, , , ,

What Business Are You Really In?

If you were asked the question “What business are you really in?”, what would you say?

Would you say I’m an accountant, a website designer, a butcher, a baker or even a candle stick maker?

If that is how you replied you’d of course be right in one respect but you’d also be wrong. Those answers are the job you do, the profession you’re in but they don’t tell me what you really do.

Now you might be wondering why I’m asking this question. Why is it important anyway? The answer is because while most businesses need an accountant, my belief is that none of us really want a set of accounts.

No, what we want is the information contained within the accounts which will help us to make the right commercial decisions for our business. We also want to stay on the right side of the tax man and out of prison.

So if these are the reasons I might want an accountant, then shouldn’t the accountant tell me that that is what he will do for me?

From the  website designer I don’t really want a website I want a tool that will (hopefully) bring me more customers and make me money.

From the baker I don’t really want bread, I want  something that will fill my stomach and from the candlestick maker I don’t really want candles I want something that will enable me to see in the dark.

So what we all need to do is to identify the real underlying reason why people might want our product or service and make sure we tell our prospective customers. Because no one else is doing this it will make you stand out from your competitors, giving customers a reason to choose you.

When I first start working with a new client, the first thing I do is work on their customer proposition. An important part of this is identifying what they really do from the client’s perspective.

I was recently working with a servicing garage. When I asked what they did, the owner looked at me as if I was a little bit simple and told me that they did car servicing, MOTs and repairs. Of course they did, but what at that stage he didn’t realise was that for the last 30 years he’d been in the business of giving people peace of mind and the confidence that their car wouldn’t break down.

So what do I really do? By doing their marketing for them I make people more money and enable them to enjoy their  life more.

, , ,

What Is There About Your Business That Makes Your Customers Go “Wow”

Does your business have the” Wow Factor”?

When I work with new clients on their customer proposition, one of the elements we work on is what can we do or offer that will give us the Wow factor. What I’m looking for is something about their service that the customer isn’t expecting, which  absolutely knocks their socks off.

You achieve the Wow factor when you go over and above the customer’s expectation and surprise and amaze them.

The first time I can remember being wowed in this way, was the first time the garage that was servicing my car, cleaned it inside and out. I was absolutely bowled over.

Why Is the Wow Factor so important?

Having been wowed by the garage servicing my car I did two things.

  1. I became a raving fan of and totally loyal to that garage.
  2. I told all my friends about it.

This is possibly the key point. When you bowl your customers over, the likelihood is that they will sing your praises far and wide. Your number of referrals is likely to rocket.

The Wow Factor doesn’t have to be big and expensive

My wife is a chiropractor. After she has treated a new patient, the next day she will phone them up just to check that they’re feeling OK.

Time spent: 3 minutes. Cost: 5p.

Effect on the patient: Massive.
She has demonstrated that she actually cares about them and they’re not just a statistic and a source of income.

A few months ago I was working with a technical writer and we were agonising over what he could do to give his service the Wow Factor.

What we agreed was that after doing a piece of work, he would hand write a letter thanking the client for the work.

OK you say it doesn’t sound like much but when did you last receive a hand written letter in your business.

You’d certainly remember it wouldn’t you?

So have a good look at your business and decide what you can do to give yourself the Wow Factor. I guarantee that your business will benefit massively.

, , ,

So You Want To Dominate Your Local Market

The secret to dominating your local market may lie in your small business marketing or there may be a whole range of other techniques you can use which will make customers choose you as their supplier of choice.

The following 7 tips should  give you some food for thought.

1. Make it easy to give you money

Once people decide to buy your product or service, make it easy for them to give you their money. This requires accepting multiple methods of payment, adopting easy-to-use shopping carts and reasonable post and packing charges. If there’s anything worse than a company selling a rubbish product, it’s a company that makes it hard to give it my money for a great one. you money

2. Put likable and competent on the front line

I prefer to interact with employees who smile, know what they’re talking about, and love what they sell. However, companies often put the lowest-paid, least-experienced employees behind the counter or at the front desk and hope for the best. This doesn’t make sense. Ask yourself this question: Is the first impression of my business a good one? Because if it’s a bad one, it may also be the last one.

3. Show me that you trust me.

If you don’t trust me, I’m not going to trust you. Look at the trust some of our biggest companies bestow on me. Top Shop tells me that it trusts me because it pays shipping in both directions. Sainsbury’s takes my word for it if I say my food was out of date. Amazon lets me return a Kindle for up to seven days – I can read most books in seven days! If you trust me, I’ll trust you, and we can build a relationship.

4. Remove barriers to entry

Make it easy to get started with your product or service. Don’t ask people to fill out 10 fields of personal information to open an account. Don’t throw up a CAPTCHA system that presents me with words and images I can’t read. Don’t demand an appointment for a consultation. Instead, make it as easy as possible for me to start transacting with you.

5. Convince me you know what you’re doing

Where am I more likely to buy from. A business that specialises in what it sells and so can answer any question I might throw at it or a generalist that knows a little bit about a lot of things. You guessed it – the specialist wins hands down. Look what happened to Woolworths.

6. Let me trial what you sell

Assume that your customers are smart and let them decide for themselves instead of bludgeoning them into a sale. Give them the ability to try your product or service without having to put their hands in their pockets. This concept works whether you’re buying a car, sampling a dessert or buying marketing consultancy. Once you’ve got me try something, half the battle is over.

7. Deliver bad news early.

Shit happens: products have problems, deliveries are delayed, and employees get sick. Many businesses try to minimize the effect of bad news, but when the inevitable issue arise, be proactive and tell them about the problem before they discover the hiccup for themselves. And to get on top of your game, let them know how you’ll solve the problem at the same time that you’re letting them know it exists. If you handle problems well, it can actually work very strongly in your favour.

A “Yes” Attitude Wins Every Time

The single common factor in all these points is a positive attitude.

It means that you believe that the customer is right and reasonable until proven wrong and unreasonable. Custom order? No problem. Early delivery? No problem. Return for full credit? No problem.

If you did this for everyone, you’d probably go broke, but not everyone will ask for such treatment. In fact, very few will, and those that do will become your greatest evangelists, so they’re worth the exception.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch

, , , ,

5 Tips For Getting More Visitors To Your Website

Getting more repeat visitors is an obvious goal for any website and a key element of small business marketing strategy.

For one, you don’t have to rely on the ever-changing whims of Google for repeat visitors.

Secondly, repeat visitors are by definition more loyal, which means they are more likely to buy from you and to  recommend you to other people.

And finally, more repeat visitors is a sign that your website is useful and valuable.

Increasing repeat visitors is not terribly complicated, but it does require effort. You can’t just write keyword-stuffed articles for the sake of search engine rankings; you have to actually put time and effort into your website. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, here are five simple tips..

1. Write quality content

Quality content is still the name of the game.

You can have the ugliest website in the world, but if your content is good enough, people will return. Quality content entices people to bookmark your website and check back regularly for updates.

What I mean by quality content is content that is written for the user and not just for search engines. Always write with your visitors in mind first. Give your visitors what they want and it will pay off in the long run. If search engine rankings are your only concern when you produce new content, you’re not going to be putting out good content.

Quality content is genuinely useful for the readers. It is content that is compelling, honest and unique. You can tackle everyday subjects, but add your own voice to the mix. Express your opinions and come across as having your own honest views. One of the most common mistakes from internet marketers is a tendency to write like a third-person corporate robot. Have a look at  popular websites in your industry and see how they write.

2. Allow Comments
I know how tempting it is to not allow comments. Not only do comments force you to waste time dealing with spam, but anonymous commenters can be brutal. They’ll bash your website, bash your article and bash any products you may be endorsing. But comments are great for generating repeat visitors.

Comments show that you’re not afraid to open your work up for criticism, that you are confident in your work and that you’re willing to hold open conversations with your readers. That increases the trust factor dramatically. If you write controversial content, people will comment back and forth on your website and have reasons to return to your website later.

Comments aren’t for every website, though. Corporate websites and sites that just sell things directly to consumers don’t normally benefit from commenting. The best websites for comments are those that publish articles regularly and try to engage the audience.

3. Include Outbound Links
Linking  to quality websites again shows confidence in your own website and it tells visitors that you are writing for their benefit. Your visitors are not going to just leave your website forever and forget about you if you link  to quality websites. In fact it will increase the perception of your website’s value.

As a side benefit, it is generally accepted that linking to good websites is helpful for search engine optimization. It increases the trust factor that your website has with Google. Wikipedia links out to multiple websites at the bottom of every single page and yet it still ranks well for countless terms.

4. Provide Something Useful and Unique
One of the best ways to turn your website into a visitor magnet is to provide something that is both useful and unique. Give your visitors something that they can’t get anywhere else. It can be an expert report, a tool to help them accomplish something or just exceptionally high quality content.

The internet is so big that you can start a new article on almost any topic and there’s a good chance that topic has already been discussed elsewhere. Don’t just rehash old ideas; give your visitors a reason to come back to your site. It doesn’t matter what area you’re in,  you need to find a way to stand out.

5. Update Your Website Regularly
Regularly updated content is a key way to attract repeat visitors. Add new posts regularly and your visitors will be more likely to come back to see what’s new.

Another major benefit of updating your site regularly is that Google loves new content, the more often you add new content, the more Google will reward you with better rankings.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch

, , , , ,

Is A Free Consultation A Good Marketing Tool

When I first start working with a client, I go through what I call a “Marketing Fundamentals” workshop, in which we develop their customer proposition. Your customer proposition is the overall package that you offer your customers and will determine whether your business is successful or not.

One element of the workshop is to work out what can be given away for free.

Why should you want to give something away for free?

Because it enables potential customers to trial your business, to put their toe in the water without any commitment or risk. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it now would you?

We need to trial something to check that it does what we hope it will do.

In consultancy or coaching businesses, offering a free 2 hour or half day consultancy session is a standard way to market the business.

I offer it myself.

If we’re being honest, the free consultation is just a sales meeting, dressed up to sound more valuable and less intimidating. The objective is to get in front of a prospect and then to be able to show your expertise and to start to build a relationship.

The great thing about it is that you can put a value on it – whatever the value of 2 or 3 hours of your time works out at.

The thing about the free consultation is that you have to deliver some real value. At the end of the consultation your prospect must feel that they have received some genuinely valuable and useful advice and information. But on the other hand you shouldn’t give away too much. The ideal is to give a taster of your expertise but without solving all their problems so that they are eager to receive more.

You Still Have To Sell

As I said the Free Consultation is a sales meeting dressed up, which means it can be too easy to just consult and not to actually sell. Unfortunately if you take this approach you will come away empty handed. The prospect is very unlikely to take the initiative and will wait for you to suggest the next step.  Having demonstrated your expertise you must still ask for the order in some way.

The Wrong Kind Of Prospects

When you offer something for free, there is always a danger that you will get people taking up the offer who have absolutely no intention of ever using your services.

To avoid this situation, you should build some qualifiers into the offer.

“This Free Consultation offer is open to all business owners who are serious about growing their business and are comfortable with the idea of working with an external marketing consultant.”

By putting in a qualifying statement of this kind you can qualify your respondents and if , in your opinion, they don’t fulfil these criteria , you have your justification for not giving them the free consultation.

So in answer to the question “Is a free consultation a good marketing tool” my answer is that for consultants, trainers and coaches they can be a very important and effective tool but you must bear in mind that you will still have to sell at some stage and you must be prepared to weed out the time wasters right at the start.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

, , ,

How To Make Your Small Business Marketing Cut Through The Clutter

With the proliferation of websites, blogs, videos, podcasts etc etc consumers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day.  Marketing people therefore need to find a way to cut through all this noise and clutter to deliver their messages.

Marketing has always been predicated on the same fundamental principals. If you deliver the right message to the right people in the right manner at the right time you will get the right result.

Simple

It may be useful to break down these different elements.

Timing

Of these four elements the one you may have the least control over is the issue of timing. It has been estimated that at any one time around 3% of your audience may be in the market for your product. Now through the use of your CRM system you may know a bit more about the necessary timing or your product may have an obvious seasonality to it but these issues aside, you won’t necessarily know when your prospects may be ready to buy.

Selecting The Right Channels For Your Audience

When it comes to channels, we know we should all be using a multi channel approach. Selecting the right channel will be down to a large degree to how accurately you have profiled your target audience. If you have created an accurate avatar, you should be able to identify the correct channels to reach your prospects.

So that only leaves us with the message and this is where you can really cut through the clutter.

How to make your marketing relevant.

For your marketing to have traction, your message has got to be totally relevant to your audience. To make your message relevant we come back to the understanding of your audience, who they are and what they want. Assuming you know this then you can craft your message to appeal directly to them.

This will go a long way to cutting through the clutter but in the crowded market we have now you will need an extra element. That extra element is creativity. The creativity to make your communication stand out.

This creativity can take any form.

It might be in its visual appearance.

It might be the wording you use.

It could be the offer you make.

It could be in it’s physical manifestation or even in the way it’s delivered.,

However you do it, to stand out from the all the noise in the market place your communication will need to be totally relevant and have some creative hook which differentiates it from all the rest.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch..

, , , ,

7 Ways to Improve The Stickiness Of Your Website

Today more than ever your website is a key element of your small business marketing. But  consumers are overwhelmed with choices, and distractions and the cost of attracting users to your website continues to increase. Keeping your visitors engaged is now more important than ever.

Engagement doesn’t end with an individual browser reading content or clicking on an ad. Rather, engagement is an ongoing process that results in loyal customers who come back again and again.

How can you make sure you’re engaging and retaining visitors?

In order to create a loyal following, there are some basic principles you need to consider.

  1. Reduce Clutter.
    How many times have you visited a website only to become visually confused?Make life easy for your visitors. Get rid of the clutter and ensure that the key information is easily identifiable.

2. Make Navigation Intuitive.
There are many ways to navigate a web page. Don’t try and be too clever with your navigation. Basic navigation that follows current convention is the best way to lead individuals through your web site to the information they’re looking for.

3. Make The Initial Site Interaction Relevant.
When a browser reaches your web site, you have less than seven seconds to engage them. Making your initial site interaction relevant to what individuals are looking for is essential for keeping them interacting long term.

4. Ensure That Your Content Is Up-to-date.
Web site content that’s out of date creates a very bad impression. Avoid putting specific dates into your text. If you must publish dates, be sure to update this information on a regular basis. Make sure if you have a news page that this kept current – there are few things less impressive than when the latest news item is nine months old.

5. Start An Interaction With Your Users.
Each time a browser views your website, you have an opportunity to interact with them. One great way to interact is to offer something of value. This can be a white paper, a free trial or maybe a free gift. In return you should collect their email address so that you can start marketing to them.

6. Make Yourselves Available
Prominently display your contact number, support email address and  your physical address. This information is viewed favourably by search engines and also creates a sense of legitimacy. Contact information builds trust among prospects.

7. Make Sharing Easy
Once you’ve made your web site easy to use, make it easy for browsers to share your web site with others. This can be in the form of a simple widget that allows users to bookmark your page, subscribe to an Rss feed, or submit your content to popular sites like Digg.com.
People are much more likely to visit a web site based on a recommendation as opposed to as a result of marketing. Leverage the power of viral marketing with easy sharing tools.

Your web site can be your greatest asset. Unfortunately, many marketers and website owners are so focused on increasing traffic that they lose site of the audience that’s already visiting their web pages but are simply not converting.

Don’t make the same mistake. Improve the quality of you site through relevant content that is up-to-date and easy to find. Once you’ve engaged users, encourage them to share. Doing so will make your site perform better, increase conversions, and deliver value for all involved.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

, ,

7 Ways Blogging Can Help Your Small Business Marketing

Blogging is an integral part of small business marketing these days – a fact that is evidenced by the existence of more than 100 million blogs online.

Some of these blogs have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and also earn significant revenue from advertising.

Yet there are still people who question the worth of blogging so here are seven benefits that your business can achieve by blogging.

1.Expose Your Business to A Wider Audience

If you blog regularly and use the right keywords, your blog can rank well on the search engines, resulting in high level exposure for your business.

2. Enables You To Showcase Your Knowledge
Utilizing blogs to showcase your knowledge  is an effective method to build your online reputation and credibility.
Blogging can position you and your business as an online authority within your specialist area.

3. Allows For Dialogue
Remember, blogs should never be used as a one-way communication tool. You must allow and encourage your readers to respond to you with comments, questions or even if they disagree with what you’re saying. You must be prepared to respond to both praise and criticism.

4. Allows You To Project The Personality Behind Your Brand
People prefer to deal with people as opposed to faceless organisations.Blogs allow you to talk in the first person and to bring some humanity to your company. Via your blog  your readers can get to know you and potentially feel a connection with your business, especially if they agree with the views and opinions in your blog. At this stage they become much more likely to become your customers.

5. Makes You Stay Up To Date
In order for you to produce quality content, you have to stay up to date in your subject. While doing the reading and research might be time consuming, you know it is something that has to be done for you to remain at the top of your profession.

6. Provides a Platform To Convey News Regarding your Business
Your blog can work like a newsletter. You can use your blog to update the market on developments within your company. Instead of a straight announcement , you may want to explain what’s happening in your business in terms of what’s happening in the industry and how your customers will benefit.

7. Allows Your Business to Stand Out
If you write well and fill your blog with high quality content, it will help to differentiate your business from your competitors. It will encourage non customers to do business with you and will help reassure existing customers that they are with the right supplier.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

, , , , , ,

Content Marketing -The New Approach To Small Business Marketing

Content marketing is when you provide your audience with useful and valuable information on your subject of expertise.

Some of the most savvy small business owners today, use content marketing to educate their prospective clients and engage them.  For example, they write regular blog posts, which offer useful information that will be of direct interest to their ideal prospective client.  Then, when these people need someone with your expertise or products, you become massively more likely to get their inquiry and business, than some guy they find in a directory.

So, today’s informed small business owners are transitioning from pestering people on bought lists to attracting inquiries by regularly showcasing their expertise.

When handled correctly, this can be an amazingly powerful form of marketing.  It’s also a fraction of the cost of advertising and mailings etc, and the results can be amazing.

Today, it’s all about producing regular, valuable content

The primary challenge with content marketing is the content.  Great, regularly published content to be exact.  Previously, business owners needed to be careful not to put too much information in front of prospective clients. Today we have the exact opposite situation!  Today, the most successful small business content marketers, publish information for their prospective clients several times per week..

If you want to join the new school of small business marketing, it requires some new skills and a mindset change.  The mindset change is easy enough.  It’s the shift from pushing sales messages to sharing ideas or education.  It’s about remembering that whilst people LOVE to buy things, they HATE to be sold to.

The skills required are easy enough to learn, but they take time to master.  Content marketing, which includes; blogging, newsletter marketing, article marketing, videos etc, requires regular content.  It’s no good producing 3 bits of content marketing one week and then nothing for the next month. You need to produce valuable information on a reliably regular basis.

So if you want to profit from this new educational phenomenon, start regularly sharing your expertise with your prospects. You will soon start being regarded as the expert in your field and business will in all likelihood follow shortly afterwards.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

, , , , ,

How To Use Special Offers In Your Small Business Marketing

Do you provide special offers to people, as a way to encourage them to buy from you?  Personally having spent a decade in promotional agencies I’m a great fan of promotions. If executed correctly promotions can be incredibly effective, but if done badly they can lose you turnover and profit.

The main objective of promotions is to generate increased sales and increased profits. So if you are reducing your margin, the additional volume has got to be significant enough to compensate for the reduced margin.

Sometimes promotions can be run to clear stock  and you accept the reduced margin as the price you pay to move unsold merchandise.

Special offers: Training the marketplace to wait

The first challenge with using special offers, is that if your customers know that you will run a promotion at a specific time of year you may just be training the marketplace to wait and buy at the reduced cost.

The proof of this is evident every year at Christmas.

If sales are slow in October and November, retailers start to get nervous and start price cutting. Immediately after Christmas the sales always begin. As a result more and more people are leaving their Christmas shopping until the sales start .

The result is that the retailers miss out on the full margin sales and have to accept the reduced  margin.

Special offers: The big brand approach

Major retailers, especially the grocers use promotions extensively and generate huge amounts of incremental turnover and profit.

Promotions are also used as a key part of their overall pricing and value strategy.

Their approach is based on promoting at slow times of year when demand is low. In this way they generate incremental sales.

The second element of their strategy is that the majority of the discounts or the extra product is paid for by the suppliers. Huge additional volume is generated and the retailer still receives full margin.

Special offers: The all year round “sale now on”

We have all seen companies, who always seem to have some kind of sale on.

This marketing strategy is actually quite different from the use of special offers.  The use of back-to-back “sale now on” messages, is typically used as a way to position a brand as a budget / value provider.

Unfortunately you can also see examples of  this in the SME sector. If you look through the Yellow Pages you will see some ads offering a 10% discount. This is bad marketing as they are either working on a massively reduced margin all year or they are going out at full price and the ad is deliberately misleading.

What level of discount should you offer?

We have all become used to deep cut promotions. Again the supermarkets have led in this field. Nowadays 50% off or buy one get one free have become the norm.

You need to do the maths on your offers very carefully as for many businesses a 10% discount is unlikely to attract new customers into the brand but will equate to something like a 30% reduction on the margin. If you are simply subsidising existing customers, your promotion will lose you money.

Special offers: Make your offers work

Here are some tips to help you make money from your special offers::

  • Add value – added value promotions such as 50% extra free will generate increased profitability if the additional volume more than compensates for the reduction in margin.
  • Scarcity  is a great way to generate sales. 25% off the first 100 sold is a proven way to make customers take action.
  • Limited time – you need to put a closing date on your special offers to force people to take action. Without a closing date there is no time imperative to buy.
  • Timed – special offers outside of the peak sales period will generate you additional sales in an otherwise quiet period.
  • Timing – avoid running a promotion at the same time every year otherwise customers will become wise to it and defer their purchases until  the promotional period.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.