • The outsourced marketing company can start immediately.
  • They bring with them huge amounts of experience, working with companies very similar to yours.
  • You get the mix of skills you need, and nothing more.
  • If they don’t deliver, you can very easily get rid of them.
  • When there is enough marketing requirement, they will help you recruit and simply walk away.

This is a common trap that many fall into but getting out needn’t be difficult.We hope this article helps and moves your business out of this trap very soon.

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

Tel: 020 8634 5911

infographic showing what happens with inconsistent marketing

7 tips on why and how to deliver consistent marketing

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Uncategorized

infographic showing what happens with inconsistent marketingWhy consistent marketing is the key to success

Good quality marketing should be a lot of things; eye-catching, insightful, subtle, but most of all it should be consistent. Consistency brings with it a host of benefits to your business but it’s often overlooked in small businesses that don’t have a marketing department. When new business and delivery are your main priority, marketing has a tendency to fall by the wayside. In this blog, we’ll tell you why you should be consistent in your marketing, and how to achieve it.

Why you should practice consistent marketing

Break the cycle of “feast or famine”

The cycle of “feast or famine” is a dangerous business model. You need to be consistently attracting a baseline of new business so you don’t find yourself unable to make ends meet in times of dearth. Work within your capacity and slowly ramp up your marketing to achieve sustainable growth, rather than boom or bust.

Be ready for unforeseen opportunities

You never know when your prospect might be looking to buy. Keep your offers at the top of their inbox, and your brand in their mind by always being present. While old prospects might not have bought from you in the past, there’s no reason why they won’t in the future if your marketing is emphasising your quality and reliability.

Make your brand synonymous with quality

Your marketing content is the face of your brand, so you should ensure it’s a consistent quality as well as quantity. Set a brand tone that is clear and professional. Try and employ visual content that’s at least consistent, if not bespoke.

Boost your social and search engine optimization

Social media channels and search engines reward consistent brands with better rankings on their platforms. Posting on LinkedIn and website at least once a week will move you up the search rankings, as well as keeping your content fresh.

Maintain your reputation as a thought leader

Once you’ve built an audience you need to continue catering to their expectations or risk losing them to a competitor. If your marketing content is incisive and well-thought-out, you can establish yourself as a thought leader; the go-to voice in your industry. But once you’ve achieved this, you need to keep it up or risk losing the audience you’ve already built.

How to implement consistent marketing for your small business

Create a comprehensive marketing plan

The best marketing plans cover a range of mediums and platforms. You should try and create a range of video, audio and written content to get the most engagement from your audience. But most importantly, plan your content in advance. Make sure you’re not constantly marketing on the hoof as this takes more time in the long run, while also looking haphazard or slapdash.

Develop a plan that fits the resources you have available to you.

Sometimes less is more with content

If you’ve got limited resources, worry less about how often you’re posting. Instead, maybe only post a blog every other week, but make sure it is every other week. Consistency is key. Don’t use all your marketing material in the first month and then find yourself out of content.

If you do find yourself with spare time, start to get ahead of schedule. Resist the urge to post or do more, that then cannot be sustained.

Get help

If you want to do more marketing, but you simply don’t have the resources (time or skills) in-house, get help from outside…. You know who to call…

If you would like to discuss your marketing consistency and how to improve it, give us a call.

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 

Thees 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. It will determine whether someone reads the case study or not. So what should be in a headline? 

Our latest case study 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. 

Christmas is coming

By Uncategorized

& the goose is getting fat……….

But if you rely on the festive season for a significant part of your annual revenue, you better be in the final stages of planning your  Christmas marketing campaign to attract customers.

Decision-makers are now returning from their Summer holidays and will be planning what  they’re going to do over Christmas.  If you’re in corporate catering, venue hire, event organising or people photography, the phone should start ringing very soon.

If not, what do you need to be doing to get it ringing?

  1. Have you spoken to everyone who bought from you last year?  They already know the quality of the work you can deliver and, if they liked it, should be considered good opportunities.
  2. How are you communicating with everyone who talked to you last year, but didn’t buy? They may have used a competitor last year but they may not have been completely happy with the service they received. If you time things right you could poach a few additional clients from your competitors
  3. What are you doing to make more people aware of your services? Without awareness there cannot be any interest or sales opportunity
  4. Is your website updated to show the seasonal services you provide?
  5. What evidence is online that demonstrates how great a job you did last Christmas for your clients? Case studies and testimonials are a big help for people trying to decide who they should talk to and buy from
  6. Have you considered Google Adwords to generate new opportunities.  For seasonal marketing, this can be very effective

Just a few questions for you to consider in order to make sure that your marketing generates the Christmas sales you are looking for. Of course, if you need a hand with some of your Christmas marketing, get in touch.

I hope this helps

 

A bird in the hand

By Uncategorized

Increasing your sales the easy way

Everyone knows it costs more to win a new customer than it does to keep a current one. The ratios quoted vary but the principle is still the same.

Based on this fact and you’re desire to grow your business, the best route to new business is by marketing to your customers.  The question is what more can they buy?

When was the last time you did a review of your client base to understand their buying habits; the products they buy and how frequently?

Let’s imagine your average customer buys two products/services from you.  If you can get just 25% of them to buy one more thing, you will have increased your business performance by more than 12% – not bad growth in a country that is reputedly just coming out of recession.

The harder bit is understanding what products would be right for them and then showing them how it will solve a problem they currently face. There are two sets of people within your company who can help you here:

  1. Your account managers
  2. Your operations staff

And it may be that your Operations staff talk to your customers more than your account managers, so don’t under-estimate their ability to help here.

Next Steps:

  1. Make sure that everyone within the company knows what you want to do, so they have the opportunity to contribute.  If your accounts/sales staff are on commission, make sure your Operations staff will get something from this.  They may be less helpful if they think someone else will get rewarded for their work.
  2. Analyse your sales patterns and your portfolio penetration levels so you know what is already being bought by whom.
  3. Develop the right stories to show your customers how you can help them.

The thrill of the chase comes with acquiring new customers, but marketing to your customers will help keep them and sell more to them.

Of course, if you would like some help with any of this, call or email me on 07770 970 557

 

 

LinkedIn – a real problem solver

By Social Media, Uncategorized

Ever been dealing with a company when things just don’t seem to be moving forward?

You find yourself constantly talking to call centres or customer services, but to no avail, as you are always talking to someone different and they don’t have a full understanding of your situation, so there is no big picture thinking. LinkedIn may be able to help.  Let me explain:

I’ve blogged recently about my house being burgled and how the loss of my technology seriously impacted my work for a week or so, and so you may already be aware of the fun and games I’ve had recently. There was an added complication that they stole my car keys and my car during the burglary and my car insurance company have been less than helpful.

I’m not going to name names but suffice to say things were going neither smoothly or quickly and I was rapidly approaching the end of my tether. Finally I thought it was about time to go around the call centre so I used the world’s biggest business social media tool: LinkedIn.

I found one of the UK’s senior directors and simply made them aware of what I had been experiencing. That was less than a week ago and now everything has been resolved.

It isn’t quite the case of “who you know”, but LinkedIn makes it the next best thing.