The Right Kind Of Marketing For A Small Business

Nothing highlights the difference between small business marketing and corporate marketing more than the annual John Lewis Christmas ad.

This has become an annual phenomenon.

All the other retailers release their ads but we all wait for John Lewis’s.

In case by any chance you haven’t seen this year’s, here it is:


So is it any good?

Firstly, stylistically it’s quite a departure from their normal approach.

Apparently they spent around £7million on it.

Elton John doesn’t come cheap.

By using Elton they’re buying into a national treasure – his songs are parts of all our backstories.

While their ads normally pull at our heartstrings, this one leverages existing emotions around the central character.

Because next years’ tour is his last ever and the upcoming biopic, he’s currently super high profile.

So instead of the ad creating the emotional pull, they’re piggybacking on our connection with the man.

You could say this is a bit of a cop out.

But when you’ve got 7 million quid you can do what you like.

What they have done is tell a story – showing us his development from little boy to elder statesman.

By telling stories you engage your audience on an emotional level and draw them into your narrative.

That and the sign off line “Some gifts are more than just a gift” embed both emotional and intellectual hooks into us.

So what can we learn from this?

The answer is just about nothing.

No that’s not true.

The story telling aspect is really important.

Introduce stories into your small business marketing and you too will engage your audience in a way no other approach does.

Apart from that you should avoid this type of brand marketing like the plague.

This ad says nothing overtly about the business, about what it will do for it’s customers and the reasons we should be shopping there.

As small business owners we should all be focussing on direct response marketing.

Your job isn’t to build brand awareness.

Your job is to generate sales, hard cash in the till today.

Brand awareness advertising will take years and loads of money to do that.

If you’re doing any Christmas marketing, you should include:

  • A powerful headline to grab eyeballs
  • The benefits your product/service will deliver
  • A special offer with a short cut-off date
  • A call to action telling people what to do now
  • A variety of contact options

If you need any help with any aspect of your small business marketing, just give me a shout on mikejennings@marketingsurrey.co.uk  or call me on 01483 200387.

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Does Your Business Use Facebook Ads?

Facebook could be described as the world’s second-largest billboard (with Google at number one). But advertising on Facebook is a whole other beast to appearing on search engines using Google Ads or even Bing Ads.

Creating ads on Facebook is a relatively easy process – it’s designed to be as simple as possible, because not everyone has a degree in computer science! What’s more, compared to advertising on Google, Facebook is an affordable way to promote your company online.

If you aren’t currently using Facebook ads, you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity.

Facebook ads can achieve a variety of different objectives from promoting specific products and offers, to building brand awareness and engaging and increasing your social media audience.

Social media is what I like to call a ‘fleeting medium’, in the sense that a Facebook post you write today could very well be forgotten tomorrow, replaced by another great post by your business. Rather than seeing this as a negative, advertising on Facebook positively plays on social media’s fast-paced and modular nature.

A/B Testing

If you’ve done email marketing before, you’ll be aware of A/B testing, and how it can help produce superior results. Facebook offers precisely the same ability, in which you can test two forms of the same advert, and see which performs better before launching the successful advert to a wider audience.

Reach a Mobile Audience

Much of today’s browsing occurs on mobile phones – a fact Facebook fully understands, given that they have well over 1 billion mobile users logging in each month. That’s a vast audience you can reach with your adverts.

Take Control

Want to change your advert’s design? Facebook is ideal if you’re concerned about spamming people with the same images and videos over a period of time, allowing a greater level of creative control when it comes to switching out one advert style or message for another.

Facebook, however, has one single killer app that blows search engine advertisement out of the water…

Audience Targeting

While Google, Bing and Yahoo! have a lot of coverage, with around 12 billion searches each month on Google alone, they lack the laser-focus offered by Facebook.

Facebook ads and boosted, or promoted, posts can be targeted to precisely hit the right market for your business. You can choose age, location, gender, and even associated interests, and even what’s known as lookalike profiles; those profiles who are similar to your existing customers in a single country.

The social network even allows you to exclude your existing customers in order to attract strictly new clientele. That means rather than taking a scatter-gun approach to online advertising, you can pinpoint the exact market you want to reach.

There are some huge benefits to using Facebook advertising to complement your wider marketing strategy, and given that much of today’s marketing occurs online – and in the hands of mobile phone users specifically – Facebook offers companies the opportunity to promote themselves, their services and their products to even larger audience than has ever been possible before.

If you’d like assistance in successfully marketing your business both off and online, simply contact me on 01483 200 387 to find out how I can help.

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So What Do People Hate About Your Business?

In this day and age how often will someone do business with you without checking out your website first?

The answer is not often.

We all do it. Whether to find out specific information or after you’ve met someone to confirm our initial positive feelings and to double check their credibility.

So if this is the case we want our websites to do as much of the selling job as possible, so that the prospect is either 100% sold by the time we speak to them or at least most of the way there.

Address their concerns upfront

The key to pre-selling them is to address their concerns and objections up front.

So how do you do that?

A good place to start is to identify the typical things that people hate about your industry.

Without meaning to single out anyone in particular, the following are examples of what I’m talking about:

Builders – we hate it when jobs  over run, that they make a mess and that the work always seem to cost more than we expect.

Lawyers – we hate the fact that lawyers often speak a language that we don’t understand and that you can’t have a telephone conversation without receiving a  hefty bill.

Marketing people – I thought I ought to include my own profession – marketing people are often considered to be smarmy and silver tongued and will say anything to close a deal (absolutely ridiculous I know)

Of course these are stereotypical views but I’m sure you understand where I’m going with this argument.

So having identified the 3-5 things that people dislike about your profession, you need to demonstrate how you don’t commit the same crimes.

A standard concern is often price – you’re too expensive. But remembering that most people buy on value as opposed to on price, you can counter that objection by loading up the benefits you deliver. If you can demonstrate that you deliver massive benefits then your price becomes far less important.

Another tool which answers a lot of concerns is a guarantee. Whatever the problem whether it be quality, delivery dates or whatever, if you give a guarantee(preferably money back) you give your customers immediate reassurance.

It’s all about benefits

Remember you must differentiate between features and benefits. I don’t buy a chair because it’s ergonomically designed. I buy it because it’s really comfortable and supports my back. If you’re struggling to identify the benefits contained within a feature, use these three little words – “which means that”.

This mountain bike has disk brakes(feature) which means that it will stop incredibly quickly which may save you from a disastrous crash(massive benefit)

The key to this exercise is to make sure you’re brutally honest about what people dislike about your industry and how you’re going to address them. This is why working with a very specific niche is so important. The tighter the niche the more you should understand their concerns.

Once you’ve completed this exercise, you will have addressed your audience’s key issues, overcome their standard objections and differentiated yourself from your competitors.

Done properly this approach will go a long way to pre-selling your prospects.

Now what?

These benefits are obviously key selling messages which you can use in a number of ways. You could feature them in an FAQ page, you can address each point in a different blog article or my preferred route is to actually list the benefits you deliver on the home page of your website. They’re key messages so put them in the most prominent place where the largest number of website visitors will see them.

So if you lay out credible and  convincing answers to people’s concerns, your sales process will be very much easier.


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8 Tips To Ensure Your Small Business Success

1. Niche Your Audience

There is a lot of competition out there and it’s tough. The worst thing you can do is to try and sell to everybody. Unless you’re Coca Cola you can’t be relevant to everyone. Much better to identify a small target group so that you can target your messages to them with laser like precision. With more limited budgets this is far more effective.

2. Your website is not a brochure

Long gone are the days when you can view your website as “an online brochure” and you have one just because everybody else does. Small business websites need to earn their keep and generate business.

3. You can’t ‘cheat’ Google – they’re smarter than you

A few years ago you may have got away with a bit of keyword stuffing or buying inbound links by the bucket load. Not any more. Google is focused on giving their customers the best results to their search and will rigorously analyse your site and your text for relevance. So focus on providing relevant, fresh and appealing content that will attract customers to your website.

4. Is traditional advertising right for you?

For most businesses these days, traditional advertising in local newspapers or magazines is rarely the best option. The costs are high and fixed, the targeting imprecise and you’re dealing with an increasingly sophisticated audience. If you’re dealing B to C where it’s difficult to get hold of prospects’ names and addresses it may still be relevant but proceed with caution and test on a small scale before you commit much money.

5. Blogging can be very powerful

Blogging is often overlooked as it demands significant input and because it’s not an overt sales medium. But it is a very powerful medium for demonstrating your expertise and is a great way to keep your website content fresh, which our good friend Google always appreciates.

6. The power of video

Today’s consumers are time strapped and want information fast. Many people, especially younger people are reading less and watching more. Video is a great mechanism for getting not only your message across but it also allows you to communicate your personality .

7. Facebook and Twitter may not be right for your business

Everyone’s become obsessed with social media. Every small business owner I work with says “Shouldn’t we be on Facebook and Twitter?” My response is always the same(how boring do I sound) If your audience are hanging out on social media then yes you should be part of the conversation. I mean it’s free and provides a quick and easy way to communicate with both customers and potential customers every day if you want. But if you serve an older demographic who are not spending their time on Facebook and Twitter then you’re wasting your time.

8. Make it mobile

The way people access the internet has changed and will go on changing. Web browsing from mobiles and tablets will outstrip PCs in the next few years. For certain categories such as mini cabs and restaurants it is absolutely vital but all of us need to make sure that our websites display effectively on these media. If it doesn’t you are potentially missing out on a large section of potential audience.


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Make Your Website A Regular Source Of New Customers

Anyone who’s been in business for a while knows that two of the absolute ‘must-haves’ for success are:
1.Getting new customer or clients
2.Keeping them coming back for more

For most small business owners maintaining a steady flow of new clients is really quite difficult. The majority of business owners that I meet usually rely on using a few lead generation tactics. However, any business that uses just a few lead generation techniques is putting themselves at risk. What happens if these for some reason suddenly stop working?

If you want to grow your business, you need a steady flow of high-quality leads. To achieve that you need to use lots of different ways to generate leads, both on and offline.

Here are just five key tips on lead generation, without any cold calling (which you probably hate doing as much as I do!):

1. Set your lead generation objectives so you can determine what works and what doesn’t

Set specific targets that you can track and measure.

Spend time setting your objectives and specific, measurable targets. If you don’t, how will you ever know if your lead generation programme has been successful or not?

2. Use your website as your primary ‘lead conversion machine’

Your website, if set up and optimised correctly, can be a powerful marketing tool that takes prospects generated by your lead generation programme and converts them into a stream of high-quality leads.

To work effectively your key landing pages (the ones where visitors enter your website) must capture your visitor’s attention immediately. You must decide what action you want your visitors to take e.g. sign up for a newsletter, download a PDF etc and make sure you focus on getting them to do this on every page.

3. Use Social Media to drive people to your website

From a marketing point of view, one of the best uses of social media is to drive people to your website.
Whenever you tweet, link back to your website, whenever you blog include links back to your website and the same goes for Facebook and LinkedIn. Of course if you’re going to do this, then your social media utterances need to be relevant to your website content and to your business, but that should go without saying.

4. Use direct mail to generate leads

Direct mail like sales letters, post cards, flyers, etc, is still one of the most effective ways of communicating your messages to your target audience and of course, driving them to your website, where they should be incentivised to complete the kind of actions I’ve mentioned above.

Direct mail’s main advantage over email is that it doesn’t have the message filtering that email marketing has.

5. Use online advertising like Google AdWords to instantly drive quality traffic to your web pages

Pay-Per-Click advertising can be a highly effective way of getting the right people to your website quickly, particularly if you are finding it difficult to obtain Page 1 rankings on Google.

Used correctly Google Adwords is a fantastic business generator but if used incorrectly you can burn loads of money for absolutely no reward.

If you’re new to Adwords, proceed cautiously to start with until you know what you’re doing.


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How Social Are You On Social Media?

So are you using social media to market your business?

How social are you?

We all know how much furore there’s been over the last few years about social media and the truly amazing stats about the number of Facebook and Twitter users there are. If you admit to not using these platforms you’re likely to be viewed as a dinosaur. There is a perception that we all ought to be on all the platforms.

But why?

If you think about the phrase “Social Media Marketing” the most important word to remember of the three is marketing. The other two really just describe the medium you’re using. And marketing doesn’t change just because the medium changes.

Marketing is always about the 3Ms Market Message Medium. You have to give the right messages to the right people in the right way and allow them to respond and let you know that they’re interested in what you’ve got.

Now the fact is that social media and especially Twitter is not the right medium for communicating your message as it’s not about selling. Additionally you can’t select the audience you communicate with it selects you.

Your objective therefore has to be to move your audience from the social media channels to your own website. Of course you can do this by posting the right links but tracking and measuring how effective your efforts are is virtually impossible.

Now I’m not saying that you can’t make contacts, build relationships and maybe gain business from social media. What I am saying is that it will probably take a lot of effort and time and that you could probably have greater success with other marketing channels.

The next question to ask is whether social media is right for all businesses.

The answer to that will depend on who you target audience is. If your target audience hang out on social media then fantastic. If they don’t, you’re wasting your time. If you’re a driving instructor and your audience is teenagers then yes social media is 100% right for you. But if you operate B to B and your audience is 40 60 year old men, then I suggest you’re probably wasting your time.

The final part of the jigsaw is you.

Do you enjoy the social interaction? Are you the kind of person who’s comfortable going to a networking event and working the room with the clear objective of making contacts and connecting other people together.

If you are then you probably love social media and doing it won’t seem like working at all. If you’re not, the chances are that you won’t engage with social media enough to make a success of it.

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Keep Your Customers Loyal Instead Of Having To Continuously Win New Ones

Winning new customers is hard work.

New customers have to go through the process of deciding whether they believe you are the best supplier, whether your price is right and vitally whether they like you enough to do business with you.

So it makes perfect commercial sense to do everything possible to keep your customers loyal. Bizarrely lots of small businesses tend to forget that retaining customers is just as important as winning new ones.

Keeping your customers loyal also doesn’t have to be expensive. Often very small things can make all the difference.

The following tips should go a long way to making sure your customers reciprocate your love and stay with your business.

Stay in touch

It’s estimated that over 80% of customers who change supplier do so not because they are unhappy with the service but because they don’t feel loved.

It’s so easy to avoid this. You just need to talk to your customers regularly. Keep them informed of any news and developments at your company, any special offers and any way you can help them.

Send them things you see in the press that relate to their area of business, retweet their tweets, like items on their Facebook page. Just go out of your way to have regular contact and demonstrate your commitment to them.

Get to know your customer base

Get to know who are your most profitable customers and those that you think have the highest propensity to re-purchase. Make sure you understand them and why they have chosen to do business with you, so you can give them more of the stuff they come to you for in the first place.

Show them you care

If you can move the relationship from the purely professional to a more social, friendly basis not only will your working life become more enjoyable but it will tie your customers into you. A small token of your gratitude for their business at Christmas and acknowledgement of their birthday, while admittedly not original, will certainly not go unnoticed.
How much you spend and whether you decide to take them out to lunch or dinner is up to you and how much you’ve developed the relationship.

Give them your best offers

So many businesses use discounts or attractive offers to get you ‘hooked’ and then once you become a loyal customer suddenly the offers seem to disappear.
This is really short sighted.
Your loyal customers are the ones who deserve your best prices and if they discover what you’re offering to new customers are likely to disappear in a huff meaning you’ve got to start the process all over again.

Take all these ideas on board and assuming that your core business is top quality in the first place, you find that your customers buy from you time and again and you’re not spending all your time replacing lost business.

Business Development Advisors will advise you on ways to both win and retain your customers. Please get in touch.



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The Value Of Information Products In Small Business Marketing

If you want to generate more new enquiries, you have to give people a reason to identify themselves as interested and tell you who they are.

One really effective way of doing this is to offer them free but valuable information which will build your credibility whilst subtly promoting your business.

Providing information will position you as an expert

Information is a valuable commodity, and if you have a story to tell, experiences to share or knowledge that could benefit a potential customer, publishing it in the form of a guide will help you in several ways:

  • It establishes your authority and expertise.
  • It shows that you care about helping and informing clients rather than just promoting your business.
  • It will promote your business in a way that means that you don’t have to blow your own trumpet.
  • It gives your website visitors a reason to give you their contact details so that you can build a valuable database of people interested in your business – these prospects represent future income.

Unlike newsletters or brochures, which often offer the reader little and are usually extremely dull, a professional information guide will both ensure that you stand out from your competitors and genuinely promote your business to your readers.

The angle you take for your information booklet is entirely up to you. You could write about the advantages of your product or service, what to look for when deciding on a business in your particular field, top tips on how to perform better in your niche.- the choice is yours.

Whatever you choose, as consumers are always looking for advice, your guide will be an effective marketing tool for your business.

By offering potential clients a free information booklet on your website, you can instantly start filling your marketing funnel. By positioning the guide as an authoritative item, visitors will exchange their contact details for the information.

You are now able to start marketing to them in a regular and planned manner.


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Pricing Strategies For Successful Businesses

What to charge for your services and products is one of the biggest issues that business owners face.

The standard response is to under-price in order to beat or be cheaper than the competition.

Your pricing is vital

The fear of losing customers – being judged as too expensive often stops businesses from charging what they should for their products and services.

Charging too little can and does cause businesses to go under.

Often I hear business owners say things like, “I can’t charge more than I already am” or “ if I put up my prices I’ll lose customers“. There’s no doubt that the internet has caused price deflation. It’s so easy and quick to compare prices on line and internet sellers always have an overheads advantage over traditional retailers operating from a bricks and mortar premises.

But when you look around, chances are you will find someone charging more than you are who is obviously thriving.

When it comes to setting your price, there are some simple do’s and don’ts you should always follow.

Don’t lower your price to win a bid.

The price you operate at currently is the price you’ve calculated that will generate the profit you want and need from your business. If you start cutting your prices to win a bid you will always be operating at a margin you’re not really happy with. And what happens when something goes wrong? You won’t have the margin available to put things right.

Understand the impact of promotional pricing

While I’ve said above that you shouldn’t cut your prices to win a contract, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer promotional deals to win new business. I always encourage clients to offer special offers to win new customers and that they shouldn’t worry about margin on the first transaction. After winning the customer via the special offer, you have the opportunity to build the relationship and add value to the customer so that when your prices go back to normal he is no longer making his purchasing decisions based on price.

However if you intend to offer deep discount pricing on an on going basis, you need to be aware of the impact of discounts on margin and how much more you have to sell to stand still.

As a rule of thumb if you cut your prices by 10% you will have to sell over 30% more to make the same profit.

Do test out different prices and price strategies.

Instead of picking a random price, you must be aware of what comparable products are selling for but remember it isn’t always the cheapest product that generates the largest number of sales or the most profit.

In certain markets customers will equate price with quality. “Reassuringly expensive” sums it up. This gives you the opportunity to raise your prices and potentially increase your sales at the same time.

You should take the opportunity to test out a number of pricing levels and find out which one generates the most profit.

No matter what you do, you must consider your pricing strategy very carefully in order to not only increase your profit but help you stay in business for the long haul.  Don’t be afraid to try out different pricing strategies. Raising your prices just 5% will have a huge impact on your bottom line.


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Win New Customers From Your Small Business Marketing

How to generate new customers is the issue most small businesses focus on in their small business marketing. The fact that when I start working with a new client, I focus on how to maximise the value of existing customers isn’t the point here. Most clients prioritise new customers.

I’m going to give you therefore 7 very simple tips which while being pretty obvious, will make the process of acquiring new customers significantly easier.

small business marketing delivers new customers

1. Identify your niche audiences

The key to marketing is relevance. Marketing will only be successful if it is totally relevant to the people consuming it.

It’s therefore vital that you identify a number of niche audiences as closely as possible so that your marketing talks to them directly.

2. Use a variety of marketing channels

Different people like to receive information in different ways and from different sources. Many businesses use one or two ways of communicating and leave it at that. The problem with this is that if your audience don’t use these channels much or if these channels stop working for some reason then you’re in trouble.

Smart marketers use multiple channels (10 or more) with each channel supporting and backing up the other ones.

With traditional and digital media together there are now more channels available to us(many of which are now free) than ever before.

3. Use a CRM (customer relationship management) system

You need to be able to keep track of all your prospects and to keep a record of all contacts and actions. The most basic way is just to use Excel but this is very basic and has no clever functionality.

There are plenty of CRM systems such as Act or Goldmine which are very sophisticated and will help ensure that maximise your customer and prospect contacts

4. Provide helpful educational information

The more you give out to the market, the more you will get back.

By providing interesting and informative information to the market, you position yourself as an expert and start building relationships with your prospects.

5. Have more conversations with more people

The more people you talk to, both face to face and on line, the more business you’re going to do.

Login to your chosen online networking / social media platforms every day and ask questions, answer questions and provide input and feedback.

6. React quickly to sales enquiries and always follow-up

Speed of response is always impressive. If you do a good job at the very first contact, the prospect will have a positive impression of you from the start.

It always amazes me how many people fail to follow up an enquiry or lead. A while back I phoned four carpenters when I wanted a bookcase made. Only one actually called me back. You also need perseverance. You’re not going to get through to the relevant person on the first call. It may need 5 calls or maybe more. Stick in there.

7. Measure your results.

If you don’t know what’s working and what’s not you won’t know where to invest your money for maximum return.

You have to know where your money is generating a profit and where you’re simply losing money.